Zatorski + Zatorski trained at Scottish art schools and are collaborative artists and life partners working in lens-based media, installation, found object sculpture and performance. They have exhibited widely, abroad and in the UK, including Tate Britain, Royal Academy, Whitechapel Gallery and the National Gallery of Scotland.
Drawing from the surrealist fascination with dreams and the unconscious mind, the artists often create carefully staged settings into which they juxtapose potent archetypal symbols or motifs and then observe as actions and ideas are left free to present themselves: the stories unscripted and narratives self–generating*.
Z+Z are preoccupied with notions of mortality, belief and the soul. A fascination with transience and collective belief systems led to residencies in sacred spaces, including Durham Cathedral. Following this they restored a 19th century historic 100ft Dutch sailing ship De Walvisch (The whale) in which they live and work. Z+Z’s over two decades of collaborative practice can be fairly neatly spliced into a pre and post De Walvisch.
Arguably the first church was the Arc and indeed the word nave in the church is derived from the latin navis (ship). The parallels between church and ship are abundant; one the saviour of souls, the other the saviour of the corporeal and so the transition from churches to ships was a natural one for Z+Z. Foucault coined ships, in an article “of other spaces” as hetrotopias : spaces which are transforming, intense, disturbing even. He considered the ship the utmost of these hetrotopia as it stands not only for the affirmation of difference but as a means to escape from authoritarianism and repression. A potent symbol to work within therefore, especially today.
Z+Z consider De Walvisch a constantly evolving art installation that they inhabit and into which they construct real and imagined situations and settings from which they make art, amongst which they hold their Salons*. Objects from their collections aboard become props or players in their work and are then absorbed back into the fabric of the ship*, adding to the radiation of ideas.
“A sailing ship is the embodiment of our fantasies and fragility, a time machine to convene with the antediluvianhuman desire to go between worlds, to be free. It has a transformative effect on people, even moored she is in constant flux with the tide, wind, sunlight and even the mass of ourselves and what we bring to her. This flux and chaos allows chance to communicate, creating a door for the unconscious and the environment to enter our work. She is a continual reminder of the thin layer between us and oblivion. A massive memento mori”
Z+Z embrace the possibilities presented by the digital world with their lens based works, but they believe we become disconnected from the material world at our peril. They coined the term Radical physicalism in 2020 during lockdown, to describe the growth swell they observed of diverse independent movements amongst artists to re-balance worlds and reclaim the material physical reality in art production and appreciation. They held a Salon of Radical Physicalism aboard their ship in June 2022, and invited artists to react to the theme.
* Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their Scottish Art school degrees are in Drawing and Painting, Z+Z’s lens-based works have more to do with the language of painting than of photography. Often they print photographic works on heavy rag paper with a giclee process to move the artwork further towards painting, in part to balance the repulsion or attraction of flesh/ sinew. Other times it’s that the aesthetic or the pursuance of the sublime simply demands it. Sometimes a situation or subject they have constructed with the ship needs to be presented with photographic realism (e.g C-type prints), as although its feet are firmly in the unconscious mind, the viewer is then reminded that it existed in the real world, within the ship.
*The Salons are curated dinners of up to fifty with performances and art installed in and around the ship, to which Z+Z invite diverse protagonists from the worlds of art, music, science, literature, media, engineering and academia. Z+Z introduce everyone to everyone individually at the table and they consider it a Relational Aesthetics experiment; guests become Salon members and in turn nominate future participants. Z+Z first started the Salon at their Hoxton square studio in 2007.
*Born of the collaborative nature of sailing a ship , in 2013 Zatorski + Zatorski founded the not-for-profit production company The Cultureship to produce, commission and curate high-impact artworks with a maritime context. This lead to Z+Z curating the Thames Festival, performing as part the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and producing a major artwork for the Whitstable Biennale.
Zatorski + Zatorski can be reached here:
mail at zatorskiandzatorski dot com