Dominika Olszowy

b. 1982, Skwierzyna

Visual artist. She operates at the intersection of various media, using video, performance, installation, and a specific mixture of truth and confabulation. She is an intermedia graduate of the University of the Arts Poznań. Olszowy creates works which she often treats as amulets charming and taming a reality plunged in crisis. She often draws on personal experiences and processes them into universal statements, full of subtle humour, on the human condition and time. She has cofounded several collective artistic initiatives, from a feminist rap group to a motorcycle gang. She is the author of staged installations and theatrical performances. In 2019 she received the Deutsche Bank “Views” award. She lives and works in Warsaw.


Yawn of a Sleepy Heart

2020, stained glass, 103 x 73 cm

This stained-glass window presents a cup of coffee from which the aroma emerges in the shape of a hand. The hand touches the nose, from which a spirit emerges. The scene plays out against a background of coffee beans. Using the motif of coffee, the artist suggests that this fetishized beverage, linked with numerous rituals, is not so much a magical, energizing elixir, as a contemporary narcotic, helping users work and live. The piece was created in the context of the pandemic, when meeting for a coffee could expose one to a risk of illness or even death. Installed as a window, the stained glass functions as a bridge between internal and external space, the visible and invisible worlds, evoking various dimensions of the immaterial world: scents, memories, experiences, and their recurring presence. The stained-glass window was part of an installation with numerous elements entitled Yawn of a Sleepy Heart, shown for the first time at the Second Riga International Biennial of Contemporary Art. It served as a “portal’’ to the rest of the work, which due to the pandemic was shown instead at the Raster Gallery in Warsaw, where Olszowy presented the imagined bedroom of the Latvian goddess Veļu Māte, who rules the world of the dead. Veļu Māte, whose name could be translated literally as the mother of bedding, linen or lingerie, was said to lure souls to the underworld by dancing on their graves. The works were accompanied by a performance executed at the opening of the biennial, in which a woman dressed in business wear stained with coffee weeps before the stained-glass window.

Winter Landscape

2018, video, 5'17"

Winter Landscape is an instructional film containing a number of visualized tips on how to combat melancholy and the decline in vitality during the autumn and winter season. The work offers an ironic commentary on the current trend of seeking temporary improvement in mood by resorting to psychological and physical practices derived from various cultures. The video performance is filmed in the space of an apartment stripped of individual features, situated in an alienating zone of the global world (in what Marc Augé would call a “non-place”). The artist employs elements typical of esoteric practices, such as candles, fire, coffee, and stones. This set of props, along with the composition of the frames, the music and the editing, alludes to the aesthetic of films by David Lynch. Olszowy uses this allusion to underline the triviality of the proposed methods, by contrasting the sterile world of her construction with the mysterious atmosphere of Lynch’s films. She created the work during her “Weltschmerz” residency at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Opole.


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