A PROFECÍA exhibition essay


Pelka Atys
Martina Drozd- Smutná
Mia Dudek
Anna Grzymała
Maja Janczar
Valentýna Janů
Alicja Pakosz
Anna Perach
Ioana Stanca
Marie Tomanova
Julia Woronowicz

Curated by Filipka Rutkowska

The future is a place of wisdom. Individuals who have seen or known things, who can foretell, predict, or divine, are usually said to have a “gift” or some kind of extra-sensory perception that the vast majority of the population is unable to access. People like this have been documented across cultures for centuries. And while not exclusively, this character is more often than not female, or non-binary, two-spirit, or some other iteration of the decidedly not Western white, cis-male archetype. She is imbued with transcendent wisdom. And typically because of this “gift,” she is often viewed as a threat – an entity that is uncontrollable; endowed with a logic outside the accepted qualitative systems. In many areas of Central and Eastern Europe, where the capitalist bourgeois West isn’t yet so thoroughly rooted, these systems for engaging with the fuller world still have a place in modern life. In the West, we’ve largely lost connection to the folk practices and wisdoms of our grandmothers, replacing them instead with that which is measurable and therefore “good” (i.e. controllable). And while perhaps not born of this same lineage of wisdom-making, a heightened sense of seeing or knowing is something that does still unite many female identifying individuals – or really any Othered category of person – having been developed in order to survive the unique brand of gender-based violence that reigns over the 21st century.

Derived in relation to her male counterpart, the female gaze is not predatory by nature but rather is a tool for survival. Often referred to as hypervigilance, this state of heightened awareness is akin to a modern-day third eye, not operating as a portal to enlightenment but instead like a surveillance camera sending warning signals to our brains; a closed loop of watching, weighing, hoping, knowing. Our earbuds are turned down low enough to catch an unexpected footfall and all eyes calculate at all times because what happens in the present moment determines all that will or will not come next, and as we know all too well, if we pause the circuit and something does happen, well it will surely be our very own fault for being vulnerable in the first place. Seeing the future is an exhausting responsibility. Yet as all wisdoms do, this circum-ecto-epi-exo-extra-peri-supra-sensibility offers, as well, a space for more.

Alicja Pakosz, The Bigger Picture, 2024.

Curated by Filipka Rutkowska as a continuation of Casa Filipka – an ongoing project organized together with Her Clique – A PROFECÍA is centered on an envisioned future through the female gaze; one that enables a more empowered, speculative relation to both time and space, plant, landscape, and animal; one that breaks the brutality of dualistic thinking and binary structures and replaces them with a spectrum, acknowledging and honoring the and rather than the or. Following principles of transfuturism, and emerging from histories like that of Casa Susanna, this exhibition is a frame for repositioning one's own body as the intermediary for a more intuitive knowledge; a knowledge that doesn’t make assumptions but rather listens, looks, smells, tastes, hears, feels, orients, and balances. A knowledge that doesn’t require eyes for seeing but presupposes sentience, non-human intelligence, time, cycles, and the fluidity of being (in its broadest possible definition), and exists within a continuum of experiences and knowledge, through-out (non-linear) time. And as this knowledge becomes accumulated and disseminated, and as personal mythologies merge with predominant norms, feminist histories, ecologies and states of being, through rose-tinged utopian lenses we divine a centered space that is Other – healing, forgiving, holistic, transparent, and visible – in and of itself.

As with the experience of knowing, nothing is accidental – much like what we see in the work of Ioana Stanca. Her materiality signals a centuries-old culture of women’s work and domesticity. In the piece A Painted Tongue Vertigo, a naked female body (the artist herself) floats within a nest of Anthurium. With scissors in hand and a spider poised beside her, the body and hair bond to the blooms, connecting the disparate forms like a web. If you get close enough, the stitches become like tiles of a Byzantine mosaic, telling a mythical tale of an epiphytic tangle. Mythologies – both personal and otherwise – are important modes of knowledge-making that while are less commonly used in Western forms of formal education, often play a very important role in passing accumulated knowledge generationally, in parts of the European world commonly seen through the Western lens as the East. Such figures appear in the work of Julia Woronowicz, for example, the imagined Slavic goddess Plątwa: a chthonic keeper of fates portrayed as a towering figure of adoration. Balanced on a daisy, she unifies realms of earth, mind, and spirit through her supra-human condition. Considered in a history of storytelling like that which is described by writer Ursula K. Le Guin in The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, we can think of these images as stories woven together as a net not used to subjugate, but rather to gather, protect, and teach; to provide respite and also a note of promise – that the future can be free from (or at the very least not governed by) the cruelty and discord championed by traditional practices of masculine power.

Julia Woronowicz, Morning Walk, 2024.

Sentient, mythic knowing is often associated with ritualized practices, which can be observed in the painted works of Anna Perach, who strikes a balance between formal and intuitive systems which oftentimes quite literally shape the female body. Coming of age rituals, replete with dancing and adornment, and birth re-imagined through a de-centered, multi-spirit unification of surreal distortions of organic forms, remind of regeneration. And as we consider the mortal qualities of our physical vessels, the need to nurture an all-encompassing ecosystem becomes non-negotiable. No matter how much this is denied through policy and production, we (humans) function within ecosystems; we are an interdependent, symbiotic species. In the work of Maja Janczar, we are reminded of this – how the bodies’ response to trauma ripples through all systems – our tears become the water that fills the river basin, blurring the boundaries between body, land, territory, dream and reality. Generative relations birthed by those with the ability to know not only the power of such dependencies, but also their urgency.

This internal score-keeper is also visible in the portrait of a young woman in rose-colored glasses by Marie Tomanova. Her brilliance is her candidness; her undeniably sincere lightness in a moment where all the polarities meet at once – physically, geographically, emotionally, spiritually, conceptually. Despite the weight of this existence, it is also critical to remain connected to that which makes us feel all the things, to find the moments of brilliance and spirit that carry us through these more destructive epochs, for what is the ability to divine without the resolve to effect the changes that we require?

To live within a non-male body in this world is a complex and heavy thing, but it also carries with it a possibility to prophesize that which is situated, shared, fluid, haptic, mythic, and wise. Through classical and new symbolisms, mythologies and visions personal and shared, each of these 11 artists – Marie Tomanova, Anna Perach, Valentýna Janů, Julia Woronowicz, Martina Drozd Smutná, Anna Grzymała, Maja Janczar, Mia Dudek, Alicja Pakosz, Ioana Stanca, Pelka Atys – give us a chance to witness, to reconsider, and to counter the epistemic violences that colonialism and patriarchy have tricked us into believing are essential. They offer us instead their wisdoms and warnings, built from lifetimes of vigilance and generations of knowledge.

Text written by Katie Zazenski.

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