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Dorota Mytych

Mutatis Mutandis  2005

single-channel digital video, black and white, silent

1:21 minutes

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds provided by the Coe and Mordant families, 2009

2009.145

About the Artwork

Mutatis Mutandis is a video replication of a controversial WWII photograph of a soldier taking aim at a cowering mother and child. Dorota Mytych has drawn this confronting photograph in two versions, using dry tea leaves on white paper. In one version, the soldier aims his rifle at the mother and child who huddle before him. In a sweep of wind, the leaves disperse and reorganise in an alternate image, where the soldier is aiming away from the mother and child, appearing to be protecting or defending them.

The two opposing versions have been animated by Mytych in a video loop, the shift between them between punctuated by the tea leaves blowing away and reforming as the alternate image. The loop’s equivocation between heroism and terrorism mirrors the original photograph’s own contested history and its use as evidence of offence or defence in opposing interpretations of WWII history. ‘Mutatis mutandis’ is a legal and philosophical term used to acknowledge difference, or to note the application of mutually understood changes. The term’s implication of a mutual agreement of difference is at odds with the histories of both the original image and Mytych’s revisioning, which animates the differing interpretations of conflict harboured in a single photograph. Mytych has said of the work: ‘By using video as a canvas for drawings, I subvert both the historical event and its photographic incarnation.’ In Mutatis Mutandis she foregrounds not only the moral ambiguities inherent in armed conflict but also in the interpretation of historical events.

I draw and redraw the familiar image in an endless loop, inverting at the same time the position of the shooter and his victims, to interrogate an image that, as other images of trauma, becomes a silent monument.

Dorota Mytych, 2009

Dorota Mytych

– About the artist

Born 1970, Elblag, Poland. Lives and works Melbourne, Australia, and Europe.


Dorota Mytych is a multidisciplinary artist who works with painting, drawing, sculpture and installation as well as video. Her work has been exhibited widely in Australia and overseas. Selected group exhibitions include McClelland Sculpture Survey & Award 2014, McClelland Gallery & Sculpture Park, Victoria (2014); Experimenta Utopia Now, International Biennial of Media Art, BlackBox, The Arts Centre, Melbourne (2010); I Walk the Line: New Australian Drawing, MCA, Sydney (2009); The more you ignore me the closer I get, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane (2009); Scanned and Drawn, Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale (2009); Building Legacy – Drawing, Bemis Centre for Contemporary Art, Omaha (2007). 

Selected solo exhibitions include Makeshift Revolutions, Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne (2012); Displacing the Familiar, Nellie Castan Gallery, Melbourne (2010); Tea Leaf Reading, Stills Gallery, Sydney (2009); X Anniversary, Linden Centre for Contemporary Arts, Melbourne (2007); Mutatis Mutandis, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2006); and Stanczyk Jester, Galeria El, Elblag (2004).

Mytych was artist-in-residence at the Roswell Museum and Art Centre, USA in 2010, and in Switzerland, as part of the Residency Stein am Rhein, in 2009. She received a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2007. Mytych’s work is held in a number of private collections in The Netherlands, Poland, UK, Germany, USA and Italy. Her work is also held by Artbank, Sydney; Victoria Legal Aid Collection; and Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Queensland.

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