Joanna Rajkowska

About the artist

Born in 1968 in Bydgoszcz, Joanna Rajkowska is a visual artist who lives and works in Warsaw.

Rajkowska studied mural painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków under Professor Jerzy Nowosielski. She completed her MA degree in 1993. A year earlier, she received a master’s degree in art history from the Jagiellonian University. She continued her education by studying at New York’s SUNY as part of the Studio Semester Programme in 1994 and 1995.

Rajkowska is a versatile artist, but her most famous works are public projects. To build them, the artist uses real places, energies, organisms and materials. She uses elements as diverse as plants, buildings, found objects, water, smoke and sound. The results of her artistic work are both urban axes and architectural designs, geological fantasies, archaeological excavations as well as underwater sculptures. Most of her works are created in the open space, where they live and age, which is why their matter is not only the matter of all beings, organic and inorganic, but also the matter of their complex relationships.
In 2007, the artist received an award from the “Polityka” weekly (Polityka’s Passport), much appreciated in Poland, “for extraordinary projects carried out in public spaces, for reaching out to people wandering around the city”. She was also awarded the Maria Anto and Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven prize for outstanding achievements and artistic attitude in 2022, and the Grand Prize of the Polish Culture Foundation for her lifetime achievement.

My Father Never Touched Me Like That
2014, film, 11′

If only I could touch my father, I would not have done this film. But I can’t. This inability doesn’t have any specific cause. Simply, it is not proper. My father sometimes waves his hand and says “Hi”, sometimes pats me on the shoulder. A casual greeting kiss is somehow not enough. His tone will change when some tragedy has happened. It becomes warm, deep-felt, his voice changes colour, my father is close. Then I want a tragedy to last, unfold, so my father’s proximity does not inevitably end with the end of the state of emergency.
My father did not touch me either in my childhood – not the childhood I remember. He did not change my nappies, did not come to school for my first day at Primary School no. 38 in Bydgoszcz. He was not there when I was in hospital with septicaemia. He left my mother. He turned up for the first time when I left my husband. He stood in the doorway of my attic in Praga, at Strzelecka 3. He looked around and went off to buy a folding bed in Obi. He stayed with me for a week. We started the day with wine. Father would put on his beautiful pre-war coat and go down to the shop to buy a bottle. He would queue with the local bums. The lady at the counter would glance at him and say: “For you, sir, something better perhaps?” After a week I felt much better. Maybe it’s because my father had three wives.
And then he did something extraordinary. When my mother died, he told me – you can bury her in the family grave in Warsaw, you just have to cremate the body, because there is not enough space there. He did not want to be with her in life, but apparently it would not be too painful after death. My mother, even when she lost her memory, when she could not utter complete sentences, when she didn’t quite know who she was any more, was still able to ask: “But where is Andrzej?” She loved him madly, and to the end.
Some time later he told me, by chance, the story of his and his mother’s deportation to Auschwitz. When he spoke of corpses thrown out of the carriage, his face did not flinch. Nor when he talked about the bricked-up attic, where he and his mother were hidden by the Popławski family in Krzeszowice, whom he sought unsuccessfully for years after the war. Nor when he talked about two days hiding in the swamp.
When my father talks about car accidents, he revels in descriptions of atrocities, saying, for example: “…and this head rolled and rolled and rolled on the asphalt…”, even though everyone begs him to stop. The death of others is usually a fete. Because my father celebrates life, second by second.

Additional information

Country of origin: Poland