BWA Contemporary Art Gallery in Katowice, 2021


"Michalina Bigaj constructs a cosy place in the gallery to reflect on the climate crisis. No arresting diagrams, graphs, research and observational studies summaries can be found here. The artist does not attempt to seek out ways to help or remedies for the inevitably impending catastrophe. She calmly constructs consecutive bleak metaphors of the future. A story she weaves takes place on a micro level, happening almost imperceptibly, occurring in everyday stage settings. Etymologically, the Greek word katastrophē not only means ‘a sudden end’, but also ‘a transformation’. Geology testifies to five major catastrophic processes in Earth’s history that changed its face completely. All the so-called ‘major extinction events’ were the end of a world, while at the same time being the beginning of a new era; so also in the case of the Anthropocene, the extinct homo sapiens will have been replaced by more resilient species. Following this trail, the artist plunges into dark ecology, inspecting the problematic concept of nature, altered, designed and devastated by humans for centuries. A powerful point of her representation is a recurrent apocalyptic vision of a burning river – an image of upset order, a disturbing indicator of the end of the world as we know it. Transformation of live-giving water into all-consuming fire constructs imaginary scenarios of events in which the planet becomes depopulated and deserted, while toxic substances alter the landscape, growing barren under a black cover. The generalised, latent anxiety turns out to be a bonding experience. The notion of community under threat leads us to reflect upon the basic activity of breathing. A circulatory nature of the breath undermines bodies’ stable boundaries, in which an understanding of subjectivity constructed on the basis of the inside/outside distinction was grounded. Breathing questions the belief in human exceptionality and separateness, directing our attention to a network of inter-species connections and entanglements. Appearing alongside respiratory metaphors, never-erected, spectral monuments to bacteria, fungi, plants, animals, water, soil and wind make up a model of new solidarity, whereby no species is accorded privileged status. Everybody, without exception, shares the same poisoned air, polluted water, tainted food."


Curator: Marta Lisok