“Tired with all these, for restful death I cry (…)
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity.”
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 66
The installation Lamentum 66 by Ewa Bobrowska is a visual reflection on the death penalty and its philosophical and social foundations. Making reference to the lectures of the contemporary philosopher Jacques Derrida, the work is an existential lamentation over death and evanescence. It builds an artistic narrative on moral and existential dilemmas concerning the impermanence of human existence.
The artist draws inspiration from the philosophical treatise of Jacques Derrida entitled The Death Penalty. The work reflects on death from the perspective of philosophical thinking. It consists of Derrida’s last lectures, delivered one year before the philosopher’s death. The speeches conclude his research and provide “the final word” on the subject. Derrida’s lectures on the death penalty deal with the deconstruction of the current model of social justice. The places where he held them are also meaningful – the Sorbonne in France and the University of California in Irvine (USA): Derrida was connected with the two countries whose history is not devoid of the practices of executions and capital punishment. The theme of the chair recurring in the installation is an allusion to the famous American invention in the field of criminal law – the electric chair.
The visual material features the prison space in Warszawa – Służewiec Remand Prison as well as authentic photographs of the cells in the Investigation Detention Center at Rakowiecka where death penalty was carried out. One of the former execution cells was later repurposed to serve as a gym for prisoners. The material additionally includes video footage shot in Long Beach at the California coastline where Derrida delivered his lectures.
The installation is based on a rotating video projection screened on the walls of the exhibition space. It is a visualized inner lament monologue addressing the paradox of the death penalty and the impossibility of dying. The composition set in a rotational motion surrounds the viewer, resembling a death carousel spinning to the sounds of a lament song. It encloses the viewer and enhances the feeling of claustrophobia and a sense of being dominated by sound and image. The rotating projection is a representation of the human condition and the confinement between the constantly repeated cycles of day and night, life and death. The work “is happening” with the dynamics of movement and sound. The rotating image encircles and follows the viewer, intensifying the experience of subordination and disorientation. In the conceptual layer, the installation is based on the use of an intellectual concept and allusiveness in the broad sense of the word. Among others, it references Panopticism by Michel Foucault, Hamlet by Shakespeare and the metaphysical poetry of John Donn.
Ewa Bobrowska – art theorist, visual artist. Her research interests includes philosophy and contemporary art. She obtained PhD from the Faculty of Philosophy, the University of Warsaw, specializing in: aesthetics and contemporary philosophy, postmodernism, poststructuralism, deconstruction, American philosophical and critical reflection, with particular emphasis on the research conducted by the Critical Theory Institute, the University of California, Irvine and the philosophy of J. Derrida, J.-F. Lyotard, P. de Man, J. Hillis Miller, J.-L. Nancy, R. Rorty. She is as an adjunct at the Department of Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, and since 2013, she has been the assistant to prof. Krzysztof Wodiczko at Pracownia Sztuki Domeny Publicznej (the Workshop of Public Domain Art). She runs theoretical seminars and is the author of the monograph Para-Theory: Irvine School of Criticism published in the series of Nowa Humanistyka Wydawnictwa IBL (The New Humanities, IBL Publishing House) at of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2013. Her essays appeared in a number of periodicals such as: Sociology Study, USA, The European Journal of Language and Literature Studies, Journal of Aesthetics and Philosophy of Culture, Annals of the University of Bucharest, Przegląd Filozoficzno-Literacki, Przegląd Humanistyczny, Sztuka i Filozofia, Obieg CSW. She contributed to several collective books on contemporary aesthetics released in Poland, the USA, Italy and Austria.
Lamentum 66 features:
Viesbonum ensemble (Belarus) – musical composition and vocal performance
Giorgio (Italy), Giovanna (Italy), Victor (Ukraine) – pantomime