With her site-specific commission for the leviathan art fair which opens its doors today, Joanna Rajkowska is 'Forcing a Miracle' in Regents Park. Drawing on her personal desire for wish fulfilment, she will be lighting a field of incense to produce clouds of smoke in a gesture both ceremonial and ancient. In doing so she transforms an area of the fair into a site for reflection, encounter and imagination...
Miracles don't happen on their own. You have to ask for them. Or at least allow them to happen
Dazed Digital How did you come up with the idea?
Joanna Rajkowska: It was a Pavlovian reflex. It just came to me as a response to the idea of working in the context of an art fair. You wait for something to happen, someone to come, something that allows you to go beyond a quite stiff ritual of an exchange of pleasantries. You want to pinch the air so that it is not so smooth. Last year I went to Japan, where I saw people crowding around huge 'bowls' with incenses in front of the shinto and Buddhists temples. They were formulating their wishes and they were, in a way, materialising in the form of smoke. It had the great ambiance of a very individual, yet collective performance. It wasn't forced, rather very spontaneous. I loved its energy. In the context of an art fair it had an ironic hint, that I like.
DD: What's the connection to your personal life and desires?
Joanna Rajkowska: Soon after I had had a vision of smoking incenses, my little daughter, Rosa, was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, retinoblastoma, which is an eye cancer. Since then, the project has started to grow, along with my fear. I realised that I have a ready formula that I can use for something far more essential. I can activate the ground and grass to manifest my own greatest, most inner wish - to help Rosa in her battle. I do believe, that if you give the ground (soil, little stones, insects and plants) a language, it is far more effective that any human desire.
DD: Why force a miracle?
Joanna Rajkowska: Miracles don't happen on their own. You have to ask for them. Or at least allow them to happen.
DD: How did you become interested in ritual?
Joanna Rajkowska: I am interested in inventing new social rituals, which usually occur when people don't really know what to do with themselves. I trust situations, which go beyond recognised types of rituals and force people to behave in a slightly different way. This moment of awkwardness is quite creative.
DD: How do you think it will react with or reflect the site of Frieze?
Joanna Rajkowska: It depends on people, really. How they will read it and understand it. It is enough to let it happen. Then the smoke, with its dynamics, will direct thoughts and simply allow people to drift a bit.
DD: What do you hope to evoke in passers by?
Joanna Rajkowska: Not much, just a little moment when your mind wanders. You know, when you are completely defenceless and you let things go.