„Quatations from Joanna Hoffmann”


Maria Anna Potocka

Text from the Catalogue „New Spaces of Art, Installations of the 90-ies” Biala Gallery, Lublin 1998.


One can say that reality means „everything”.

Nobody has an access to it fully , nevertheless everybody in some way is able to get nearer to a slightly different fragment of it. But even the areas we can approach are rather small. Some things have to be ignored or  at least they must wait. The rest is subjected to selection in order  to define the world in which we move about.


„Objects appear or become present in the area of my language by themselves. I do not choose them but rather notice them and undertake decisions.”


The process of defining the shape and the symbolics of one’s private world is especially visible in artistic decisions, mainly because they do not enter relations with practical matters. Decisions serving the everyday life are deprived of  such a clear authorship. Most of them are attributed to (account for) specified functions or aims. In art, where something like a function or aim does not exist, each choice has  an individual designation, a declaration of interest, weight, uncertainty, strength and many other possibilities.


„ the starting point is always to a some degree of a mess, due to a chaos of information and experiences. Maybe repeating elements, creating a narration of links (...) is a never-ending attempt of ordering, an effort undertaken always from the beginning, again and again.”


All of us have to mark out an area of privacy, no matter if this delimitation serves everyday life or art..

This act divides people into two different groups. The first one is unaware that any choice has already taken place . Such people function convinced that their life or art touches upon the whole world. With such an assumption it is easier to believe in the rightness of one’s point of view, in the truth of one’s knowledge.

Those who belong to the other group are conscious that their existence  embraces only a fragment of the world  and that it ensues from particular choices. Thus all conclusions and reasons are loaded by something especial, something that is inside us.

Such awareness brings criticism but also an interest in others’ views.


„Much more important is the quality of experiencing and the relation with that which is not myself.”


Sometimes other  points of view complement our own observations, and treated as a selection from reality are incorporated into our private areas. Joanna Hoffman is a person and artist who is conscious of her private area.


„I think that we are stuck in  and contribute to a reality in which nothing is given, is all-ready existing. Everything is being constructed.”


Many artists have such consciousness. But usually it is kept aside their main subject matter, though it serves their methodology , increasing the prudence of creative decisions.

The awareness that we see only a small fragment ( which itself may contain omitted places) that we „see” it through devices parameters of which are different from those used by others, increases caution in judging, in coming to conclusions, in falling into certainty.

In the case of Joanna Hoffmann, the consciousness of representing an individually constructed world serves something more than an outlook on life. It constitutes the main place her creativity pivots around.

The choice of such an area of creative concentration  implies a particular attitude and behaviour. Trying to describe this attitude one should adopt some order, but to tell the truth no hierarchy or sequence has raison d’etre here.

Nevertheless, one can start the description by underlining  modesty , which in a natural way issues from the fact that we have only  limited fragments of the world in our disposal and to extend these resources is difficult.  But modesty has also its limits. It manifests itself in not expressing assertions to become obligatory outside.  What is revealed comes rather in the form of denouncements. Such modesty, when the threat of  somebody else’s intervention appears, can evolve into a kind of obstinacy The strength against somebody else’s opinions and interference arises from the conviction that within one’s private world one is the main expert.

An attitude strongly concentrated on the private structure of reality may also contain some disbelief in the possibility of communication. If this disbelief assumes the character  of assumption it can have many artistic consequences. For example, the rejection of finishing sentences and the elimination of  things of secondary  importance from the work which then underlines the „symbolic readiness” of indispensable ones.

Arranged in such a way, objects of more or less the same  level of necessity acquire a particular weight.


An object always has its meaning, its identity, though difficult to grasp /to perceive/. Maybe entangled in so many notional or linguistic texts, existing and constantly being  created, it has itself disappeared somewhere.

So what is the meaning of an object? It seems that the meaning of an object lies in its concreteness.


In Joanna Hoffmann’s installations, these „heavy” , concrete objects, in which one should search for full meanings, are integrated by some „course”. The line of this course depends on the architecture of the place where the situation happens. And this line decides that the obtained whole is possible only in this place.


„Joining objects, either by a background or lines, comes perhaps from a fear of loosing them within the space. Unlinked they are endangered by the state of weightlessness, inertia,  disappearance.

Maybe the majority of our vital  energy is used for this constant process of uniting, bounding together objects, people, ourselves....”


Such is the first impression. It results from a conviction that things came first, and a linking line appeared afterwards. It seems that these are objects which are connected, that after having been chosen they got comprised by some line’s course. Thereby things are considered to be of most importance. But there is a possibility that it was the other way round, that first there was a line, some undisturbed course, some pure idea, for example an idea of a book, and then objects occurred, and hung on this course, forcing it to submit to the load, burden, weight,  or they made  their way into the middle of the idea, deforming its evidence

The assumption that the line was primary implies some initial perfectness ,  something simple and continuous that, due to  events we experience,  was subjected to tensions, weights and went out of its way.

This version gives less liberty to the choice of objects . On the whole they are imposed by what happened previously. The act of forming looses its freedom; as if „something” uses us to form itself. This „something” is most often the past remembered in a particular way.


„Choice of elements is made by intuition. Maybe they open my instinct, the instinct of reading the reality in which I live, work, grapple with. What is being constructed is a particular situation - visualisation /demonstration, confrontation of a process of thinking harnessed in the process of intuition.”


Objects which influence the course of the line or intervene in the content of a book are dictated by intuition, past, events, memory. Thus they cannot be freely chosen, they must derive from the inside of a private world and refer to its borders. They have to describe this world and interpret its principles. They are both the content and its translation.


„Inner spaces are open for co-creation, for a dialogue; being realises itself in what is open by dialogue.”


In a situation where the appearing object has such a wide and open function, it cannot represent or tell anything - it can only signal. Best if it does not allow any verbalisation or description of the signal. In this way we „derive” some meanings  which we do not name or define. Only when these meanings gain some constitution , can we afford to increase the sharpness of comprehension.

We can compare this to the reception of a sentence. Senses of words are „derived” but not deciphered. Only a jointly elaborated meaning is getting opened.

This is the best way to approach   works composed of many elements; to search only for those meanings which come out of the arrangement of particular things. For various reasons, it might happen that we will not encounter such meaning, and then we will find ourselves among autonomous objects which seems to have no reason to be so close to each other.

Objects constructing a new meaning can be very distant from matters and  passed events to which they somehow refer. Best when the private past of the work cannot be reached at all.

Objects created or arranged by Joanna Hoffmann keep this distance. One can feel private references behind them but one cannot reach them. Thanks to this, they allow for being filled with someone else’s privacy and do not disappear in the attractiveness of biographic explanations.

One has to have a great sense of balance to keep one’s private area unrevealed while observing it intensely and to signalise constantly its existence through non - revealing,

This perpetual taming of life can arise from a particular treatment of art.


Art is for me a form of being.

Art allows me to penetrate /to find my way/ into the matter of life through a different door,  the door which, set ajar, offers the freedom of cognitive imagination.


*Quotations marked in the text were chosen by me from the conversation with Joanna Hoffmann.

Anna Maria Potocka is an art critic, the Chief of Polish Section of AICA