BPF Interviews – Weronika Gęsicka
“The Edge of Fiction” exhibition is one of the highlights of this year’s Budapest Photo Festival. It is a joint project between the festival and three cultural institutions working in Budapest: the Czech Center, the Polish Institute and the Slovak Institute. Taking place in Deák17 Gallery, it features the works of three amazing young photographers: Weronika Gęsicka, Bára Prášilová and Mária Švarbová. Representing the new generation in contemporary photography, the three wonderful ladies are well-known around the world, and are frequently featured in the best magazines and others publications. We asked all of them for an interview, please welcome the first installment with Weronika Gęsicka!
What else to start the interview with: how are you Weronika? Where do you stay during this crisis, how do you keep yourself positive and entertained?
Since the nationwide quarantine was announced in Poland and social life was reduced to a minimum, I decided to take shelter in the countryside. So I’m in a fairly comfortable situation, because I have the opportunity to walk in the fresh air or rest in the garden. The first two weeks of the epidemic in Poland were a time for me, probably like for many people, where a lot of extreme emotions were mixed up: downplaying the situation, disbelief and finally panic, but later some calmness came. I had many conversations with friends, often with people whom I had not seen for a long time. A lot of interesting initiatives have been created, both those aimed at supporting the healthcare and ones that are supposed to make the life in quarantine easier. Despite the social separation, I’ve felt that people were really looking for some other forms of contact and thanks to that, they endure isolation more easily. It’s very encouraging and gives hope that after the end of the pandemic, some of this extraordinary energy will still remain in us.
What is your relationship with photography and art during this crisis?
In these difficult times, art has become a refuge for me, a space where I try to protect myself from the plethora of bad information from the world. At the beginning, I felt somewhat stagnant, even paralyzed, which prevented me from doing anything. Later, I’ve decided to put all my energy into creation and from that moment, it was much easier for me to function. I focused on the new book, which will collect works from the last three years and which in fact is a record of social fears, tensions and uncertainty, so all these feelings that accompany us now. Working on the latest collages relieves the stress that I feel subconsciously all the time and that can sometimes make me feel some inexplicable powerlessness.
“The Edge of Fiction”, your joint exhibition at the Budapest Photo Festival is one of the prides of the festival. You are all young, talented and very successful artists from Middle-Eastern Europe. Do you know each other personally? Have you been to Hungary before?
Last time I was in Budapest as a little girl and I really wanted to confront these memories with the impressions of an adult. I was very happy to be offered participation in the project that focuses on showing artists from this part of Europe. I admit that we haven’t got to know each other before and I regret that it didn’t happen during the festival. It didn’t work out this time, but I hope that there will be an opportunity to make up for it someday.
You started to flirt with photography during your studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. But what lead you to arts in the first place?
I’ve been interested in art since childhood. Initially, these were various forms of activity typical for most children: long hours spent drawing, painting or molding from clay. The idea of studying art was in the back of my mind throughout this whole period, but the final decision was made in high school and then all my actions went in that direction. I studied at a comprehensive high school, and on top of that in mathematics and physics class, so I had to devote every free moment after school to drawing and painting, and on weekends I travelled by train to Warsaw for lessons and consultations. It was quite an exhausting period, but I also felt satisfaction when I noticed some progress, because I was putting a lot of work into it and I couldn’t imagine back then, that I could do something else in the future.
You developed a unique, captivating style which results in thought-provoking, surreal images reflecting on modern life. Do you think your creative approach changed in the past years? What direction are you moving into?
I think that this style is constantly evolving and there are probably various, more or less noticeable, changes occurring. What is happening at the moment is always some sum of experiences and inspirations from the past. For me, it was also a longer process and you will probably be able to notice some changes in each subsequent project.
Do you have a favourite picture or one which you are especially proud of?
I don’t think I have a favorite one. Rather, I am the type of person who, during work, devotes absolutely all energy to what they do, but then looks at it all with a rather critical eye. It helps me calmly assess the final result and look for any possible shortcomings. I usually put the finished works away for some time and come back to them again to look at them with a fresh eye, like a viewer. Satisfaction comes when I manage to achieve the intended effect.
Nobody knows when this absurd period ends, but one thing is for sure: nothing will be the same again. What do you expect (or hope) now about the post-corona world?
I think there will be some re-evaluation in the modern world. Maybe not for long, but for some time we will be focused on our vicinity, on the most basic needs. We will think about what we can give up and what we want to get back to as soon as possible. We may be willing to give away some of our freedom forever in the name of fighting for the safety of society. What is happening now will most likely bring various permanent changes to our daily lives. Some of them can already be predicted, while others can’t even possibly be imagined. Art, which helps us so much during quarantine, may be pushed to the background for some time or take completely new forms. It’s what facilitates the passage of this quarantine time, because probably many people can hardly imagine this time without music, movies or other forms of creativity. Perhaps we will realize that art maybe also belongs to basic human needs?
Interview by: Kornél Kocsány