EXodus - Interview with georgia Krawiec
Interview by Joanna Kinowska, Translation by Karol Liver, Corrections by Ciara O'Halloran
georgia Krawiec’s „EXodus” is a layered and complex story that confronts the viewer with the subject of death. The person we see in the photographs is the author herself. She uses pinhole techniques as a language of her emotional expression. Our editor, Joanna Kinowska talks to georgia Krawiec about her series, which has recently been exhibited (Placebo Experiences) during this year’s PhotoMonth Kraków Festival.
|EXodus Homeopathy II|
© georgia Krawiec
georgia Krawiec: In 2006 I was given a book of short nonsense stories, I was absorbed by it and it caused a further exploration of this subject. It’s an amazing kind of literature, grotesque, unclear and obscure, but also full of dark humor. By exploring the subject deeper, I discovered Karen Karin Rosenberg, an American novelist from New Jersey and her short theatre plays, and contacted her soon after. I was mesmerized by the way her main character’s psychological states were drawn by words and phrases, i.e.: “ideal and transcendental”, “liberation through submission”, “wild and capricious”, “manifestation”, “volatile and unpredictable”. While working on “EXodus” I tried to pour all my inspiration into the character and let her tell the story.
What have you discovered about yourself while working on “EXodus”?
Even at the first glimpse, it looked like “Exodus” would be full of depressing, dark images describing some morbid state of the human psyche and that really is the main theme of the project. But it was, paradoxically, a great joy for me to work with such a serious subject matter and to challenge myself to convert it into a visual language of self-portraiture. it was also quite a challenge indeed to break on through to the other side, to impersonate a character that only existed deep in my imagination. And to survive. This act of self-exposure with no one there to witness it, just me and pinhole camera. It almost felt like a primal act of something that could be described as infantile intimacy. To conclude I can say I’ve learnt something new – a positive, or even humorous approach to passing of time, (my own) death and vanishing.
|EXodus ReVision I © georgia Krawiec|
Which part of the series was the hardest one to develop and why?
I’ve encountered two main difficulties: the difficulty of transmitting the direct message so it’s not too abstract and visually readable (i.e.: aesthetic and poetic sensations from “Poems, rhymes and apostrophes” part or more physical ones from “Balsam”). The other difficulty was how to transmit those messages that seem easy to be converted to visual language, but only on the first glimpse. I wanted to wrap simplicity into less obvious fabric of hidden dimension (i.e.: “Variations”, “Psychosis”, “Homeopathy”). I’ve also included a discourse on the subject of polish Catholicism (“ReVision”, “Placebo Sensations”) which defines the notion of death and after-life. Those questions were my main interest and caused the most difficulties that I’ve encountered while working on the project.
What was the main technique(s) used?
I’m so familiar with pinhole photography that it was obviously the only choice for me, but at some stage I actually started to wonder if I should use something else. And then again, doing portraits using pinholes is a laborious and an unpredictable effort, the long exposure time required a lot of patience from the model and a great doze of forbearance towards the photographer. I thought about finding someone that could face the challenge and play my main character, I had a close, very sensitive and emotive person in my mind, but before I had a chance to ask I had already done two test shoots with myself. They happened to be exhausting in both a physical and mental way and the results were hard to predict I’ve come up with this simple conclusion: no one would be able to cope with these conditions, I was doomed to be my very own self-tormented protagonist. I’ve never done any self-portraiture before, it was always against my personality but from this perspective I think I managed and it was a good decision. As I said before, after all it was a very joyful experience for me.
|EXodus Meditation I © georgia Krawiec|
EXodus was first presented In 2009, but recently you have teamed up with Magda Hueckel to create “Transgression” exhibition. Your lonely journey has been now been confronted with another artist’s view and together you have created a bit different visual experience. Are you satisfied with the result?
I know Magda for many years, and even though we meet each other privately, we rarely discuss any raw material with each other. That’s why we were so surprised, after we revealed our final images, to see that we have been working on pretty much the same subject – fear and obsession of unavoidable destiny... There was one difference though, death is a destination point in my works, but with Magda’s work is a starting point. This was truly an unexpected, yet powerful completion.
You’re very much into XIX century’s photographic techniques. You have used them in your projects. Why do people still using them?
I discovered photography during my second year of study. However, I was more into graphics and sculpture at this time. Our professor, Jürgen Königs, propagated a very intimate approach to photography: from scrap, do-it-yourself cameras, your own paper, the awareness of light and its waves, so nothing is missed. A total independency, a photographic autarchy where everything is now automated, served on a digital plate and ready to use. I was always very skeptical about capitalism and that influenced my choices and my creative activities. Of course this isn’t the only positive aspect of using all of these archaic long-forgotten techniques but maybe now, 20 years after, when almost every mortal is now using a digital camera those techniques are even more important. This constant feeling of acceleration we live in destroys the meaning of visual language. Old techniques force me to calm down, to stop and think about the dilemma, to explore them in a more intense manner, to create a meaningful reflection. This is what matters most in art. As an author this is the only way I can emotionally connect myself to my work. Slowing down is my personal art motto and a remedy to the present day.
|Divine Carelessness © georgia Krawiec|
Do you have a favorite technique?
Not an easy question at all. I think the techniques used should always be determined by and adopted to a specific idea, but of course I have my favorite ones. Pinhole photography is always on top, but I like to play with black and white photography and calotype. I have chosen pinhole for its simplicity. It also fascinates me that over 100 thousand years ago people could view the upside-down image reflected on walls and the technique to achieve this reflected image hasn’t changed since then. Calotype is one of those precious techniques used by Fox Talbot and it thrills me to follow his path. It feels like being a successor of first photographic alchemists every time I use silver nitrate in development process.
I admire William Henry Fox Talbot for his persistence, Andrea Palladio for his architectural imagination, Hermann Krone for his continuality, passion and perversity of Kurt Schwitters. I like all sort of experimentators and I appreciate manual approach to photographic medium: photo-montages and collages of Hannah Höch and Zofia Rydet, pictorial techniques of Bronislaw Schlabs, heliography of Karol Hiller. I like when intransigence comes to voice, like in Joel-Peter Witkin’s work or Zbigniew Libera’s visions. I think politically engaged art can achieve more than organized social movements… I could go on and on like that. My list is like my whole universe and it still expands.
I hate when they use pins to hang works to the wall. I find it bad quality and compromises the work.
So how do you prefer to present your photographs: on exhibitions, in books, on the internet?
Internet is a problematic field. When I was 9 my father was finally able to buy a small Fiat 126p in a grotesque socialistic colour. I still remember never-ending arguements and debates about the colour of the car: It is blue! No, it is green, It is turquoise! Was that colour a subjective reflection of reality? A rather a subjectivity of a personal impression? That banal story reminds me of virtual world today, but there’s even more, mainly technical aspects, to be added to a plain subjectivity, from colour calibration to resolution to contrast etc., and contemplating art online is no longer authentic. And I’ve only mentioned colour. Ok, there is also a risk of distortions in print, but I still prefer paper work over shiny pixels. I love the surface of barium paper, or bits of silver on prints. This can only be contemplated when dealing with originals. So exhibition for the winner!
Why do you write your name with small letters?
When I was 14, I started to write my name this way… a declaration of human littleness so to speak… I was a believer then.
The size of letters used seems to be significant to you? It can be seen in titles and captions. What’s the purpose of playing with letters?
I play with letters to include some hidden messages and content. At the same time it’s also an aesthetical dimension to emphasize the shape of my cogitations. ”EXodus”, for instance, explores and questions the tragedy of the inevitable end.
Original interview by Joanna Kinowska, English Translation by Karol Liver, Text correction by Ciara O'Halloran.
georgia Krawiec graduated from Fine Arts at Siegen University in Germany, where she studied under the eye of Jürgen König’s . She works as an independent artist and photographer since 2000. She is a tutor of experimental photography, pinhole photography and noble techniques. She has had work exhibited in numerous individual exhibitions in Poland, Germany, Luxemburg, France and USA. Her work is in private and public collections in Europe and USA. She is a lecturer of photography in National Museum in Warsaw, National Art Gallery Zachęta in Warsaw and the Goethe Institute (Contemporary German Photography). She is on the jury of TVP “Dolina Kreatywna” and Portfolio-Review in The Art Institute of Boston, AIB, USA. A member of Polish Fine Art Photographers Association. She lives and works in Warsaw, Poland.
More images from EXodus series can be found in 1st Anniversary Issue of prism magazine.