Justyna Mędrala: The Machine Was So Impressed It Fell Onto Itself

We have first raised a dust
and then complain we cannot see.

– George Berkeley


At the heart of the artist’s reflection lies a dreamlike vehicle, known only to her and even then – only a little bit. The existence of the vehicle, revealed in a dream, is persistent and impels Justyna Mędrala to work on her own memory, which she digs through in the course of the artistic shaping of matter. Unfortunately, the recollection of the revelation becomes less clear as days go on – the machine model increasingly blurred, obscured, and filtered through images of subsequent days. ­­­­­

A dream is subject to successive stages of forgetting. Former visions experienced during work are superseded by new ones. Contemplating an object that seemed real – but in reality was only an idea, imagined just once, just for a moment – turned into absorbing work and a separate story, detached from the original source. Using the pragmatic need to gain knowledge as a starting point, the artist continued her search and developed the story, which acquired its own logic, fuelled by further – rather psychic – passions. As a consequence, the artist created an obsessive visual story about… her obsession.

Justyna Mędrala’s working process was determined by searching, both in reality and her own memory. The search, devoid of common sense, is bordering on madness – its direction, despite whatever might be logical, is not provided by a pragmatic goal. In spite of herself, the artist overwhelms herself with an absurd quasi-archaeological process, using tools that are equally ridiculous. She engrosses herself entirely in working on ephemeral matter – fire and smoke, which she uses, unsympathetic to her own comfort and reason, to outline the shape of the machine. While describing in that manner the retained model of the vehicle and maybe also its function, paradoxically she moves away from it, bringing into being something entirely new, although equally unlike anything we could ever call a “mechanism”. Justyna Mędrala persistently strives for knowledge, which causes her to digress into subplots and digressions that dilute a concise story. A real machine is the source of the shape-forming smoke; it even seems to resemble the one Mędrala dreamt up, but somehow it is insufficient, alien, and uninteresting, since it’s so different, so tangible, so accessible, simply – real. Mystery is much more fascinating than the revealed truth.

This peculiar economy of distribution of knowledge and ignorance, both blended with conviction, imagination, and dreams, is supplemented by a metaphor of an organic curtain and its implementation presented at the Gallery. The wax curtain spills out into the memory reconstruction lab, subjugating with its shape, seizing successive cubic meters and conquering it. It almost constitutes an organism within the culture of drawn memories. It also exudes an intense smell, increasingly oppressive as time goes by. It evokes the mysterious and fascinating working process of bees, within which every creature has its own duty and is merely a cell in a larger structure – order that has a common goal. The curtain, while designating the beginning and end of a performance, it separates the sphere accessible by the senses and intellect from mystery; it is a part of the machinery that constitutes the ever-inaccessible, flexible consciousness and memories of the artist. This animated form, created to conceal, cannot be a permanent obstruction, after all. The curtain reveals the fact that there is something behind it. Thanks to the use of a particular substance, it allows strangers to take a blurred peak inside, similarly limited in scope as a recollection of a dream. While forming a not-entirely-clear border between knowledge, ignorance, and mystery, the curtain creates the feeling and notion of a secret – a perfect determinant for action, research, and further patient work on a reconstruction.

Krzysztof Siatka


The vision of the machine was brought about by a cycle of three dreams. In one of them, I fell victim to a volcano eruption. It was so violent that it engulfed the 30th floor of a hotel I was staying in. the other dream was feverish, the perception of stimuli – subdued, and its space – distorted. I was performing some task in some flat area that looked like the setting of an early moving picture. Everything was accelerated and slowed down at the same time. Its culmination was me climbing a small mountain that turned out to be huge the moment I took my first steps uphill. I was getting smaller while everything around me retained its freakish proportions. When – after a struggle, continually sliding down the hills, driving my fingernails into the black massif, and even merging with it into one mass – I managed to reach the peak, the machine was so impressed, it collapsed unto itself.

Let me explain where did that last sentence come from – a voice uttered it in my dream. I was surprised with the absurdity of it, but at the peak of the mountain I really did see a self-proclaimed machine for making nothing that was folding in half. I think it must have been watching me for a longer time and it collapsed under pressure.

Justyna Mędrala, dream transcript


JUSTYNA MĘDRALA (1988) – artist obsessively focused on her work. She investigates subjects that are abstract (temporality) and very tangible, even physiological (blood), or those associated with primal nature (coal, wax), all with a passion worthy of an alchemist. She’s very intuitive in combining the world of science with the world of mystery. She graduated from the Graphics Department at the Fine Arts Academy in Kraków, where she is working on her doctorate, using the medium of coal to reflect on the position of humans in the circulation of matter. Scholarship holder (Artistic Stipend of the Polish Humanitarian Fund in France, 2008; Stipend of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, 2007; Dolina Kreatywna – second award in the Telewizja Polska S.A. scholarship competition, visual arts category) and award winner (distinction at the 2015 Walter Koschatzky Art-Award, Museum Moderner Kunst in Vienna, Austria; 2014 – Talenty Trójki main award in the visual arts category, Polskie Radio Trójka). Organized an individual exhibition entitled Krew, morze (Blood, Sand; AS Gallery, Kraków, 2014) and participated in collective exhibitions, such as Mocne stąpanie po ziemi (part of the Rezerwat project, BWA Contemporary Art Gallery, Katowice / BWA Municipal Gallery in Tarnów, 2015) and To, co jest i co nam się wydaje, że jest (Szara Gallery, Cieszyn, 2015) among others.

photographs by Studio FilmLOVE