ON Anna Juszczak’s BADGOOD exhibition

In the centre of the first room, a great, large, lovely, luxuriant, expansive, attractive, cute, green plant. Around it, all the adjectives from the previous sentence spelled out on white walls in black marker pen. A befuddled viewer passes ever further, ever deeper, until they reach an exhibition of pages from Anna Juszczak’s sketchbook she had started to fill up after her accident.

The deliberate scenario by exhibition curators, Kamil Kuitkowski and Zofia Małysa, combined with its enigmatic description create a cognitive dissonance, an anxiety-arousing surprise. On one side, contemporary-art-exhibition-frequenters-friendly objects, as the aforementioned potted fig plant in a milieu of words, but also dramatically backlit honeycombs, accurately cut-out collages representing plants, or a tree trunk covered with mysterious engravings commenced by worms and completed in a human hand. On the other, a story of cerebral haemorrhage which resulted in aphasia: a necessity to re-learn words, self-re-discovery in a new world, where memory interweaves with oblivion. For Ania, it will be a new planet, while her BADGOOD exhibition will have become a record of its exploration and a history of returning thence (as much as landscapes there-painted are breath-taking).

The story is and is not direct. The artist shares what has occurred most courageously, yet without beating her breast. Instead, she chooses a subtle weave of universal message. Constructing a multiplicity of meanings, she reveals to us that nothing is self-evident in our world, nothing can ever be completely covered by a single word. The aforementioned deformed honeycombs come from her parents’ apiary. The bees dropped dead when Ania was in hospital. This and other stories divulge to us new themes enchanted into objects at the exhibition, which simultaneously emanate their own enormous power, demanding no commentary whatsoever.

Impaired wax hexagons in disquieting colours demonstrate normality in breaking, a disrupted order. They produce fear and fascination simultaneously. Every challenging life event becomes an opportunity for discovering a novel, beautiful point of viewing.

The most beautiful is the way Ania speaks about her family and friends, who assisted her in returning to our dimension. In her sketchbook, she writes a lot about wonderful people, but there is yet another work at the BADGOOD that speaks about accepting help. A modest smartphone animation is composed of conversations between the artist and those closest to her. Gently, it allows us to trace Ania’s progress. Placed in a voyeuristic position, we first learn that despite writing, she is unable to read. Then, she sends pictures, asking for descriptions of things they contain. For example, a chicken thigh with potatoes, on a plate, with a fork and a knife. The stream of support seems to be endless.

The BADGOOD exhibition was not supposed to take place at the Shefter Gallery during our Year of Women, it is not an item intentionally included in its programme. The artist says that had she consciously made her decision about participating in this venture, she would have certainly approached the gallery with something entirely different. But is this not a glorious accident? After all, women also have universal stories to tell.

Aśka Warchał-Beneschi