Gosia Bojkowska.

Gosia Bojkowska works with objects in different ways. The object as a commodity, its powers of attraction and sometimes hidden agenda. Her practice also deals with ideas about mass consumption, the value of objects and transformation of identities. Both the transformation of the use of the object as such and the illusion that somehow objects can define the identity of their owners or users. She explores the feeling of being able to live without objects, but also of missing objects and being attracted to and fascinated by objects.

Bojkowska was born in Poland and lived in Krakow until the age of seven when her family emigrated to Sweden in 1986. Poland was a communist country at the time. There was a shortage of food, clothing and coal for heating the house with. Bojkowska’s father had already migrated and she lived together with her mother, sister and grandmother.

”We tried to get by on the few means we had. Every once in a while my father sent parcels to my mother containing food and vhs-tapes that she could sell on the black market. I remember the way that people talked about the west. Everything seemed so much better over there.

As if you could have access to anything. Sometimes one could get a glimpse of western life style and western objects in special stores called Pewex where you could buy foreign commodities if you had western currency. We sometimes went there just to look at things. The colours were bright, a whole different palette than we were used to.  Everything outside the store seemed grey in comparison. We did not have a lot of toys, but I do not remember that as a problem, however I did wish for a train and a railway model for a long time.

Things existed in the form of descriptions, mystical concepts rather than physical objects. Someone told me about a music player not bigger than a cassette, driven by a battery, this object was portable and could be easily transported.”

One day Bojkowskas father sent a walkman to his daughters and a lot of kids visited the girls to try out the exclusive toy. Using the walkman was problematic at times. The batteries in Poland were of poor quality and often leaked, which destroyed the apparatus. This was Bojkowskas first meeting with the idea of the object and its symbolic value.   


There seems to be ideas in your practice about how we relate to the notion of place and how architecture and design create identities and become symbols not only of themselves but of certain groups in society.

”Objects and fashion are a way of expressing social identity and a way of signalling which group in society one is a part of, or what political agenda one has. Not only objects but also information is a part of this. Knowing what discussions are going on, which books that are read or what newspaper articles that are causing a buzz. This is a way of socialising, of communicating and developing as individuals. It becomes a problem when this way of signalling who you are causes barriers. These barriers can be geographical, as in Stockholm where identity is closely knitted into which part of town you live in. If you live in Södermalm you are associated with a certain kind of culture, if you live in Östermalm a different one. Where you live is often one of the first questions you get when you meet new people in Stockholm. You become a product of a geographical area. In order to fit in to this structure people try to live up to whatever standards that are seen as defining for their chosen group of people. Sometimes on a rather unconscious level. This creates an environment where people who do not have the economical means to live up to these standards or who simply do not wish to play by these rules are excluded. This way of thinking about identity creates a culture that limits and impedes individuals. At the same time those who do not have the economical means to live up to these standards or who simply do not wish to play by these rules are excluded.

I am interested in the symbolic value of things. How certain things are coveted, used as security, how dependant we become of objects, as if we would not be able to live without them. To own things becomes a way of socialising with other people, a way of measuring status. This behaviour becomes very obvious among adolescents but even if it is toned down and not as important later on it stays there as we grow older.”

Bojkowskas latest body of work is called Toys, candy and other props and are a series of pigmented acrystal objects roughly the size of what one can fit into a hand in seductive colours and smooth shapes. Acrystal is a kind of plastic that is used in order to imitate materials like wood, metal, leather or stone.

An infantile idea of wealth is to have access to huge amounts of candy. As we grow up this image of an overflow or richness takes on different connotations. It is no-longer an image of prosperity but carries with it ideas of class and potential destruction, a contemporary still life where consumerism shows its most manipulative side.

Bojkowska’s objects are subtle and seductive. They do not let on their poisonous potential. As a viewer you find yourself wanting them, and not just one. You want to pick them up, feel their surface. You want to own them, several of them, the more the better. These are collector’s items, suitable for placing in a home, symbols of wealth and cultivation. The objects mimic the aesthetics of abstract fine art as well as that of candy and toys, objects of more simple pleasures. When will we have enough things? Will we reach a limit of satisfaction?

Another body of work is called Cinderella. It is a series of similar objects but made in bronze and chrome, more exclusive materials. Bronze turns green with age, by coating them with chrome the artist stops the aging process and offers an object of eternal youth. An object promising everything the princess in the fairy tale longs for. Cinderella is a tactile piece. The objects are formed as handles, the idea is that you can place your hands around them, and they are made specifically for Bojkowska’s hands, so they might not be “a good fit” for everyone to hold. The handles are smoothe and inviting but as you clutch the handle the touch of cold steel retracts your hand. Bojkowska says that for her the idea was about not wanting to be a part of the Cinderella myth, about not fitting into the fairytale. There are also aspects of power at work in the interaction between the spectator and the artwork. 

One earlier project in Bojkowskas career seems to have been a defining point both artistically and on a personal level. In Lotterivägen 20, Bojkowska emptied out her flat and presented all of her belongings in the gallery space. She made a catalogue of all of her things and placed them in boxes and shelves. The audience could then browse through the catalogue and take anything they wanted. Furniture, books, clothes, household utensils, china, everything was given away free of charge.

Did you experience a sense of exposure during this process?

“The process of getting to the point of getting rid of my things started on a personal level a long time before I actually went through with the exhibition. I knew what I wanted to do and I felt like it was something inevitable, that it was an idea that I had to go through with. Then a series of events unfolded that started the process long before the actual exhibition. I was travelling for over a month and at the same time there was work being done with the ventilation system in the house I lived. My landlord had failed to inform me about this beforehand so I had not cleared away my things. With my permission the workers were let into my flat to do the work they had been contracted for. I understood that the work would maybe take more time than originally planned and when I came back to Stockholm I spent the first weekend at a friends house. I went to my flat because I wanted to see if I had gotten any mail and to see what kind of work was being done. As I opened the door to my flat I realised that it was gone. Not only the furniture but the wallpaper, the floor, my bathtub and kitchen. Everything was gone except naked concrete. It was a brutal experience. My first reaction was that my exhibition was gone. In a way I had already started saying goodbye to my things but when I had thought about giving all my things away I had not actually pictured anything that literal.

When I contacted the landlord he gaily told me that my things had been put in storage, that the restaurations would take several months and that another flat had been organised where I could live during the spring and summer. Several months later I went to check mails and found that the flat was not only ready, but that all my things had been reinstalled without contacting me. I had lost control of my things a long time before the exhibition took place. They were already in other people’s hands.

I was very certain about the project during the whole process. On a personal level I felt very confident. As if I knew exactly what I was doing and what I wanted with the project. But I was not prepared for how I would react afterwards. Not only your things make up your identity, but everything from books to small gadgets and certainly the clothes you wear.

The consequenses of Lotterivägen 20 put me in a very vulnerable position. The exhibition took place in October. It was cold outside and I had chosen to keep one winter jacket. One day on my way to the studio I accidentally got caught in a door handle and tore a big hole across the back of my jacket. I did not know whether to laugh or cry but had to be practical and walked from my studio to the closest shopping mall, which was in a very commercial area in Stockholm. Most of the establishments are banks or fancy stores and there I was with a huge hole all across my back. At that point I felt very exposed, transparent. As if everyone could see that I carried with me everything I owned. I had lost a protective layer. Not long after that the zipper in my boots broke; my only pair of shoes. Everyday life was suddenly so brittle. I was always in need of something. I do not think I have ever been as tired as I was during this period, but on the other had I had money and could afford to buy myself a jacket and a new pair of shoes.”


Did this project have any consequences for how you think of yourself as a consumer? Have you ended up with a new pile of things now?

“I became very tired of things and the energy it takes to build up a ”life”. People asked if I would start to shop for new things now. Make a fresh start. At that point I did not have the energy to do that, or the motivation. It took a couple of years before I felt the need to. I left Stockholm and it was not until I returned in 2009 that I started to assemble a home again. I bought a bed and a table. I chose my objects carefully and I still shop that way. I like objects that have a history and often buy second hand things. Old things that could have belonged to my grandmother or some distant relative.”

Do you know what happened to the things you gave away? Have their new owners told you anything about their new uses?

“It has happened. I met somebody who had a purse from the exhibition. It was a good meeting. The purse united us in a way, as if the object had become loaded with something more- a story and a specific moment. I know that some people treat their objects as memories from the exhibition, whereas others use them.“


Losing ones things is in a way a loss of identity. Who am I beneath all of these objects? Did you feel a sense of catharsis during this process?

As long as I was living in Stockholm the exhibition sort of stayed with me, something I lived with and was reminded of.

In order to have a functioning every day life you need certain facilities to work, sleep, eat and so on. I did not want to buy new things straight away or rebuild my life as if nothing had happened so I ended up in a conflicted situation with an every day life that was not really working. I wanted to experience what it was like to be without things and what it would be like to live without belongings in the sense of extensions of my identity. The feeling of catharsis came only when I left Stockholm in order to travel. I suppose one is always in need of an identity in one way or another. Something that defines who you are. Travelling offered a temporary refuge in the vagabond or tourist persona. It was a way of avoiding to become a consumer once again.

I enjoy the things I have more now. I am also more aware of the choices I make as a consumer. I have replaced many of the things I gave away with similar objects, so the project did not change my taste in design. I do however think of objects differently now.”


Lisa Stålspets 2013.