ESSAY by Ewa Toniak
When I look at the photomontages from Ewa Partum’s Self-identification (Samoidentyfikacja, 1980) series in which she, totally nude, crosses the street, stands in a queue, or blends into a crowd of women carrying shopping bags, in my mind’s eye I also see the artist Zofia Kulik,“a woman carrying bags”, running across a street in Mokotów, and jumping out from behind Partum, whose image has been pasted into the photo.
Run, Zofia, run. There’s a long road ahead of us.
Self-identification is probably Ewa Partum’s best-known series, consisting of six photomontages; in all of them, the artist poses nude in various places in central Warsaw. As she herself puts it: “Self-identification is about the places, streets and squares that were part of my daily life at the time”. Feminist critics might make a minor amendment here: these photos all concern the presence of women in public spaces. For example, in one of them, Ewa is standing beside a queue, where five women are bundled up in winter clothing. They are wearing hats and berets, carrying shopping bags and handbags, and some are dressed in high heels; the lone man in the group is lugging a mattress around with him. If not for the intervention of the artist, we would be looking at a scene typical of daily life in the Polish People’s Republic. The artist seems somehow absent, her face reveals no emotions, her gaze, directed outside the frame of the photo, is clearly distant. As in all the photos in the series, she poses nude, but in high heels.Read more...