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mystery is looking
video, photography, 1995 (1995)


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It opens up and reveals a deceptively life-like glass eve. Through inner contractions, pressure and suction, the vagina is able to move the eye, open and close the vaginal lips like eyelids, or oven, in the end, spit the eye out. This game with the eye vagina, that is watching you, is a visual nightmare. In contrast to "Original sin", though, the painted and made-up shaved vagina is more strongly aesthetisized. Nevertheless, the sight of this ogling vagina is not only a shock to the eye. It goes right through the body of the viewer, jolting him to the border of nausia and dread.
Hidden by hair and leading into unknown depths, this silent, dark mystified, protected and, every so often, opening site of desire and yearning turns the dominant cultural code abruptly around, when it stares back. Traditionally, the silent and sightless vagina is taken into possession by the man. The vagina is the object of a seizure. The symbolic centre of all possessive gestures of dominance is the eye, which 'captures' its object. For this reason, the male gaze is phallic. It penetrates. Symbolically, the vagina means nothing other than that the woman is looked upon. She is the object of the gaze. Here. Though, in "The mystery is looking", Alicja Zebrowska turns the central axis of our sexual culture around. By opening its eye, the vagina becomes a subject. This awakening to self-awareness causes shuddering and dread. The gaze is so imprisoned in the schema of male-dominated culture, that the (involuntary) sight of a seeing vagina calls forth a deep-scatted animosity. Seeing the „mystery” cast off its secrecy and through its gaze, itself become a subject, one has the feeling of witnessing a process of emancipation. Nevertheless, it has the effect of a visual monstrosity.
I expect that the eyevagina, especially in its extremely feminine make-up, is also an absurd game, a burlesque masquerade not without wit and laughter. This would be a laughter originating in the grotesque, which is closely related to fear and monstrosity, disgust and pain. And we realize, that Alicja Zebrowska, as a woman, has gone far beyond what the man George Bataille dared to do in that most famous document of pornographic surrealism, "L’histoire de l’oeil" (1928).
A. Jaros
H. Bohme
Journey into the body. The art of Alicja Zebrowska