Josephine is one of the rabbits who were hopping away in a gallery space in 2016, as part of the installation Do you believe in art?. The artist draws the rabbits as ones who were spared the fate Beuys’s hare met in the process of art-making.
Josephine is a work of art in the form of a living rabbit. ‘While alive, a work of art, and when dead, a part of art history’. In this sense, it is a symbolic re-enactment of art history and its contingency. Through its form, it continuously questions the paradigm of art, which is thus redefined in the context of its own, and other works of art around it. Throughout Josephine’s life, various works of art are being made, within which the rabbit functions as an incorporated work of art and a symbol.
Josephine is, of course, on the very basic level, the symbol and embodiment of life, ever fleeing and never truly tangible. And it is thus she can never be fully contained within man-made systems: i.e. this work of art is neither appropriate for the museum or the art space, nor other virtual realities of all sorts. For a virtual reality, a system (also called program) has to be created. To create such a system the [created] thing has to be within the scope of our complete understanding and prediction. This is why Josephine can never become contained within such context; because Josephine as a living being continuously escapes reason.
On the very basic level, Josephine is the symbol and embodiment of life, ever fleeing and never truly tangible. Most importantly, however, this existential entity is co-constituted by its historical situation, which makes Josephine a historical entity in opposition to the panda within the artistic narrative of Martychowiec. In Everything about the contemporary is panda the panda becomes a representation of the contemporary man who lacks capacity to understand and formulate history.
In its attempt at the destruction of the Icon, the Black Square was destined to simply replace it. It thus became a new symbol and source of a new materialistic myth, which due to its quality has remained material. One visit to the actual physical object makes one realise it actually exists within the materialist reality, that it is just a painting, and this material presence thus shatters its myth. On the other hand, Josephine does not offer such a possibility. Once established, her myth can remain, precisely because she is destined to disappear, despite any conservation efforts. Josephine is then what remains through the various other works of art which point to her and which introduce Josephine’s myth. She is the source (in the same sense as the Black Square became the symbolic source of creation and the new materialist holy).
Malevich wrote: ‘the image that survives the work of destruction is the image of destruction’.
What can then survive the work of destruction of the oversaturation and overproduction of contemporary modern culture? Now, at the time when everything is attainable in the abundance of internet when technology can reconstruct anything and the institutions maintain countless works of art on a mass scale. Which of these works will be able to avoid the destruction of their myth? Only a work of art as a living being, with its impermanence and destined unattainability, can create an indestructible myth and thus survive the work of destruction in the digi-materialistic era.
Michal Martychowiec, 2019