Defense Mechanism


Video: 25:00 min, 16:9, colour, sound, Romanian with English or German subtitles, edition of 5, II

6 arrangements: 6 photographs, each 24 × 30 cm, accompanied by 6 texts on paper, each 29.7 × 21 cm, edition of 5, II

The video work Defense Mechanism deals with two possible meanings of the concept and unites them. The first is a subconscious, almost uncontrollable defense mechanism, which kicks in when people are confronted with their supposed faults. One either tries to find explanations for one’s own behaviour, or one denies it completely. Defense mechanisms can take on different forms which most psychologists and psychiatrists have to manage. The second describes a defense mechanism with a hierarchical design, controlled down to the smallest detail: the military. Trained with weapons, there is – at first glance – no room for emotions. Jankowski brings these two different levels together figuratively in his work. A special unit of the Romanian military forces its way into a flat. They secure it and finally realize that they are in a psychotherapist’s room. The psychotherapist enters and starts a session with the armed soldiers.

They begin with questions about security, defense, cohesion, fear, and the military’s poor public image, leading to questions about art and its freedom. In this way, both spheres – the individual and the collective – come together. The balance between them must be maintained with each daily decision and
represents a foundation on which cohesion within society is based. In addition to the visual element, the voice of another therapist interrupts the scene and analyses the situation from off camera. As she is speaking, we can see objects from around the therapist’s room. The session ends before an agreement
between the psychotherapist and the military unit is reached. The therapist looks at the time and says goodbye, the special unit withdraws, and the observer stays for a moment between the two fronts.

In this work, Christian Jankowski combines images of dioramas, he photographed at the National Military Museum Bucharest, with descriptions of different psychological defense mechanisms, as found on popular health websites. Observers are invited to connect in their minds the described psychological processes with military scenes portrayed by life-size dolls – possibly finding themselves on one of the battlefields.

Christian Jankowski I Defense Mechanism I Videostill 2-1

Videostill, Defense Mechanism, 2021


Installation view of the Defense Mechanism dioramas at the exhibition Defense Mechanism, Goethe Institute Bucharest, 2021. Photo credit: Petre Fall