Agnieska Kalinowska

Great Scene,

Video installation, 1:1

2 dvd:s and sound. 23 minutes. 2005.


November 11th – December 2nd 2006

Teatergalleriet, Uppsala

Curator Torun Ekstrand 


Every night at there is a queue of expectant visitors winding through the Theatre gallery in Uppsala. This queue will both symbolically and physically move past the leading actress in both of the films by Agnieszka Kalinowska. In her two-piece filminstallation the same woman wanders to and fro outside Mhat-theatre and Dubrovka-theatre in Moscow. She is all dressed up in a yellow dress and wears high-heels, despite the cold she is lightly clad.


Agnieszka Kalinowska plays the leading role in most of her filminstallations, likewise here. She is on both sides of the camera, both actress and director. It is a strategy that many female artists have used when they wanted to take back the male gaze, to seize power over depiction. Agnieszka Kalinowska doesn´t either want to expose others to what it means to be the model, the vulnerable.


Time is painfully slow. Her waiting never ends, there is nor a beginning, neither an end of the increasingly more desperate movements of the woman. The slowness spreads into the exhibition – may a film be almost as still as a painting? Speed is the mantra of today.


The woman radiate mysteriousness. At the same time she seems both absent, subdued and uncomfortable in her situation.


In the play ”Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Becket, waiting and long silences may symbolize that life is meaningless. We are waiting for something that will never appear. It is not a story with introduction, recharging and unravelling, more of a metaphor for life. In the work of Agnieszka Kalinowska the womans waiting can also be seen as existential, but in her work there is also a political explosive force.


People are moving in and out of the doors of Mhat-theatre, inside it is shining of warmth and of red. The China-inspired music is enticing. The doors are opened and closed over and over again. The visitors to the theatre are warmly dressed. An older woman stops and stares at the woman, otherwise most people hurries past. She is standing alone and is fairly still compared to the eternal flow of movements and people.


Outside the other theatre-door she is more alone. The door and the parts of the architecture is bright as steel. It is bitterly cold and she is still wandering back and forth. It is a picture of the Dubrovka-theatre, but could be any place, since this kind of architecture is common in many public buildings in Russia. There is not going to be a show here tonight. She waits in vain. The theatre has been closed since the terror-attack and the area is always under the supervision of the police.


It was on a Wednesday evening in October 2002, an evening like the one in Agnieszka Kalinowskas film that 42 terrorists rushed at the theatre in the middle of a performance and ockupied it. Both actors and audience were taken hostages. Around 850 people were detained during several days and nights. The Tjetjenian terrorists demanded that the Russian army should retreat from Tjetjenia.


At the liberation almost 200 people died. Most died from the deadly poisonous gas that the Security service sprinkled the theatre with. They said that otherwise the terrorists would have blown everybody up. Many of the rebels were women. ”They are young, beautiful women and pasive victims of the war in Tjetjenia. They are suicide-bombers. First time they appeared were in 2000, when the 17 year old Haca Barajeva drove a truck full of dynamite into a Russian military outpost. Since then female terrorists have performed many crimes in Russia.” (...) They are ”in veil, dressed in black and with a dynamite-belt around their waist”, journalist Michael Winiarski wrote in Svenska Dagbladet in April 2005.


”Many of the terrorists from the earliest period have been women, it concerns Russia, Britain as well as Germany. To become a terrorist was one of few ´occupations´ that was open for a woman during 1900th Century Russia. ” writes Per-Arne Bodin, author and journalist in Slavist languages, in an article. ”There were many thoughts in early literature that posed the question on what terror-crimes did to a woman; did she become more male or was taking part in public violence contributing to that the feminine in that way transformed into something sublime feminine? There was a fascination over the fact that a woman could commit such cunning violent crimes.”.


He also focuses on the book on terrorism of Alex Houen, professor in British literature. Terrorism points at the theatrical and the spectacular in terrorism, he writes. ”A murder does not become a terror-crime - until it becomes public, when it is experienced like one by the theatre-audience of the street or when it is massmedialized.”.


If the installation is existential in it´s subject and poetic in it´s language, there is also an evasive feeling of uncertainty, of that something unpleasantly can take place any time, one can not know ones enemy. Tempo is slow, time essential. Kalinowskas work is about everyday and terror, about life and death.


Curator Torun Ekstrand November 2006.


The exhibition is shown in cooperation with the Polish Institute in Stockholm,



Agnieszka Kalinowska arbetar med video, skulptur, måleri och installationer. I sina filmer medverkar hon ofta själv, som om hon vill pröva situationerna. Hennes skulpturer blir som ögonblicksbilder ur en film.


"Alla mina projekt består i huvudsak av att observera mänskligt beteende i extrema situationer. Jag försöker frysa dessa ofta väldigt korta ögonblick av extraordinär fysisk och mental spänning." Beslut vi tar under sådan press har inte bara inverkan på vår närmaste framtid, utan kan påverka resten av våra liv. Under dessa korta ögonblick kan vi mobilisera hela vår kapacitet och släppa lös all den energi vi inte ens kunde drömma om att vi har. Rädsla och ambitioner kan förvandla oss till en helt annan människa för en stund.”, skriver Agnieszka Kalinowska.


f.1971 i Warszawa, bor och arbetar i Warszawa

Konstakademin, Poznan

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