Archives of Gestures

Zofia Kulik

  • type of object: photography
  • date: 1987
  • material/technique: 68 black-and-white photographs
  • dimensions: 30 x 30 cm x 68
  • inventory No.: F-6
  • image licensed under: CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Zofia Kulik has been photographing various aspects of reality since her student days, building up an extensive archive systematically divided into categories such as architecture and landscape. The Archive of Gestures is a continuation of these interests — an arrangement of 68 photographs selected from around 700 taken between 1987 and 1991. During an open-air workshop in Olsztyn in 1987, Kulik witnessed and remembered a moment when Zbigniew Libera was so deeply asleep that he appeared to be dead. This inspired her first series of staged photographs of naked Libera in her home. Subsequent series depict the same model in poses drawn from various iconographic sources. Kulik closely studied the positioning of figures in ancient Egyptian art, antiquity and paintings by William Blake, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Artur Grottger, Jacek Malczewski and Hans Memling, as well as in the propaganda art of 20th century totalitarian regimes. As Bożena Czubak noted, it was about ‘similarities found in the poses, in the gestures of figures from different periods and iconographic traditions, such as the oft-cited example of a figure with one arm raised in an oratorical gesture . . .’. The series also includes female poses: the Virgin Mary suffering under the Cross, her Assumption, and the Three Graces from Botticelli’s Allegory of Spring. For the artist, The Archive of Gestures became a source from which she often drew when preparing more complex photographic compositions, such as From Siberia to Cyberia (1998–2004). It is worth noting that in 1987 Kulik not only photographed the first gestures, but also began her solo career — previously she had worked in a duo KwieKulik with Przemysław Kwiek.

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