The Monkeys are superheroes of art and culture, the artistic duo of Maria Toboła-visual artist, sculptor and performance artist-and Maria Magdalena Kozłowska-voice performance artist, singer and director, who have been working together since 2015. They primarily produce an online variety show filled with skits, songs and guest performances by other artists. They make essays at the intersection of video art, theater and performance art on specific issues, such as death, respect, the creative process and money. The foundation of their work is repetition: both Marias, who share a physical similarity, speak at the same time in the old-fashioned manner of 1970s heartthrobs. Other incarnations present them as tricksters, hosts of a TV program, detectives, gurus and hooligans. Their adventures have been presented by MSN Warszawa, the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, the Zona Sztuki Aktualnej in Szczecin and the Bęc Zmiana foundation.
In order to talk about death (Death), the artists use a variety of tools, figures and tropes. We get to see, for example, a dreary Poland in watercolors, an ecstatic director of the BWA Zielona Góra, the forgotten victims of Nazism and a man with a balloon instead of a head, which is a satire on the hierarchical world of Polish theater. The Monkeys' powerlessness in embracing the entirety of the subject intensifies the pseudo-Baroque form of their online performance in which, with extraordinary fluidity, the tragic and the comedic are linked together. In their next bit (The Whole World Dances) the Monkeys decide to be more elegant. This is impossible without knowing the steps to the Viennese waltz, of course, which they are taught by choreographer Paweł Sakowicz, who is conjured up in a dream. This leads the artists and their guest into an infinite-in both time and space-dance delirium. A silly childhood joke is at the center of the videoRespect, in which the Monkeys look at the subject of respect, but also at the struggle-hidden in its shadow-for status within social structures. The two Marias play with the practice of working with the excluded: putting the privileged in their place instead. Calling Anda Rottenberg, Andrzej Seweryn or Krzysztof Penderecki a monkey is not in this case an insult (the artists calls themselves the Monkeys after all) but an embarrassing admission to participating in the hierarchy game. A phone prank risks upsetting the established balance or might perhaps be a viewer's playful fantasy.
Maria Magdalena Kozłowska is a performance artist and director, and she also writes music and lyrics. Her work has been shown by, among other places, MSN in Warsaw, the Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, the Raster Gallery and at the Biennale in Venice. She invents and plays eccentric characters with an unclear social status who are often on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Her work brings to life tiny worlds where ambition is intertwined with a fall, vulgarity with operatic pathos, the charisma of the guru with the fragility of the diva.
Maria Toboła graduated from the University of Fine Arts in Poznań. She completed her diploma at the Audiosfera Studio of Prof. Leszek Knaflewski in the Intermedia Department. She lives and works in Warsaw. She works in the areas of video, performance, installation, sculpture and poetry, often employing word games, irony, absurdity and jokes. Her work can be described as silly and tasteless examples of conceptual art.