The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 proved to be one of the most important events in recent history, not only for social and political reasons, but for contemporary art as well. Germany’s reunification brought artists from Eastern Europe into the Western context even as the notion of a canon was itself questioned. A plethora of artists gained access to the Western art world, which was not entirely new to Eastern European artists. Many of these individuals succeeded in their aims to give Westerners a hard look at the desperation of Communist regimes. Having been born and raised in Brodnica, Poland in the 1980’s, I am a product of the tension between Eastern and Western Europe and my art is a testament to and a re-examination of my memories of this time.
At the age of ten, a year before Poland’s “Solidarity” movement succeeded, my family and I immigrated to Chicago. Although Chicago has a thriving Polish community, it was clear to me that every Pole there was trying to shed aspects of their past. I truly missed Poland, and as a child, I did not realize how Communism affected the landscape and the Poland that I desperately clung to. I lived in the United States without returning to my home country for fourteen uninterrupted years, and in my absence Poland’s political and economic situation changed drastically.
During my first visit to Poland after the fourteen-year absence, that spaces and landscape that I occupied as a child changed significantly. These changes made me realize that the existence of some places and events were purely fictional and invented. Yet this did not matter because no matter how much I looked at these actual places, I could only remember them the way they had existed in my mind. The image of Brodnica that exists in my memory is so strongly engraved, it could never be replaced by actuality; my memory is my reality. The house in which I grew up was painted pink by the new owners, yet it will always be the yellow that I remember from my childhood. The road that led to my home had been paved in my absence, yet every time I think of it my mind remembers the unpaved road. My work explores the invented landscapes and events that are components of these cherished memories of my childhood. During my visit to Poland, it became explicitly clear to me that I have always split my identity in half. One part of me resides in America, while the other lives purely in a constant state of nostalgia for Brodnica.
I use a multitude of media to explore my ideas and this dual identity. Ideas transcend media, so that my work can take different forms while exploring memory, nostalgia, history, and the past. This way of working allows me to delve into various concepts while always negotiating the tensions that invariably appear between different media, which is similar to the way that I constantly negotiate the tension between past, present, and future in everyday life.