Gallery of Contemporary Art in Opole
exhibition of Opole Festival of Photography
opening: 5.11.2021, 6 PM
28. 11 at 4PM meeting about the exhibition with Magda Hueckel and Katarzyna Sagatowska
curator : Katarzyna Sagatowska
Magda Hueckel’s series was created from portraits of real women gathered in one medical archive, into which the artist also introduced her own image. Meanads are an idea made up of dozens of individual stories and experiences. Meanads do not satisfy expectations. They are wild and peaceful at the same time. They don’t pretend to be anything. They look into the lens nonchalantly and boldly. They don’t pose. They are authentic, strong and incisive. They emanate intensity of existence. They are a symbol of the experience of femininity and feminine strength that have been repressed in culture for centuries. A woman’s primeval strength, bond, sense of dignity, but also stigmatisation, discrimination and trauma. The ‘Maenads’ have arisen from the artist’s desire to create a portrait capturing the experience of being a woman.
“The face resists possession, resists my powers”
Magda Hueckel sets a trap for the viewer. The face is sense. The face is where the language, the meaning, and the meeting begin. The face is a starting point for thinking, and it is the face of the Other where you experience closeness. The face is also an experience of mystery. I see a face. But Hueckel is playing a game with me. How many people are there in the picture? Two? Or three? Who is the third one? Is the left profile the left side of the face? Or the right one? Who owned the polo golf that now belongs to the ‘third woman’? The scarf? The string of beads? Who did they belong to? Whose was the black eye? And who closed the eyes? The hair? The lipstick? The droopy mouth corners? Which part of the face seems swollen and sick? Even though it is neither sick nor swollen. This is just a trap of hasty associations. And the names? The new name belongs to the person you see en face. Ata. Barfia. Boga. Data. Doka. Elra. Which profile do the names Irena, Wanda, Zofia belong to? Are the names alphabetised? Are there letters you cannot start any name with? You cover the left half of the face with your hand and you see a new face that you couldn’t see before, but it has always been there. You see a new, harmonious face, and a very beautiful one. You start guessing, making up a new face in year head. And the names. You try to sort out your experience. But it is the third face and the third name that keep intriguing you.
Who am I looking at? If the profiles of the women are personae – their versions that want to impress, meet expectations, satisfy the needs of society, reach a compromise between their social role and personal dream of being perceived in a specific way while hiding their true nature – then how to treat the moment when the face masks of the personae are off and the true someone reveals themselves en face? Who? The one who is looking? Or perhaps, paradoxically, the ‘new’ face turns us back to ourselves, acts like a Rorschach test that you need to fill with your unconsciousness? It is none other but the non-existent face (which exists though, because you’re looking at it) that knocks the tools out of your hand and forces you to engage in a new game. We are looking for symmetry, compatibility between the components that we will put together, striving for perfection. We will look for harmony, order, a mirror reflection. But we won’t find them. We check the definition: “a figure is asymmetrical (chiral) if it is not superimposable on its mirror image without transiting into a space with more dimensions.” DNA is asymmetrical. What a relief. You need to find another, hidden dimension.
We experience the mystery of the Other’s face, asymmetrical and incomprehensible, and it is through the Other, through the Other’s look that we re-read ourselves. We enter another dimension.
“Nothing, except that the mad one is singing nonsense: A e i o u, what will I be tomorrow? First I was earth, then a stone, then a tree and a flower… And then the window opened, a huge, wonderful one. A e i o u, it seized me and there I was, like rustling forest… But they closed my window, closed it with heavy black wings. A e i o u, earth, stone and tree and no one will understand a word under the silent wings… Except for that, nothing has happened.” The incident at the psychiatric hospital described by Christine Lavant in her Memoirs from a Madhouse opens up new possibilities for interpretation. Hueckel invites us to explore madness as a new energy that can transform into a new form. One that becomes a promise, a dangerous and unknown potency that has been suppressed for centuries. Is it directing us towards the aspect of femininity that we fear to face? Towards the bacchants who are tearing Pentheus apart? Towards Christine Lavant, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Camille Claudel and many, many other women? Hueckel wants us to be ‘face-to-face,’ that is to meet humans as they are. There is drama in such an encounter, and ‘drama makes a tragedy possible,’ as Józef Tischner wrote. We are experiencing something incomprehensible and repressed that escapes language. We are experiencing something dangerous that we have never seen so lucidly before. But our experience is subjective and that is what Hueckel’s perverse game is all about – while looking at her pictures, we are looking at ourselves.
Maja Kleczewska, “Face to Face”
Visual artist, theater photographer, stage designer, traveler. A graduate of the Faculty of Painting and Graphic Arts at the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts. Scholarship holder of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the City of Sopot.
Her works have been exhibited at several dozen exhibitions in Poland and abroad (including Tate Britain in London). Author of photo books’ ‘Anima. Pictures from Africa 2005–2013’ and ‘HUECKEL / THEATER’ (nominations for the Photographic Publication of the Year 2014 and 2016).
She collaborates with Tomasz Śliwiński on filmmaking as scriptwriter and art director. Their documentary film “Our Curse” received an Oscar nomination and dozens of awards at international festivals. The premiere of their newest film “Ondine” took place in 2019.
She constantly cooperates with over a dozen theaters in Poland. She has created documentation of several hundred theater performances. Many iconic photographs of contemporary Polish plays are the works of Magda Hueckel.
In the years 2002–2004 she created the photographic duo hueckelserafin with Agata Serafin.
President and founder of the Polish CCHS Foundation Lift the Curse.
Co-organised by Fundacja 2.8, Galeria Jednostka