The text has been published in the solo exhibition's catalog, "A Word Each", Bunkier Sztuki, Gallery of Contemporary Art, 2011.
Monika Drożyńska realises perfectly what art can be in the lives of ordinary people. Far be it for the artist to lock herself away in the ivory tower of a gallery, limit herself to a select circle of spectators, all blessed with appropriate knowledge, experience and taste. To her mind, art is an almost universal tool, which facilitates human contact, inner development and getting to know the world. For Monika Drożyńska to be an artist also means being an activist. Creativity equals social activism. And art? It is to be accessible to all. In his essay in the Political Critique, Michał Zadara wondered why it is culture – which is both cheap and instrumental in teaching of the independent thought and sensitivity – that is the first to fall victim to all budget cuts, even though the savings achieved in that way are so insignificant. Politicians don’t trust culture, because it is egalitarian, and both a tycoon and a bus driver can experience it equally. For that reason, creativity is not conducive to liberal notions of getting rich and middle class aspirations to preserve the rigid framework of social divisions. And yet, to keep art within a circle of connoisseurs is to waste its potential. That’s why Monika Drożyńska has taken part in the Manifa demonstrations and invited both male and female participants to put to good use her skirt, spread out on the ground. She brings to the public attention the problem of urban areas where the traditional, unattractive dwellers are encouraged to leave. From the huge, collectively sewn up skirt, she creates a tent which is to replace the Cultural Centre in Wola Duchacka. In an allusion to the local monument- building mania, she pays homage to Adam Mickiewicz in Nowy Sącz. In Gdańsk, she reminds them that adventure playgrounds aren’t a bad idea and agitates for more. The language that Drożyńska uses has little in common with the idiom of political interventions. These are the cadences of her own experience and everyday speech. Somewhat ridiculous and full of clichés, yet juxtaposed in such a way that they have the impact of a Molotov cocktail. Monika Drożyńska flaunts her simplicity and sincerity in order that people talk to her. She is not afraid of sounding ridiculous: in her art, there is room for a sense of humour and for the absurd. The magnified practicality of her works helps her achieve this effect. One example is the hand protectors, which she made for Cecylia Malik, unequalled in following in the footsteps of the Baron in the Trees, who herself spent a year climbing trees. The protectors, both practical and beautiful, were embroidered all over. Drożyńska’s activities are consciously part of ‘women’s art’. These handworks require long hours of manual work and attention to detail, patience and precision, as well as the ability to sew, embroider and crochet. Where did the idea of an exhibition in a gallery come from? Let’s not forget that, for Drożyńska, being an artist is the main point of reference. It is the artist who incorporates all the other personas (carer, home maker, demonstrator, activist). Her appearances at the Manifa are both a creative and political act. Her social activity provides fodder for her art, which in no way diminishes the supra-artistic value of her works. And perhaps it is the emphasis on the non-artistic that may have given Monika Drożyńska the idea to put her head in the mouth of the lion and immerse herself in the atmosphere of an art temple. Having taken the risk of returning to a traditional exhibition space, the artist wants to avail herself of the possibilities which the gallery space provides. Starting from the basics, such such as a roof over her art, to the opportunity for the art to become the focus of attention; something that the noise of the street can detract from. Apart from the ‘women’s’ theme, there is also an ecological thread. Drożyńska has respect for the natural sequence of seasonal activities. With the arrival of winter, she spends more time indoors, on her handicrafts. She confides, ‘Winter Activities are very satisfactory... The same repetitive ritual: tea, radio and embroidery...’. When the weather is cold, with less sun and going out for a walk less often, she creates things which grow little by little, slowly and gradually. She relies on what she had collected during the summer. For her series Winter Activites, Drożyńska has used authentic texts, scribbled on the city’s walls. She calls them ‘spontaneous poetry’ and notes their considerable emotional content: you have to be pretty desperate to want to make your opinion public, having decided to commit an act of vandalism. The artist transfers the texts to textile using hand embroidery. ‘The higher, the sadder,’ ‘What counts in life is swag and looking good’ or ‘Ever got off with a girl?’ appear on patterned scraps of cloth, surrounded by sugary garlands of leaves and flowers. Such manifestations of spontaneous aphorisms, usually written by children or teenagers, lose some of their energy in transit and create a strange contrast between their wildness and vulgarity and the gesture of domestication. The colloquial spouting out, in slang referred to as ‘stitching’, is transformed into kitsch domestic ornaments. They are akin to the traditional tea towels embroidered with proverbs, albeit this time, somewhat more racey than the standard ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Winter Activities seem to display a mother’s unwise concern for a naughty child. In a sense, the artist tames the angry scribbles on the wall, turning something ugly and aggressive into something pretty and unthreatening. She sweeps the problem under the carpet, pretending that the outcome of frustration can suddenly turn benign. What is pedagogy’s loss – since this activity is doomed to failure – is art’s gain, because this internal conflict makes the content come alive, concentrates one’s attention, makes one contemplate what it is that makes these apparently simple works arresting. Urban Embroidery is a continuation of Winter Activities. Graffiti has returned to the streets. Gigantic photographs of embroideries have appeared on screens in Kraków, Warsaw, Wrocław, Opole and Legnica. The project has climbed another rung of transformation. The stitches have gained mass viewability. The passers-by have looked at the writing anew. The graffiti, captured on the embroidery loop, have re-entered public space. The simple device has enhanced their impact. The desperate slogan which read ‘Winter piss off,’ triggered such a big media scandal, that the Minister of Culture was obliged to respond. Embroidery and the documentation of urban action was used to create an exhibition and design space which became cosy and homely. Every visitor was welcome, the smell of freshly baked pastry awaited all, as well as a soothing atmosphere and a moment of respite. On some days, you were able to talk to the artist, if – of course – you felt like it. A graphic representation of the sound track of these conversations was generated, which served as the basis for another embroidery. The completed work was hung up on the last day of the exhibition – the finissage did, in fact, become the opening, because only then did the exhibition become complete. In this way, the artist escaped the context of the gallery, which tends towards ossification and freezing within a repetitive formula. The recordings of the conversations related to the artist’s works and the transcript of their sound track into a visual motif also demonstrated Monika Drożyńska’s somewhat ambivalent attitude to ‘talking art’. Talking, chatting, gossiping, showing off, interpreting and other forms of verbal expression, that we are so fond of, and which are likely to involve art, were turned into a decorative motif. Sometimes, it is better to keep quiet, even in the presence of others. Art does very well without empty chit chat. But without the presence of people (whether silent or otherwise) it cannot exist.