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Małgorzata Mirga-Tas

Venue: KW Institute for Contemporary Art

Małgorzata Mirga-Tas

Born 1978 in Zakopane, PL – lives and works in Czarna Góra, PL

The sculptural installation Lost Memory (2018) is an echo and means of healing: In 2016 anonymous vandals destroyed a public monument, a massive wooden carving by artist Małgorzata Mirga-Tas. The work had been inaugurated in 2011 as part of the 12th International Roma Caravan Memorial. Its site marked the place where in 1942, twenty-nine Roma were murdered in the forest of Borzęcin Dolny by German soldiers and Blue Police in occupied Poland. The destruction of the sculpture was willful: it was pulled from its base and smashed to pieces with an axe. Reconstructed and recarved, the monument was restored, but the artist kept the broken pieces of the original work, using them to cast the wax and porcelain components that constitute Lost Memory. Tactile and sensual, these figural elements suggest the vitality and vulnerability of flesh while also drawing on the apotropaic significance that wax carries in Romani culture. Although the 2016 attack was an attempt to negate history and intimidate contemporary Roma, Lost Memory tends to the wounds of the sculpture and community without erasing the violence; its cast components ensure that the work can be remade, even if parts are (again) destroyed. Mirga-Tas reminds us that memory is embodied and that both trauma and resilience are inherited.

Also on view are parts of the artist’s series of patchwork screens Romani Kali Daj [Roma Madonna, 2019/20], which portrays women important to the artist. Incorporating the fabric of clothing worn by her relatives and community members, the screens show figures, such as Mirga-Tas’ grandmother and mother who, having respectively survived World War II and the totalitarian Communist rule in Poland, transcended traditional gender roles in terms of their position in the family. Surrounded by objects dear to them, the women are shown in moments of reflection, alone or with family—witnesses to history who link the past with the present.

Pia Chakraverti-Wuerthwein

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