Polish boxers in a florentine mosaic
Anna Molska (Guest artist at Villa Romana 2010) in conversation with Angelika Stepken.
Was this your first stay in Florence / Italy?
I came here once as a child, I can remember Ghiberti’s bronze doors. Everything else has become mixed up with other cities in my memory.
How have you spent your time in Florence this time?
Time is rather strange here because everything goes so much more slowly than in Poland. People celebrate life, for example drinking coffee and not doing anything else as they are drinking their coffee. We have walked around a lot, only going to museums a couple of times. I am not a big fan of museums. The best museum is the Specola museum of natural history in Florence. I have been to see the little shops and workshops in the city, where work is still done by hand in the old-fashioned way. As we had a car, we often also went for drives around Tuscany. The countryside there is really interesting. So, I haven’t really paid much attention to art, more to life.
In your video films you are also interested in the presence of bygone relations of production, but just in Poland.
Yes, I observe them; it is important because they are disappearing.
What impressed you so much in the Specola museum?
There are many, far too many animals there in a space that is far too small, arranged as it was done 50 years ago. The showcases are built solidly. It looks like a huge graveyard. I can remember a large natural history museum in New York where you just walked around and took photos here and there.
You filmed short video sequences in the Specola and in the garden of the Villa...
... and in Piazzale Michelangelo, I filmed the David there against the landscape. And then I also made a mosaic in Florence.
Did you attend a course?
It was not really a course. You pay for the hours that you spend there but there is absolutely no kind of philosophy. But the funny thing is that everything that you launch into there, in the end looks like in communist Poland, like in the 50’s.
Because of the material?
No, because of my thoughts on the matter.
So your souvenir of Florence is therefore an old-fashioned, pseudo-communist mosaic?
Making a mosaic is a bit magical, as if you are in a trance. You sit there thinking of a lot of things and just get on with it. Afterwards you feel something because you have made something and haven’t wasted your time. I wanted to learn something here for me, Florence is a good place to learn something special.
What does your mosaic depict?
It is not very big, only about 65 x 40 cm. It depicts a photo that I printed onto canvas and behind it a landscape. On the photo you can see a Polish boxing team from the early 20th century. I found the image somewhere and scanned it.
Is it the performance of the body in front of the camera that interests you again?
These boxers look very good, very Polish, not really handsome, sportsmen in short trousers and short-sleeved shirts.
Do you want to make any more mosaics?
I don’t think I have time in my real life for mosaics.
Why are you so busy?
No, actually that is not at all true. All young artists always say that they have so much to do. But everything just depends on you yourself, you don’t have to go to every private viewing. Actually I don’t know at all when I’ll work and when I’ll not work.
How did you find living under the same roof as other young artists in Villa Romana?
Very good. I once had a scholarship in New York and was totally alone there. Here there is a social life and that is important. We got to know lots of people at the openings of exhibitions, concerts etc. It was a very good experience. However, I think I met more Germans here than Italians.
When you think back on these three months, was it a time for you to take a step back, to develop ideas for the future or simply just to enjoy yourself?
Three months are not long, it is curious. When I spent a week in Warsaw in the middle, I was able to perceive more than before. I saw strange houses, things that had always been there. But this time I saw them in contrast, clearer. Of course, it was also a time for me to think. Here, you don’t have to eat with your family in the evening or celebrate birthdays with friends. Many small things were important to me in Florence. For example, I discovered how bourgeois I am, how much small, stupid objects matter to me. That is a bit weird to me. I thought artists hated such knickknacks. But I noticed about myself that I can be an artist while still liking such small things.
Although you did create a few shots here, all of your films are actually inspired by the reality in Poland.
Yes, perhaps, because I know, feel and understand it best. But it is a good experience to be in such a beautiful town as Florence. Florence is extremely beautiful but obviously many people do not know where to start with it. I tried it. But I simply couldn’t do anything with it, with the beauty and my thoughts on it.
Are you already working on a big new project?
Yes, I’m now taking the next step after the master’s, which is the doctorate at the academy of arts. For that I have to create a large work and talk about it with my old professor.
Do you still have a strong connection to Grzegorz Kowalski and the academy in Warsaw?
I don’t go there anymore and I also don’t know what is going on there. But I would like to see how I can deal with it from a greater distance. I like to seek change, which is not necessarily pleasant.
You attracted international interest as an artist at a very young age, while you were still studying. What is your relationship like with Kowalski today?
I have a real connection with Kowalski, I have great respect for him; he is a very intelligent and very interesting person. I believe he learns more from the young people than they do from him. For that reason, I like to observe him. I think that it is a similar situation for Artur Zmijewski who also studied with him.
Will you travel to Italy again?
Yes, certainly. When I was two years old, my parents took their first Italian holiday in Rome. I saw naked sculptures constantly and from my child’s perspective I saw above all naked legs and genitals. I was fairly bemused and didn’t understand why my parents wanted to show me such things. Now I can see the proportions correctly.