Blue eyed / performance

Video performance based on work I’ve presented on the exhibition Generations at June 2019 in the Contemporary Art Gallery in Opole. Performance was based on the  Jane Elliot’s ‚Blue eyes brown eyes’ psychological experiment. This controversial experiment was carried out in a primary school, where Elliot worked. It was based on a separation of a class into two groups – a privileged and an underprivileged one, depending on student’s eye colour. The children assumed their roles of agressors and victims very swiftly, which then activated the mechanism of discrimination3. When I received an invitation to take part in the Generations exhibition (the occasion being the sixtieth anniversary of founding the school I attended as a child and then “returned to” as a teacher), I wanted to prepare a work linked to looking and perceiving. I thought that it was mostly thanks to my education at the Secondary School of Art, that I learned to observe the reality closely. The second theme I wanted to touch on, was the school as an institution, a social laboratory of sorts. Learning in it is the time of transformation and personality development. The time spent in a secondary school is difficult and painful, and yet fascinating as a period of growing up. The thoughts on the educational system, family relation but also  the reference to Elliot’s experiment, became my inspiration to realising my performance, which was carried out in the following way.

fot. GSW Opole

I’m sitting at a school table, I have asked my mum to assist me, she is holding a mirror, which I’m looking into. This is a two-way mirror – I can see myself, and my mum sees my struggles through the glass plate. My mum and I have the same first name, which is often the source of mistakes and misunderstandings – we live in the same city, we work in the same school; sometimes I wonder if I am myself or perhaps her reflection? I’m taking the contact lenses out of my back pack. I ask for help again. This time it’s someone from the audience. One of the students comes and instructs me how to put the contac lenses in. This is the first time I’m doing this in front of an audience. It’s not working out. Everyone is watching me and I can’t put my finger into my open eye, touch what is hurting, to become someone else in the process. After a long struggle, I finally succeed and place the lenses in my eyes. The tears are falling from my eyes, causing the contours to blur. Acuteness of vision returns after placing two different lenses in my eyes. One eye is now brown and the other blue. The coulour of the lense doesn’t change anything in the picture I see, it has however changed the image of me, being a sort of a mask, an interference in my identity.

cooperation Agnieszka Zientarska