Lód topnieje, Pani Frankczak/The Ice is melting Ms Frankczak
(Zacheta Project Room Warsaw)
22.03 - 18.05
The exhibition has been inspired by Tarjei Vesaas’s book The Ice Palace(1963). Everything began in 2012 when Magda Franczak, an artist living and working in Lublin, met Tel Aviv-based Yael Frank, who was presenting her work at Lublin’s Labirynt Gallery. The acquaintance soon revealed deeper – going beyond just last-name or hair-colour similarity – affinities between the two artists, concerning existential (generational) histories or artistic interests. The meeting led to the idea of producing a joint project for the Zachęta Project Room in Warsaw. The project’s point of departure was the artists’ shared fascination with the Norwegian writer Vesaas’s poetic and suggestive novel about the friendship of two adolescent girls, reflecting the experience of transience and death, and a correlation between the human and natural worlds.
The artists started a drawing dialogue, sending each other drawings on paper by traditional post. They so write about the communication: ‘The meeting of two artists — Magda Franczak and Yael Frank – in the space of the Zachęta Project Room is what did not happen in the book, a step forward... The image of a frozen lake assumed an even denser form. The artists went to visit the Palace together. There appeared a fictional figure – Ms Frankczak – who is not only a mix of the two artists’ last names but also their common voice.’
Ms Frankczak’s drawings were originally made on small-format pieces of yellowed paper. For the show’s purposes, they have been put in resembling ice-crystal frames. The world represented by the ‘double artist’ is filled with shapes that bring to mind organic forms, fragments of the human body, landscape features or abstract forms. Aesthetic as they are, upon closer inspection they may reveal strange, repulsively biological or grotesque aspects, combining Franczak’s characteristic themes of nature, organicity, female corporeality with Frank’s penchant for grotesque mise-en-scènes of banal or supernatural reality (with a bit of social and political engagment).
The presentation, created especially for the ZPR, is complemented by a large-format joint drawing composition, created, unlike the other drawings, in direct personal interaction between the two artists.
The show also features both authors’ individual works. Magda Franczak has ‘recycled’ a sculptural piece from the recent Ice Palace show at the Labirynt Gallery in Lublin (a solo project likewise inspired by the Vesaas book): a crystal-and-mirror structure that seems to be sucking the viewer inside. Previously part of a wall installation, it has now become the central element of a freestanding sculpture. Another pre-existing structure resembles a frozen well or lake of an unnatural, geometric shape. Franczak is also showing two photographs of disturbing landscapes (e.g. with grass that looks like human hair).
Yael Frank, in turn, is presenting a kinetic sculpture installation, Bye. Characteristically for the artist, it incorporates pop-culture elements, kitschy decorations or toys, usually associated with a programmed idyllic childhood, to signal important, often existential, themes. And so the white-gloved Mickey Mouse hands on the wall seem to be waving goodbye to the world rather than to children leaving the movie house after watching one of the always-happy Walt Disney animations.
Another featured work by Frank is the large-format image/C print Pattern of Hypertrichosis Universalis (2013) with a repeated fragment of Lavinia Fontana’s Portrait of a Girl Covered in Hair. The disturbing motif of a ‘human anomaly’ that would sit well in a curio cabinet becomes here a virtually decorative element placed on a flesh-coloured background.
One of Frank’s many absurd short videos, the politically-incorrect-titled No Entrance for Handicapped, is screened next to the staircase leading to the gallery’s lower level, which, unfortunately, happens indeed to be inaccessible for handicapped persons.
The exhibition is accompanied by a soundtrack, specially designed by Marcin Dymiter, which makes complete the feeling of an ‘ice’ show.
Franczak and Frank share frequent references to childhood as the formative period of one’s life, the former turning more towards the natural world, the latter building her metaphors using pop iconography or quasi-documentary film strategies. Despite these differences, both authors seem to agree that by surviving existential trials or traumas, we grow stronger. This is suggested by the show’s optimistic title.
In The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, Bruno Bettelheim writes: ‘Tolkien describes the facets which are necessary in a good fairy tales as fantasy, recovery, escape, and consolation – recovery from deep despair, escape from some great danger, but, most of all, consolation’. In these terms, The Ice Palace is not a ‘good fairy tale’ because one of the protagonists frozens and dies. Rather, it can be interpreted as a story of growing up and realising the inevitability of death.
THE EXHIBITION IS ACCOMPANIED BY A SPECIAL SOUNDTRACK COMPOSED BY MARCIN DYMITER (WITH PAWEŁ NOWICKI). YOU CAN DOWNLOAD IT HERE. DOWNLOAD, COME, LISTEN AND WATCH!
curator Magda Kardasz collaboration Karolina Bielawska sound Marcin Dymiter