Please dont tell me you do not know who you are
Przemysaw Branas, Poland
The synthetic description of the project
1.Please dont tell me you do not know who you are is the artistic-research and interdis-ciplinary project. The initial point is the medium of photography, and more precisely the archival photographs, not made by me. For several years I have collected a black-and-white historical pho-tographs. Pictures, which I am particularly interested in, are taken between 1932-1937. The main subject on these photographs is the man dressed in a white uniform, in different places, spaces, contexts and with different people. The element connecting all these pictures is just this man. The photographs on the back contain only the date and the signature Curacao.
The mentioned photos are the historical objects, which for several years have been bought by me in a second hand shop with items from Germany and the Netherlands. The shop is located in my home town Jaroslaw (the Subcarpathian province). These shops become very popular, you can buy there, among the other things, used household items. All kinds of objects in the store, in most cases, come from the houses of older people who are already dead ...
2. Curacao is the island situated in the northern Latin America, in the area of the Lesser Antilles. Its capital is Willemstad. The sovereignty over the island belongs to the Kingdom of the Nether-lands. Curacao island in its history was once a Dutch colony and the important port, where were distributed e.g. groceries. My project refers to the several motives, including memory and identity. But also to the path of seeking, traveling and nomadism as a performance art. But I also use the research processes a historical research, life histories and a performance research. So, the starting point were the photographs. On this basis, I try to find out as many information, true and historical ones, associated with representations in these photographs. The distant (out of place) research has led me to specific locations, to mapping these places, cooperation with the local people which pho-tographed for me the present buildings, ports, etc. I collect the specific information about where they are made, but I have got no information who is photographed on them. Im trying to find in-formation about the man - who could he be...
3. Therefore, the foundation of the work is situated on the two double episodes. The first is the physical one, dividing Poland and Curacao. The second motive of the contemporary investigation is in the relation to the already historic photographs and the idea of a nomad-seeker-performer. The project involves gathering as much information as it is possible in Poland. The next step is to collect as large database of information as possible in Curacao and the Netherlands.
It has to be interdisciplinary in nature, without the initial assumptions of the final visual, audio or fragrance effect.... What is certain, that it has to be intermedia installation. Collecting a database of information, visual materials and archives indicate the suitable vector of this project. Possessing a mass of information is one of the main planned effects. I care about multisensory analysis and research; starting from the text, through photography, video, sound, smell, and artefacts from that place. My journey combines three physical locations: Poland, the Netherlands and Curacao. All the research conducted in Poland is focused on collecting contacts and virtual collection of materials. The next step is to travel to Curacao. Only physical presence, investigation, participation, can lead me to clarify the interdisciplinary project titled Please dont tell me you do not know who you are. The title refers to the idea of the identity contained in a person to whom it is asked the question, but also in the subject (also collective one), which asks this question. Both the title and photographs that I currently possess, force me to ask basic questions about identity, origin and meaning. The historical aspect of these images and contemporary analysis and transposition them to the present physical space and territories, may prove to be very interesting because of the specific transposition of the artistic research.
mapa wiata, 1932 rok
The additional elements of the project:
[...]an emancipation begins where we cross over the opposition between looking and action, and we understand that the division of sensuality itself is a part of a system of domination and subordination
Jacques Rancire, Sztuka tego, co moliwe.
II. The particular function of memory (olfactoric) 1. In the detailed analysis of the photographs belonging to me, a memory started to play a very important role a memory. A memory contained both in the photographs, as well as in the pho-tographic objects themselves. The role of memory in contemporary art, particularly on the bound-aries of Intermedia, is present strongly in trends of artistic search for a few good years. Virtually, all the aspects of the presence of the past in the presence, or in relation to a future, are associated with memory-related topics - individual or collective ones. While the classic visual transposition of historical photographs into the language of a contemporary art seems to be interesting, I have found more interesting medium that I want to work with during the later stages of my work. This medium is a smell and the subject that interests me is an olfactory memory. An olfactory memory, is the memory on the basis of a smell, independent of us, immersive one and properly absorbing us in all its aspects, independently of our will, strongly associated with the culture in which we were raised. It enables the physical structure of a brain, the most primeval ones, simultaneously running the entire field of memories (a memory)... The smell, or more precise would be the statement - the sense of smell, is often overlooked in the terms of inter-media art, being associated primarily with a visual or a visual-audio culture. The result of this fact is, of course, the progress of science and tech-nology, in the field of a perception, a vision, hearing. So far, smell has not been totally transposed into the world of art.
2. The very title of my project Please dont tell me you do not know who you are refers to the topic of searching of a man from pictures, but equally strongly to the topic of a presence and absence. Smell, although present, becomes invisible. Impossible to grasp, to be tied and stopping, often impossible to name, thus, it becomes an anonymous building block for space where we can feel it. At the same time, it may be an invisible present, acting subconsciously on us. In my project I would like to take advantage of all the gathered information to create a fragrance (a fragrant substance), which would be used in my installation. Certainly, it would be significant to use an organic material collected on Curacao (such as flowers from a special species of the orange tree growing only on Curacao, or the bark of trees found only in this part of the world). The another important analysis would be the analysis of photographs and a subjective analysis of what and how can something smell. The development of the conceptual and analytical flavour mix, which would be the most suitable for this project, would be a particularly important aspect of my research.
3. The place of work due to its specificity is divided into physical space, used to collect materials, and virtual or static - serving the mapping, the collection of information, the creation of installa-tion, the set of related information, etc. The physical locations of the project are Poland and Willem-stad, the capital of Curacao. I am planning to leave for a one and half month to Willemstad, where I am going to collect a video, photographical, archival materials, and the objects associated with the next stage of work in Poland.
4. My action is processual - provided as the work in time. During one year I would like to work on collecting of materials, information, archives, samples of fragrances, etc. to be able to produce work of an artistic nature. The first stage of work has got a character of a research, analytical - not creative one. The second stage focuses on the creation of a set of information from the collected materials. In this way the research project will be gaining the status of an artistic activity. The second part of the action is interdisciplinary, that is, will incorporate several types of media, which in the common combination will give it a character of an unique installation with a use of smell.
The planned effects
1. One of the planned effects is to create a unique interdisciplinary installation ofa transcultural nature; the creation of a work where contemporary topics mix with historical ones, European culture with the culture of the insular region of South America, things which are seen, combined with unseen, and what can be felt, combined with the subconscious one.
2. For several months I have been in contact with the anthropologist and sociologist Mrs. Grazyna Kubica-Heller (Institute of Sociology of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow). Anthropological, scientific roots are largely interesting due to the research aspect of my work. You can easily combine contemporary cultural anthropology, the threads associated with the new reading of anthropology, with the postcolonial research aspect of my work.
3. Due to the nature of my processual actions I think that the work can be innovative. I draw this conclusion basing on the media I use. The contemporary art corresponds to a minimal extent with the sense of smell. Particularly Polish art, where we can find only few examples of work at a high level of a substantive content related to the sense of smell.
4. I would like this work to have the nature of the installation. I care about exposing it in a gallery / an institution for art. I would like to work with a curator in connection with my project. Therefore, it would be a widespread public work/open exhibition. Another interesting theme is to move the entire project to a virtual space. Dissemination of results would be performed in the network as well as in the physical space. Taking into consideration the international aspect of my project I can say with a deep conviction that this project can also be promoted on Curacao.
1. The sense of bonding has been significantly redefined, expanding its relationships field (in relation) to people, organisms, phenomena. Of course in this project it is worth to pay attention to the so-called difference. I define with the difference everything that divides, not connects... The difference is not defining our relationships, due to the lack of points of contact brings us closer to each other. The contact points relate to the notion of a stable identity of subjects (me, the man from the photos). This type of appropriation of my probable (?) differences, makes a kind of colonization of areas (spaces, including memory) between us.
This difference may also has got a real, physical base and that is the distance that connects and thus, de facto, divides. In the postcolonial perspective a distance between us is a very interesting issue. It is the Atlantic Ocean, dividing Europe from the Americas. Although the distance has been explored for thousands of years, it has become a real barrier and a gate at the same time in the fifteenth cen-tury (from the European point of view), so relatively not long ago. The barrier - which turned out to be a way for the discoveries, extension of sciences, exploration of continents, a colonisation, and finally expanding of a consciousness - is the symbolic space.
2. The disorder of a linearity of time in this project is very interesting, giving indeed a sense of com-patibility of the all assumptions as a whole.
3. Searching, finding, loosing, finding, discovering, burying are activities that seem to be important for the creation of this work as a coherent project. Moreover, these activities are something like a ritual repetition, which is not happening at several levels; historical, cultural, or the repetition within the project. The repetition allows for the existence of the unconscious, invisible, and on its experience; experience through an experiment. The experience through physical presence and an performative aspect, to which I wish to particularly draw my attention. As I wrote, the project also refers to the path of seeking, traveling and nomadism as performance.
4. A nomad is a rhetorical figure used by me due to its unstable nature. Unstable, or act-ing in the opposition to stability, immobility, or, more broadly, going to the clear constitution of an overstaying (physical or intellectual). A nomad travels, visits, explores, collects. With all the consideration of any space in which he moves - from the symbolic, through a historical one, to a real one. Here and now is very important for a nomad. Similarly, an aspect of the experience and journey as a ritual. For a nomad a journey is a process, open, not interrupted, properly oriented to a big failure as well as for a big success. Therefore, a nomad has got the unlimited field of activities, plans, objectives, strategies. Such a living, processual, in the process, nomadic nature allows for the greatest draw of its essence from this work.
A smell is travelling
With regard to a nomadism, I would like to particularly stress the special role of smell which plays in a space. Firstly, the smell is functioning in the context of a space (a field), filling it, often devour-ing it. Therefore, the smell travels, but it is not a journey from point a to point b. It is a journey which takes place in many directions, in a distributed time and space; It is quite easy to analyse, if we look at it from the physical (a smell as a gas) point of view. The philosophical, theoretical con-sideration of smells is very interesting. You can recall here the philosopher, Jolanta Brach - Czaina that perfectly reflects the philosophical aspect of the air, and thus, also a gas and a smell. You nev-er experience the same air. Because the air is a smell, even if you cannot feel it. We, as organisms always cross this air, and also a smell. We immerse ourselves in it, unconsciously or consciously. We absorb it with our noses and bodies. We have been immersed in it, as aquatic organisms in a water. We have no way out of this situation, the only thing we can do is to activate our memories. Therefore, it is apparent that firstly, a smell not only fills us up, we are immersed in it, what more, it runs our very primordial processes, reaching deeply into the structures of our brain, opening them again. It possesses us, while allowing our memories to take the wonderful journey to the unknown and forgotten realms (memory). We undertake/perform in this way the immersive journey inside the space filled with a smell, intersecting it, mixing with our smells etc. while traveling with a help of our brain;
The stone collected from the land, thrown into the water, rips out firstly an air, closing it behind automatically, then smashes uneven sheets of water plunging into its depths. This water closes again to continue originally. The stone falls to the bottom of the water. It exists there, submerged in a dif-ferent matter than the one from which it was taken.
The immersion is a gesture that is inherently opposed to the reality, to the narration of events. It does not have the stigma of wearing a unique, spectacular act in itself but as a gesture is unique. It is like to abandon a norm, for the benefit of another one, to be able to go back to the everyday. It is therefore the act of de-accustom something (a) to be able to accustom it again. The very act of immersion, is the act which can lead to accustom a new. The immersion itself is nothing more than to swim away, go away, fly away. This vocabulary is so in-teresting that indicates a reference to those two matters about which I wrote about water and air. A flow, flying away, swimming or running-off inside own body, or more a state of mind, that is seeking for new unexplored corridors and taming them Here lies the power and the trap of a smell. Its volatile, ephemeral nature. Here you can discover the entire original stimulus; we do not know where we will go, where were going, but at the same time we want to be there, or run away, but we do not know why. Here I see the amazing thread linking archival photos, the trip to Curacao and a smell. These three performative aspects fuse together and are overlapping. They give a sense of a strong conceptual constitution, while allowing to drift away in the field of the exploration, research on analysis they create a coherent project simultaneously open to an experiment, a success, a failure, an experience, an event.
6. The further I go into my project, the more intuitively I feel the desire not to know! The specific data on the man from the photos. More and more I am interested in everything that surrounds him culturally in the pictures. Much more interesting are all these things, rotating around him, which more adequately describe who is he, or who he could be. Perhaps that are the roots of the perverse name of my project; Please dont tell me you do not know who you are. On the one hand, this is an attempt to find out who is he, on the other one the escape from this response. The response, which from the postcolonial, and post-humanistic perspective is not needed. Coming back once again to the issue what is/causes a smell, there is the analogy here. The smell fills out a looker-on as all the information (objects, events, places) fill out a man in the photos. The both ones run our mind processes. They say a lot; These first ones about the man in the photos, the second ones about the recipient immersed (in the smell).
7. The role of possessing (of power)
The function of possessing is associated with the function of privileges. It is situated in the social structures based on culture to be and to have, and seems to be a natural improvement of the status of the physical world in which it is surrounded. It is the very strong, almost impossible to tame, function. To possess always means a power, even if it is the possession of (dead) objects. In this project, I am interested more in a possession and appropriating. These two proposals may cause even symbolic possession of (a material) power.
As it was mentioned, a smell has got the filling function, and, thus, de facto intervening in social structures and individual organisms, who are within its range. It can manipulate them in a rather flexible way. Is a tool for a symbolic possession or a rejection (exclusion) of people from its sur-roundings, space, territory. It acts quite often aggressively, but also politically. It starts social strate-gies, those ones, that are not fully conscious for most of its (smell) recipients...
Talking about a possession, about a power in the context of the photo, I want to emphasize my role with respect to these archival photos. As it was mentioned, I just bought them, I am not the author (photographer). My family, ancestors and myself are not presented on them. I Appropriate them, create a capital of the ownership, which has begun with the sale of these objects of the abandoned houses in the Netherlands. The first gesture, which was made out of my immediate field of recep-tion, meant, that in the next stage of this sequence ,in fact based on the economy (buying/ selling) it comes to me. I appropriate these photos directly through the purchase, and in a symbolic way, call-ing myself the owner of these photos, and usurping the right to work on them in the research-ar-tistic field. This type of appropriation seems to be a natural and necessary; a need to understand here is the level of commitment to these photos I have made, with a full awareness of the act. In this sense a possession, and what more, the research, possesses a power. It may involve the very status of this ownership, or gaining some qualifications, or a manipulation it is the kind of a social power.
8. Unstable mediaIn relation with the idea of my project, I have become interested in the so called unstable media. In this case it is a medium of a smell. The idea of unstable medias is based on the understanding and application of the so called unstable elements in art. Ephemeral, fleeting, fragmented, unstable, filling the space, appropriating it - all these adjectives describe the medium of a smell.Searching for the individual interesting in the conceptual phase forms of a smell I want to separate a scent into two basic categories. These are the molecular (synthetic) scents and natural ones, created on the basis of natural essential oils (plant or animal ones), and oils created from objects.
fotografia z 1932 roku, budynek w tle, to obecnie zielony budynek. Na mapie zaznaczone miejsce, w ktrym jest on postawiony
The final comments
1. I care about the fact that the project needs to be implemented fully consciously in the field of my research analysis. That is why it is so important for me to go to Curacao and work there for some time on a living organism. Without this travel, visit and study of phenomena, places, space, and scents equally, the project cannot move on. In 2015 will be 80th anniversary of making some images and the residence of this man on the island of Curacao.
Please dont tell me you do not know who you are is also the open process. The professional collab-oration with specialists in the fields of history, anthropology, and finally, most difficult and most important of specialists within the area of a fragrance and its creations, and the conceptual analysis, which is very important for me in this project. The smell of this project was the inevitable outcome, resulting from the excessive treatment of these images. I work strictly conceptually on the idea of smell, and I do not want to make this process in any way disturbed in the underlying theoretical-re-search base. So, how do you capture s smell when you have purchased images and knowledge of the world is mediated and restricted to the medium of video and audio? And what is the essence of a smell, and whether it actually exists?
2. This project is a research project. Therefore, it must contain all aspects of the work of a scientific artistic character. Due to this fusion, combining the medium of photography, installation, traveling (nomadism), and a smell, it seems that it may be the work of transcultural and transmedia nature. That transculturalism appears - as it was written above from this strange and necessary mix of cult, historical, contextual in the relation to the starting materials, how they have found a way to my hands and what the changes were made by me.
3. The work described by me is the result of my research related to my PhD studies at the University of Arts in Poznan. I am a second year PhD student. The promoter of my conferment procedure for a doctoral degree is Professor Piotr Kurek and the auxiliary assistant PhD Huber Czerepok. I would like my project to become my PhD thesis in its artistic and research character. The result of my re-search will be the installation that will be exposed to a solo exhibition, and at the same time will be my exhibition during the PhD dissertation.
The work includes its academic aspect. It appears in several forms, or better term would be here - constructs. These are all described by me strategies and research aspects. The following one is the formula of my work, as the work, due to it I can get a PhD in the field of arts..