We spoke with Marta Zgierska about her series ‘Post’, a project based on fears and the harsh reality of trauma experienced first hand.
PW: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Your series focuses on how you dealt with the horrific reality of being involved in a serious car accident in 2013. Can you talk us through the basis of the work for anyone who isn’t familiar?
MZ: To begin with, the accident is just one element of the puzzle. “Post” started to emerge much earlier, when a couple of years ago I decided to make my work more personal. My own experiences became the foundation, thanks to which I took up the subject of trauma, neurosis, anxiety. What triggered the decision was a finding in my family house. It was a descriptive note written by my primary school teacher, full of praise for me as a pupil. Something felt not right when I was reading the note. My memories are different. I started to wonder about the tensions that we carry within, and this very tension inside me is what I wanted to present through my works.
It is important for me that the series is perceived as a whole, it is an image of a certain personality, fragile, vulnerable, marked with traumas – that of the accident, and of my childhood. It is a reflection on the way we function in a liminal situation, on the nature of non-experience, a question whether a community can share a traumatic experience. Rather than being only an interaction with emotions, the construction is also based on theoretical research, fascinating links between the medium of photography, the structure of trauma and a precise choice of form. The meanings of the series also consist of numerous cultural contexts to be rediscovered in the works.
PW: How did photography help guide you through this turmoil?
MZ: I think that every artist, each person who creates, has a natural need to respond to the surrounding reality. We have an instinct that tells us to act, to transform the impulses we receive into images, words or sounds. I felt this need very strongly and this is why “Post” is so closely linked to the accident.
PW: Has your work taken a different direction since the accident? The series was already underway when you suffered in the accident. How did the work evolve once you were drawing from that experience?
MZ: The accident was a critical moment in my life. It changed everything. It was a moment close to death, one more medical error and we would not be having this conversation. Such experiences are bound to have an impact on us. Especially when, immediately after the accident, things begin to fall apart – health, psyche, private life. For my photography this meant more audacity in choosing motives, sharper imagery, stronger bond with physicality. Also, more determination to fulfil my artistic potential.
PW: Does the process help you work through your own thoughts? I would imagine the process could be initially quite painful but with time, perhaps more therapeutic?
MZ: “Post” had no therapeutic objectives. It is, no more and no less, an image of what it’s like, an attempt at rendering the whole tension that we carry inside us. The time when I worked on the cycle was definitely difficult, but without it I would not create anything. Only thanks to this fully authentic attitude I could construct images filled with real tension that is perceptible to others. It is a really amazing feeling when someone, after having seen the cycle, starts to cry. For me it means that someone has found himself or herself in the works, that I was sincere.
PW: The work is also a publication published by Actes Sud, what do you think the book says for the work that previous exhibitions may not have?
MZ: Most of all, the book is a closure of a certain stage – finishing the work on the cycle and opening a new chapter. In the project of the book, apart from the photographs known from the “Post” series, there is also a new work, consisting of a series of casts reproduced on Bible paper. Each face signifies another moment in life; I took the casts of myself during one long session, one after another. The differences between subsequent face casts, unintended deformations, placing them in a chain of time… This is a first public presentation of the series, which marks the beginning of a more object-focused approach in my artwork.
The book contains yet another feature, very important to me – a text by Christian Caujolle, an impression on the “Post” series, poignant and beautiful.
PW: Have you got plans to expand on this work?
MZ: Individual, liminal experiences, very near to the threshold of our perception, have become the focus of my attention. When their intensity cannot get any bigger. When I work on my subsequent projects, my need to think more in terms of the object, to intentionally play with the medium, crystallises. Photography becomes a means, the essence, which can be perfectly surrounded with meanings and contexts. They are contained in our choices – both in terms of content and form. In early December, at the final exhibition in Arsenal in Metz, France, concluding the presentation of my work and events related to awarding me with Prix HBSC, which took place throughout 2016, I will show my new works, accomplished with the support of Diane Dufour, director of Le Bal. I take a photograph of the object I created in order to present the reminiscence of the primarily used medium. This formal game, confronted with an existential, still very personal subject-matter, employing self-portrait, leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
For more from our Ideas Series, click here.
For more of Marta’s work, click here.