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KATARZYNA KOZYRA


Katarzyna Kozyra's notoriety and controversial status in Poland are legendary: her works initially provoked extreme responses and heated public discussion. Through strategies of infiltration and exposure, Kozyra's works have consistently confronted myths, taboos, and stereotypes as they touch upon private behavior, and conventional standards of beauty. In her video installation The Men's Bathhouse (Honorable Mention, Venice Biennale, 1999), in which she enters the baths in Budapest disguised as a young man, Kozyra explores and controls the authoritarian dominion of male territory and unites elements of performance and mise en scene. It was presented in New York at the Architectures of Gender show at SculptureCenter in 2003. Kozyra also represented Poland at the Biennale in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2002. Punishment and Crime, Kozyra's installation presented at New York's Postmasters gallery in 2002, documented the actions of a group of young Polish men who gather periodically to indulge an illicit, primal passion for weapons and explosives, their faces camouflaged for the video-taping by female masks and wigs. The outfitting of her models with the sexual attributes of "the other" found its most acclaimed "use" in Rite of Spring, which premiered in 2001 at the Renaissance Society in Chicago - a revolutionary animated video in which she turned the elderly into ballet dancers through stop-motion. Kozyra has had numerous solo exhibitions of her works in major European museums (most recently, a retrospective at the National Museum in Krakow). In 2011, she received a lifetime achievement award from the Polish Ministry of Culture.


Katarzyna Kozyra was born 1963 in Warsaw. She graduated from the Sculpture Department at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts in 1993, receiving her MA diploma in Professor Grzegorz Kowalski's studio. She lives and works in Warsaw and Berlin.


http://www.katarzynakozyra.com.pl


In 2010, Kozyra embarked on her Casting project, which called upon members of the public to 'try out' for a part in a fictional film production based on her life. She held such "castings" at the Zacheta National Museum in Warsaw and in Tel Aviv. She is coming to New York City this Spring to complete the series.


Her previous New York appearance was as Lou Salome - a persona based on Lou Salome, a friend of artists and femme fatale, driving a buggy drawn by Nietzsche and Paul Ree. The image of this character inspired Kozyra to create a video performance and photo series for which Vienna's Schwarzenberg Palace and Gardens served as the backdrop. As rendered by Kozyra, Nietzsche and Rilke (another of Lou Salome's acquaintances) - or more precisely, actor-dancers masked as dogs strongly resembling the philosopher and poet - are subjected to animal training. Kozyra devised her Lou Salome project while working on In Art Dreams Come True, and an interweaving of these projects is clearly perceptible. With In Art... Kozyra became clay in the hands of Gloria Viagra and the Maestro, who shaped her. In Appearances..., on the other hand, she is a dominatrix who completely controls her men-dogs. The closing credits scroll by with Kozyra gently humming the aria of the Queen of the Night from The Magic Flute.


The Gender Bender Gay Culture Festival co-produced the twenty-odd minute long performance titled Il Castrato, which took the all but theatrical form of a one-act Baroque opera. In the opera's finale, the Maestro and Gloria Viagra plucked the Drag Queen (Kozyra) from the audience and castrated her. Stripped of dresses and wig, the Drag Queen "recovered" her androgynous appearance with an artificial little body and genitals that granted her all the characteristics of a young boy. Following this scene, "accomplished" by those who were to teach her "femininity," the artist sang Schubert's Ave Maria before riding off on a white steed upon whose back she assumed an unnaturally rigid pose. While in the previous projects of this series Kozyra sought to become, transform into, dress up as a woman/princess/star, in this episode she reverted to her boyish looks in order to undergo nearly literal castration. Thus, her gender once again proved to be a costume. The shooting of the film Il Castrato coincided with preparations for the performance in the altogether different space of the Teatro Settecentesco di Villa Mazzacorati, a Baroque theatre with illusionist scenery from the period.


Both video films belong to the series In Art Dreams Come True, in which Kozyra has entered the performative world. Already interested in confrontation with her audience (as in Men's Bathhouse), and in the performing arts, especially dance (her Rite of Spring), her works since 2001 have developed a loosely overarching story line, in which the artist as protagonist changes her sex and age, explores the world of opera, of Berlin drag queens, or of kitschy legends and tales. She continues to cross social behaviors - as she continues to infiltrate groups and situations in which she does not naturally belong - and to strike out beyond her own physical boundaries - a theme present in her oeuvre since the beginning. Like her other works, The Winter's Tale explores the transgendering of her subjects in order to question who is who in prescribed gender roles and to blur the distinctions between masculinity and femininity. The results of her search and her live performances are the basis for this series of films.


The performances from the series took place at: Barbican Art Center, London; CCA "Zamek Ujazdowski," Warsaw; Museum Kunsthalle Vienna; Nightclub Big Eden, Berlin; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2005); Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, PA; Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, Trento, Italy; and Postmasters, New York (2004), among others.

Appearances as Lou Salome, June 2005, Vienna, video, courtesy of the artist and Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw


Appearances as Lou Salome, June 2005, Vienna, video, courtesy of the artist and Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw


Il Castrato, Performance, Gender Bender Festival Bologna, Teatro San Vitale, October 30, 2006, video, courtesy of the artist and Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw


Il Castrato, Performance, Gender Bender Festival Bologna, Teatro San Vitale, October 30, 2006, video, courtesy of the artist and Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw

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