Artwork by
Artwork by Łukasz Horbów

The tension between the private and the personal

Łukasz Horbów is a 22 year-old performer and multidisciplinary artist from Poland. His works, which can be accessed through his tumblr blog, are an exploration of his own body. He begins with pictures of his own body, taking grainy, black and white photos into which he cuts and draws, also using the photographs as objects themselves which can be moved around and reassembled as a form of collage. He defines his project as an attempt to form a “harmonious whole.”

The question at the centre of this work is whether this is merely a formal device to create pretty pictures with body parts, or whether there is a critical value to this mode of practice. With the body being a central theme in art through the ages, in contemporary art it is specifically contested, particularly in the realms of representations of bodies by artists. This then plays into the socio-political realms where questions around bodies being policed by others and notions of beauty have an impact on the values and prejudices that a society holds. Despite the body being a highly contested issue, and perhaps because of that, contemporary artists continue to engage with this. However navigating these tricky terrains means that one has to create strategies for dealing with the various issues that arise as a result. In Horbów’s work for example, a strategy at play is to use his own body in addressing these issues.

Speaking on his choice to do so, he says, “I refer to my body as something alien, not harmonious with me. I don’t create unity with him, but instead treat my body in my works and in life as a tool, a medium by which I can create something.” Perhaps there is a desire for transcendence at play as well, a desire to surpass the limits of humanness, something that has plagued humans since the beginning. To this end Horbów expresses that his desire is “to find things / forms that I had not previously been able to give and that my body did not have before.”

Whilst this strategy may allow him to enter into the realm of body politics in contemporary art, a new challenge arises; that of the private versus the personal. By these terms I mean the private to mean that which is relational only to you, and the personal to mean that which can be related to by others. Therefore, the challenge facing Horbów’s work is whether his notions of the body, and of a “harmonious whole,” can be shared and explored by others in a way that they can relate to.

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