With her art being strongly overshadowed by the story of her life, crucial questions we have to face when we look at Alina Szapocznikow's work are: How can we speak about the pain in her lifeher suffering in the concentration camps and death of cancerwithout reducing her to a victim and her work to a mere symptom (a compulsive expression)? Which concepts could instead allow us to describe and celebrate her power and agency, as an artist, to avow, arrest and transform that pain, in the act of amalgamating it with most life-affirming manifestations of an equally spirtiul and carnal joy?
In effect, Szapocznikow's work provokes us to go beyond the limited concepts of handling pain and sharing joy that our cultures offer and instead envision a different ethics and other practices of avowing the hurting and giving the pleasure.
Jan Verwoert is a critic and writer on contemporary art and cultural theory, based in Berlin. He is a contributing editor of Frieze magazine, his writing has appeared in different journals, anthologies and monographs. He teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute Rotterdam, the de Appel curatorial programme and the Ha'Midrasha School of Art, Tel Aviv. He is the author of Bas Jan Ader: In Search of the Miraculous, MIT Press/Afterall Books 2006 and the essay collection Tell Me What You Want What You Really Really Want, Sternberg Press/Piet Zwart Institute 2010. He plays bass and sings in La Stampa (Staatsakt/Berlin).