Lost in Translation

Lost in Translation,  BWA Gallery of Art, Olsztyn

The absence of a storymeans death.T. To do rov When I sit in the cinema, I cry. When I watch and read, or read and watch the latest work by Dorota Podlaska, the never-ending story about four friends hiking, tears ran down my face like the wolf’s face (page 54). The story begins as in the cinema, or as in mythology, at a crossroads. From her or from Herculegs from the times of his service at Omfale. Anyway, as in any silent movie – there are subtitles in Dorota’s film – the woman is waiting. Trapped in her cultural role, she is waiting to be freed from her stillness by the next shot. Or a story. A silent film, a booklet you can always carry with you, is set in motion by words. A few lines running like footsteps through a crossroads with the red light on. Only Dorota knows what the inscription means in the foreign language. A girl glances at her watch, the shot becomes lengthy and even though nothing is happening, the story begins. From a child’s drawing, a wolf emerges. We have no clue which way the story will take us, which way the girl painted by Dorota will go, or what will happen to her. Further scenes emerge between the artists and the person she meets, or selects. Someone’s child, a Dutch couple on a walk in Warsaw, a Vietnamese woman running a small bar in a market in Wólka Kosowska. Someone like a girl from a film-comic- -not-yet-created story that Dorota will come across (I mean Dorota, not the Artist). So far we don’t know that she is not alone, that she is accompanied by a wolf. In an illustrated story (Her-story?) everyone has their own thing to add. Dorota tells the story to each person she meets from the beginning. It is different every time.

A miniature tower of Babel was erected on her return from Korea. Dorota feels good in the Far East. I think she is attracted by the notion of community (I don’t know if I’m correct, but I think in Korea no one will call their loved one a partner, as one in business). There are still spheres of informal life that in our part of the world, Europe, have long since been devoured by late capitalism. For Dorota, the crucial thing in her work is the meeting. Free, I think, from heroic pedagogy (the Latin peedagogus from the Greek paidagogós derived from país, paidós „a child” + ágein „to lead”). What she takes to the meeting with the Other is only a sketchbook. A chance collector needs no “Wanderer’s Stick”, or hi tech tools.

Her painted booklet rolls in a casual rhythm. As in a fairy tale or a Hollywood movie, good always wins in the end. The far-eastern wolf shows empathy (in Japanese culture, wolves see what to others is invisible) and cries with large tears over its prey. It swallows falling letters as raindrops. The wolf’s more familiar northern nature tells it to swallow its saviour. And a few pages back, to confront its own trauma. The wolf, anxious to go back to the forest as in a post-modernist fairy tale falls into its own persecution phantasm, a hundred red little riding hoods. Luckily they all die in the fire of a hundred comets. This is a tale that we don’t like. A The wolf is not very welcome here.

A museum is a maze with countless corridors. A striped geometric space inside the building that fawns on the four wanderers with its baroque façade and flickers with sculpted windows as if from a pattern book. The museum has the wolf’s nature. Culture (as in Peter Greeneway’s Draughtsmans’s Contract) denounces the wolf, which disappears from the characters’ view for a moment. A cleaner’s leg in its jaws in the great painting in a golden frame reminds Her and Him of the Wolf’s nature. He and She – now accompanied by a lion from a Jewish cut-out (Dorota learned this technique during her workshop in Tel Aviv) – run away from the museum. “Each story seems to contain some e x c e s s, some supplement, remaining beyond the closed form created by the development of the intrigue. This excess, so typical to a story, is at the same time and for the same reason a kind of a deficiency; excess is also a deficiency; and theonly thing that can fill this empty space created by the excess is another story”.*

Can one treat this multi-imaginative sketchbook as an exchange? A story in return for previously told stories. For an illusory moment of immortality, for a hand print on the artist’s sketchbook? I don’t think so. The faces and names of each subsequent teller-narrators are known only to her. Everyone, including writing, has the same rights. A small booklet, filled with drawings, photos once extracted from a mass of others, quotations of her favourite painters, or films (there is Fred Astaire, and Turner, and Hokusai) is a small treatise on creative nature. We all live in the space of text, says Dorota, for which the only form of artistic “control” is the selected convention. The rest belongs to the viewers. What counts is the story.

Ewa Toniak, 2011

* T. Todorov, People-Stories, translated by R. Zimand, in: Narratologia, edited by Michał Głowiński, word/image territories, Gdańsk, p.205.