Everything in Excess or How Each of Us Has a Private Kobazan to Bear
Each of us has a Kobazan to bear. Though we may not realise it, we live in very demanding times: social media invented an ideal world, full of the hygge philosophy and beautiful interiors, not to mention the cult of the perfect body.
We make up for all our deficiencies and artificially generated complexes by consuming, collecting more and more objects and artefacts that are supposed to give us the illusion of the ideal. In her project, Joanna Żaboklicka challenges the problems of contemporary expectations and aspirations as well as the problem of overproduction. Kobazan is a multilayer project. The artist does not want to reveal the origin of its name. Apparently, each time she chose to do it the audience reacted rather oddly. Perhaps it is for the best. On the one hand, the aura of mystery fuels interest, on the other – Kobazan may mean something different for everyone.
Nna O’Klicka is omnipresent. She is bending in a sublime way in front of a camera, presenting clothes and accessories sewn by Nna O’Klicka. In the background, passers-by glance at Nna O’Klicka with jealousy, wishing to be like her. Or perhaps they already are? After all, if we live in a time of excess of everything, why should this not apply to the very heroine of the project? At first, O’Klicka was the artist’s alter ego, her terrifying double who incapacitated her with high standards for everything. The artist calls her alter ego a “doppelgänger”. In German, this word means simply one’s double, but in many beliefs it refers to a negative, twin version of ourselves. Thanks to maintaining all those high standards, O’Klicka seems to fit the contemporary ideal of femininity promoted by both traditional media (fashion magazines) and social media. With time, however, Żaboklicka has managed to tame her “evil twin” who has not only stopped to terrify and intimidate, but started to supplement the artist’s personality with her values. Żaboklicka and O’Klicka have become one. They complement each other, thus subduing the fear of the expectations placed on each of us.
O’Klicka has appeared also on the cover of the Kobazan Magazine that resembles special editions of fashion magazines (such as Harper’s Bazaar Collections). The artist has imitated the visual language used by fashion media and created the Kobazan portal. We are all well aware of the fact that contents presented by mainstream magazines are prejudicial – they arouse the desire to possess, make objects, clothes, shoes or accessories into a remedy for all complexes and problems of the world. What is more, they create an unattainable ideal woman: “(…) the image of a young woman we are inundated with acts as the Big Brother. This way there is no need to control people physically. Such contents become a leash that we put on ourselves to live a life like the one seen in newspapers.” Nevertheless, we love this perfect world in which we can immerse ourselves after a busy week. This is a very difficult relationship based on love and hate. Not surprising, however, because all stimulants, even though they offer us a moment of relaxation and rest, are harmful in the long run.
We live in a time where everything is in excess: information, stimuli, but also all types of goods. For the first time in world history we deal with overabundance of products, unlimited access to knowledge, an extensive supply network that allows each object our brain desires to arrive at our house within 24 hours from placing an order. But making our dreams come true may prove to be a nightmare with destructive influence not only on us, but on the environment as well. Even if we think that we act in the spirit of minimalism – limiting our shopping in chain stores in favour of artisan brands – sooner or later it turns out that we are drowning in the superabundance of unnecessary things. Żaboklicka was still a university student when she took part in a simple action: students were to count all items they owned. All, meaning also hangers, towels, underwear, hair clips, toothbrushes, etc. It transpired that everyone was surrounded by a terrifying number of items. We may restrain consumption, but still we get tempted by another book or hair clip that colonise our drawers at an intimidating rate. Even the number of items necessary for our daily existence is immense: towels, bedclothes, pots, cups – the list seems endless. After all, everything may be of use. We cannot do without an iron, coffee machine, another plant. “For me, the excess of items is a kind of enslavement and trap – we are biologically designed to collect, to prepare ourselves for a rainy day, and capitalism preys on it.” Kobazan is an attempt to deal with the abundance and surfeit, which mean something different for each of us. We are responsible for each object we accept into our lives. Since we have chosen something to accompany us every day, we cannot simply put it away in the closet. In her project, Żaboklicka tries to find a place for each item. And anyway, each of them has a history – most often this is merely “I have bought it and do not use it”, but some of the objects used in Kobazan have an actual sentimental value (for instance wedding stilettos that belonged to the artist’s mother or a brooch brought by Żaboklicka from her holiday trip in 1994). The artist avoids fetishising objects. She does not want to create more artificial desires and possession obsession. But she also realises the great importance of the history and emotional and psychological charge accumulated in everything that surrounds us.
Originally, Kobazan poked fun at overproduction, was an attempt to “recycle” unnecessary things. Over time, it has evolved into advanced and multi-level actions. The artist has strived to find her way in the world of the excess of desires that can never be satisfied. She has sincerely talked about her experiences, problems and limitations. Her message hit home with the audience. Even though it has criticised some contemporary mechanisms, this has been done with much empathy and understanding. Kobazan’s strength is the fact that Żaboklicka’s actions serve as a distorting mirror in which, despite distortions and exaggerations, we all can see the reflection of our true colours.