Artur Gutowski

Artur Gutowski

Poland, born in 1990

Topeng Moyet (literally “masked monkey”) is a project centred on the “monkey shows” of Indonesia, which consist in exhibiting various primates trained to perform acrobatic numbers, such as driving a motorbike, using a mobile telephone, or saluting like a soldier. Following pressure from animal rights organizations, this street art is in the process of being banned throughout Southeast Asia. Wearing masks made from doll’s heads, the monkeys are retired after just five years; injured and traumatized, those that did not die on tour end their days tied to a tree in their owner’s garden. Shot in Surabaya when the practice was not yet forbidden, Gutowski’s photographs revisit the codes of the traditional portrait, thus further enhancing the anthropomorphic character of these strange performances. The Polish photographer poses the monkeys in full costume, tightly framed against a black background, so they resemble figures in an open-air theatre waiting for the curtain to rise. The critical distance apparent in this gallery of portraits with respect to the coercive nature of an entertainment intended oddly enough primarily for children is denoted by the invariable presence of chains behind each masked figure.


The Polish National Film, Television and Theater School in Łódź, Poland, since 2010
Universitas Kristen Petra in Surabaya, Indonesia, 2013 – 2014



Artur Gutowski, from the series Topeng Monyet, 2014
Inkjet prints
50 x 33 cm
© Artur Gutowski

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