I've Seen My Death, Ceremony / Games [Widziałam swoją śmierć, Ceremonia / Zabawy], 2003-2005 (video still), video projection, 7:00 minutes, sound, courtesy of the artist and local_30 Gallery, Warsaw
Zuzanna Janin's multifaceted work touches upon the themes related to memory, time, identity, the body and space through a variety of expressive means - video, photography, sculpture and installation art. Her preoccupation with the elusive boundaries of social norms and their challenge to individual liberties, and with the limits between art and life, is perceived in Poland as highly provocative. The video work Fight features Janin fighting a professional heavy-weight boxer in a boxing ring. Her Sisyphean, futile efforts, which do not follow any rules, constitute an allegorical choreography that represents the universal dialectic between force and weakness.
Janin's attraction to the twilight zone of repressed, taboo subjects, which exceed the accepted norms of the contemporary artistic discourse, is given expression in her intensive concern with various aspects of death. In Seven Deaths, she presented various forms of death - offering a catalogue of sorts from which one could "order" the desirable form of death. The staging of the scenes dialogues with the familiar art historical and cinematic iconography of death, employing a poetic language to portray the worst human fear.
This concern with death reached its apogee in Janin's most radical work, I've Seen My Death, Ceremony / Games, in which she staged her own funeral procession. On April 6, 2003, she published death announcements in several newspapers; the following day, she was "laid to rest" in the Warsaw cemetery, with a real priest officiating. She herself stood beside the open grave, disguised as an older woman. Beside her were more than a dozen members of her family who had been advised in advance of the hoax, alongside dozens of fellow artists and art critics who had no idea they were participating in the creation of a new art work. This work became controversial from an ethical point of view, and triggered extreme reactions in the Polish art community. Many perceived this performance to be scandalous, hurtful and ethically questionable. Only a scant few treated it as a subversive form of expression capable of promoting the contemplation of existential, philosophical questions and of encouraging an honest discussion of death. Beyond the extraordinary courage required to cope with the subject at the core of all human fears, this work may be read as a desperate attempt to domesticate death.
Born in Warsaw, 1964; lives and works in Warsaw