Memory in a Bazaar
Exactly, a bazaar, not a marketplace, fair or mart. A bazaar- the word makes us think of unpredictability, a variety which overwhelms and dazzles. A topsy-turvy world that cannot be embraced by professionalism and institutionalism. The chaotic arrangement of bazaar space is a challenge for a traditional classification and order prevailing in other shopping venues. Upon entering a bazaar, many people get lost immediately, not knowing where to go first, which way to turn. Not a sign seems reliable for it does not ensure rational continuity. Everything around displays contradictory signals. Staying in a bazaar comes down to the ability of controlled stumbling around, subjecting to intuition, aromas, accidence and freedom to make mistakes. One of the surprising elements of the layout of the place are various stands: both simple and more complex.
Sometimes these are camp beds. Right in a bazaar, in a place where the goods are often unattractive, faulty and the greatest fantasy and originality lies in the way of placing them on the ground – on colourful fabrics, cardboard, daily papers. Camp beds treated as a practical and universal base. In theory they were to support mobility, conversely, having been standing for many years in the same place, used as ordinary beds because of the lack of funds, they enhanced the feeling of transience. Simultaneously, the construction of the beds kept reminding of their ‘camp’ roots – they were rather uncomfortable, terribly squeaky and ubiquitous in almost every Polish house before the transformation. Thus, describing something with the adjective ‘camp’ is not that unambiguous. Defined by the same virtue, some types of cookers, beds and other various pieces of equipment had been created in order to serve as a quick-assembly installation that was made of cheap materials, reduced to a structure, durable, often meant for the army. At some point, after some time, nomadicity becomes a part of life and the goods which appear on the bed are more sustainable than the state of the body lying on it.
The works of Magda Peszkowska constitute a kind of an archive of memories which requires reordering, a reconstruction of childhood as the time of intense experience of the things that surround us. Gdańsk (Danzig) – the city where the artist come from – becomes a mythical place as it is analysed in an open, subjective manner. The city of a very strong symbolic potential embedded in its history, needs reworking in an individual aspect. The most common approach is historical policy which aims at creating a unified picture of the prominence of Gdańsk for such events as the rise of independent trade unions, i. a. the ‘Solidarity’ movement. From the earlier history of the city, on the other hand, one tries to exploit the significance of Free City of Danzig – open for different cultures, wherein the Poles and Germans used to live side by side. The artist recovers the past fragmentarily, she is not tempted by excessive narration but aims at intuition and emotion. Bullets in church walls, ruined granaries in the centre of the city and political u-turns of the 1980s intertwine with the stories of the grandparents who recalled the war and rather private recollections connected with the family. This strange mix co-created the memory of the artist who now goes back to some events to find there the power of a universal experience.
Magda Peszkowska uses either her own photographs or the ones taken out of the family archive. She reprints them on grey blankets or camp beds. The fabric which provides the base is ashen, yellowed, worn out. Black and white photographs look as if they had been cut out of a news paper, they get blurred at parts, working by painting big patches of gradient grey; there appear all kinds of creases present on the print and other impurities. Many of them depict characters who come from Peszkowska’s immediate circle, it is her, her family or some close places in Gdańsk. In the ’Blanket’ series they are surrounded by space made of felt, associated with warmth and energy. One of her representative paintings shows a couple with hands held up sideways and leaned heads, as in crucifixion, they are propped against a hardly recognizable building, which emerges as a crate-system all along the painting. This is ‘Zieleniak’ – the most iconic tower block in Gdańsk, one of the few created yet at the end of the 1960s.The symbol of modernity and luxury overwhelms the couple that appear to sag under the weight of the building. The motives which reoccur in the works seem to be the afterimages of memory, whereas the characters come out like ghosts whose reflections suddenly materialise on the fabric. A crying girl sitting in the toilet with dropped trousers, a pack of dogs, parents and children, a playground surrounded by trees – this all generates a set of factors to shape the identity years ahead.
The works - variations on photography themas – seem to search for self-explanation. It is for the base wherein they are reprinted, they become something else – a thing one can give back, share. The memory of an unknown person might be of no value for some people, for others it carries an enormous potential – like something faulty, destroyed that we bought on a bazaar, something characteristic for the author/designer/owner of the product, whom we might never meet ourselves.
For goods like memory do not posses themselves but speak a language of their producer or a creator. They do not signify anything but they constitute a great reflection of ourselves. Shaping memory modelled on the layout known from a ‘bazaar’, allows us to liberate ourselves from restricting patterns and fly away into the unknown.