Whitebox Art Center and MAK Gallery present
Piotr Skiba’s New York Premiere Performance
On view June 20th through 22nd 2014
Opening reception June 20th | 6-8pm
New York City – Piotr Skiba’s New York premiere performance — HONKY — features a series of video installations that make use of elements of the ready-made & the found, combined with sequential performance footage to produce a single, if contextually fragmented, narrative focused on individual displacement. In a series of episodic self-portraiture — as if unpacking the Russian dolls of invented characters — Skiba offers a glimpse of his self-made mythology on the one hand, while on the other he opens a discussion on alterity, and the intense erosion of tolerance affecting the homogenous society of Poland.
The artist, penetrating the fluid boundary between himself and the Other, multiplies the motif of the mask. White mask vs. Black mask. Negative space, the relevant shapes; the “real” subject of conversation is oftentimes created by a deliberate reversal of the figure and ground. A Honky-Polack drowning in the incomprehensible soundscape of New York illuminates the desolation of the anonymous hobo-preacher, whose black silhouette seemed so arbitrarily pinned onto the whiteboard of Skiba’s hometown as to become his shamanic alter ego. Skiba projects persistent feelings of displacement — by setting things in a configuration and an environment where they in their turn displace and alienate, and thereby acquire a new aspect, an unfamiliar affect despite being familiar objects and ordinary people.
The key to the curatorial perspective may lie in the sculpture of Black Homer: an oversized plush “bath slipper” sprayed with matte paint which transforms one of the most influential characters in the history of TV — Homer Simpson — into a powerful totemic presence. Flattened by a black finish, the already dull features of this American suburban stereotype take on a painfully amorphous yet threatening expression. Power found, or power redeemed by blackness on a flip of this particular coin feeding a fascination of a young Polack with hip-hop, or rap culture.
The viewer is thrown into a disturbing carnival of schizophrenia when confronted by either the hoodie of the imaginary Negro from Skiba’s performance, a white high-end latex mask reminiscent of bank robberies, or the impenetrability of a foreign language described by Canetti as an ‘acoustic mask’. By a series of transpositions performed on the artist’s own face, body, or individual limbs used as fragmented images isolated from their original context, Skiba produces the associations of exclusion, loss, and finally, impending madness.