Weronika Perłowska, Anger Detracts from Her Beauty
Curator: Agnieszka Szuścik
‘Anger detracts from her beauty’ is a well-known Polish saying. I heard it often when I was a little girl, most often from my mother, who probably heard it from hers. This aphorism carries with it the admonition that anger makes a woman ugly. And, of course, ugliness is the very worst attribute that a woman can be branded with. The depiction of female anger as irrational, hysterical, and just plain ugly has a long tradition: from harpies, witches, and Medusa, to young girls inculcated to be polite and smiling, to memes of raging feminists and the so-called Resting Bitch Face syndrome. In this project, I analyse the symbolism and stereotypes associated with female anger by setting them within the context of my own personal story of a rage suppressed, held in, and passed down from generation to generation in my family.
Anger Detracts from Her Beauty is a balanced and multilayered commentary on the difficulties faced by contemporary feminism (or, rather, feminisms, of all people and all currents): both those incurred by a patriarchy that harms everyone, as well as those resulting from ignorance and misunderstanding of parity issues by men and women who feel affronted by ‘angry feminists.’
The project presses further buttons, again and again, by toying with cliches: a woman’s assumed aspiration to look beautiful; the perception of anger in women as unhinged and deserving of ridicule; and the burden placed on women to exercise expected ‘restraint.’ This series is characterised by an artistic eclecticism that I would describe in terms of a wide spectrum of personal universalism. The aetiology the project examines, right there in the palm of your hand (at least in a childhood video), is traced to the words that were passed down to small Weronika at home, in a multigenerational relay of ancestresses. The adult author then makes an individual effort at understanding her emotions while placing them within a wider discourse of emancipation. In doing so, she examines the ancient myths of the mostly forgotten Żyrardów textile workers strike and the women who took part. How easy it is for us to see ourselves in these photographs and objects!
Perłowska’s project is also a compelling study of emotions, and, more precisely, of their reflexive suppression and the inept stigmatisations they are subjected to. Vexation, anger, and rage are routinely regarded as being inherently harmful and unhealthy, even toxic, emotions. It is high time to reflect on them. What does anger provide me? Is what I feel really rage? Is anger actually unhealthy for me? What are the convictions behind the infuriation I feel in certain situations? The works alluding to the so-called Resting Bitch Face—hand-embroidered tracings of analyses made by facial-mapping and facial-recognition software—are a skewering of the daily practices of self-inhibition and the concealment of negative emotions.
It is my hope that Weronika Perłowska’s Anger Detracts from Her Beauty will, for viewers, erode stereotypes and taboos associated with feminism, femininity, and emotions, and even ultimately cause them to crumble altogether. It is worth looking at yourself in the mirror, made by Perłowska herself, fringed with Medusa’s venomous snakes, to stop turning things into stone.
Weronika Perłowska graduated in photography from the University of Fine Arts in Poznań, and is a graduate of the Sputnik Photos collective’s Mentoring Programme. Her works have been exhibited at the Circulation(s) Festival in Paris (2020), Ardesia Projects in Berlin (2019), the Lumix Festival in Hanover (2018), and the FOCUS Photography Festival in Mumbai (2017). She is interested in manipulating images and symbols in order to scrub them of preconceptions and stereotypes.
Agnieszka Szuścik is a visual artist with a focus on artistic introspection. She graduated in Photography from the Film School in Łódź, earning a doctorate in Film Art; and in Polish Philology, with a specialisation in social communication, from the University of Silesia in Katowice. She is a member of the Krakow Photomonth board; a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts and the Academy of Photography, both in Krakow; the host of the author’s broadcast ‘Art of Listening’ on Off Radio Kraków; a TEDx speaker; and the creator of social artistic projects and accompanying campaigns, as well as independent documentaries and music videos. Chosen by Wysokie Obcasy [High Heels] for its 2019 ’50 Bold’ list, she is also the founder of the DJland music charity festival in Krakow.