“Are you Jesus?” I’m Jesus, yes.” “So, we have to follow you.”
ŻAK | BRANICKA is proud to present the latest work by Katarzyna Kozyra entitled Looking for Jesus from March 9 until April 13, 2013. The video was shot with a film-crew on location in Jerusalem and provides Kozyra’s first-hand account of Jerusalem syndrome, which has been defined as delusional and other psychosis-like behaviour affecting previously balanced tourists and inhabitants of the “the Holy Land”. Those affected are from various religions who become inclined to give street sermons, and ultimately go as far as to believe that they have become particular religious figures, most commonly Jesus Christ. During a visit to Jerusalem in 1999, the artist became aware of the syndrome for the first time and set out years later to observe and record it for purposes of studying our own sense of “pretending,” “performing,” “being,” and most importantly, “believing.”
For Kozyra, reality is much more fascinating than fiction, and she avoids any artificiality that would have come with a script or hired actors in this documentary-mode of filming. The work was captured in Jerusalem during the weeks leading up to Easter, which caused unforeseen crowds and more occasional displays of religious fervour. Pilgrims and other eccentric figures come into contact with Kozyra, convincing her of their own beliefs, yet she stays on her search for Jesus. She moves through Jerusalem, with its intense sounds, odours and liturgical songs, entering various churches of different religions, until she finds the characters with whom she conducts her interviews. The project is not merely about religion, but rather how belief changes our perspective. Furthermore, how is it possible that despite living in one reality, we can believe in so many versions of it?
Since the beginning of her artistic career, it has been the boundaries between art and reality that have interested her: body, gender, time and different roles that we acquire during the course of our lives. In an early work, Olympia (1996), the artist attempted to blur the gap between real and artistic life by showing herself, then a frail cancer patient, as Manet’s famed muse. In one of her last projects, Casting (2012) she looked for a person who could embody herself. Until Looking for Jesus, Kozyra had been the performer and main character in her works. Here, she goes a step further, looking for people who are not just playing the role of Jesus, but who are Jesus. In doing so, Kozyra leaves the world of art, with all its artificiality, rules, and conventions, and enters into reality.
The originating process of Looking for Jesus is what interests Kozyra the most and the work is therefore constantly evolving which allows the viewer to be a part of the process. Earlier parts of the project have already been shown in the Kulturhuset in Stockholm and in the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw.