22.09 - 26.11.2017


Ilona Szwarc. You are now entering the human heart


Address:  IFF Gallery, Fort Mokotów, ul. Racławicka 99, building 6

Opening hours: Wednesday to Friday 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM, Saturday and Sunday 12:00 PM - 6:00 PM

Admission fee during the opening: free

Price per ticket between 22.09 - 26.11.2017: free

Curator: Krzysztof Miękus

Can you have a past if you didn’t have a body?

Not a body as such, but your own (proper) body.

Let’s assume everything in your body was a bit unfamiliar and a little inadequate.

Let’s assume only now, when you are a thriving adult, has your body started to incorporate its proper form, even if forever flawed?

This is you – now. But is this the whole of you? Obviously not. “Me” comprises everything that has happened so far. Fantasies about oneself, and dreams, and history. The first period and the ones that came after, all turbulences of adolescence, all cuts because of love, all counted bones, but also all dates and kisses – with girls and boys – as a girl. “I don’t have any of these. If I look back, all I see is greyness, a sort of magma,” says Kinga*.

“My doctor says that trans-women are like anorexia sufferers. What does an anorectic see when she looks in the mirror? A fat pig. Trans-girls are similar: they will always notice some traces of masculinity in them,” says Edyta, one of the protagonists of the series entitled “The body opens slowly up to the heart”.

A body forms slowly, like puzzles. It combines many elements: pussy, tits, legs, neck, and arms. Not everything forms at once. “Femininity sometimes comes from inside you,” says Edyta, “but many trans-women build it up. They become women overnight – they cease to live like men and start to live like women. This can be a shock, there’s too much femininity in this.”

Edyta wears trousers and inside she “wears” her penis. “I am a woman with a penis”. At the request of Ilona Szwarc, Edyta is preparing a collage. She shows a woman with a penis. Everything is coherent here: the image and the body.


Ilona Szwarc collects images of women. She is trying to solve the meaning of what is commonly referred to as femininity– although we all know that it is just an image we have in our minds. Maybe a gesture, a tone of voice, a smell, a feeling accompanying a conversation, sometimes a touch. “The body opens slowly up to the heart” series is consistent with earlier explorations of the artist (“American Girls”, “Rodeo Girls”, “I am a Woman and I feast on Memory”), who tries to perform a vivisection of the real sense of “being a woman”. This time, she pictures a dozen of transgender women (M/F). By the act of photographing and the need of being pictured, transgender women consciously agree to having their bodies reduced to the form of an image that can be looked at, judged, discussed and reflected on.

It’s because an image adds what the body is missing. An image can be what the body didn’t become.

* Fragment of the text by Marta Konarzewska


Ilona Szwarc - born and raised in Warsaw, Szwarc now lives and works in Los Angeles, California. She holds an MFA in Photography from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut and a BFA from School of Visual Arts in New York City. Her work explores ways in which female identity is constructed in current cultural context, as well as processes of socialization of girls and women. Notions of becoming, and concept of the ideal self are at the core of her investigation. The artist's most famous series are "Rodeo Girls" and "American Girls" - the last one awarded in the World Press Photo competition in 2013.

Szwarc is the author of several individual exhibitions, including: Foley Gallery in New York; Claude Samuel Galerie in Paris, Amerika Haus in Munich and Maison de la Photographie in Lille. Her photographs have been shown at group exhibitions in New York, London, Bilbao, Amsterdam, Łódź, Chicago and recently at Regen Projects in Los Angeles and Danziger Gallery in New York. She has won many prestigious awards, the most important of which are: Richard Benson Prize for Excellence in Photography (Yale University, 2015), Arnold Newman Prize for New Directions in Photographic Portraiture (Arnold and August Newman Foundation, 2014), and World Press Photo (World Press Photo Foundation, 2013). In 2014 Szwarc participated in the Joop Swart Masterclass, and Yale University awarded her an Alice Kimball Traveling Fellowship grant. In 2016, she was included in the prestigious group of Talents of the FOAM museum, and the project I am a Woman and I Feast on Memory was presented in Foam Magazine and at the Unseen festival in Amsterdam.

Szwarc's photographs have been published all over the world, incl. by The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, TIME, The UK Sunday Times Magazine, The Telegraph Magazine.


All photographs shown at the exhibition are available for sale. The full presentation, including dimensions, editions, techniques and prices, can be viewed and downloaded here

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