The second edition of TRAFO MEDIA LAB presents a dialogue between two emerging artists exploring the history and changing functions of places. Dead Vistula, a series of photographs by Mateusz Kiszka, examines the area of an artificial estuary of the Vistula, formerly regulating the river flow during the spring thaw. His photographs document the time-affected landscape, a seemingly trivial place that has witnessed a number of important events in the history of Poland. The video Warsaw Municipal Gasworks by Urszula Kozak shows the interior of the water-filled rotunda. The impressive building was a part of the Warsaw Municipal Gasworks that was closed down in 1978. The artist interferes in the space of the abandoned and decaying structure.
The series of 29 photographs Dead Vistula is Mateusz Kiszka’s diploma project completed in the studio of Piotr Chojnacki at the Poznań Academy of Arts in 2012. It features the area along the 29 kilometers long arm of Dead Vistula. The artist captures deserted fishing villages, wrecks of British ships supplying food after World War II, the decaying Gdansk Shipyard, a dike built by Dutch settlers in the 17th century or Westerplatte peninsula located at the mouth of the river flowing into the Baltic Sea. The series was inspired by the classics of American documentary photography, including Joel Sternfeld, Joel Meyerowitz, Stephen Shore and Alec Soth. However, according to Wojciech Wilczyk’s blog Hiperrelaizm (hyperrealism), Mateusz Kiszka has his own individual style, and the scenery along the Vistula has little in common with the American landscapes pictured by Sternfeld or Soth. There is no comparison between the terrain, building forms and, most importantly lighting conditions. Photographing the landscapes, Mateusz Kiszka does not only search for attractive-looking shots. He is interested in places that carry the weight of historical experience. The historical aspect, combined with the stillness of water and degrading river banks, interferes with the peaceful static shots. The apparent tranquility of the photographs seems to fade away, turning into a sense of emptiness and longing for lost opportunities.
The two rotundas are the remnants of the Warsaw Municipal Gasworks. They are commonly referred to as the Polish “colosseum”. Until 1978, they were filled with huge tanks storing thousands of cubic meters of gas used to illuminate the capital. Urszula Kozak reinterprets the space of one of the two structures presently filled with stagnant water to reveal the architectural beauty and harmony of the monumental interior. The artist dealt with a similar theme in the past in her video Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant. She treated the plant as a deserted “body” subject to gradual biodegradation, a unique monument to technology, essential and irreplaceable in the past and harmful today. As opposed to the video made in Żarnowiec where the camera gently documented the artist swimming in the artificial pool at the abandoned industrial complex, the latest work shows Kozak only for a short moment. The artist uses a single still frame to film her intervention into the space of the gasworks building. Colorful smoke flares animate the skeleton of the building from the inside. The original function of the monument changes as it becomes a performance setting and raises hopes that the forgotten piece of Warsaw can be rediscovered and re-appropriated.
Mateusz Kiszka (born 1985) is a graduate of the Department of Photography at the Poznań Academy of Arts. He is particularly interested in documentary photography. His works have been featured in a number of exhibitions including Fotofestiwal (Łódź, 2008), Galeria Sztuki Wozownia (Toruń, 2009) and Zachęta Sztuki Współczesnej (Szczecin, 2011).
Urszula Kozak (born 1989) is a graduate of the Intermedia Department at the Gdańsk Academy of Arts. She co-organizes events promoting video and performance art and collaborates with a number of music publishers. In 2014, she received Grand Prix at Inspiracje Festival in Szczecin for her work Żarnowiec Nuclear Power Plant. Urszula Kozak lives and works in Warsaw.
MEDIA LAB is the second, after TRAFO PLUG IN: PROJECT ROOM, annual exhibition program at TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art in Szczecin. The series popularizes two media: video and photography, examining their functions, context and roles and answering questions about their complex interdependent relations. It explores and challenges the boundaries between video and photography and provokes a discussion on their place in the context of the key trends in digital and virtual reality.
Every two months starting from January 30, 2015, MEDIA LAB presents the dialogue between two outstanding emerging artists. The first exhibition featured Karol Komorowski and Alan Warburton. The second edition will be devoted to the art of Mateusz Kiszka and Urszula Kozak who will be followed by Filip Ćwik and Volkan Kızıltunç, the artistic duo Epectase (Corentin Fohlen and Jérôme Von Zilw) and Krzysztof Maniak, Tomasz Wiech i Paweł Żukowski and Marek Kucharski and Dominika Gęsicka.