Polish Performance Archive

Description by Filmoteka Muzeum

Ewa Zarzycka carried out the performance Alphabet in 1990 at the BWA Gallery in Koszalin as one of her three presentations at the “Videoperformance” festival (Museum of Cinematography and Wschodnia Gallery in Łódź, BWA Gallery in Koszalin, CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw). The artist begins by introducing the topic of the performance to the viewers and explains: “I promised ... that I would make a material work.” It is a unique piece in Zarzycka’s performative oeuvre as apart from the above mentioned introduction the artist remains silent throughout. Yet, she does not dismiss language – so dear to her – altogether, since the topic of her performance is the letter “o”.

The artist defines her piece as very basic – she says: “I decided to revise the alphabet once again.” She confesses that her initial intention was to create the entire alphabet in different materials, but she ultimately decided to work only with the letter “o”. The alphabet is part of the most rudimentary knowledge.In artistic language, it can be understood as a code that is different for every artist. Depending on the context, the sign “o” may be identified not only with the letter, but also with a circle or zero. What is more, the letter “o” is used autonomously in language as a preposition and an exclamation that allows one to articulate feelings.

The artist pronounces the letter, marks its shape in the air, draws it with chalk and re-creates it many times on the concrete floor of the gallery, thus referring to the tradition of Conceptual art. In order to create a series of letters, Zarzycka uses such materials as soil, leaves, water, bricks, glass, hay, stones, wooden planks, sticks, clay, string. She performs in a very expressive way, mixing the materials with water, modelling them with her hands, using a spatula and a saw – she soils herself, the gallery space, herclothes. Finally, she uses a shovel to pile all the letters in one place with a sweeping gesture. This act of destruction may express the lack of capacity to create a lasting work, an artefact. Amongst other materials, the artist uses sculpting clay, yet she does not create anything that even remotely resembles traditionally understood sculpture.

The performance was recorded by Józef Robakowski.