Goshka Macuga sees herself as “a curator, a historian, a history-teller, a critic, archivist, exhibition designer, architect, composer, gallerian, sociologist, biologist, filmmaker, collector, photographer, performer, magician, etc.” Since she began making art in the late 1990s, she has used an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating archival materials, historical images, and other artists’ works into her own to explore new narratives and relationships. She explains, “I hope that it can create temporary changes in how the viewer perceives certain concrete items, objects, works of art, pictures and stories. History changes over time...and our experience, in turn, influences our memories.”
Born in Warsaw, Macuga lives and works in London. In her first solo exhibition, in 1999, she installed works by her artist friends in a “cave” made of crumpled brown paper. Soon she had expanded the use of artworks by contemporaries in her installations to include those borrowed from institutions. For her 2008 exhibition at Tate Britain, she presented objects culled from the museum’s collection and archives—including the artists’ personal correspondence—alongside rocks and trees taken from local woods, as well as her own sculptural pieces.
Archival research informs Macuga’s installations, which engage with the historical and social contexts of the host institutions: each project begins with a period of comprehensive research in their collections and archives. Macuga also examines the practices of art institutions and disregarded systems of knowledge as she takes on the roles of archivist and curator. She remarks, “The process of learning and the accumulation of information and knowledge is the main focus of my work, before the actual process of making.”
For her 2019 MoMA commission, Macuga created a monumental tapestry depicting herself surrounded by reproductions of over 200 works from the Museum’s collection, many by women artists, framing the Museum as living and open to reinterpretation and re-evaluation.
Introduction by Lydia Mullin, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture, 2019