A visual and culinary artist. She creates both video-installations, nutritious soups and sugar-free desserts – this information can be read on her web site. It sounds like a joke, but cooking is an essential part of Agata’s art. It would be a mistake however to associate her only with a series of culinary performances, which she has recently made.
Agata Bielska (b. 1984) graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, specialising in multimedia within the Studio of Konrad Kuzyszyn. She does panting, video, video-installations, performance and art in public spaces. She was an award winner in the 10th Eugeniusz Geppert Competition presented by the Mayor of Wrocław She also received an award from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland in the 25th Władysław Strzemiński Competition. Agata is also a cultural animator and chairwoman of a Foundation for Live Culture called “White Rooks”.
The first projects by Agata Bielska originated in the form of painting and video. One activity connects with the other, one results from the other – so her works have an intermedia character. Two motifs receal themseves there – self-identification, a knowledge of oneself and an observation and analysis of the landscape. In the movie entitled Three minutes from passing we meet an artist dancing naked with a puppet doll. The image refers to her childhood when she often danced with a doll. On the video, however, we see a young woman, however an adult one. In the room in which she danced, the clock registered minute after minute. Then the whole scenery vanished and the only thing that remained was the portrait of the artist against a dark background. We are under the impression that the movie tells us about the moment of transition, initiation between the world of childhood and adulthood. In the movie Who are you, the artist is sitting on the arm chair in her home and asks herself: who am I? This doubt provokes another one: how to live with an awareness that I don’t know who I am? In the frame one can always see a dog, who – deprived of existential uncertainty – impersonates instinctive nature.
Agata’s movies were created in a holiday house which she rented outside of a town. The fairylike scenery of this place appears in almost all projects by the artist from that period. Such a place has its disadvantages, especially in winter when one has to attach a new gas bottle. A video entitled The other way round shows her desperate attempts of unscrewing the bottle, but the attempts are not successful, which causes the artist to start crying. Then she calls her friend and learns that she was turning it “the other way round”. The film is one of a few episodes, shot by the artist to “document” her struggle with the house that she decided to love in not realising what kind of problems she was going to have. The artist presented these films as part of a project entitled Empty House completed as a pre-event of Fokus Łódź Biennale (2010) at 118 Piotrkowska St. (now the home of the Manhattan Gallery). In 2010 she presented her diploma exhibition in Fabrystrefa. Agata Bielska while presenting her diploma work, divided it into two parts – two rooms. One of them she filled with works associated with landscape – projections and drawings and in the other – video images, we could recognise the artist herself. The element joining the two was a video: black and white video projections dominated, and the fragment of Bielska’s artistic statement which contains a declaration that she is equally interested in “the world of internal experiences and the external world – the space of landscape”. The exhibition was at the same time an installation. Projections were projected in non-typical places – on the floor or on specially prepared screen-shelves. We could see twin women on them – images of the artist herself, who sleep and eat together and become familiar with each other. The work has an intimate, meditative character. One could also call the poetics of Bielska’s works a video-painting.
In 2012 the artist was at a residence in Antakya in Turkey. There she had to get used to the fact that as a blonde woman with light complexion she evokes the interests of men living there. She was constantly accosted, picked up and the line between interest and intrusive taunt sometimes became very thin. On the other hand she wanted to get to know the people herself and check what hides under the fascination with aliens and the need to touch the new arrival. As she didn’t know the local language, she could only use her body language – gesture and touch. Here, however, she needed a kind of a buffer, which would guarantee her safe distance during the contact with others, and at the same time wouldn’t hide her from being alien and different in the local context. This is how she came up the performance Silent Hero – the artist went out to the street in fireproof overalls. I walked around the town trying to enter into a relationship with the inhabitants. I greeted them, responded to their invitations to take photos together, but I stepped out of convention by hugging with a stranger. This time I interfered in their intimacy and autonomy, I checked where the comfort zone in meeting strangers is. I investigated the spectrum of openness and fear of an alien.
In Silent Hero 2, for five subsequent days the artist cleaned abandoned buildings in the Antakya area. One of them was a hotel just next to the beach in a deteriorating resort Samandag – once a dream vacation place for many Turkish families, now it awaits demolishing, because it does not meet the requirements of earthquake resistant structures. The process of cleaning these places, although from a practical point of view is pointless, was a form of meditation. The artist explored the state between acting and powerlessness. As she writes, she again experienced that she is not able to fix the world, to win with fate, but it doesn’t mean that one should stop all actions altogether.
One may for example call into being a Contemporary Art Museum, which she devised (with Paweł Korbus) in Antakya, The collection came from the donations of local artists. The museum will not have a headquarters, as the form of this activity is ephemeral, mobile and changeable. During the first opening, the works were presented in supermarket trolleys, which were pushed around the town by the artists themselves. Agata Bielska notices, that being an artist has a lot in common with door-to-door sales, it is associated with risk and the ability of selling one’s own version of reality.
And finally – about Agata’s culinary performances. The artist treats the kitchen as an artistic-alchemic studio. In the Dzika6na79 Gallery in a private apartment in Warsaw, she made a performance during the opening. The props were both the products found in the apartment and others brought by guests. A live streaming from a camera mounted above the table and registering the preparing of the meal was projected onto the wall in one of the rooms. During the 2nd “Contexts” Festival in Sokołowsko she prepared a soup for the artists participating in the OFF program, which were not fed by the organisers. There was enough soup for all participants and thanks to that the artist was able to build a community, in which the act of eating joined and not divided them.
The art of Agata Bielska evolves in a performative direction, by engaging in contact and interaction with another human being or with a group. However the artist is able to occupy her own space within it, a space for solitude and meditation. Each subsequent step is a progress in Bielska’s activities and brings new ideas to the artist. span>