Teresa Murak and land art

Although we sometimes forget, we live in communion with the earth and nature and we need contact with it. We maintain this bond by growing flowers in pots: in our homes and on our balconies. When we live in a city, it is increasingly difficult for us to maintain the bond that connects us with nature. Although the perpetual cycle of birth and death always surrounds us, sometimes we are unaware of it. We are surprised by the process of growth of the plants in the spring after their period of dormancy. Our fascinations with the phenomena occurring in nature are topics often explored by artists. Land art is an activity related to the area of the natural environment. Artistic activities in nature constitute an interference with the existing landscape, a partial transformation or the use of natural processes occurring in nature[1]. Land art marks the renewal of contact with nature.
Conscious works of land art appeared in the 1960s and their greatest development took place in the 1970s. Works in the natural space were of a different scale and character. Sometimes these were spectacular objects that required earthworks, as in the case of Robert Smithson, sometimes ones which were subtle, difficult to find in an open space, as in the case of Richard Long.
In 1967, Long trod a path while walking on a meadow. This temporary interference with nature was documented by a series of photographs, becoming an iconic work. The artist interpreted A Line Made by Walking as his own path to nowhere. In landart activities, natural areas, along with the processes occurring therein, become the material from which works of art are created. Very often, these are compositions which exist only fleetingly, and later disappear or are destroyed as a result of the processes occurring in nature.

Teresa Murak is one of the precursors of land art in Poland. In her works, she uses the products of nature, including her own body. She “grows” some items on herself. The materials used by her include slime, cress, seeds, and sourdough. The natural process of plant growth or the changing texture of the sourdough introduces a performative element into her works. Her art evokes elements by using soil, rocks, fire, water, lichens, and flowers. The main theme of her work is the celebration, affirmation of life. The artist sows plants in the city: cornflowers, poppies, sage, flax, sunflowers, buckwheat, mallow, and cereals. She has overtaken the activities currently known as guerrilla gardening[2] initiated by the British artist Richard Reynolds.
Teresa Murak creates projects for others. She sows and hands out seeds to passers-by. She refers to the symbolism associated with the mystery of life, land, fertility, sowing, and growing. During a project implemented in 1974, the artist went for a walk along Krakowskie Przedmieście in Warsaw, wearing a coat covered with cress. She turned a dress into a living garden, sowing seeds of cress on it. This ephemeral work from the MOCAK collection may be seen on the website, along with the accompanying documentation of the process of sowing. A feature of all landart works, including those by Teresa Murak, is their temporary nature. What remains is mainly documentation. One work implemented in a public space in Sweden lasted only a few hours. A huge hole dug in the ground was filled by landowners.

Elaborated by: Mirosława Bałazy (Editorial team of Małopolskas Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

Sebastian Cichocki, Prace ziemne. Teresa Murak i uduchowienie szlamu, [in:] Do kogo idziesz. Teresa Murak, exhibition catalogue, The Labyrinth Gallery, Lublin 2012;
Iwo Zmyślony, Feminizm ziemi. Powrót Teresy Murak, „Obieg” (2013) [accessed: 09.09.2019].

[1] https://pl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sztuka_ziemi

[2] „Guerilla gardening” is a bottom-up movement of sowing plants in places which are neglected or seemingly not intended for such an activity, it is a reaction to mediocrity and ugliness, to the anti-ecological policy of urban space planning.