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//Utopias among us// Anna Taszycka’s commentary to Laura Pawela’s visual essay

Utopias among us Anna Taszycka’s commentary to Laura Pawela’s visual essay

‘Jesus on a billboard and a registration plate, the devil on a bonnet and a building façade, death on a car radio and the Gospel in mountain settlements built around Jesus’s new incarnations. Signs and symbols. I could go crazy’[1].

These words were written by Laura Pawela on her blog ‘lars among utopias’, kept from July to December 2011 during her stay in the US. The blog also says that when preparing for her four-month residency, the artist acquainted herself with a work that for every European intellectual is almost as important as a guidebook (perhaps a bit outdated), namely Jean Baudrillard’s America[2]. This book, consciously or not, maps out the itinerary that leads the artists on a journey around signs, symbols and objects. She records them on photographs and then publishes their images on her blog, creating a sort of a photojournal from her American trip.

The sacred and the profane, loneliness, utopia and reality, the United States and the mythical states, an empty beach, a surface or rather superficiality, ghosts of the past, Baudrillard as a sort of narrative, This is not America, love and death – all of this can be found in Pawela’s pictures that illustrate the America of B-class movies rather than Hollywood productions. More Cassavetes than Spielberg. What happens when ‘...the visible machinery of icons substitutes the pure and intelligible Idea of God[3]? Pawela seems to be obsessed with this question that Baudrillard asks us, contemporary iconoclasts. The artists draws our attention to a simple fact – that God’s images in the United States are often replaced with adages, which, when photographed, once again turn into images. And therefore, after thirty years, Baudrillard’s doubt comes back to haunt us, ‘... that deep down God never existed, that only the simulacrum ever existed, even that God himself was never anything but his own simulacrum’[4]. Maybe.

Although postmodernism is now passé, Pawela went to America; fully aware that she is defending a lost cause. She was looking for a utopia, something that cannot be found. I have this vivid impression that Pawela’s American trip led her to regions whose spiritual image can be found in Henry David Thoreau’s classic 19th century narration Walden; or, Life in the Woods. From postmodernism to transcendentalism, or there and back again. As the artist herself wrote at the end of her journey, ‘There are those who, in love with the city, do not notice the pleasures of life, erring between frustration and madness. And those who, tired of the crowds, endless dinners to which they were not invited, galleries closed to your works and lack of understanding between themselves and their community, left the city’.


Anna Taszycka – film scholar, Doctor of Philosophy in humanities, feature writer. Interested in contemporary art, audiovisual education and gender studies. Co-operates with the Culture for Tolerance foundation. She published in ‘Kwartalnik Filmowy’, ‘Kultura Popularna’, ‘Ha!art’, with several texts included in publications such as Cialo i seksualnosc w filmie polskim, Rezyserki kina, Tradycja i wspolczesnosc, Gender.

[1] http://larsamongutopias.blogspot.com/

[2] cf. Jean Baudrillard, America, Verso Books, 2010. First published in 1986.

[3] Jean Baudrillard, The Precession of Simulacra, in: Selected writings. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

[4] Ibid.

Laura Pawela (born 1977) – creates installations and paintings, makes photographs and videos, writes blogs. In her work, she explores self-referential themes and her own experience, often using irony. She is not afraid to ask questions about the condition of contemporary art and the artist’s position in culture.