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Steel and concrete
Inv. Nr. 180

Born in 1958 in Warsaw, Poland
Lives and works in Warsaw, Poland

Miroslaw Balka’s work has a bare and elegiac quality that is underlined by the careful, minimalist arrangement of objects that might incorporate personal or self-referential substances such as ash, felt, salt, hair and soap. Balka, who graduated from Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts in 1985, explores the way subjective traumas are translated into collective histories and vice versa. His materials are simple, everyday objects, but powerfully indicative of hidden memories and the history of Nazi occupation in his homeland, Poland. Combining installation, sculpture and video, Balka intends to provide the visitors with sensory and emotional experiences through sound, contrasting light and shade, which are personal and collective, as well as profound and universal.

In the acoustic work Lichtzwang, the artist reads Paul Celan's 1970 eponymous book Lichtzwang (Lightstrength) in German, a language he does not speak. The Romanian-born Jewish poet, survivor from The Shoah, wrote mainly in German. Close to the aesthetics of Symbolism, he used this language in a more and more cryptic, fractured and monosyllabic way in order to destroy or remake the German language and culture, which were affected by the remembrance of the Holocaust.

Devoid of its light- emitting function, the concrete chandelier, entitled 34'x34'27', is a dead lamp, cumbersome symbol of its former shape and function that looms overhead like a dead person's eyes that once shone. At the same time, it evokes a certain kind of domestic taste prevalent in the 20th century, or a banality that has gone horribly wrong. At first, the work may appear rather abstract, yet it is very much grounded in a representation based on the artist’s body and life. He has described his work in terms of releasing the energy contained in simple materials. Over the years, Balka has moved from a realistic representation of the human body to a more Minimalist conception, using a wide variety of media.