Josephine, reading history


Michal Martychowiec






two-channel 4K video, 21:46 min, 24:00 min



on request

Josephine, reading history

This work is part of the Reading history work cycle.

Yūgen no Ma (幽玄の間 ) or ‘Room of Great Darkness’ is a special room at Japan Go Institute in Tokyo reserved for high level matches. Only high rank players have a chance of playing in the room, where they are accompanied by just a referee. The games are broadcasted in another room in the building, where the visitors can watch the game live on the screen. What is visible, however, is an image of the board from above. Neither the room nor the faces of those present can be seen. The game develops as if hands of gods were placing the stones on this ‘board of history’.

In Josephine, reading history the artist re-creates a game by two Chinese players – Chen Zude and Huang Jinxian  - which took place a few days prior to the Chinese Cultural Revolution (11th May 1966). It is curious, when one is to consider in the landscape of what was happening in the country at the time, these two young men decided to leisurely play a game, which from the contemporary perspective of the time, would be associated with the things widely rejected – the old and bourgeois/aristocratic culture. Nevertheless, after the revolution Chen became the president of the Chinese National Go Association, while Huang took various public offices related to the game.  On one side there is a revolution and on the other perseverance of tradition.

And so, in this work the recreation of the game is repeated twice. The game is filmed in the manner of the above mentioned professional matches in two channels. In the first channel the recreation is conducted on an isolated board.  This historical representation is as if it were from the Room of Great Darkness to which access is granted only to those who are already part of history. In the second channel, however, a contemporary (one could say revolutionary) element penetrates the space – the rabbit Josephine is present on the board. The action of recreation is repeated but as Gertrude Stein has taught us ‘there is no such thing as repetition’. And so, this time, recreating the game is taking place, not without obstacles and disturbance. Josephine moves throughout the board moving stones already in place. The stones which follow precisely in where they used to be at the time in the original game are either deprived of a place to be laid (which is taken by Josephine) or once placed acquire new meaning in the ever changing ‘landscape’ of the board. Reading and understanding is compelled to be considered only with consideration of the socio-political and historical circumstances of the reader. And thus “All that is solid melts into air, [...] and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” Reading history.

Other works of art in the exhibition

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Looking for meaning in history

Name looking for meaning in history
Size 26 × 200 cm
Year 2017

Josephine, reading history

Name Josephine, reading history
Size two-channel 4K video
Year 2017/2020

Reading history #6 (2018–1100)

Name Reading history #6 (2018–1100)
Size 130 x 140 cm
Year 2018

Josephine, history is happening today

Name Josephine, history is happening today
Size HD video
Year 2017

still from Pixelated Venus

Name still from Pixelated Venus
Size 90 × 120 cm
Year 2017

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