A Sudden Wave of Material Culture — Joanna Malinowska


Installation, photography, sculpture, sound - music...

A Sudden Wave of Material Culture
Joanna Malinowska

Past: September 7 → 27, 2011

Galerie Taïss in collaboration with Analix Forever is delighted to present the first Parisian solo show by Joanna Malinowska (curated by Barbara Polla).

Winner, among others, of a Guggenheim Award, Joanna Malinowska likes to think of herself as a “cultural anthropologist.” The cultures concerned are those of art, music, people and works threatened with extinction. Malinowska explores the world, cultures, and even the absence of culture in the American Mid-West, with a mixture of passion and disquiet. “What I find fascinating about studying other cultures,” she says, “is the feeling of relativity that it gives me, a cosmic relativity which says that nothing is definitive.” In the course of her travels, taking them as her starting point, and upon her return, the artist will work, say, to recreate the world of the Inuit using only the music of their language, or to recreate Duchamp’s bottle rack using walrus tusks, or Meret Oppenheim’s teacup with artificial fur.

For many years, however, Malinowska’s work was grounded mainly in the immaterial. Referring explicitly to the work of Bas Jan Ader In Search of the Miraculous, 1975; the exhibition Ailleurs, 2010, she too sought for a miracle, particularly in music, from Glenn Gould to John Cage, and from Masami Tomihisa to Piotr Anderszewski, and in its capacity to elicit fervent attention in the listener In Search of the Miraculous, continued, 2006. With Masami Tomihisa she even created a quintet for two cellos, two violas and a corpse (2008), a performance-concert exploring the silence of death.

Malinowska’s explorations will also lead us to peoples forgotten by our cultures, such as the Inuit, the original inhabitants of the Lake Titicaca region or of the deserts of the central United States, or even homeless Poles in New York. Gradually, in her world, as a result of all these encounters, “things change” — or rather, they appear. Malinowska starts to encounter objects. And her inspiration shifts: so now we find her taking an interest in the work of Graham Harman, who insists on the autonomy of objects, and calls for a “return to things,” understood as the things themselves, considering that the real life of objects can provide the fertile ground for a new metaphysics, revealing a strange underground network of inter-object relations. But Malinowska’s new attraction to objects was not purely theoretical: there is a joy in “making,” touching, mixing, creating something bigger than oneself, like the now famous boli 1, a big sculpture made of wood, glue, strips torn from Spinoza’s Ethics, a litre of water from the Bering Strait and a pullover that belonged to Evo Morales, obtained through diplomatic channels (see The Shape of Things to Come, New Sculpture, Saatchi Gallery 2011). Thus transported and transformed by the artist’s hands, from its constituent matter to intelligent life, Malinowska’s boli admires a canvas by Malevich. The secret power of things encounters the work of art.

“I don’t really believe that my boli can change the world,” says the artist, “but I would like to give it the benefit of the doubt.”

And she allows herself that same benefit when, not without irony, she describes herself as a “rare bird” in New York, what with her strange Polish accent and her politically incorrect way of restoring the lustre of the myths of American colonisation.

For Malinowska, doubt is always a motor, never a brake. And in fact, her interest in objects is not such a long way from her first loves as it might seem. In a way, she is simply pursuing her quest to represent the invisible, to revitalise the metaphysical potential hidden both within notes and in matter. In Umanaqtuaq, Malinowska appropriates the Inuit musician Jimmy Ekho, a star of the Frozen North who represents a kind of Elvis Presley from olden times, and allows herself the “the right to play” and to exploit without guilt all her encounters with the non-Western cultures that so fascinate her and all the contrasts they entail. “There are things under the surface, implicit things,” she says. They are living things — like A Sudden Wave of Material Culture, which can make us sit up and listen, fascinated, to the song of whales, to poetry, to Elsewhere.

Ami Barak

1 The boli is a fictional, vaguely animal-like creature found, notably in Mali, and known to have special powers. It also happens to have mammoth tusks through its body.

  • Opening Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 7 PM
Taïss Gallery Gallery
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03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

14, rue Debelleyme

75003 Paris

T. 01 42 76 91 57 — F. 01 42 76 91 57


Filles du Calvaire
Saint-Sébastien – Froissart

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 11 AM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

The artist

  • Joanna Malinowska