Joanna Piotrowska’s practice investigates the layered composition of the notion of self, looking in particular at the friction between individual and collective dynamics. The series Frowst (2013–14) portrays pairs of family members whose expressions and positions embody a feel of discomfort and hint at the unseen organizing principles structuring those relations. Drawing on the Family Constellation therapy developed by Bernd Hellinger, the enigmatic atmosphere of the photographs signals an understanding of the family as a source of both hostility and safety. The visual vocabulary of her film Untitled (2016) builds a sort of nonverbal bodily alphabet; poses of aggression and shield collapse onto each other, blurring subjective gestures of struggle into wider narratives of conflict.
Addressing issues such as the female condition, the nuclear family, or post-Soviet Poland, Piotrowska’s work investigates the symbolic and invisible power structures that constrain personal behaviors, singling how culture, politics, and history impact the very intimate, emotional life of each person. The body is an essential tool in the attempt to make these systems visible, acting like an emancipatory interface that decodes and mediates the different forces exerting their pull on the individual.