Zuzanna Janin

Zuzanna Janin, Car, 1999
Zuzanna Janin, Car, 1999

Zuzanna Janin (b.1964 lives and works in Warsaw, Poland) has consistently worked with objects and images that suggest the passage of time, and memories of particular people and places. There is an element of vanitas to these themes. In Skull – an installation related to the artist’s work for TRACE – filmed images of a dancer dancing with her own shadow were projected onto the wall through a gigantic wire outline of a human skull. Shadow lines that follow the contours of the skull blended with the image on the wall, weaving through the dancer’s body. The projected grid was reminiscent of medical imaging technologies: a reference that reminded us of the frailty of the human body, even while the gigantic proportions of the projected figures gave the work a nightmarish quality.

The projected images may have also been read as memories played out ‘inside the head’. Janin’s installations invariably link the body, memory, light and space in this way. Some of her earlier works recreated spaces recalled from daily life. Shadows of rooms she had once occupied were reconstructed out of parachute silk. This material is so light that it moves with even the smallest disturbance of the air: responding, in this case, to the passage of a viewer through the room. It also holds light in an extraordinarily atmospheric way, creating an ethereal architecture out of light and shadow.

In other work, Janin has used photographic assemblages to explore the passage of time. by layering full-length portraits of her own body with photographs of family members who closely resemble her genetically, she evokes a span of ages in on individual. In this was she creates the illusion of her body agin in front of our eyes from an infant to old woman. 

Car (1999), the work installed for TRACE, also suggested passage. The car of the title was a copper wire network derived from computer-generated  drawings of a car in 3D. A film in real time of the artist's daily journey between home, studio, and gallery was projected onto the car, casting shadows of its wiry contours onto the wall behind. The camera was placed at eye level with a view of the road ahead and the rear-view mirror. The effect was of space moving away in both directions simultaneously, like the past and the future receding from the present.

All of these works in some way suspended the linear perception of time, allowing us an intimation of eternity. Yet equally, they all had a documentary quality, as Janine saw to grasp the elusive structure of memory itself.

Zuzanna Janin at Liverpool Biennial 1999

Car, 1999
copper wire and Projection
Courtesy of Artist