Miroslaw Balka

Miroslaw Balka, 2 x (Ø60 x 190), 1997. Hog intestine and aluminum. 23 5⁄8 inches in diameter x 74 3⁄4 inches. Edition of 2. Photo credit: Aaron Igler.

Miroslaw Balka has a gift for making art of highly symbolic content from the most humble of materials, and he continued in this vein at FWM by creating a series of related sculptures made primarily from hog intestines. 

Like many of Balka’s works, the form of 2 x (ø60 x 190) relates to the human body—specifically, to Balka’s body, as the diameter of each of these cylindrical columns equals the artist’s shoulder width. Each column in the pair is fabricated from hog intestines that were dried, cut into small squares, rehydrated and layered repeatedly until a strong skin formed. This labor-intensive technique is based on an Inuit process for creating waterproof garments from seal gut. Inside the columns, Balka placed hundreds of inflated dried intestinal lengths, which are just visible through the translucent shell. Transformed by the artist, this most base material becomes pristine and, with light directed onto the columns, luminescent. 

The sculpture 250 x 190 x 67 is also made from hog intestines, though in this case, the tubes of natural material remained uncut, allowing them to shrink into long strands as they dried. When moistened, the strands were pliable enough to hand-knot (the same technique used to make snowshoes) into the final form. The height of the sculpture is equal to Balka’s own height with his arms outstretched above his head, and the width measures the distance of his outstretched arms. The finished form resembles a net, though unlike a net, it defines a fixed shape. 

A third sculpture, 203 x 97 x 7, is a bronze cast of a puddle, filled with salt. The autobiographical reference in this piece is the volume of the salt, which equals the water weight of the artist’s body. Balka’s use of this material highlights the importance of salt in maintaining the fragile, life-sustaining balance of water in our bodies. 

Artist Bio

Polish, born 1958, lives in Warsaw, Poland 

Miroslaw Balka was raised in a small town outside Warsaw, and his artwork often draws on memories of his childhood home, which is now his studio. He studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, earning his degree in 1985. Balka’s work has been the subject of many one-person exhibitions, including shows at The National Museum of Art in Osaka, Japan (2001); the Tate Gallery, London (1995); and the List Center for the Visual Arts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, MA (1993). In 1993, he was selected to represent Poland at the 45th Venice Biennale.