ATTRACTIONS BEYOND CONTROL
Towards the end of the eighties an erotic thriller Fatal Attraction by Adrian Lyne was getting a lot of publicity In the cinemas. The history of an unleashed desire, presented from the very beginning as a romance, changes into a horror, when – with the plot evolving – a title-related attraction starts to get slipped from the control of protagonists. Monika Grycko ironically referred to the original title of the film, by having called her works Fatal Attractions. Her multimedia installations, alike to Lyne’s picture, constitute stories of dangerous attractions, which are hard to resist.
In Monika Grycko’s works, one may notice a yearning for representation, illusion, and arts, which will get the possession of spectator’s senses. The artist’s baroque responsiveness has been expressed in naturalistic figuration, in delusive, though mimetically disturbing sculptures. Grycko repeats a Pygmalion gesture; she creates figures, which cancel the distance between a spectator and an artistic object – associations with those figures bear the imprint of the impression of someone’s presence. At the same time, the artist is aware of the contemporary decline of realistic representation, so she does not entrust the performance itself. Around her sculptures, she creates complex spatial arrangements, which constitute a recognizable context for the meaning of the sculptures. Grycko benefits from theatrical mise-en-scene, however here we do not encounter the area of secure contemplation experienced among the audience in theatres. The viewer directly enters the stage and, whether intentionally or not, assumes a role of one of the story’s protagonists, by taking the advantage of confronting with the figures, approach them, touch or look in the eyes. Encounter with those nearly realistic figures, has been appointed in the delusive scenery, on the area of their own. In a way, this manoeuvre makes us helpless in front of persuasive character of representation, once we found ourselves in a place, which has its own rules, the rules of depicted reality, It was this strategy, which Monika Grycko has applied in her two spatial arrangements titled Fatal Attractions.
Fatal Attraction 1, with a subtitle Adam and Eve, relates to tradition of presenting the original sin. Grycko makes some edition of the classical theme, while casting new figures in the old roles. This time, the everlasting drama of being seduced by a demonic power, is taking place in an ordinary room, middle-class interior full of furniture and every day use objects. All the elements have been painted red, which contributes to overall disturbing, and, needless to say, internal expression. In such scenery, the artist placed her figures of two young, naked people. The attitudes of both figures are defiant; a woman and man are captured just before a sexual intercourse. The intercourse is never to be completed, though. The heroes of the arrangements seem to be frozen, and hypnotically stare at the TV set placed in the far end of the interior. Fragments of various TV programs are flashing madly in the screen, along with presenters’ faces, snatches of TV news, cartoons or movies. Chaotic agglomeration of images is a reminiscence of channel surfing, blank clicking on the remote in search of something interesting. Under a closer inspection however, we notice quite frequently appearing faces of devils, monsters and phantoms (in major part, those represent well known figures from horror movies), whereas in the interrupted mumble of words and in shreds of music and dialogues, there is a repeated sequence from “Dark Side” spoken by a little monster Yoda, one of “Star Wars” protagonists.
In Adam and Eve, the artist casts mass media in the role of Seductive Snake of First Parents. On the other hand, she skips the journalistic discourse on dangerous aspects of media culture. Instead of rationalizing the problem, she performs a kind of symbolic act: Grycko personifies media by association with demonic entity. The artist shows Adam and Eve facing demonical power. It is not a seduction scene any more – the thing is done, and the figures last in a trance, similar to possession.
Adam and Eve constitutes the reference to presentation of the fall of First Parents. In the Fatal Attraction 2, Grycko in turn uses iconographic scheme of “The Birth of Venus”. This composition introduces us into a discourse of beauty, comprehended as an attribute, a desired commodity. The artist creates a pastiche of the representation of a goddess being born, the archetypical exquisite femme. The work narrative is based on the change of perspectives and spatial relations between a spectator and a created situation. In the beginning, we watch the installation from a certain distance, since it has been placed in a relatively far end from the entrance to the gallery. In the far corner of the room, we see a hospital-like scenery, with an idealized female nude. Seeing from this perspective, we fail to spot the details; Grycko opens a long perspective in front of us, but, at the same time, she partially covers it with hospital screen. This limitation in the view makes us come closer and peep through the curtains. The artist hinders the spectator at the border of hospital screen. The screens cover up the sitting figure, however not completely, so we are able to have a look. A spectator, deprived of the installation at the exterior side, is transformed into a voyeur. While observing from the close distance, he is able to notice the scars and stitches that remained after a plastic surgery on the body of a woman. The spectator discovers, that the perfect body is a work by doctor Frankenstein, a kind of “edited” body, quite literally cut to the form of ideal beauty. Idealization of act turns out to be manipulation, a medical process, whose outcome is on the edge between the charm and ghastly sight.
Venus by Monika Grycko is shown with matched attributes, which lead to iconographic reading of a performance, and those are: a seashell lying at the feet of a figure and the background image of shimmery water. The artist transfers the act of Venus being born from the seashore to the sterile, artificial surrounding. The beach is replaced be a hospital room, whereas ocean – by a swimming pool. Naturally, the divine beauty of Venus gives a way to the aesthetics of design a corrected nature adjusted to our imagination and desires.
Monika Grycko carries out a massive attack on our concept of sensitivity, and intensifies expression media by employing different means: hyperrealist sculpture, scene design , video. The artist intends to seduce and shock (daze) the spectators, since her works are telling a story on seduction of senses, in particular. Grycko takes over the strategies characteristic for phenomena, which are subject to criticism and describes the phenomena with her own languages. Her installations are attractive, and pamper the viewer with a formal satiety and communicativeness. Grycko perversely identifies herself with the model of culture, which requires from the artist the supply of the greatest richness of sensual, easy-to-perceive stimuli to the viewers. Fatal Attractions constitute visualization of a certain condition of awareness, as well as provide a comment on the cultural processes, which are rendered commonplace in a degree that are easily ignored. Monika Grycko adds some drama to those processes, but although usually, we are their object, here we take over the position of a witness, the position from where a lot of things appear to be clearer.
Solo exhibition of Monika Grycko “Attractions beyond control”, Center for Contemporary Art Varsavia, 1999, curator Stach Szablowski