Everything about the contemporary is panda
In his book The Protean Self: Human Resilience in the Age of Fragmentation R.J. Lifton refers to the fragmentation of identity of the contemporary man. The solitary pandas which used to occupy considerably large habitats on their own, were unable to mate as these habitats became separated due the China’s modernisation. Their world became fragmented.
However, the pandas are not as ‘fluid’ or adjustable as Lifton claim the human to be. They found their biological niche through a genetic mutation in the spine, which allowed them to sit comfortably. Bamboo, their primary food source, is poor in nutrients and has to be eaten 16 hours a day, due to which their libido has remained particularly low.
The development of the panda reserve in China has become almost a sort of governmentality experiment. Originally, outbursts of aggression of the wild pandas kept at the man-made reserve were subdued with force. Only later, the violence of those in power was replaced with another method. Now, the pandas which are already extinct in the wild, a museums piece, are provided with an abundance of food and different forms of entertainment. They live in so-called ‘panda villas’, where they are looked after by guards, psychologists, veterinarians and fan groups. The majority of procreation occurs through artificial insemination. The newly out of labour mothers are happy to give their babies away for a bowl of honey. The pandas have become docile and domesticated.
For Martychowiec, the panda has become a significant symbolic element since 2016. It functions on several levels and throughout many different areas of human activity: politics, culture, conservation, ecology, but most importantly as a symbol of the contemporary man intertwined within the power structures which mould him/her to their benefit.
The panda is the most reappearing element, as it follows modes of existence of the spectator and most importantly pivotal moments of art history, whereas the other elements become interwoven comments on contemporary human conditions. This project is in a very direct discourse to two other bodies of work: The incredulity of St Thomas (where Thomas becomes a somewhat symbol of the spectator) and Josephine (where the rabbit Josephine becomes an existential symbol in opposition to the panda).