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Greif Alumni: Q&A with Ewa Doroszenko and Jacek Doroszenko


We periodically invite our alumni, artists we have featured in the past, to share their new work and projects with us. Ewa Doroszenko’s work was featured in several of our Guest Rooms as “Post HomoSapiens” curated by Monica Allende, “Die Welt ist schön” (The World is Beautiful) by Nathalie Herschdofer in 2018. We caught up with Ewa and her work partner Jacek Doroszenko to delve into their current projects “Overlooked Horizons” and “Impossible Horizon” respectively shown at Pragovka Gallery (Prague, CZ) and Foto Forum (Bozen, IT).

Der Greif: Your photographic oeuvre, and specifically the project you're exhibiting at Pragovka Gallery and Foto Forum, is associated with the Western tradition of landscape painting. How have you developed your photographic language?

Ewa Doroszenko: We are a duo of intermedia artists, but it was classic painting that became the starting point for our further activities. We are both professionally trained visual artists, or more precisely, painters - Jacek graduated with a master's degree from the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, while I received my doctorate in fine arts from Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun. As our artistic expression has evolved, we have also incorporated other media into our artistic activities: photography, video, internet activities, and sound. Despite having a rather traditional education, each of us deals with the full spectrum of contemporary media. The basis of Jacek's artistic activities is a very broadly defined sound environment, while my work is dominated by the theme of exploring the structure and meaning of the photographic, and more broadly, digital medium.

I have been involved in photography for basically forever. I grew up in a photographic family, my father has run a small studio and photo lab for several decades, and my brother is a specialist in photo printing. As a child, I became well acquainted with the techniques of analogue photography, and later had the extraordinary opportunity to observe the transformation that occurred with the advent of digital photography, from the perspective of a craftsman photographer. My relationship with photographic images was probably quite different from my peers. Throughout my childhood, I surrounded myself with photographs, photographic copies, and later prints were the same household objects as, for example, newspapers or books. I used the waste products of the photographic production process in games, and analogue photo samples served as drawing surfaces for me. Even then, before the digital revolution, I was amazed by the number of images created through this kind of image overproduction. I thought of photography not only in terms of technology or a medium that influences the way we perceive reality, but first and foremost as an object. These reflections influenced my later work, as can be clearly seen in both the exhibitions at Pragovka Gallery in Prague and Foto Forum in Bolzano.

Der Greif: In order to bring to the spectators a 'holistic experience' of landscape, your installations make use of soundscapes. What's the process behind this synergy of image/sound?

Jacek Doroszenko: Sound is featured in all our collaborative projects. We began our audio-visual work in 2014 during an artist residency in Barcelona. Inspired by our research of the soundscape, we decided to document and process the ephemeral landscape of Barcelona. At you can find an archive of the sound and image compositions we created, which have pretty much set the stage for our future work. We are committed to a holistic experience of the natural landscape, which is not possible without the acoustic factor.

In our projects, very often the images directly follow from the recorded sounds, being their visual representation. Using such a chronology of action, we seek to draw attention to the need to restore the sense of hearing to its proper rank in a culture dominated by visuality. Our intention is to emphasize the value of active listening as a cognitive process requiring special effort and commitment. In the process of experiencing the landscape, we direct our attention first and foremost to the sound environment - the closest surrounding layer of reality, which is usually treated only as a background, a kind of supplement to what can be seen.

Der Greif: You then build yet another simulated landscape in the exhibition space. How do you intend the relationship between all the different landscapes represented and presented?

Ewa Doroszenko: Each of our exhibitions focuses on a slightly different issue, so it presents a different challenge. We want the exhibition to interest the viewer with its theme, but also with its form. We try to ensure that the nature of the exhibition subtly attracts the attention of the viewer and makes him reflect. We build exhibitions with attention to detail, and it seems to me that through the style of arrangement they can evoke positive associations. However, under the layer of aestheticizing form, very often hides a current and profound problem. We very much like to use visually appealing images to create a different, less positive message.

As reality is increasingly challenged by the virtual world, and technologies are developing so rapidly, I think artistic productions are also becoming more engaging and cross-media. New tools allow us even more artistic freedom, offering entirely new possibilities for creation, including the ability to combine elements that probably couldn't have been combined before. The exhibitions in Prague and Bolzano collect our various reflections on the landscape that emerged from our travels or stays as part of Artist-in-Residence programs. At the same time, both exhibitions are about contemporary photography itself, which can be defined as the practice of creating images using the latest technologies, in the current mediated reality that we experience through a digital prism.

Der Greif: How's your research responded to the question of how contemporary digital culture is changing the perception of the landscape so far?

Ewa Doroszenko: The exhibitions "Overlooked Horizons" at Pragovka Gallery in Prague and "Impossible Horizon" at Foto Forum in Bolzano present works made in a variety of media, but at their core is an interest in photography, which increasingly mediates our contact with the natural environment. We both feel that contemporary reality is so heavily hidden behind the photographic images that flood us, that it is increasingly difficult to experience nature "in person." When we prepared both exhibitions, we reflected on the function of contemporary photography, which has a special place in building illusory visions of the landscape. Contemporary culture can be confidently described by the term "cyberculture," so the division between the virtual and the real is less and less relevant. Living in a digital culture forces people to constantly change their identities - we experience this by contributing to social media, playing online games, and posting our digitally edited photos online. Digital reality is changing perception and affecting our conceptions of what a natural landscape is. If we look at this process more closely, we find that our image of reality is largely based on digital information, taken in the form of a stream.

Jacek Doroszenko: Also, we should not forget the Western tradition of landscape painting, which still influences our perception of the world. In Western landscape painting, the concept of natural landscape was defined according to the dominant worldview - as a detached element, outside the subject. In our artworks, we seek to challenge this clear division between the observer and the isolated natural environment. We aim to break the established schemes of behaviour and negotiate new ways of relating to the landscape. Especially in the video works, we give voice to the landscape, which becomes a determining element - a kind of conductor setting the direction of our performative actions. Such a situation is the case, among others, in the video "It Is Hard to Find a Polyphonic Body," which we are currently exhibiting at Foto Forum.

We created the film as part of the Artist-in-Residence program at Kunstnarhuset Messen Ålvik in Norway several years ago. The construction of the film was based on using the natural landscape as a space for musical notation. The surroundings of the majestic fjords were adapted as the environment for a unique score of a piece performed at the same time by a set of virtual instruments. The rocky landscape determined the direction of movement of the character that marks the various elements of the musical composition. Thus, the location of the figure in the landscape influenced the pitch changes in the frequency-based scale.

Der Greif: Could you elaborate on how your works focus on the positive impact of the landscape on human psychological well-being?

Ewa Doroszenko: Nowadays, thanks to almost unlimited access to information, we are constantly surrounded by images of reality depicting current social and political problems, including violent images from distant places around the world. Current crises, such as the continuing Russian aggression in Ukraine, crises on the borders of European countries, a humanitarian catastrophe of shocking proportions in the Gaza Strip, but also the deepening ecological crisis, activate us for various actions. On the other hand, the feeling of helplessness in the face of ongoing conflicts causes considerable stress. In our work, we primarily address how, in the face of the above-mentioned problems, we can influence wellbeing, which is extremely necessary in taking effective, long-term, and complex actions in crisis situations. Jacek Doroszenko: Primarily, we focus on the positive impact of soundscapes on human psychological well-being. As residents of Warsaw who regularly experience urban "noise pollution," we are aware of the need to popularize "soundscape ecology" - the science of acoustic relationships between living organisms, human and otherwise, and their environment. It is well known that the positive sensations provided by contact with a particular landscape influence the experience of enjoyment of life, as well as stimulate action and intensify creative activity. Referring to this healing function of the landscape, we create works - videos, sound installations and musical pieces - that subtly reveal the inseparable connection between humans and the surrounding nature. Following this theme, we look at various natural landscapes based not only on the visual aspects of space, but also on the less noticeable phonic realm. Just as at the end of the 18th century people travelled in search of "genius loci," places, sights and moods that transported them to another time and allowed them to distance themselves from everyday life, we take "acoustic journeys," during which we focus on auditory exploration of places and regions, discovering spaces with unique audible features.