It can be difficult to tell which parts of Ewa Doroszenko’s works are digital and which are physical, though perhaps this lack of distinction is what makes her series The Promise of Sublime Words most potent. By combining digital and analog processes so seamlessly, Doroszenko’s practice blurs their boundaries to the point of meaninglessness. The result is a body of work that demands a reevaluation of its aesthetic significance: What would it mean to equate digital renderings with IRL arrangements, to smooth out their differences and claim that a Photoshop manipulation is no different from a physical fold or tear?
By proposing such questions, The Promise of Sublime Words asks a viewer to consider whether the production process of an image matters. Doroszenko created the series through a variety of methods, including collage and both digital and physical manipulation. She has employed many methods of image making: taking photographs of textbook illustrations, printing the photographs, physically manipulating the prints, placing them in a tableau, taking photographs of the scene, and then digitally manipulating those photos. This multilayered approach frustrates a viewer’s ability to discern which part of the image was created by the artist’s physical hand and which via digital proxy. The final images exist digitally and can be printed at varying sizes. The fluidity with which Doroszenko works across these modes insists that a viewer reckon with the existential: What is real and what is simulation, and what does it mean if you can’t tell?
Such confusion extends to the abstract content of the series. It is difficult to describe what is going on in each of the images. In one, a feminine figure depicted in a black-and-white negative appears to hold a partial paper mask of a bearded statue over her face. Yet at one corner of the mask, there appears to be a folded piece of paper adorned with another ambiguous image; its placement confuses the eye’s perception. If one’s eyes follow the edge of the mask, it becomes unclear which piece of paper the model is holding—or if she is holding anything at all. The inverted tones of the negative image further distort the steps in the production of the image; the aspects that were staged in situ versus those digitally manipulated and added later are difficult to identify. The muddling of classical-art figures within Doroszenko’s dizzying collages symbolically throws traditional aesthetic meaning into a blender, leaving viewers to parse the work’s existential arguments on their own.
Though most of the recognizable figures in the series come from distortions of classical Greco-Roman sculptures, there is something quite cyberpunk about The Promise of Sublime Words. Like that science-fiction genre, one of the ultimate questions of the series is the relationship of the body to media. Perhaps the only arguable distinction between digital and analog is what the hand can touch: If the work itself can move so effortlessly between the screen and real space, where does a viewer stand, both literally and figuratively, in relation to such fluid pieces? Is the physical necessarily left behind, abstracted in translation to the digital screen? Perhaps the muddling of analog and digital processes in Doroszenko’s work is not an assertion of loss (or freedom, depending on where one stands on that ontological divide), but rather one of imbrication. The Promise of Sublime Words could not exist without both the tangible and the intangible. Maybe an answer to Doroszenko’s existential questions is nestled between the digital and analog paper cuts and folds, each wholly inextricable from the other.
Ewa Doroszenko received her doctor of fine arts degree from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun, Poland. She collaborated with the Centre of Contemporary Art in Torun, Poland, and was nominated to STRABAG ArtAward International in Vienna (2014) and 7th INCUBARTE International Art Festival in Valencia (2015). Her projects have been presented at Transmission Arts Festival Athens 2016, FILE 2015 Electronic Language International Festival in Sao Paulo, Biennale of Digital & Internet Art nfcdab in Wroclaw, ISEA – 21st International Symposium on Electronic Art in Vancouver, 9th IN OUT Festival in Gdansk, and GENERATE! Festival for Electronic Arts in Tübingen, among others. She has exhibited at Kasia Michalski Gallery in Warsaw, Centre of Contemporary Art in Torun, FAIT Gallery in Brno, and the Starak Family Foundation in Warsaw. She often collaborates with her husband, Jacek Doroszenko, who works with sound in visual art. She lives and works in Warsaw.