Katarzyna Majak claims she was supposed to get married in a cursed wedding dress. As such, her wedding obviously could not have taken place. It should come as no surprise that the bride, instead of at the altar, ended up in an art gallery. One could easily say: ‘no great loss but…’ If ‘art makes dreams come true’ why not change a curse into a blessing by means of art? In the background of the story one could hear pieces from Maryla Rodowicz’s lyrics: ‘we already signed up in the registry office…’ Everybody knows ho w this love story ends.
In Katarzyna Majak’s case the ‘marriage project’ transforms into an art project, evolving and expanding from Skarysze wski Park in Warsa w, through Mumbai in India, to Black River Falls in Wisconsin. What is the starting point of all the events? It is life itself, obviously. ‘This is not literary fiction’ Majak claims, retelling the story of her wedding that never happened and of the bride left alone in the dress. The Dress became the culprit, and was blamed for all the misfortune.
The dress was not ne w, it had a previous o wner and its o wn dim story. Majak received it as a gift ‘for luck’ but weddings are delicate rites of passage – with one mistake all may go wrong and all the happiness be gone. The church wants to make it a religious sacrament but it is for nothing. Bronis a w Malinowski reminds us that when it comes to a widespread emotional clash of hope and fear we are dealing with magic. That is why weddings are more about magic than religion – and it is hard to remove from them their obscure magical nature.
We have to deal with all kinds of talismans, amulets, complex systems of gestures and incantation, taming secret po wers, on which the future and prosperity depend. Wedding bouquets may consist of any flo wers but roses. One needs to wear something new, something old, something blue, but not pink. It is hard to imagine what might happen if the groom sees the bride wearing the dress before the ceremony. The dress cannot be slit and, in case this does happen it may not be mended… The Dress is the main character here. It smells of both sex and death – after all it is all about the rite of passage – and to be reborn one must first die.
We are dealing with grand symbolic forces soaking into the dress, and an idea of a curse seems appropriate here. This is a story of ho w a romantic comedy for t wo changes into a gothic melodrama starring a cursed dress and a lonely bride. Who will change the script? The leading character, as there is no one else left. Katarzyna Majak re writes the script. The bride becomes a ‘disappearing bride’ – changing from a beloved fiancee into an artist. At the beginning these t wo roles temporarily coexist and art serves as a kind of therapy.
An unmarried heroine, ‘imprisoned’ in the dress and bride’s identity, visits a photo studio to have wedding photographs taken with all the kitschiness o f wedding photography. Well, perhaps not all the kitschiness. We can see hand-painted backgrounds, flo wers, and typical blurred edges; but there is also empty space, left for the absent groom. What counts ho wever is that trauma transforms into a photograph, an image. This is magical thinking again, one more spell – this time effective. We may be helpless when it comes to real experience, but we know ho w to control images.
Majak, against all the odds wants to complete the rite of passage alone – by means of images. She not only photographs herself in the ill-fated dress but also decides to set off on a honeymoon in India alone. With time, more and more images – in the form of photographs and videos – are produced. This is a way of taking control of the curse by transforming it into an art project that gradually expands. Finally it goes beyond the wedding melodrama – the moment comes when the artist starts to rule; she no longer experiences but creates and initiates experience.
The project is entitled ‘Desire’ and contains photographs by Majak, wedding photographers – by wedding craftsmen, and Przemek Pokrycki. There is a photo session of a homosexual wedding, an advertising session with the dress, there are Indian women painting the artist’s hands with henna, photos from the previous dress’s o wner’s archives, and ‘Wisconsin Death Trip’ –made in the style of Charles von Scheik’s photo essay on life, insanity, degeneration and death in a small American to wn at the end of the 19th century, a disturbing material popularized in the 70’s by Michael Lesy. Desire’ has its o wn soundtrack – a wedding music cd by ‘majak & the unmarried’ The whole project consists of numerous media, personal, historical and anthropological references – transforming an event into a project, a project into an exhibition, where the cursed dress becomes an object, a representation of itself. The curse was told and pictured – the spell removed. The bride may finally take the dress off and live happily ever after… Stach Szab o wski