Magda Kieszniewska. Be a Lady

In her latest works, Magda Kieszniewska focuses on the attributes stereotypically associated with femininity, transferring them into the area of household, terrain or even partisan activities.

In doing so, she questions the related cultural clichés usually propagated by men. She replaces face makeup with Barbie's eyes painted on the stomach, she turns her dress into painting material and puts on heeled shoes to make a gesture of destruction in the wilderness. While exploring the semantic field of contemporary femininity, she also works with the bodies of men, who perform gender as dictated by her. The patriarchal order of things thus becomes a pretext for emancipatory actions within the space of the very exhibition, where the artist encourages the search for one's own attractiveness and inner strength by providing people with ready-made situations to exploit and participate in. Fascinated with pole dance training, she arranges a pole dance studio in the gallery room. The activity, once associated solely with striptease and the sexual atmosphere of nightclubs, has been an official sport since 2017, and, alongside cheerleading, is awaiting inclusion in Olympic competition. As an ordinary physical exercise, it is today mainly associated with breaking down one’s bodily barriers and working on their self-acceptance. The catwalk that also appears in the exhibition has a similar context. The platform is a metaphor for the external pressure put on the bodies of those involved in modeling, but also an opportunity to present oneself, exercise confidence and be the center of attention.

In these considerations, it is impossible to ignore the fossilized gender roles that have produced an ambivalent attitude toward femininity in our cultural circle. This discrepancy culminates in the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy, the coexistence of two models of femininity: the virtuous, ideal wife and mother and the impetuous, licentious seductress. These mutually exclusive and unrealistic ideas of femininity are aptly presented by Camille Rainville in her 2017 manifesto Be a Lady They Said: “(...) Be experienced. Be sexual. Be innocent. Be dirty. Be virginal. Be sexy. Be the cool girl. Don’t be like the other girls. Be a lady they said”. Contesting these oppressive norms, Kieszniewska refers to the body positive social movement, which – in opposition to the promoted ideals of beauty – advocates the acceptance of all bodies, regardless of their size or shape. Body-positivity is understood as sensitive self-care and experiencing oneself according to one's own rules, while rejecting external expectations, stereotypes, and prejudices. It is also a critical reflection on the visual language of advertising and social media, saturated with ready-made models for what we need and what we should be, regardless of gender. Therefore, femininity in the exhibition is presented in a broader perspective, as an inclusive possibility and potential of every person.

Magda Kieszniewska (1992) - visual artist, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Faculty of Art, where she is currently pursuing a doctoral degree. Her main areas of interest are: the phenomenon of image recording, third places, peripheries, recycling, institutionalization of space and the participatory potential of visual arts. She has her blog:

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