Portrait with Headphones, 2008, oil on canvas, 200 × 150 cm
One of the hottest debates nowadays seeks answers regarding the role of individuals, the nature of their rights, and how they affect negotiations in socio-political processes. Dominik Jałowiński’s work is also influenced by such deliberations. Individualism is the most fundamental democratic accomplishment, yet it simultaneously leads to a decline in collective goals, causing entire social groups and communities to become deliberately “apolitical”. Locked into consumerism so as to preserve their relative material stability, citizens are increasingly easy targets for manipulation and political populism. Individual identity has ceased to be obvious, becoming a playing field for various games, including reinventing oneself. If nothing is ever carved in stone or determined in a totalitarian way, then identity can also be a field for researching and questioning tradition. This game of perception and social masks may conceal a new, constantly “negotiable” freedom, which is both personal and – ultimately – political.
Grandfather’s portrait, 2010
Dominik Jałowiński’s painting represents the archetypal form of a grandfather, portraying a person whose face is obscured and blurred. By doing so the artist touches upon the issue of memory; and of the image, which serves to some extent as a memory prosthesis. Memories and knowledge of older generations fades away, despite attempts to immortalize them in images. This melancholic work by Jałowiński draws from both the aesthetics of painting and photography by referring to the portrait form, well-known to the viewer.
Piotr Wysocki, Dominik Jałowiński, Refugee Jam, 2014, artistic workshops for residents of the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Białystok
Dominik Jałowiński, You Must Love Bad Days, 2014, mural
Assisted by Piotr Wysocki and residents of the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Białystok
Created during the Refugee Jam workshops
Piotr Wysocki, Zhiguli (Lada), 2014, object, video, 15”
Assisted by Dominik Jałowiński and residents of the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Białystok
Created during the Refugee Jam workshops
Piotr Wysocki and Dominik Jałowiński organised painting and sculpture workshops at the Reception Centre for Foreigners in Białystok. This is a closed centre which takes exclusively male residents. The artists invited refugees of various nationalities to take part in the workshops. The title Refugee Jam describes not only the cooperative artistic aspect. Depending on the context, the word “jam” can also mean trouble, a crowd, contraband, or immobilisation.
These workshops resulted in a graffiti mural entitled You Must Love Bad Days, featuring slogans reflecting the current situation of the centre’s residents. Wysocki and Jałowiński refer back to the anarchistic origins of street art, which used to involve illegal activities in urban space. Illegality is a key word here. By selecting this format, the artists underlined the situation of the refugees they had invited to cooperate. The men staying at the centre, often captured while crossing the Polish border illegally, are kept in custody or waiting to be granted refugee status. Their stay on Polish soil is actually illegal. In a sense, this mural created during the workshops is a visualisation of their freedom.
At the same time, they created a “monument” to the cult Lada Zhiguli car – once a sign of prosperity in the Soviet Union, but now synonymous with poverty and most popularly used as a vehicle for smuggling. If one considers the context underlying the sculpture, plus the fact that many of the centre’s refugees hail from the former USSR, it acquires almost symbolic significance. On the one hand, the artists are hinting at travel themes but, on the other, their Lada is immobilised and stripped of its wheels. It is also a reference to the situation of the refugees locked inside the centre, highlighting their powerless, helpless lives in suspension. A monitor is built into the car’s bodywork, showing footage of an event filmed in Warsaw’s Praga district, when a car belonging to some Chechens was set on fire.
Dominik Jałowiński (b. 1983, Lublin) – painter and performance artist. In 2008 he graduated from the Faculty of Painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He lives and works in Warsaw.