Jakub Szczęsny, Iron Maiden

project description

The work is based on the torture device known as the iron maiden, which came to be an efficient “scare for disgraced souls”. We have no way of knowing whether this was a real object or a fake of 19th-century museum curators, who put together separate artefacts to put up blood-chilling spectacles during exhibitions. One way or another, the culprit, whether in his or her frightened imagination or in medieval reality, was locked in an ergonomic sarcophagus of sorts, immobilised and with limited vision. Sharp spikes penetrated the victim’s body from within as the device was being locked. The question is whether it was possible to save life – each time the history may have looked different.

project facts

Today this continues to be a history of meting out punishment, but in a new context of institutionalised power. This may moreover be a story about imposing on the human being constricting norms anchored in the illusion of modernity, where functionality is but an element of the façade. This may be a story about the discipline of the work position which originates in oppression and re-introduces oppression. This is accompanied by a show of force ascribed to the anonymous power of judging others. This force comes in the contemporary reality of democracy at a price of an ill-fitting armour which offers distance and security in return for unconditional constraint.

On another level, Iron Maiden is also the name of a heavy metal band whose demonic record covers are deeply ingrained in memory. Pictures from its concerts taking place in Poznań in the 1980s from Antoni Rut’s collection can be watched in a kaiserpanorama. This device for watching stereoscopic photographs, purchased by the municipality of Poznań, will soon be installed in Arsenał Municipal Gallery.


Installation done in frame of “Towards Critical Institution” exhibition in Arsenal Gallery in Poznań
artists: Wojciech Doroszuk, Rafał Jakubowicz, Katarzyna Krakowiak, Jakub Szczęsny, Ewa Toniak, Zorka Wollny Text: Magdalena Popławska
Curators: Anna Czaban, Sylwia Czubała, Magdalena Popławska, Karolina Sikorska
Author's cooperation / assistant: Natalia Buczkowska
Maker: Kontraktor / kontraktor.net.pl
photos: archive of the gallery
spatial arrangement: Magdalena Siemienowicz


by project advancement
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