By Grzegorz Borkowski*

W.Einthoven's invention of 1903 of a device recording human heart activity under the guise of electrocardiogram enabled to visualise one of the most meaningful processes occurring inside the body. Keeping in mind research-oriented and diagnostic importance of this method, we should not forget that it also introduced new, easily recognisable factor to the domain of visual language. For many persons it is just a sign of life that is typical for heart-powered creatures. Those who perceive electrocardiogram as entirely unique signature, characteristic for a given being, and a sort of a recorded life-moment of this being, belong to minority. Correct recognition of these two overlaid elements is possible for insightful observer. It is only possible if one juxtaposes various recordings gathered in various moments of a given person’s life. Similar state of affairs is to be found in the field of arts, where comparing of several works by one author allows grasping interrelations between general creative stance and detailed qualities of works. Motive and notion of cardiogram appears in Joanna Hoffmann's work throughout several years' creative period. For the first time, they could have been used in installation shown in Potocka Gallery in 1996. Walls of two gallery rooms have been lined with black rubber strip, which reproduced the cardiogram recording. The strip was burdened with little stones in one room, and weights in the other room. Simplified image of individual blood pulse through employment of gravitational forces has been encoded into a given space, typically used for art. presentations. Cardiogram as a form used by medicine - delineated onto minute scale on paper - was not present directly, but as a kind of visual matrix rooted in collective memory. It is important to note that a small book which consisted of only two pages (pages were simultaneously the cover of the book) accompanied this individual exhibition. Elastic band, which limited the angle of possible opening of the book, has been mounted onto the opposite inner pages. This line was also a segment of the copy of authentic cardiogram inserted inside the book. In last several years, some of Joanna Hoffmann's artist's books were closely related to her spatial works that, as Jerzy Ludwinski noted, they constitute a kind of installation resume for this artist. Admittedly, they often serve as a condensation, shortened transposition of the idea of an installation instead of its description. Hoffmann's installations, ephemeral out of necessity, could be also treated as momentary appearances of books scored for gallery space.  We can enter this score, or version, not only mentally but also physically. It is noteworthy to recall one of "One-sided Thoughts", noted by Joanna: Book is a piece of space which is filled with individual time. Therefore, I think that artist's books belong to a category of source reality in Hoffmann's works. The individually created source reality is much more basic than artist's spatial realisations. The contents of each book reflect one specific idea, one mental experience presented with rigorous precision, like in a deduction of a mathematical formula. The sensations connected with opening books, leafing through them and touching them are counterparts of the acts of entering and moving in the installation space. With delicate premeditation, Hoffmann's books register these facts until the near annihilation of the recording contained therein. "Music for inert repetitions" is a book of undeveloped photographs which are gradually  being developed during their examination. Readers' fingerprints are easily discernible on the pages of this book. They document the act of reading and involuntary interference of the watcher into the contents of the tale that gradually vanishes but is deposited in the memory. It is memorised that the pages contained uniformly spaced musical pentagrams, each with one short recording of an electrocardiogram of a single heartbeat. Two recognitory codes of individuality are being juxtaposed here: fingerprints and pules lines.

Joanna Hoffmann's artistic language, apart from cardiograms and undeveloped photographic paper includes one typical element, which hasn't been mentioned yet. It is the sound of heart beating, which is being transformed in a multitude of ways. Its semantic message is certainly similar to cardiogram lines, but sound is present in space in a different way than the graphic sign. it makes its appearance in installations as an integral element, simultaneously modifying the situation of presentation of artist's books and stimulating viewers to  ponder the surrounding space. It was the case of work "Music of Spheres", shown in Ujazdowski Castle in an exhibition on conceptual reflection. Processed sounds of heart beating were associated with the work of Johannes Kepler, who tried to find the acoustic equivalents of the Solar System planets. Each of the planets was depicted by a separate book placed on a special pedestal equipped with sound-emitting loudspeaker concealed inside. Acoustic sphere was permanently present, while contents of the books made themselves familiar only after the viewer decided to look inside. Two orders of perception could have distinguished. Sound and the totality of spatial arrangement were creating environment for "reading". It was also a model depicting the situation of reading person, always immersed in a certain set of individual and external contexts. In this case, the author tried to  partially determine these contexts, connecting the act of reading book with the reading of the complex surroundings. In Joanna Hoffmann's work entitled "here and now", spatial object for reading and turning in one's hands, the distinguished position of "and" is really curious. We won't find it between "here" and "now", but at the top of two connected bases, on the staircase pyramid created by the remaining words. This conjunction mark-out resembles statement attributed to Heidegger. He was alleged to say that in the title of "Sein und Zeit", it is the "small" word in the middle that is the most important"

Grzegorz Borkowski, 

art critic and curator at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw , text from the catalogue "Book And What Next", issued  by Gallery AT Poznan, 2000