Polish artist Aneta Grzeszykowska’s first solo exhibition at an American museum carries the strength and poetic subtilty of a veteran. This month, in the Front Room at the Contemporary Art Museum, her roughly 12 minute film, Headache, is a slightly haunting, slightly comic and a definitely stunning look at movement, ability, and strange beauty of the nude body.
The film begins with a nude woman standing upright who lights a sparkler in her mouth. Once the flame reaches down the explosive to her mouth, there is a loud pop, and what follows is how her now dismembered limbs interact with each other, in ways that could not ever happen if they were all connected. One dismembered arm (don’t worry – it’s not at all bloody) begins by exploring what will be the terrain of the rest of the film – a black background. Then, a second arm, also completely independent of the rest of the body, joins it, and they sort of skirt around, quarrelling and playfully fighting – in a way that is undeniably reminiscent of a National Geographic animal territorial battle scene but also emphasizes the playfullness of physical comedic timing. Yet, instead of a serious narrator, there is the absolutely beautiful music of well-known Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (you’ve heard his music in The Exorcist and The Shining). The music emphasizes the dually aggressive and complementary mood of the limbs, who are eventually joined by a both legs, and then a head, poking and jostling each other around in a dance-like way.
As the limbs choregraphically knock each other around, there is this sense of the power of the body and of the majesty of all of our parts working together to create a whole; but there is also a sense of the damage we cause against ourselves – through self-doubt, fear, anxiety, etc. In its dismembered state, there is this recognition that we – ourselves – our personality – our spirit and souls – are not simply our body, but rather, made of some other material that must work in conjunction with the body we have. Headache is a present, comically poetic, and forcefully self-aware film – a gem to watch.
Aneta Grzeszykowska’s film, Headache, continues in the Front Room at the Contemporary Art Museum at 3750 Washington Ave, St. Louis through 30 December. CAM is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10-5, Sunday 11-4, and is open late on Thursdays until 8. Admission to the museum is free for children. students and members and $5 for adults, $3 for seniors. The museum is free for all Wednesday and Saturday.