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Jacek Żebrowski

Creative output of Joanna Bonder (born in 1987) is formally linked to a popular idea of conceptuality, however the themes are within several different areas. One of the them is common image of deconstruction and reflecting upon perception of modern human. Another area, which is explored by Joanna are: mortality, time passing, memory and even occultism and mysticism which are not as popular among new media artists. Such an existentialism of Bonder’s output can be seen in her early works entitled „Golden Ratio” and „Flesh Things” In the former one, in order to analyse human face in the photographs, Bonder uses sectio aurea formula which is a division of a line into two segments in such a way that their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the longer of the two quantities. This division is expressed by FI [gr. Φ; ang. Phi] formula, its decimal value is 1,61803… In the series of photographs, on the one hand there is an ideal world of numbers and mathematical functions but on the other hand there is a human imperfections and limitations. The faces seen in the 3rd photograph are transformed in accordance with „golden ratio” pattern, consequently what we can observe is how humans are physically far from the geometrical ideals. This seemingly purely mathematical and formal work presents discrepancy between strict patterns and chaotic reality. In the latter work „Rzeczy Cielesne”, there is another approach to the issue. Human body, which nowadays is objectified, here is being de-fragmented by the author. Bonder used the simplest technique – she compared parts of human body to everyday objects (such as a chair, a shoe, scissors). „Psychomachia” is another deconstruction work, a kind of game with perception. The participant of the installation is wandering from room to room during a party and according to what kind of drug or substance does he take, his perception of reality differs. According to the artist herself, what inspired her were: „hungry ghosts, which in Buddhist tradition symbolise constant instability”. Vicious cycle, never ending return, closed in the space as if in underground world of death – those are also first inspirations of mystic philosophy and ancient mythologies. „Psychomachia” is an experiment in the range of perception of what is seen and what later will be the theme of her works.

Spiritual and existential inspirations are present in almost all of Joanna’s works, apart from „Psychomachia”, they are undoubtedly a source of coming into existence works: „The Serpent’s Coil”, „Mother of God”, „Women” or „The real Snow White”. The inspiration is in different spiritual emergence such as Buddhism, Christianity, mysticism, occultism, alchemy. „The Serpent’s Coil” is an installation presenting a snake coiling around a tree. It resembles Uroboros thought: an Egyptian symbol of rebirth. The snake which is swallowing its own tail, was caused by agnostics and alchemists as a symbol of eternal return or unity of juxtapositions.

„Mother of God” uses the figure of Maria, the mother of Jesus, honoured especially by Roman-catholic and eastern Christians. The artist depictures her like Barbie doll, one of girl’s most popular toys in the 80s and 90s of 21st century, which may be perceived, by above mentioned followers, as iconoclasm. Notwithstanding this fact, the intention of the author, who clearly expresses emotional attitude towards both of the symbols, was: „not very serious treatment of Maria as a role model who could have become a teenage idol.” A very interesting work is „Women”, which fulfils two themes of the main interests of Bonder: formal-mathematical and spiritually-existential. On the one hand it is a coverage on the septenary numeral system which is the base-7 number system, and uses the digits 0-6. On the other hand, however it refers to magic symbolism of number 7. For the Pythagorean number 7 was „the bgigest basic whole number”. For Christians this number is a symbol of perfection. In many mythologies 7 was attributed to gods. Supernatural properties of number 7, for people ranging from Sumerian to Egyptians to Chinese and to Japanese, have always been connected with the magic object of the highest importance. In Joanna Bonder’s work the number 7 is a symbol of seven-years cycle of life, shedding old „snake” skin, rebirth, creating new personality, getting into another stage of life. Septenary numeral system presents a process from the birth until the death, on the example of close female relatives. This directs her work to personal reflection upon evanescence and fragility of human life. Her diploma paper works such as „Parousia” or „The Real snow white” are based on the symbols drawing from Christianity (crown of thorns worn by model in „Parousia”; white dress symbolising resurrection in „The real Snow White”), from myths and from fairytale (author’s identification with The snow white).

The issue of perception and deconstruction of an image was undertaken by the author in her last experimental movies- „The Rope” and „The Numbers.” The material, which was a foundation for the former movie, was „The Rope” by Alfred Hitchcock from 1948. In the original piece, the movie consists of 8 ten-minute shots made by TMT – Ten Minute Takes method, which are put together in order to make an impression of one long shoot. An inspiration for this was a movie made by Hungarian avant-garde cinematographer Sándora Kardos „Grabarz” („Gravedigger”). The film uses the same camera that records horse racing photo finishes. Photographed images are track deformed and fuzzy, blurred so that not only does the viewer loses his interest in the movie but also he does not recognize the original Hitchcocka’s movie. This viewer’s contemplation is (over) sensual cinema experience. The author does the opposite to Michael Snow, whose movies „Wavelenght” or „La Region Centrale” are characterized by almost mystical tone due to their contemplation of landscape and space or due to similar feature film experiences of György Fehér, Fred Kelemen, Šaunas Bartas or even fûkei eiga – Japanese landscape movie. Bonder processes the output material by deconstructing the image itself, slowing the screening down as if in drug trance where time and space are blurred and fuzzy. Short movie „Digits” belong to the same category of author’s formal interests. Few shoots presenting the face, body parts, a sleeping cat, abstract lines, cars in move are being transformed and processed by stretching them and slowing down the motion. In her movies, there is a strive to analyse human perception and to break the habits of new media viewers’. This specific insight into surrounding images is made by means of contrary method: if it is the mass culture that uses images in order to hold viewers in thrall for the purpose of mass consumption by means of sharp cut fast video editing, then Bonder is the one who uses the same medium in to reflect consciously upon its nature. I could even be asserted that the author jeopardizes human perception in general, stating for modern neurobiology and science, that our perception is only a creation of mind.


Jacek Żebrowski (born 1979 in Olsztyn) – novelist, journalist, co-editor of art-zine “Paper at the bottom.” The texts published in “Rita Baum”, “Inny Świat”, “Borussia”, “RED”, “Undergrunt”, “minimalbooks”, “A-tak”, “Akcja”, Indymedia, e-teatr.pl. Constant associate of anarchist quarterly “Inny Świat” (Another World). Research Territories: video art, documentary film, semiotics, contemporary literature. He lives in Wrocław.

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