Monika Sosnowska (Venice Biennial)

Taro Hattori Monika Sosnowska Kala Art Institute

My Trip to Europe

This trip to Europe was a big culture shock. It was my first time to visit any part of Europe, and I had packed all 37 years of my fantasy about Europe. In some ways, my expectation was deceived and in some other ways the land gave me much more than I expected. Afterwards, all the European lands I visited had become a part of my life.

This trip was partly for visiting contemporary art festivals; Venice Biennial, Prague Biennial and Documenta. I am not entitled to give such a notion of “this year’s Venice Biennial was blah blah…” simply because this was my first time and I had nothing to compare with except the magazine reviews of the events I had read. Still, I think I need to have an outlet for my experience. Here I will write about the impressive artworks I saw in those festivals. It will be extremely subjective.

Monika Sosnowska (Venice Biennial)

Among the international pavilions in the Arsenale at the Venice Biennial, Poland presented one of the most powerful, impressive and thoughtful exhibitions. Monika Sosnowska made a squashed metal skeletal structure that seemed to replicate that of the pavilion. It seemed like the black painted structure was originally made in a real scale of the pavilion building and forcefully compressed and distorted to fit into the inner space of the building. Viewers could actually go into the structure. I needed to be careful not to bang my head on the steel beams. In some part I felt a bit dangerous even though I knew it wouldn’t collapse because all art would be constructed sturdily enough. (Those killed by artworks are normally the installers during installation or -metaphorically- the artists during their lives.)

Sosnowska’s work seemed like the aftermath of a disastrous event, but actually it was carefully planned and meticulously engineered, and it is aesthetically pleasing to experience. The idea of “constructing the image of destruction” comes into my head so frequently these days. It may be “constructing the image of destroyed space.” This is intentional construction and simulation of the damaged, not something wrecked accidentally. (There were many great journalistic artworks that documented tragically catastrophic events. These two groups are totally different.)

Especially since 9.11, images of destroyed space have surrounded us. These mass media images somehow stimulate our eyes to find something similar. This uncanny power of symbolization forces us to find wrecked buildings, cities, people, airplanes, cars and many other destroyed things in our everyday life. The flood of such images is often pinpointed as a cause of numbness to human suffering; I feel it is undeniably undermining our psychological stability. For me, Sosnowska’s work represents a vicious circle in which our neuroses are overpowering hope. In the way we get over a psychological fixation from traumatic experience by repeating the same symbolic activity over and over, we may be reproducing the image of the destroyed to comprehend our collective contemporary experience. In the way a child keeps singing the same song over and over to get over her/his anxiety and fear standing alone in the middle of nowhere, we may feel totally lost with the realization of how powerless we are.(Her power to create such a huge object going through all the engineering and bureaucratic difficulties is clearly the greatest of our hopes these days -possibly that was the reason why I was so inspired when I faced such a depressing theme.)

“Duality” has been one of the key concepts to understanding my experience. The duality of the actual building and her destroyed structure, the accumulated images of real destruction and our psychological process of re-creating and re-experiencing destruction, and the representation of powerlessness and the embodiment of her creative power– these all induced my realization that the ground we are steadily standing on may crumble at any time.

Among many other artworks recently exhibited, I got the similar feeling from Felix Schramm’s piece exhibited at SF MoMA, and Doris Salcedo’s at Tate Modern.

Taro Hattori Monika Sosnowska Kala Art Institute

Taro Hattori Monika Sosnowska Kala Art Institute
Monika Sosnowska (in Venice Biennial)

Taro Hattori Monika Sosnowska Kala Art Institute
Another Monika Sosnowska

Taro Hattori Felix Schramm Kala Art Institute

Taro Hattori Felix Schramm Kala Art Institute
Felix Schramm

Taro Hattori Doris Salcedo Kala Art Institute
Doris Salcedo at Tate Modern

(Taro Hattori October 14, 2007)

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