Black Water Ballad
Text by Sarah Burkhalter
Still the ripples widened.
The swimmers had long since settled on the deck, yet the lake was humming with their strokes. The canoes crackled in the late sun. A pinecone stumbled to the ground. The rock looked on.
Transatlantic journeys, whether airborne or oceanwise, often leave the traveler in a daze, keener than ever to capture the slightest shift in the surroundings. Suddenly the footfall of a doe will awaken all. Or the evergreen will tell the tale of the lake, to many
a home abroad and a haven onboard a stretch of summer.
Here is where they arrive, where they gather, where they relate. If only for a few days or weeks, here is how they live, and build, and cook. The place embraces them.
Mid-afternoon, a cousin tinkered away amidst the reeds. Another one looked up from her book, and the spring in her chair sighed back into position, spanning cloth and hinge. Their eyes caught.
A flower had just been picked in the underbrush. A plan was afoot. A plan that required the finest bloom around. A promise to cup one’s memory at the trickle of time on the shoreline.
Dusk eventually deepened the water. It cast a glow in the cabin’s windows and drew everyone
indoors, riding a wave at the edge of the day. Here, the rapture of being together began to push the sky away, as sundry voices and driftwood stories rose above the birch trees.
The overall arc of the work could be reduced to a quote from Alfred Jarry, Ubu Roi (1896),
«Set in Poland that is to say Nowhere».
Poland is a phoenix who vanished for over a century and was resurrected. A story of separation and departure, statelessness and patriotism, a violent reminder to our current historical context. Where did Poland go? Out of the world? I followed my intuition and sought out a metaphorical answer.
In the margin of the series as a watermark, we follow the fragments of one Polish legend, General Andrzej Tadeusz Bonawentura Kosciuszko. His destiny illustrated the common cause of a nation. In exile, he became a war hero in the US where he fought for its independence and fought against slavery.
Historians call him the «last knight» and «first citizen» of the world.
Blurring the lines between documentary and fiction, Kopiec Bonawentura examines the uncertainties of memory, the concept of permanence, the notion of identity.
It employs text - quotations, anecdotes, a poetic phrase, a question - alongside image - portraits, landscapes, ambient details, collage, which play off one another in an associative way.
The photographs in this series of slides were taken all over North America, and later archived, stored, and then finally unpacked and furiously edited in a breathless, hopeful search for great images.
Compiled in three Kodak Carousels, and appearing as if from a series of dreams, they reveal the narrative of a life unfolding. Some slides were inadvertently damaged during development -- they were stained, altered even scorched. This final, furious editing phase gave the slides a unique «patina», and added artifacts to the images themselves, and was an intense, and serendipitous, last stage of creation for the work, just as important to finishing the images as their original subject matter, composition, color, and light.
In an episode of the popular Mad Men TV series, Don Draper runs an ad campaign to launch the Kodak Carousel. Draper, also hurt by a breakup, projects photographs of his personal sadness as he explains the Carousel: “It’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. . . . It lets us travel the way a child travels. Around and around, and back home again . . . to a place where we know we are loved.”