PYRAMID OF ANIMALS
Life size sculpture, video and artist’s statement
The sculpture consists of four taxidermy animals, arranged atop of one another – a horse, a dog, a cat and a rooster; sculpture dimensions: 220 x 190 x 120 cm; single channel video projection (colour), loop, 4:3 PAL, duration: 46’49”, audio, language: Polish, text: 1 page A4.
“Pyramid of Animals” is Katarzyna Kozyra’s graduation piece defended at the Faculty of Sculpture, Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts, in 1993. The sculpture which for numerous reasons does not subscribe to the categories of artistic endeavours familiar to us, and which was inspired by the Brothers’ Grimm fable “The Musicians of Bremen”, consists of four taxidermy animals: a horse, a dog, a cat and a rooster, as well as the video documenting the process of putting down and skinning the horse. An integral part of Kozyra’s graduation piece was the commentary written by the artist.
Paradoxically, media have made the author of a work about death, which is a protest against consumerism, hypocrisy and killing, into a heartless murderer. What the artist wanted to highlight, symbolically and actually turned against her.
Kozyra’s graduation piece provoked a heated discussion in the media, dominated by aggressive voices which attack the author without exploring the meaning of her work. The attacks are initiated by protest letters from the Board of Directors of the Association of Polish Artists, addressed to the Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts and to the Ministry of Culture and Arts, as well as the report made by this organisation to the TV program “Animals”. A wave of protests and press articles which began in 1993 proved that it was an even without precedent in Poland. Never before has any work of a contemporary artist provoke such a heated discussion and such a vicious media response. Even today, comments appear in which “Pyramid of Animals” represents, according to the authors, the amorality of contemporary art.
The few voices raised in defence of the work and its author originated mostly in her community (there are statements made by Grzegorz Kowalski and Kozyra’s friend and editor of “Czereja” magazine, Artur Żmijewski). One of the very few articles defending the work is written by Mira Kuś from Cracow. Criticism of substance, whose time came after the wave of press attacks, is to be found in art magazines. These usually consider “Pyramid of Animals” to be an important work, one which has to be taken into account in discussions of Polish art in the recent years. The number and the prestige of the exhibitions where the work has been shown and references in contemporary art studies and dictionaries, also indirectly testify to the importance of the work.
The text is the integral part of the work
A very specific situation developed while I was working on this piece, a situation that caused myself and those somehow included in the process of creation to react in many different ways.
The starting point was an animal pyramid, which can be found in the fairy tale of the Brothers Grimm. The actual content of the tale was not important. What drew my interest was the structure itself – the animal pyramid and the visual and conceptual spheres that are somehow linked to it. As opposed to, for example, a seven-headed Dragon (which appears in other fairy tales), what was intriguing about this sculpture was that it could be made using ready-made materials, i.e. animals. The idea of this monument to animals – this pyramid, carries in itself clarity and simplicity, and at the same time a rich and multi-layered symbolism (belief, culture, religion).
The material, which I used, was a given, that is the animals: a horse, a dog, a cat, and a rooster. Then the problem arose – where could I get the material for the monument” I began my preparations from the basics, that is I chose the live animals. They were not selected from museum collections of trophies, but were found and selected according to a set of criteria. Hence there was conscious selection which was the result of the prepared composition. What mattered was what kind of statement they would make, would they be representing themselves or would they be symbols of these animals. If the assumption of the sculpture was just to get across some sort of symbolic message, it could have been made of clay or other materials used in sculpting, or finally out of stuffed museum exhibits.
The concept was different, the material for the sculpture existed and these were concrete animals selected by myself. The later stage, that is the death of the animals and their stuffing was a very risky step, but at the same time intriguing. I was balancing on the edge of accepted ethical norms, while at the same time I was touching that difficult thing called the death of a living creature.
All of these animals were basically destined to die, however, using them for the sculpture generated ethical problems. And yet animals are murdered everyday and used for everyday purposes, or for consumption. My personal participation in the act of death and using their carcasses to realize an idea changes the point of view, it has evoked and continues to evoke various reactions. The making of piece ended up being a peculiar situation.
The question arose: Did the process of creation become more important than the piece I was trying to create” The answer to this question and the perception of the entire process of creation of this work were far from singular in their interpretation.
When the horse was put to sleep and skinned a film was shot of this event. This is a macabre document showing the fresh corpse of the animal. In the first shots you can see the still trembling flesh of the horse and then you can see only the fragments of the carcass, which looks quite normal and people are used to seeing that – all you have to do is go to the meat shop. And yet the participation of other people at this stage of creation evoked reactions of shock, lack of understanding, and even rejection. The same was true in the case of the other animals. I began to question whether to be consistent in the process of realizing this piece, whether the killing of the horse was to be followed by the killing of other animals, for the process to be consistent. The final piece – the diploma work – is nevertheless aesthetic, worthy of being looked at, and contains no gore. What you have here is the paradox between the final effect and the process of its creation, which for me was more important. The idea of a monument to animals, a pyramid, was realized thanks to cooperation with Mr. J. Linkowski, whose professionalism in stuffing animals can be called an art. This piece was made for my diploma and was subject to evaluation, but can this work be viewed only as a sculpture, or can the process of its creation and the related reactions also be evaluated”
text of a publication accompanying the display of “The Pyramid of Animals”, Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw 4 June 1993, according to the original in Archives of KK.
Letter to the Editor of Gazeta Wyborcza
Warsaw 20th August 1993
I am the author of the composition called “The Pyramid of Animals”. Together with this piece executed in stuffed skins of a horse, a dog, a cat and a rooster there was a commentary in which I presented my motivation, the creative process and the doubts that accompanied them. I asked the question: is only the sculpture to be evaluated or also the process of its creation and the reactions and experience linked to that” With this act I have exposed myself to confrontation with people who think differently than I, but from whom I had expected respect for facts.
Meanwhile the various lies have been repeated and publicized, among them that I had raised these animals, subjected them to suffering and killed them with my own hands. That is not true. During my diploma exam it was publicly stated that the skins of the dog and the cat had been removed from dead animals, whereas the skins of the horse and the rooster from animals that were meant for slaughter, which I bought and then put to sleep. The “killing” was for purposes other then the making of a pair of shoes or the eating of meet, which is a violation of norms that are considered obligatory and humanitarian. The infliction of death on animals in a civilized and industrial manner takes place anonymously and beyond the view of their later consumers. The taking of the life of an animal in an open manner and by an individual is the cause of shock and condemnation. I consciously exposed myself to this test. My observing the death of the horse was 100 percent more terrible than all of the invectives that have been leveled against me. In an effort to be consistent I also took upon myself the death of dead animals. My composition is about death generally speaking, and about the deaths of these concrete four animals. I did not do this for that tingling pleasure and because of technical indolence. I did this out of my internal need to ask the question: do we still feel the presence of death eating chops, using cosmetics or using other animal based products – or has that been effectively neutralized by the household representatives of animals, which receive our feelings on a day-to-day basis” “The Pyramid of Animals” is a violation of norms in treating the death of animals as a phenomenon that has nothing to do with the consumer.
If I decided to use this form in my first totally independent artistic work it is not because art is treated by the society as a game among artists playing in their own back yard, far from important issues or, as Ms. Xymena Zaniewska writes, serves only decoration purposes.
unpublished, computer printout, archives KK
ABOUT THE DIPLOMA WORK OF KATARZYNA KOZYRA
“The Pyramid of Animals” is a work about death. Animals, which look alive, are even deader, and just like mummies they testify against the intents of those who made them. The image of life, mummified, testifies to the inevitability of deadness and necessity of the act of death. “The Pyramid of Animals” (…) speaks about death in general, and at the same time, about the death of four animals. In this way, the author underscores that the death of animals is inscribed in the everyday, regular existence, it is invisible, and even deeply camouflaged in the form of a product, in which we cannot recognize the animal.
Killing animals is burdened with a kind of moral relativism: norms shy that killing an animal is wrong, and the survival requirements of the carnivorous condition involve killing animals on an industrial scale. On this basis, a sort of culture dealings have been built: hiding the mass death of animals, passing over it in silence, and promoting the moral model of respect for their lives at the same time. This often happens in a grotesque, falsely sentimental way: Christmas Eve carps, thousands of tons of them pass away as the victims of the human holiday of reconciliation (also with animals), and in fact suffocate deprived of water; giving no unpleasant sound during that act. (…)
It seems to me that this work, and especially the complementary text by the author, attacks the stereotype of a man of easy nobility, who is a hypocrite at heart. (…) This surely was the strongest psychological impact of the Pyramid’, that people were provoked to declare their own integrity. It happened in a way easy to predict – through pinpointing somebody else’s corruption, which replaced a deeper reflection about oneself
Was the “Pyramid” a provocation by Kozyra”
Certainly, her text was provocative, and the power in range of its impact went beyond whatever the author had imagined. She had not been able to predict, nor had I, such strong reactions of the public. (…) Being present at the act of the horse’s death, she experienced a shock and we can risk the statement that she assumed the death of all animals as her expiation. That is why, based on fragments of the authors commentary, one may get the impression that she had indeed performed the acts for which she accepted (…) the moral responsibility. It was for the first time and with such a public impact, that an artist’s approach was to be confronted, the approach that puts these stereotypes functioning in the public consciousness to a test. Indeed Kozyra, by indicating that she has a right to kill an animal in order to create a work of art, violates the Franciscan-ecological model of morality and the norm, which says that killing is not allowed unless there is a “necessary need”.
With that she triggered off the discussion whether the actions by an artist in the sphere of moral values are part of necessary needs, or whether the necessary needs are limited to meeting the consumption needs, to the sphere of physiological needs, which are in fact the needs of an animal. (…)
Czereja no 4, 1993, p. 27-28: reprinted in catalogue: Kowalski, Bydgoszcz 1998, translated by Grażyna Brzezińska
CARRYING BUCKETS,TROTTING LIKE PIGS
Artur Zmijewski Interviews Katarzyna Kozyra
A.Z.: Tell me about “The Pyramid of Animals”. It appears that it was quite easy for you to create.
K.K.: Oh! That depends! It seemed to me to be easy at the time when only my mind was engaged on this project. It’s one thing to say to yourself that you are going to kill a horse and stuff it, but it’s quite another thing when you actually take responsibility for it, when you actually see it, when the emotions start creeping in. I did myself some harm there. I didn’t falsify anything. I told no lies. It was very destructive for me, so it wasn’t easy.
I was referring to the involvement of other people…
That it was easy to do because you could use all these helpers.
It was terribly easy.
They didn’t resist.
Not at all .It rather surprised me even.
And it was easy to organise everything.
Yes, easy beyond belief. It was quite shocking.
You used four animals, but how many did you have all together?
There was one horse, that one that was paid for. There were the whole load of the dogs, I could choose any one I wanted. They all had the same defect, however – they were all rotting. Eventually I got a dog, which had been put to sleep some fifteen minutes earlier at the request of its owner. I had six cats to choose from, and I killed two cocks, as I didn’t know which one would be better, the big one or a little one. But I had a problem – shouldn’t I in the name of consistency , have bought live dogs and cats and killed them What stopped me” The emotions. I couldn’t have done it. At least not then.
Tell me about how you looked for the horse.
I went round a lot of horse fairs, not hiding why I wanted the animal. They pushed a few my way, some better, some worse. I had to think not only about whether it was white, or like this or like that, but also about its dimensions. It had to be able to get out of the workshop after being prepared.
In any case what was suitable for putting to sleep was not suitable for the sculpture, because it had to have a good coat and good colouring. In the end, I decided on the red one. It wasn’t too big or too small, and its name was KASIA. /…/ This is the Monument to Excellent Metabolism. The horse was devoured by cats and dogs; they, in turn, were turned into meal; the meal into fodder for pigs and cocks. And we have eaten all of it: if not this horse then another one. In this sense it is excellent. In praise of the reincarnation. Sometimes I would run to that bunker twice a day. There was a whirling, wolfish, writing mass – one on top of another. The stench, and here and there some paws sticking out of the heap. That’s where they throw the animals they’ve put to sleep. After Saturday and Sunday, the worms came up to your ankles.
That’s where I looked for my cat and my dog. Every two or three days Bakutil would come and take all this carrion to his factory and turn it into a meal. You have to do something with the carcasses. In this closed circle, it all comes back to us, so nothing really gets lost, it’s all in use, one in the other. It is excellent.
What’s the bunker?
It’s where you can leave your beloved pet, you’ve just put to sleep. It is a hymn in praise of the reincarnation. It has changed forever my
attitude to the animals. I have seen everything that moves stuffed and mounted on a horse. It is a strange approach. Later when the horse had fallen, and I imagined that the cats and dogs devoured him, I saw corpses everywhere. Everything is part of total metabolism. I wanted to understand what I was doing, to see where things come from. It drove me into a three-week-long paranoia. Now I can see how terrible emotions are. Intellectually this does not get through to people. You have to see, that nothing rational counts. And nobody and nothing can explain it to you. I suffered terribly because of that horse. Three weeks long I would go outside, just to slip away and quickly to return. The people recognized only a watch-strap /because I was subconsciously looking for a guilty party/, leather shoes, no faces. Oh, God! Where am I living, it’s horrible, people just don’t understand, they haven’t got a clue what is really happening. Now even when I’m buying flowers I do it knowing that it’s also a kind of total destruction. And everything is so beautifully arranged, everything, so that you don’t feel the blues.
Everything is a secret. All of these imaginary philosophies, it’s all been thought up to camouflage the obvious, really significant facts – destruction, quite simply. No, I don’t think it’s a tragedy – it’s harmony and I’m playing a good part in it all. /…/ The horse was bought so it would have been silly to back out. I got caught up in the turmoil. It wasn’t certain to the end if the animals would die.
You could have backed out?
Yes, of course.
But it so happened that you did not back out. You paid, so you ate.
Yes, well I don’t know – it pulled me in like a chain reaction. Step by step I had to go on cutting my own throat. /…/ It was amazing with that cat in the freezer. One night Agata brought me a cat in a pressure cooker. You see – all my friends knew that if their cat or dog died, they had to bring it to me. But I already had one in the freezer – so I sent Agata away. Amazing, because everything went as normal – you keep the meat in the fridge, except for the fact that this meat was somewhat different. Nothing really changes. Or the fact that this dog was lying at my place for two days, with blood dripping from its head.
You kept it in the fridge with all its guts?
It was whole, with intestines and all. Anatomically complete.
Tell me about the film documenting the killing of the horse.
It’s a strange film. Full of long and boring bits. It is the documentation of the creative process. Total documentation. The film is terribly sad, no
glamour, just as it was. Bloody sad.
Was it a creative process, or a killing?
Difficult to say, I had to accept certain categories for my own use.
So as not to go to be mad? Some kind of justification?
I was doing my diploma work. People document their creative processes so I documented mine.
A creative process.
Art cannot simply be a game with building blocks. It’s completely senseless then. Doing what I do, I am convinced that I am right. There is no messing about. There is no pretence. With me, it really was a death.
Creating the corpses.
Creating corpses – from the beginning to the end. I was accused of plying around with death. I didn’t do it in cold blood. The condition for our being, our existence, are the stinking guts. Annihilation is the tool of being, it is the condition for the existence of comfort for the consideration of existential problems, it allows for the luxury of the philosophy. That is what I wanted to check, I wanted to see the lowest level – killing. The fact that you have to get your hands dirty, that it stinks, that you’re stirring around in the guts.
I wanted to separate the levels of reality and to see each one separately.
And how does this death fit in with you personally?
Do you know, it turned out that a cancerous tumour is growing within me. But as we are living in the kind of word where you can put it off “chemically”, I don’t have to die – it can be cured. There remains the consciousness that it is only a putting off, despite the galloping destruction. It suddenly turned out that I am seriously ill and that my prospects are pretty poor. I suddenly jumped to another level of consciousness. I experienced a feeling of finality. What the hell, I like extreme situations, free from the ambiguities. It was these very circumstances – the fact that I didn’t have to turn the horse into a shoe and it any case no-one would guess that it had once been alive – that awakened in me a sensitivity towards destruction. Because it is total destruction, what we have here, all of it.
On what does it depend?
Let’s take the furniture as an example – if I wanted to make it myself I would have to run around the wood with an axe [she taps the kitchen dresser] and kill the plants. It’s all destruction. If you had to do it yourself you’d go mad. How lucky that others do it for us. And that is why those shitty hypocritical ladies think they can feel outraged at me. It’s absurd.
During the killing of the horse did you have the impression that it was the abattoir assistant who was doing the killing, or you?
I just felt that it was all happening as a result of my decision, that it was final. I became hysterical – I screamed.
The feeling of the irreversibility?
From that, there was definitely no going back. I only appreciate such things- only they have any weight.
This was one of the motivations of the holocaust – a nation taking part in such a killing…
And no turning back?
Yes. The authorities blackmailed society through irreversibility.
It’s a good method, except that it was sick. But people themselves make their own laws.
Now you have started to make laws.
I just use that already exist. (…) While the horse was being put to sleep there was a person there who wanted to see how a horse is killed and stripped of its skin. Afterwards, she was ashamed to touch me – because I’m a monster. So a person is able to take part in this with the consciousness that it won’t be put down to his karma. And then he is able to look at everything with total acceptance, starting like a stupid monkey. (…) The strangest thing was the juxtaposition of situations – in the dissecting-room but with a healthy animal, put to sleep like a sick one, not slaughtered but intended for the butcher’s shop, stripped of its skin like a hunted animal and at the end it’s still a horse. A whole collection of people took part in this process, all from different branches of the animal-killing business, and all with the certainty that what they were doing was right. Here everything got mixed up. Even now I don’t know how to describe it. Things just weren’t right. These people could feel that somehow they had been knocked off their stride, that something had sucked them in and that there was no return. Death had ceased to be useful. The horse had fallen and we had to go forward because something had to be done with this lump of meat. The vet said that as the animal had been put to sleep it could not be sold for the shop. The butcher thought that he could do a deal and buy the meat cheaper. They were circling like hyenas. In the end, the vet chased them away and asked me: “What about this meat?”. That was the end! They didn’t let me the meat to be taken to the butcher because the assembled company wanted to feed itself! They came with their buckets, four hours they had worked for the killing but in ten minutes there was only the skeleton left. They were pushing me out of the way, I was still taking photographs, but they were there with their knives, climbing all over me with their buckets – slash, slash, slash… They took it apart and left just a carcass. I was astonished by the pile of the meat – there in a minute, it all gone.
Where did they take it?
I don’t know. The whole swarm of people came along with their buckets and their knives, took it to pieces and then disappeared. Just the skeleton was left.
Do you know who these people were?
I suspect they were employees. They must have got the scent from somewhere, like the hyenas. They did this with the feeling that although I may be a bad thing, at least they could get some benefit from it. The horse has fallen, it has died, then, by the way, I’ll just take these guts.
A bit here, a bit there, five minutes. Carrying buckets, trotting like pigs. All was gone. When one of them was cutting a bit away, the corpse’s muscles were still twitching. (…) The intravenous drip-feed was putting the horse to sleep started to work and the pupils became dilated. Total, bloody deep blue. And the light fell so strangely onto the eyes. Later the pupils became smaller, but at first, they opened up in such a way that the whole eye was filled with this intense blue. (…) The bad thing, the horrible thing is that you die and that’s the END. Most religious offer you some kind of the immortality, a kind of extended existence. I don’t understand why this is so attractive, why people want so much to exist that they jump at every faith, every doctrine which “guarantees” them this. I would like to see this END. (...) So what, if people are incurably ill, maybe they have an advantage. Maybe they live with increased consciousness of the ultimate. It gives them incredible freedom.
On what does this freedom depend?
I would not have been able to do this, to be raped emotionally, if I had not had this feeling of the ultimate, that I am quite simply dying. It’s always there, but it’s not always in my head. It’s always ultimate, and when they tell you that you’re dying, nothing changes. Maybe you only have the feeling of a greater psychological burden.
Did you feel guilty, and if so, when – was it when you were selecting the animal?
Something like this did appear within me, but I immediately tried to obliterate this feeling, and not allow it to have a voice at all. Because I could see in my mind’s eye the finished sculpture, I tried to get rid of everything, which could have interrupted the realisation. A priori.
I tried to fight my emotions, and act by calculation. When” During the week when I had fixed the date, the hour, got the ten people together, and arranged ten different things: transport, who, how much etc. During that week I used to visit my horse because I wanted them despite everything to feed and groom it. And the whole night before the operation in the dissecting-room I didn’t sleep at all, it was a total mess. After that everything went quite simply mechanically: the departure, the loading.
The realisation of the plan, yes?
The realisation of the plan.
Did this free you from emotional responsibility?
No, absolutely not. It simply made things easier because I wasn’t doing everything by myself. The fact that I had to arrange so many people required a plan. If I hadn’t had those people then I don’t know if I could have stood it emotionally.
Your emotions became dissolved among these people.
I was dependent on many people, and they were dependent on themselves.
And this required organising. The organisational work pushed away problems connected with my emotions.
The burden shifted.
That’s right, the burden shifted to the organisation.
Try to characterise the specific forced situation created among the people during the killing the horse. You’ve already said that it would have been “silly to back out”.
They delivered the horse to the dissecting-room and the expert who was going to put it to sleep came in. Everything moved with the momentum of some strange machine, people were talking, anything so as not to look. I was screaming, I knew that the horse would fall in a moment. And when it fell then something strange burst. The first step – the killing – meant that everything had to go forward.
The killing of the next animals was the result of the killing of the first one” It became necessary?
Obsessive. Since I had killed a horse, such a huge lump of meat, it was so much easier to kill something much smaller, like a cock or a cat.
And easier to get rid of them.
Oh, a lot easier.
Was this confined to a sensible solution to a technical problem?
What do you mean?
You know, delivery, clearing up. It should have been easier with the next one.
What is easier?
I am interested in what caused the compulsion. Could you name the stages of the situation being created among all those people in the dissecting-room?
They felt as if they had been drawn into something, that I had turned everything upside down, and that they had been made fools of.
With one move, which the killing of the horse was, you had made them dependent on you?
I think so. What were they supposed to do – run away?
Did you take away their will?
They did it. I fitted in, I fitted ideally in with what it was allowed.
Every field has its own building blocks. From each field, I took, what I needed and built my own small building. I did not hold a gun to their heads. They put to sleep a completely healthy animal. In addition, not how it’s normally done. And I had the feeling that this time death becomes something… new? Not as obvious, as usual. It was not such an obvious procedure. Maybe because I’m not a one from any of the killing fields. Maybe that’s why it was so. The guy with the drip-feed told me, that he wouldn’t take money for such services.
The laboratory assistant dressed up as a hunter…and used a clasp-knife. Each of them looked for some kind of support. I however did not step outside the accepted moral norms so they were not able to refuse it categorically. I spoke to the vet who selected the horse for slaughter. I asked him if we would put a healthy horse or cat to sleep. He said no, it’s immoral. He selects horses for slaughter, but in this situation, he would not put it to sleep. He looked at me as if I were an idiot. A whole institutional stands behind him, he is carrying out his professional duty, just selecting, no emotions, he is a cog in a machine. It was me who made everything move.
Is this really the need to create a sculpture or an artistic justification of a risky undertaking?
It is not an artistic justification. I don’t see the difference between simply eating the horse and then shitting it out, and just killing it and letting it stand preserved for several years, instead of shitting it out straight away. I don’t see the difference. I don’t know what’s wrong with using real animals instead of preserving the image of these animals in clay. It’s obviously perverse that I have to destroy it in order to create, but I don’t see the sense not to create it again and make a duplicate from something, what already exists.
They say that instead of preserving the animals, you wanted to install them dead in a kind of construction/frame, real corpses.
Didn’t I tell you about this?
Tell me now.
I got a shock when I was looking for the lab assistant and I found myself in a place where they told me that preparing the horse was no problem and that in fact, they were working on one at that time. They said, they’d show me, so I went in and there was a horse. It was all wet with its hair all matted, levitating above the floor. There was a steel barrier all around it and the horse was attached to it on both sides with an iron hook under its spine. So it was raised a bit. It had the skin severed above the artery, rolled back and secured with clips. A trocar tube entered the cut and first the blood was pumped away, then the formalin was pumped into the empty bloodstream. The horse was simply suspended in the formalin fumes. The amazing thing was that they had closed its eyes. A horse never closes its eyes. Even when it’s dead. They had made a human gesture – they had closed the corpse’s eyes. It was then that I saw the construction, with the horse, the dog, the cat and the cock, all with tubes and formalin. I associated this with my own situation – they are also pumping chemicals into my veins, so it’s very similar. It was an amazing feeling – it looked asleep, and it was levitating, I had formalin in my lungs, my eyes, and I couldn’t see anything. The horse was ready for the operation, one of its flanks was to be stripped away layer by layer in front of a student audience. I even wanted to attend, but somehow I never got around to it.
Is your illness a some kind of tumour – can you feel with your fingers what is being destroyed?
They are my beloved tumours which do not want to disappear. The doctor examined me recently [she touches herself] and here there is something more lumpy than here. When I started doing the Pyramid, I had a great lump on my neck. They took some kind of sample from this lump.
I lost all the resistance. I like to do it over, go for a break, push myself all the way. Several times in various situations I have pushed my resistance to the limit and lost it completely. I would go to the bathroom and I couldn’t even have a bath, undo the tap.I have developed extreme lack of resistance. These cancer cells began to eat me away, I stopped fighting, I lost all will to live, to everything. It began to spread within me. I definitely used the illness. It would have been idiotic of me not to use it. Don’t you think so?
You think it’s a good opportunity?
I try to use everything that comes along in life, so, yes it’s a good opportunity. I’ll either come out of it or I won’t. Two or three weeks ago I didn’t even know if I wanted to get better or not. This gave me a great feeling of freedom and independence. I allowed myself to do things which I had never allowed myself to do before. The illness was an excellent stage in my life. It showed me that I can be here, I can achieve things and that you do care and you do run around me. Who would have gone with me for these horses. I wouldn’t have been able to do it by myself, I was so pumped full of “chemicals”. First they gave me chemicals to make me vomit, then the next batch for to stop me vomiting. I felt like a puppet. There were days when I just lay in a bed and couldn’t even imagine getting up.
I exploited my illness in 100%.
You’ve used it up.
I’ve used up my illness. I don’t need it any more.
The operations which took place meant that your process was returning to life while that of the animals was leading to death.
“Chemistry”, radiation and at the time taking part in the deaths of animals. It’s all connected but I don’t know if I want to draw it out.
Let’s draw it out.
On the same day when the horse was killed, I had my last dose of radiation. All my hair fell out, it was a complete destruction. A bald head, and I had strange blotches from the radiation. /…/ The most important thing was what happened during work – revealing the well-trodden paths on which we function. Then when someone comes who knocks us off these paths, not strongly enough to go against the law, there are no arguments in favour of turning down and not doing something. Because…. You know what interests me the most” The emotions. No one needs to see my stuffed animals any more. It’s enough that a rumour is going around Warsaw that someone has killed something and stuffed it. The work itself ceases to be important. It works mentally, fuck it. Everything is fucked up in their heads.
Translated by Tadeusz Wolanski
- “Pyramid of Animals” was displayed for the first time at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, during the graduate exhibition.
- Soon afterwards it was shown at Kozyra’s first solo exhibition in Jacek Markiewicz’s a.r.t. Gallery in Płock (15.10-7.11.1993)
- The film which accompanies the sculpture was shown for the first time at the artist’s solo exhibition “Katarzyna Kozyra. Works” in Jacek Markiewicz’s a.r.t. Gallery in Płock (16.11-14.12.1996). The film “Horse, Dog, Cat, Rooster and Human” by Paweł Sosnowski was shown at the exhibition as well.
- The name of the course was Basia, but Kozyra unwittingly kept calling her Kasia, the short version of the name “Katarzyna” in Polish language.
- In 1997, in the catalogue of the exhibition “Poland — Nordrhein-Westfalen Transfer”, Wuppertal, Katarzyna Kozyra officially commented the work by Mauruzio Cattelan “Love Saves Life” which she saw for the first time during “Skulpturprojekte” in Münster, and declared it a plagiarism of „Pyramid of Animals”. In the same year, Cattelan’s works also triggered a response from the artist’s patron, art collector Andrzej Bonarski, who wrote letters of protest against the display and reproduction of plagiarisms addressed to:
- “ Skulpturprojekte” organisers in Münster
- Dieter Betschoff (chief editor and publisher of “Kunstforum International”, who included reproductions of Cattelan’s works in the 1997 September–October issue)
- Gebrüder König Postkartenverlag publishing house in Cologne which reproduced „Love Saves Life” on postcards.
The letters remain unanswered.
- In 2013 “Pyramid of Animals” alongside Damien Hirst’s “Away from the Flock” opened a major exhibition “British British Polish Polish. Art from Europe’s Edges in the Long ’90s and Today” in the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle.
- The work belongs to the collection of Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland.
- “Katarzyna Kozyra, Casting”, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw 2010.
- “Katarzyna Kozyra”, Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, Trento 2004.
- Katarzyna Kozyra, Museum of Contemporary Art, Zagreb 2001.
- „Katarzyna Kozyra, The Men’s Bathhouse, 48. International Biennial of Visual Arts, Venice, Polish Pavilion”, published by Zachęta Gallery of Art, Warszawa 1999.
Carrying buckets, trotting like pigs, [in:] “Trembling Bodies. Conversations with Artists ” by Artur Żmijewski (seria “Krytyki Politycznej”, t. II, Cracow, 2007).
“Katarzyna Kozyra. Works 1993-1998”, Polish Institute Leipzig, 1999.
Films about “Pyramid of Animals”:
“Horse, Dog, Cat, Rooster and Human” by Paweł Sosnowski, prepared for Program I at TVP (Polish Television), 1993.
“The Scandalous Kasia K.” by Grażyna Bryżuk, 1999.
The Artist would like to thank all her collaborators and people who helped in the realisation of the project, in particular:
Paweł Althamer, Grzegorz Kowalski, Jerzy Lynkowski, Krzysztof Malec, Jacek Malinowski, Marek Malinowski, Sylweriusz Rudolf, Aleksandra Semenowicz, Artur Żmijewski.
The piece was created with the support of Kozyra’s mother, Alicja.