Using construction materials such as concrete and steel beams, Monika Sosnowska creates enormous, site-specific installations that engage with the psychological properties of architecture and the legacies of post-war modernism.Read More
Born in 1972 in Ryki, Poland, Sosnowska studied at a private art academy in Poznań between 1992 and 1993, before transferring to the painting department at Poznań's Academy of Fine Arts. There, conceding to a desire to escape the boundaries of the canvas, she abandoned painting to embrace three-dimensional work.
In 1999, Monika Sosnowska took up postgraduate studies at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. The next year, she erected one of her first large-scale installations: The Additional Illumination (2000) saw the artist arranging hundreds of found lamps on the rooftop of Amsterdam's Royal Academy of Art. In a gesture of futility, the lamps were kept on even when the sun was shining.
Absurdity is a recurring theme in Sosnowska's practice, often employed to confuse the works' relationship to the body by dramatically distorting scale and form. For Little Alice (2001), Sosnowska built a corridor of four Victorian-style rooms at Warsaw's Center for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle. Referencing the 'shrinking' scenes from the novel Alice in Wonderland, the proportions of each room progressively diminished, the last being miniscule. Similarly, at New York City's Sculpture Centre in 2003, Sosnowska built an installation comprising a Russian-doll arrangement of increasingly smaller doors.
Non-functional hallways were a mainstay of Sosnowska's output during this period. In 2003, she gained international attention at the 50th Venice Biennale for her installation, The Corridor, which employed optical tricks to resemble a hallway much longer than it actually was. In 2007, Sosnowska represented Poland at the 52nd Venice Biennale. For the Arsenale solo exhibition, titled 1:1, she used black steel beams to recreate the structure of the Polish Pavilion in its interior, which appeared to bend and buckle under invisible pressures. The work, which was monumental in scale, resembled a burnt-down cathedral of which only its metal framework remained.
1:1 is a notable example of Sosnowska's interest in the failures of architecture, which informs her practice until the present day. This concern arises out of political circumstance; growing up in Poland, Sosnowska witnessed the impact that the transition from communism to democracy had not only on Poland's socioeconomic reality, but also on architecture and public construction. Thus, forms of her installations are often influenced by the geometric, prefabricated aesthetic of Eastern European housing blocks, government offices, shopping centres, and transit stations.
Sosnowska lives and works in Warsaw.
Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2021