Joanna Rajkowska in Conversation with Boris Haenssler

1.Can your project in "müllerdechiara" be called a continuation of your "Satisfaction" products as a new form of offering parts of yourself?
I don't think so, although it seems to be. In both projects my time and my body was being consumed by other people and in this very way it was getting its quality. In many situations I had an impression that I was living a double life, although in fact I was living no life, neither mine nor someone elses. This was about losing and about disbelief that anything can be saved. Also in both projects I was trying to be usefull in a fundamental way. Not showing that artist can be usefull, but to be usefull. The major difference between these projects is that in Satisfaction I had still something to offer, whereas in Artist For Rent I had to admit, I had nothing to offer. "What do you want from me, what shall I do?" - letting people answer these questions freed me from a responsibility of a choice. I was giving people exactly what they wanted, I was not offering anything. Every single task was about their needs and choices. It was sort of a mirror.

2. What had been your experiences in the project? Did people come to you seeing you as the artist, a worker, a conversation partner?
All of it. I was always a missing element in a whole, if I may say so. I was instead of an actor on the stage, instead of a cook, instead of a nurse, designer, photographer or bartender. It happened once that I felt like a part of the person who employed me. I was filling up the hole...

3. Is the idea to bring art to people or to get inspiration, to explore society or to explore yourself?
My aim was not to explore: I don't want to know anything nor I wanted to get inspiration. Maybe your first suggestion is the closest to me; I would say I would like people to experience certain things.
This is actually a broader issue that needs a short explanation. I was taught by a painter, a mystic and Eastern Orthodox Church philosopher, Jerzy Nowosielski. The tradition of icons where the subject is not being represented but is being present in the painting directed my way of thinking. My professor used to tell me: you will paint this vase right if you become it. Now, when I have a message to get across, I have to become this message quite often. I make things happen rather than I show that things happen. Artist For Rent was simply another project where the situation itself was becoming a message and where I was using myself as a basic tool. It was also about a certain way of being with other people. I think about safety of a relationship. Let's say: you have a task for me. We spend time together doing it, working on it. We do not communicate, except a necessary exchange of technical information, we are not trying to understand each other. The expectations are clear and fullfilled. I am working for you but I ask for a more creative part - for the documentation of an event. I am giving you the energy to do it. Thus we are switching the roles.

4. Your work often seems to deal with being or individuality within a world of mass consumption. Is a capitalistic society, which some call the highest form of individuality also the death of individuality?
I don't think so. I am simply using it: the system with its phenomena may become a language as anything else. I have no critical approach to anything, this is why it always makes me laugh when I am invited to some "anti" shows.

5. The Chinese artist Zhang Huan said in an interview: "My body is the only way for me to get knowledge about the society and for the society about me. My body proves the existence about my identity." Could this also be your quote?
It could be - many years ago. We must be same age or so. At the beginning of my conscious work, my body was an endless (and only one) field for experimentation with basic definitions. One of the first texts I ever wrote contained a phrase "I pick up a thing from the ground. The way it is I understand through the way I am." It refers not only to the "thing". The general border was always my body: between the outside and me and between society and me. In Artist For Rent it came back again: I felt how my physical presence counts, to what degree it is a vehicle. And how I have to transform it every time.

6. Your palm-tree project is said by a journalist to refer to the Polish word "palm", meaning something senseless. On the other side it refers to a journey to Israel and therefore also to the Jewish history and culture of Warsaw. Do people accept signs, even if they don't have a meaning or have an absurd meaning for them?
First of all, this project is a bit like a glass ball: everybody sees what she/he wants to see in it. It perfectly reflects the expectations, dreams and disgusts. I haven't express any interpretation, although I revealed the source of the project: the journey to Israel; also my confusion and absolute inability to understand the complex situation there. I was trying to put the accent more to this lack of coprehension, to confusion and uncanniness than to quite obvious visual repetition. On the other hand, the title quite clearly refers to the dark side of the Polish history. Nobody in Warsaw remembers the reason why this street is called Jerusalem Avenue (the short story of the erected and destroyed Jewish settlement in 18th century). The project revokes it. But only by the title.
If you ask me whether people accept signs that the palm tree (and you are very right at this point: it doesn't contain any meaning itself but absurd) is giving, I must say: the reaction is so polarized, that it is very hard to say whether they accept it. They read it, for sure.

7. Do you think people in Germany know a lot about their neighbour Poland?
Hard to say. Lately someone said, looking at the website with the Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue, "Oh, I didn't know that there is so warm in Poland that the palm trees are growing there..." He was a young guy. This is not a best example though, for sure...

8. What does the city Warsaw mean to you? Is your art much related to the environment in which it is created?
I think, the environment is absolutely fundamental to me. By the environment I mean people around me. Most of my projects is based on creating situations between people. These situations always take place in a very specific context, unchanged and never created.
Warsaw is East to me. Poland in general is very, very eastern: the way this country looks like, how people act and behave, how it is conservative and obscure and how much religion counts. When I pass through little towns, especially in the eastern part of Poland, I feel it deeply. I do like it. Warsaw is a very specific place, with a bloody history and rough "now". It is a bit like a huge cemetery on which a wild and ugly vegetation has grown. This is an eastern metropoly not because it is so huge and well developed but because there is a mental space for anything here maybe due to a uncontinuous history. What is important Warsaw is not - it cannot be - exotic to me, I am a part of it or maybe - I would like to be.