The Warsaw-based artist tells us about growing up in Poland, the country's contemporary art scene and her Grandfather's visit to Antarctica
A girl is seen singing along to CocoRosie's song 'Jesus Loves Me'. Suddenly, she starts to deform. Is she a monster? Is that the real face hidden behind the mask? Or is it divine punishment for the blasphemous lyrics? We'll never know. What we do know is that the girl is Polish artist and filmmaker Anna Molska, and this is her self-portrait.
Uncertainty is something that characterises her work, sometimes bleak, sometimes humorous. Specialising in strange and authentic filmed performances acted by ordinary people, Molska has taken seemingly disparate references from the musical group, Nobel Prize Laureate Gerhart Hauptmann's play 'The Weavers', the Soviet rule on the Polish avant-garde, hermetic societies, Chinese puzzles and even American teenagers, and applied them in her art, addressing the effect of culture on art making and reflecting on revolutionary thought and today’s reality along the way.
Many critics described my works as influenced by communism, but it's not the entire truth. This period of history was gone in 1989, I was a kid in those days. The time before 1989 I remember as a wonderful childhood
Now, she brings her unique mix of dug-up modernist utopias, social investigations and avant-garde musings to the UK for the first time, showing as part Calvert 22’s ‘The Forgetting of Proper Names’ group expo. The multi-strand showcase of Polish contemporary art and culture explores how the past is reshaped and reinterpreted over time as it crosses cultural boundaries. Here, we speak to the artist about growing up in post-communist Poland and how she and her contemporaries are shaping the country’s art scene.
Dazed Digital: Who are you and what do you aim to say through your work here?
Anna Molska: I'm a videoartist based in Warsaw. I'm exhibiting three works in Calvert 22, one is intimate and it's about myself (Jesus Loves Me), one has a social-political approach (the Weavers) and one deals with an hermetic society which has to face life and death (The Mourners).
DD: How did growing up in Poland influence your work?
Anna Molska: For sure the history of my country has had a great influence on my works since my education time to the events which I can observe by myself lately. Many critics described my works as influenced by communism, but it's not the entire truth. This period of history was gone in 1989, I was a kid in those days. The time before 1989 I remember as a wonderful childhood.
DD: What do you think is happening to the Polish art scene at the moment?
Anna Molska: In general it has been a very good time for Polish art of late, it's very interesting to see what's happening. Artur Zmijewski is curating the upcoming Berlin Biennale. Wojtek Bakowski and Agnieszka Polska, part of a younger artist generation, are following their own paths in a very original way. Classic artists like Alina Szapocznikow are well-known worldwide. The Polish art scene is very active nowadays. On the other hand, the wild capitalism has just produced a strange scandal when trying to treat art like a common marketplace and pump up some unknown names just by hiring young students of fine arts, getting their works and selling them around for millions.
DD: Why did you choose to use Coco Rosie's 'Jesus Loves Me' in your self-portrait video? What does that song mean to you?
Anna Molska: For me that piece had a gospel mood and had some connection with Catholicism, which I wanted to pursue. I was curious about how it would sound in our Catholic country and what would be the reverberation.
DD: Tell us more about the expo. How did you relate to 'The Forgetting of Proper Names'?
Anna Molska: I like the combination of artists who I'm exhibiting with. I feel mixed up with this question.
DD: What are you working on now and what's next?
Anna Molska: I'm now working on a project which is based on a very large and interesting documentation of my Grandfather's visit to Antarctica in 1965. It's going to be a compilation of sculpture and video. I'm going to show it in Warsaw and New York.
Anna Molska is showing at 'The Forgetting of Proper Names', until March 19th at Calvert 22 Foundation, 22 Calvert Avenue, London E2 7JP