EASTCONTEMPORARY

Opening

Agnieszka Mastalerz | The Tools of Domination

BIOGRAPHY:

Agnieszka Mastalerz (b. 1991, Łódź, Poland; lives and works in Warsaw).

Agnieszka Mastalerz is a Polish video artist and photographer graduated from the Studio of Spatial Activities led by Professor Mirosław Bałka at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2013 – 2018). She was a visiting student of Candice Breitz and Eli Cortiñas at HBK in Brunswick (DAAD Scholarship) and of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin at HFBK in Hamburg.

She has recently exhibited at FabbriSchenker Projects in London, the Center for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci in Prato, MAXXI in Rome, Wschód Gallery i... See more
Exhibition infoInfo Exposición
BIOGRAPHY:

Agnieszka Mastalerz (b. 1991, Łódź, Poland; lives and works in Warsaw).

Agnieszka Mastalerz is a Polish video artist and photographer graduated from the Studio of Spatial Activities led by Professor Mirosław Bałka at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2013 – 2018). She was a visiting student of Candice Breitz and Eli Cortiñas at HBK in Brunswick (DAAD Scholarship) and of Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin at HFBK in Hamburg.

She has recently exhibited at FabbriSchenker Projects in London, the Center for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci in Prato, MAXXI in Rome, Wschód Gallery in Warsaw, Starak Family Foundation in Warsaw, Deichtorhallen in Hamburg, Fondation Hippocrène in Paris, and the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.

In the last months, Mastalerz participated in the residency program Temporars Susch at Muzeum Susch in Switzerland, Artists Development Programme by the European Investment Bank Institute in Luxembourg and the residency at Futura Gallery Prague in Czech Republic.

Her works are in the collection of Fondazione In Between Art Film by Beatrice Bulgari, Ergo Hestia Group, European Investment Bank Institute and private art collections.

Agnieszka Mastalerz will have her first solo exhibition at eastcontemporary in January 2022.


INTRODUCTION:

Agnieszka Mastalerz & The Tools of Domination

In her artistic practice, Agnieszka Mastalerz puts the main focus on mechanisms of control and processes influencing and exploiting an individual. Through the use of photography, video, performance and installation, distinguished by poetic visual language, she analyses restrictive rules established within intimate relationships, social structures and towards the natural environment.

Adopting the position of the observer, Mastalerz has recently developed ‘Supports’ series consisting of small and medium-format photographs, which aestheticize the tools of domination. A research theme, which the artist began in 2016 with ‘Disciplinary Mechanisms’, a series of photographs and videos depicting non-violent traps for animals, and which was further developed in the video ‘Play Down’ (2017), registering semen collection from a stallion to use it in artificial insemination.

In these recent works Mastalerz takes the body, both human and non-human, as a central element of investigation and reflection upon the structures and mechanisms of power. Here, the question about the limits of interference in freedom always remains open. The artist tends to present different tools of domination and disciplinary forms from neutral point of view.

‘Supports’ is an ongoing series started in 2020 in the Botanic Garden of the University of Warsaw, where Mastalerz noticed sculpture-like, rickety, steel structures used to shape plants – the so-called flower supports. As the artist recalls: ‘I immediately thought they may resemble the scaled skeletons of the living creatures occupying the premises of the garden. Even though their purpose is to define how the plants will grow and in which direction they should develop, they restrict the movement. For now, I am observing and analysing these architectural constructions and making analogue photographs of them, black and white to focus on the composition of lines.’

Blending with the surrounding environment, the ‘Supports’ might be seen as a form of invisible control. Mastalerz has expanded this theme during her recent residency at the European Investment Bank Institute in Luxembourg, where she created a video and a series of analogue pictures presenting a female choreographer performing with steel structure within modern architecture. Inspired by original plant supports, this time Mastalerz decides to take the structures out of their natural context. She reshapes and rescales them, so that they refer to her own human body. She later asks a young female to perform with these objects within an architecture. Just as plants, the female body is metaphorically conditioned by these steel reinforcement bars. The artist captures different poetic scenes, which are psychologically suggestive and ambiguous. It is not clear if the invited choreographer assails or protects the structure, whether she feels oppressed or stimulated by its presence.

In the ‘Disciplinary Mechanisms’, a video and series of photographs depicting non-violent traps for animals, the artist analyses the shape and material of hunting gear to examine the oppressiveness of environment geometrization. The work also explores the analogy between hunting and photography – between firearms and a camera, appropriating through firing a shot and capturing within a frame, pulling the trigger and pushing the shutter release button, between the moment of entrapping and recording. The aim of the project was to portray disciplinary mechanisms, the structure of disciplinary forms and supervision processes. In the context of the given works, the term mechanism might be interpreted in two ways – either as a structure mechanism which leads directly to real subjection or as a device mechanism that creates a subconscious, hierarchical relationship between the observer and the observed. An example of a structure mechanism is a live trap, whereas a film recorded with a trail camera is an example of a device mechanism.

Taking again a position of the observer, in the video ‘Play Down’ Mastalerz records the moment of semen collection from a young stallion for the purpose of artificial insemination procedure.
The stallion’s lively body is immersed and contrasted with the sterile, cold and unsettling atmosphere. The recording becomes a metaphor for rational forms of control intervening intrusively in natural processes. The video ‘Play Down’ is part of the collection Fondazione In Between Art Film by Beatrice Bulgari. The work was recently presented at Center for Contemporary Art Luigi Pecci, Prato, 2021, MAXXI, the National Museum of 21st Century Arts, Rome, 2021 and at the exhibition VISIO. Moving Images After Post-Internet curated by Leonardo Bigazzi in Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, 2019.