Disassembly | Bownik

Culture.pl, April 1, 2015
The subjects of Bownik’s photographic book are flowers, which the artist disassembles and then puts back together.
In a world in which the need to improve oneself is a powerful sign of the times, one of the most interesting artists of the younger generation performs plastic surgery on the objects of his art. These objects are 23 species of plants that Bownik cuts, dismembers, stitches together, and then photographs the final result.

To disassemble the flowers the artist uses ordinary household tools: pins, tacks, rubber bands, glue, tape and cables.

I separate the stems, flowers, leaves, and buds, and then try to put them back together unchanged. (...) I accurately measure the space between leaves and write it down on them with a pencil. All these measurements, as well as the necessary reinforcements, are visible at a close examination of the photos. Nevertheless, the process of deconstruction is not shown – said the artist in an interview with Jakub Śwircz, which is included in the album Disassembly.

The highly realistic photos taken with a large format camera allow the viewer to observe what Bownik has done to the plants. And it is the realisation of this process – when the act of destruction is obscured by the beauty of the image – that can evoke powerful emotions.

(...) the unfolding drama is affected by the viewer’s impossibility to look at successive phases of the disassembly process linked to the passing of time. Instead, it is only possible to guess what each plant must have gone through. – continues the artist.

Paweł Bownik, "Disassembly", fot. wyd. Mundin
Disassembly, Paweł Bownik, photo: Mundin

In Bownik’s first art book, still-life – the least valued topic in the hierarchy of subjects covered by art – comes back in full splendour. By using the traditional floral motif, which becomes the starting point for a series of photographs, the artist describes the condition of our time. He shares his observations in an interview with Jakub Śwircz:

First of all, there is a shift in curiosity – the force that drove progress – which has moved to the mainstream. (...) In Disassembly I wanted to return to the curiosity that brought about discovery and change. Its renaissance occurred in the nineteenth century and I rather naively decided to design my own experiment according to the rules of a past era.

Bownik’s publication not only evokes emotions, but also captures a perfect imitation of what has been destroyed. His photographs hypnotise with their distorted charm and at the same time cause the uncomfortable feeling of participating in a scientific experiment of the past.

The book is also extremely interesting from an editorial point of view, due to the importance of each typographic and binding feature. Designed by Honza Zamojski, its size resembles a large format photographic negative.


Disassembly by Bownik received the title of Photographic Publication of the Year 2014 awarded by the International Festival of Photography in Łódź.