Pawel Bownik’s ‘Disassembly’, published by newcomer Mundin, is an artist’s book in which a photographic project has been brought to the form of a non-standard picture album. The main role here is played by flowers, which Bownik disassembles into parts using DIY tools and then reassembles in possibly unchanged form. For deconstruction purposes the photographer uses glues, adhesive tapes, ropes, precisely measuring the distances between the leaves, noting them in pencil on the leaves themselves and photographing them. The resulting images, informed by the still-life tradition, perfectly imitate and evoke that which has been subjected to a destructive process. Haunting the viewer with their deformed charm, they also create an uncomfortable sense of participating in a strange experiment. Beginning with the cover image and progressing through a series of collages and drawings, the book’s narrative culminates in the middle part and comes to a conclusion with a series of sketches evoking progressively the sense of being the witness of a highly aesthetic, but bizarre scientific experiment.
In Disassembly, I wanted to return to the curiosity which brought discovery and change. I find its renaissance in the nineteenth century and so I decided, a bit naïvely, to design my own experiment in line with the principles of a bygone era.
The book comprises 120 pages of collages, drawings and photographs of over 20 flower species. Printed on two kinds of paper, bound in subtly embossed hardcover, is it a one-of-a-kind publication where every typographic and binding detail matters. The book also includes a booklet with an essay by Andrew Berardini and a conversation with the photographer about his motivations. Available is also the collector’s edition, which includes a signed drawing, one of the several dozen reproduced in the book, and comes in an elegant, custom-made box bound in dark-green cloth.
“Ultimately, [plastic surgery] is what I’m doing with the plants. The need to improve on oneself is a very powerful sign of our times. I think that, when acceptance of the form I’ve proposed occurs, the way people are perceiving Disassembly springs, in part, from the fact that we’ve long since accepted surgical improvement of the body. The shapes in the photos are identical in that sense,” after which Bownik continues: “Disassembly also came to constitute a work about not paying heed to beauty, which is to say, not focusing on extolling its presence, because of a fear of the imputation of triviality. We’re living in an era where beauty might well be deemed hackneyed. In the series, I had to attack it first, violate it, in order for it to spark discussion.”
Paweł Bownik was born in 1977 and studied philosophy and sociology in Lublin before getting his degree in photography and multimedia from the Poznań Academy of Fine Arts. He lives and works in Warsaw, drawing inspiration from youth culture and reinterpreting contemporary themes using classic techniques from painting, archival photography and the golden age of 1940s cinema. His start in photography was inspired by an irrepressible fascination with art, after which he found his medium of choice; photography. In his images the photographer injects a bit of the remarkable into the everyday, teasing the eye with its characteristic combination of the familiar and the uncanny.
For more information and to order the book see here.