Arsenal Gallery, Bialystok, Poland 2008
photo: Michał Strykowski
The most recent work by Iza Tarasewicz is a symbol of infinity made of a coiled rope which looks like a nerve pulled out of a vertebral column of a gigantic mammal. It is composed of porker guts, twisted layer after layer, and preserved in formic acid. Iza’s entire oeuvre is based on similar preparations, therefore the work under discussion is in a way an essence of this art. Tarasewicz extracts those elements of reality that are weak, painful, marginal, and laden with simple physiological connotations in order to show them as transformed matter. Animal fat and meat, hog guts or bladders are the physical elements reduced to a scrap of flesh, which is the dominat feature and building material of a traumatic whole, blooming in ambiguous symbolism. Disintegrated remains acquire new forms and significations.
The author uses the term “brawn” in order to describe the matter of her work. The word describes soft parts of an animal’s head, i.e. brain, ears, tongue, and eyes, which are used as foodstuffs, but, as Iza says, there is “nothing to eat” there. For tarasewicz “brawn” is first of all a psychological deficiency, which she subversively reduces to a mutilated body, reconstructing as it were a model of self-destructive reaction. The irritation of unhealed wounds and the masochist pleasure connected with the celebration of the wrongs suffered are the underluing themes of the exhibition in Białystok. On the broader scale, the theme here is violence in its multiple incarnations, treated, as in usual in Tarasewicz’s works, indirectly and at a distance. Violence seen as a par exellence natural act inherent in reality, is its principal feature.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is a series of small-sized works titled Wounds. Laid in a simple cardboard box a wall, the objects are a synthesis of the shape of an open wound (extracted from the body), which in reality takes the from of a fresh wound, scab, or tumor. Objects made of hog bladders are oval, have a hole that runs lengthwise and an orifice at the side. These are autonomous creatures that bring to mind fantastic animal from oceanic depths, retaining at the same time something of the fleshy concreteness of a maimed body; as such they are shocking metaphors of psychological fixation.
Animal, or rather the relationship between an animal and the human being, is the principal issue in Iza Tarasewicz’s art. In Brawn animal are present in a fundanental way, through matter. Surprisingly consistent, Tarasewicz transposes the subject of violence that is inherent in this relationship. The artist’s perspective is purposefully stripped of emotions, thanks to which her works have an element of an endurance test. This is a test for both the viewer, who is exposed to an extreme aesthetic experience, and the author herself, who finds it hard to work in what is considered repulsive matter. However, is the horror which Iza prepares for the viewer with her successive shows more cruel than a bowl of duck blood soup?
Works by Taraswicz exhibit strong influences of folk cuisine, which is also a source of the ethics of this art, reiterated by Iza in her oeuvre. On the one hand, it hinges on an impassive exploitahtion of an animal’s body, and on the other on blaming the viewer for the suffering inherentin this exploitation. This reference is not a provocation, since Tarasewicz’s art is the transcendence of this ethics, a transformation of condemned matter, an act of profound and complete compassion.