Justyna Gorowska @ Cydonia

Cydonia is a contempory gallery in Dallas that has caught my attention. The owner and director Hanh Ho is delightful, intelligent, educated, witty, interesting, and understandably passionate and dedicated to her mission “supporting the careers of emerging artists whose practices have international relevance and to show artists that have cultural and historical significance, conceptual rigor, or are the singular voice of their generation”. Dallas has a new gift in Cydonia.

For the exhibition Ho brought in Polish born artist Justyna Gorowska to show seductively captured stills from prior documented performance work and live work which the artist performed the evening of Friday, April 17th. This body of Gorowska’s work is based on her discovery of and artistic connection with photographic work by Francesca Woodman. Ho describes the Polish artists affinity as one of understanding and identification. Gorowska isn’t interested in copying Woodman’s work but responding as a means of what I deem as artistic kinship.  Viewers of Cydonia need not necessarily be familiar with Woodman’s photographs but Ho states that it might aid in understanding Gorowska’s process and work in this series.

Rome 1978

Francesca Woodman

As an artist that makes and directs performance I am interested in knowing something about another artists practice and intention. This can be important in experiencing the work. Here from Cydonia’s website on Gorowska:

Justyna Gorowska is a performance artist whose practice is focused reconciliation of the post-humanistic condition. Her practice explores a new model of living where humanity can evolve past its privileged place in the universe, where the individual can become one with her reality, as the artist poetically describes, “as water in water.” Delicate, precious objects, videos, installations and performances are founded upon the belief that culture creates humans, that culture is but another level of nature created in evolution. Art is biological. Obsessed with creation of taut emotions in her viewers, Gorowska uniquely finds the precise movements and actions to tease out and control the viewer’s sensitivity, reminding us of our most primal and perhaps, evolved desires. The bedrock of existence for all life is different than the basis for survival. There is no violence, there is no competition for resources because her goal is to reconstruct a “lost vision of the world.” She insists we should reinterpret what it means to be human when we think that culture is the antithesis of nature, that which seems wild, uncivilized, or depraved. For her, ethically, all living, sentient beings are part of culture.

As in Woodman’s photographic work, Gorowska’s video stills rarely if ever reveal her face. The artist is not interested in fashioning her body as celebrity, superstar, or model but as human.  During a gallery visit the day after Gorowska’s live performance I gained even more understanding of the artists process as Ho described her work.

“This work goes beyond mymicry. In order to re-stage Woodman’s actions you have to, in the best way possible restate the best way to feel the emotion of the work. A copy is a copy but this work goes beyond that because Gorowska is restating the emotion and sensation of Woodman’s photographs”, says director Hah Ho. Gorowska’s sensitive work is based on a very intuitive process which provides for her a way to respond to Woodman’s work yet make it her own.

Francesca Woodman

Francesca Woodman

Friday evening the gallery was filled with people, many with connections to the University of Texas at Arlington and other artist friends and acquaintenances from the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Prior to the performance we were informed not to take photographs during the performance, something I have come to respect in the age of social media.

Gorowska performed live at Cydonia among her enchanting black and white video stills of her performing elsewhere, a haunting video of work made prior in response to the Woodman photographs. Here I digress just for a moment. Often performance artists are included in exhibitions among the work of other artists, as if we were the entertainment for the evening. Why must performance art not be given it’s own space as a sculpture or installation or exhibition of paintings? Performance art is work. It is the work of artists who have invested just as much of themselves in the creation of the work as object makers or those working in new media.

Although Gorowska performed among work, it was her work thus it seemed cohesive and not distracting to have objects and digital media sharing the space with her body. We, the audience watched quietly, not through the screens of our smart phones but with our eyes directly on the artist.  Gorowska’s piece was short but seemed to linger in the room, in the air, in the imaginations of us all. I was mesmerized by her work.

The Lily | The end of the wall where Gorowska sat

Performance art is experiential and one of the most confrontational fine art medium. The art and the viewer are on similar planes, the third wall (the stage) is collapsed, and the art (the body) is the medium, the performance or “act/action” the work. This type of work also challenges conventional notions of art such as painting and traditional forms of sculpture. It is a means of  dematerialization of the art object and the departure from traditional media. Yet the body being the work of art too is the ultimate of material. Performance art has a sort of antipodal personality which continues to intrigue and challenge me. One of the reasons why I continue to make and support others who make this type of work.

Words on paper cannot provide the experience viewers may have had during the live performance of course, thus my intent in describing Gorowska’s performance at Cydonia is an attempt to present her action through my lens. That evening the barefoot artist walked into the room dressed in a loose fitting black shift. Entering the room from a separate space in the back of the gallery she carried a single white calla lily and placed it stem down on the floor and leaning on a short interior wall then she left the room. Gorowska returned with a camera on a tripod placing it on the floor facing the lily. This act most likely was not intended as part of the live work but her movements allowed me to consider it. Once the camera was set she undressed with ease embodying only a hint of what felt like hesitation. Her slim naked body appeared to float across the cold cement floor over to the wall where she sat, her back against the wall, knees folded up to her chest and long slender arms wrapped around them. She situated her long wavy hair behind her ears and then looked down. After a few moments she began to speak, almost chant. She uttered phrases including the words never and able to indicating a finality to something. Later I learned that these words were for Woodman, who took her life at the age of twenty-three.

This work was a final performance dedicated to Woodman, thus ending Gorowska’s work in response to the artist’s photographs. According to Ho, Gorowska is not interested in pursuing the work of another artist to create a new work. She is making work that is related to something very different as she ends this series.

Gorowska’s exhibition at Cydonia continues through May 8th. If you missed the live performance a video of that work will soon be displayed among her other work. Contact the gallery for more information.

Also see: Francesca Woodman Page on Artsy’s website:  Francesca Woodman

Cydonia167 Payne St Dallas / Fort WorthTX  2142964848


Usually people say that a truly artistic show will always be unique, impossible to be repeated: never will the same actors,

in the same play, produce the same show.
Theatre is Life.

People also say that, in life, we never really do anything for the first time, always repeating
past experiences, habits, rituals, conventions.
Life is Theatre.

Richard Schechner, with his sensibility and intelligence, leads us to explore the limits between Life and Theatre, which he calls Performance. With his knowledge,
he allows us to discover other thinkers,

stimulating us to have our own thoughts.

Augusto Boal


Remembering and Commemorating

“…Dead, deadly, is death. Time is counted, let us not count the weightlessness of the love we experienced. When and why are altogether another matter. Is there any light ahead, any sky which would lift itself and not fear the sun?…” Etel Adnan (There)

Today we will all join to remember Leslie Kemp. I’ve been very numb over the past year after graduating from a three year MFA program. The pace, challenge, critiques, research, exhibitions, competition, rigor, and push has ended leaving me post-spin and in a daze. Grateful, yet battling the uncertainty of whether or not the sacrifice has been of value to my marriage, friendships, family, and to myself. Much self-doubt these days in spite of how things may appear on the outside. PerformanceSW bringing internationally recognized Cuban artist, Carlos Martiel for an exhibition at Central Trak and talk both there and at the Latino Cultural Center. And then my month long feat of curating exhibition at BEEFHAUS addressing the changing nature of performance art drawing on theater, dance, music, and more. Working with twenty artists, including dancers, musicians, video artists, art students, and a PhD. candidate in African Studies, the rigor was a challenge but rewarding.

Off that tangent…

Today is Leslie Kemp’s funeral. Leslie is a love and a lioness. As a social worker her work stretched over the metroplex pushing boundaries and watching families come together and mostly fall apart. She saw some of the worst neglect and abuse in both family and in the organizations with which she worked. When we met she had already retired from that particular work to join her husband, Charles, in working with refugees from Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and later Iraq, Central America and elsewhere. My work with Charles introduced me to Leslie. Charles worked at Baylor’s School of Nursing and brought nursing students out to work with refugees in the area in which they and I lived. Their suspicion of me was founded yet as Charles tells others it ended the instant I brought fruit and sodas to the home of a dying Cambodian woman on day.

Leslie and I became fast friends. We are very different and similar simultaneously. This drew us close. Her real strength inspired me as mine was mostly a “fake it till you make it” type. The day things changed drastically in our friendship was the day I called her for help when I discovered that two of the Cambodian refugee children attending our after school program were being sexually abused by an adult male neighbor who was “befriending” their family. Police were called and it was a whirl of activity with Child Protective Services. After a month of being placed with a foster family CPS approached me to see if I’d act as an aunt, deeming me eligible to care for the children in my home. Yes absolutely! At 38, never being married or having my own children I had no idea what that meant. But Leslie, Charles and many others stepped in to support me in whatever way they were able. Leslie gave of herself like non other. My life is forever changed as a result.

Not only has Leslie supported me in my endeavors as a refugee worker but also as a woman, a person, and now as an artist. It was she who primarily reached out to set up lunch dates. She called to ask about my art life, and when I might have exhibitions, as well as sent me articles she thought I might find interesting or informative. This from a self -proclaimed non-artist. I love her.

In the middle of the night she’d pick me up and we’d quietly drive up to a ramshackle home and transport abused wives and children to safety. We’d take turns working on cases of severe to minor injury making sure the clinics and hospitals took care of those who had no or little idea of how to maneuver the monstrous health care systems. We were some team: Leslie a stalwart +  me a novice, loving others and one another along the way.

Leslie, I miss you deeply. I want to have more adventure lunches at the Thai Temple and those hole in the wall restaurants like Nalinh and the tiny places in those grocery market mall-like places in Garland. I want to go to Laos or Cambodia with you like we planned. Or even just San Francisco. We never did that. I was so wrapped up in becoming an artist. No trips to Southeast Asia, or Garland, not even Irving. If I decide to go though I will take you. We will be there together and though our conversation will be determined by me. I will still listen. You are still with me. You will always be.

I remember you today. Rest my sweet friend.


Reviews of “In The Room We Discovered An-Other In The Corner”

A couple of writers contacted me with interest in viewing and eventually writing about the month long exhibition. No reviews have been written by them. I’m guessing because they didn’t even attend. In the art world it is helpful to have something written about your work. My hope was that would occur this time. The last performance art “festival” entitled Inside)(Outside, was during the summer of 2014. PerformanceSW (Courtney Moezzi Brown and me) organized and curated the exhibition. Brown and I spent months preparing for this event. We are essentially pleased with they way things unfolded though some of the performances changed from our discussions with the artists and ended up less successful than we imagined. This is what can happen when working with live bodies and live audiences. A few articles were written about the exhibition one felt snarky and the other focused on the unsuccessful live works thus seemed one sided and in fact the writer didn’t even see all the performances. One article written by a non-art writer left us feeling accomplished and understood. That was helpful as well as affirming.

Remembering this last article lead me to search the internet for anything that might have been written by anyone who attended even just one of the performance events of In The Room… I found a few and am linking them in this post as well as including a some of their comments.  Thank you to all of you who attended the live events and to those of you who took the time to write your thoughts out in the virtual world. I appreciate the support.

Dark Entries 2/5/15

We also watched a performance called Tessellated Fold at Beefhaus. This performance was part of a series called In The Room We Discovered An-Other In The Corner, which will feature a different performance every Saturday in February. Tessellated Fold was very beautiful – it was a collaboration involving sound, video, textile, and dance. The singer, Lily Taylor, had such a beautiful voice! I finally sat down and read my latest copy of Arts+Culture magazine that I picked up, and coincidentally she was mentioned along with her husband, Sean Miller, who did the video. They have a gallery in Exposition Park – Midway Gallery. I need to visit that gallery soon!
Kieone Young (This was posted on facebook) Kieone was a drop in and wanted to take photos.

The final performance which really caught me off guard at first actually happen to be the one that I connected with the most. The story that the young man was telling was an expression of anger he felt in the loss of a friend or loved one due to either racism or police brutality and he took his anger out on two doors that was stationed in the center of the room and he punched the doors until his hands became bloody and it was almost like he was painting the all white doors with his blood to tell his story about his pain and I really connected with this one I don’t really know why but I understand where he’s coming from. Good job and kudos to him. Thank you Alison for having me…

 Canvassing, by Darryl Ratcliff. The second article he’s written about the February exhibition at BEEFHAUS.
Time Based Art Forms. This month has been a revelation for time-based art forms, and specifically in regards to performance and video mediums. … the Alison Starr-curated “In The Room We Discovered An – Other In The Corner,” are about to enter their final weekends. Don’t sleep on these events. They represent exactly the type of programming that the City of Dallas needs more of in the future. Hats off to all involved.

February 7th, In The Room : Tessellated Fold

Lily Taylor

This February, Dallas independent curator and artist Alison Starr will bring together more than a dozen local and national artists to make work that references the body and explores the idea of “the other” in a variety of media.

Exhibiting artists are from Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Houston, New York City, and Norman, Oklahoma.

The first weekend: Tessellated Fold
Lily Taylor and Sean Miller explore sound and video in collaboration with fiber artist Chesley Antoinette of Cantoinette Studios, costume designer Whitney Bracey and dancer Jacquekya Lee (Kya) of Brown Girls Do Ballet in an immersive installation at the Art Beef / Beefhaus gallery space in Exposition Park, Dallas, TX.

Lily Taylor Live on YouTube 

Photo: Clinton Butler


“In The Room…” a mention in: Canvassing….

 gallery rankings

Nice mention here:  http://bit.ly/1EEZkVr

By Darryl Ratcliff : Community Engagement Associate, NCAR and Initiative on Arts + Urbanism at Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas

” 2. Beefhaus (Last month: 24). Compared to the the McKinney Avenue Contemporary’s Medianale (more on that in a bit), the Alison Starr-curated “In the Room We Discovered an Other in the Corner” here was a bit less polished and more homegrown, and yet nonetheless an excellent month-long series that pushed performance art into the consciousness of the Dallas art scene. Congratulations to everyone involved on a great show.”

BEEFHAUS!  http://artbeef.blogspot.com