Last Friday a new exhibition “I Have A Dream” was opened at the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki. Now, when the movements of indignants aiming at the social and political changes arise and get stronger , the group of international artists (Stefan Constantinescu, Christoph Draeger, Regina José Galindo, Tomasz Kozak, Zuzanna Janin, NUG, Adrian Paci, Société Réaliste, Reynold Reynolds, Józef Robakowski, Alicja Żebrowska) presents its own point of view on these problems in Thessaloniki. This new video art exhibition presents works concentrating on the ideas of changes and revolutions. Furthermore, it takes place in Greece – the nerve centre of the economical crisis in European Union. In these circumstances, we had the opportunity to talk to Agnieszka Rayzacher who is the curator of “I have a dream” exhibition which runs from March 29th until May 31st.
– The third edition of “I have a dream” exhibition will be opened on March 29th. Each subsequent edition is slightly modified, or rather broadened by new artists with whom you worked on your previous lokal_30 projects. However, you have never presented them together from this angle. Could you tell us about the beginnings of this exhibition? Can you point to one direct impulse that led to its organisation.
Everything begun with a proposal of organising an exhibition in the Wrocław Contemporary Museum. The subject came up as a result of observations of what goes on in the world, mostly in the social sphere. We are witnessing a breakthrough – the crisis results in a series of changes, practically in all spheres, starting from social behaviour, style and ways of life, through moral and ethical issues and worldview changes. But coming back to the moment when the concept of the exhibition was created – it was crystallised after my journey to Madrid in winter 2012, where I could experience the atmosphere first hand. Earlier, in May 2011 I went to Barcelona, I arrived there when the Plaça de Catalunya protests begun. Of course I was an observer there, but in such situations it is very easy to become a participant. I participated mentally, for sure. My close cooperation with Zuzanna Janin was another impulse; she is an artist who responded very vehemently to the situation, she became a part of the Indignants Movement. My contact with her, our conversations, made me think about artists’ sensitivity to such momentous events.
– The title of the exhibition refers to the words of Martin Luther King. Could you tell us a bit more, could you present us the idea behind the exhibition ?
I HAVE A DREAM concentrates around the idea of revolution and its relation with reality – this is an exhibition about revolution, without pronouncing this used-up word aloud. Instead, I wish to concentrate on the constant necessity to change, which, according to Heraclitus is the most significant element in the world, it is a driving force and it gives rise to life, where does that energy come from, this Heraclian fire? For artists , beginning with the futurists, Dadaists, the avant-garde, the participants of Fluxus and other utopians of 20th century, the feeling of crisis, which makes them shun the known order and create a vision of a new one, was the most significant. The critical moment releases a potential for the creation of theories and movements. We know that the current crisis released a potential of change.
– Your project will be now shown in Thessaloniki (Greece), a country which has been at the centre of the crisis in the European Union. It is a place of violent and ongoing changes and social upheavals. The works will be presented in a new, more visceral and direct context than so far. What are your expectations when it comes to their impact in Greece and the reactions of visitors there. Did you have any feedback so far?
It is true that the presentation of the exhibition in Greece gives it a new meaning, I am under the impression that only bits of the actual atmosphere in the country reach Poland. We have an unclear knowledge of what is really happening there and what are the actual threats for the system. I consider myself lucky to be able to show I HAVE A DREAM there. The exhibition is not open yet, so I don’t have any visitor reactions. I know that it was very interesting for the curators from the Modern Art Centre, Theodore Markoglou and Areti Leopoulou, who asked me if they could show the exhibition in Thessaloniki, when it was still open in Wrocław Contemporary Museum. You may say that the Greeks are a great target audience for this exhibition….As about the reaction of the Greek audience, I don’t expect an unanimous applause. It is not a comment on social or political situation, that for me is not what art. should do. The works on the exhibition refer to the situation of crisis and the need for a revolt, but in a varied way. Not all of them are rebellious in nature – some of them are more like video-essays, for example the work by Tomasz Kozak, who presents the subject of change from a philosophical perspective. While Reynold Reynolds with his Last Day of the Republic poses the question about the meaning of transformation and about its price and Société Réaliste conducts a deep, unconventional analysis of capitalism. To be honest if someone comes to the Centre of Modern Art in Thessaloniki to see a set of works on revolution and rebellion, they might leave disappointed…
– Would you be able to point out what is the aim of the changes postulated by the artists and what would they be like? What is the “dream” which the people want?
The invited artists communicate in their works the need to break away from the old order and ideology. Many of the works on show were created before 2011 – but it is not the date that counts, but the intention, or rather the artists’ extraordinary intuition, who, while observing the reality around, visualise in their works the premonition of a change. So it is not about pointing out what or how should change, but about starting a discussion on change itself and our striving towards it. In her video-installation Majka From the Movie, Zuzanna Janin takes up this subject on many levels – cultural, historical, political, social creating a work which would be a certain reflection of pursuits and perspectives people set for themselves on the last 45 years, starting from May 1968 in Paris. A lot has changed since then, but has it really? Aren’t some of the postulates of the rebels of the 1960s still pertinent? Poland went through a political transformation and the economic situation changed, but the wish of the citizens to decide freely about their life has not lost its pertinence. Although there is no oppression and fear, authorities still want to tell us how we should act what is moral and what is not. Of course in Spain or Greece their dreams and problems are different – after years of prosperous life people feel deeply disappointed. Poles had less, so in the time of crisis we do not experience such dramatic differences.
– Isn’t the current situation presented in the works more as an evolution rather than a revolution?
Yes, as I’ve mentioned before those works are very different from each other – they show both open rebellion, and a more reflective stance. I believe that what we now perceive as an evolution, a slow change, in 10-20 years will look like a revolution to us, a certain revolt in the general worldview and in our own lives. This revolt pertains to many areas of life, so it cannot happen overnight. Also, no one wants to spill blood, we have suffered enough in 20th century. I think that through new methods of communication this evolution is much quicker than it was 50 years ago.
– What drew my attention is the different ways social and political matters are approached by artists of the older and younger generation. The former focus on concrete situations/events, local upheavals, the latter touch upon more general topics, such as physicality, sexuality, death, finding one’s place in the era of ubiquitous capitalism. Do you think that at the moment, those deeply buried problems , mattes of sexuality, the feeling of being lost in the post-modern world are the topics which trigger the need for change? For revolution?
As I said, I hope we will not witness a revolution in the literal sense, although it is terrifying to observe the radicalisation of the society, especially the radicalisation and the increasing significance of conservatism. Paradoxically, it is there that I see a lot of the aggression which is characteristic of the revolutionary movements, much more so than on the side of the Indignants Movement , who go to the streets, but only to protest on them or to block them, and not in order to beat people up. A nice example of this positive energy, which cannot be ignored, is the recent flash mob at the job centre in Spain.
– Until very recently Polish critical art was very much connected with Polish reality, burdened by war experiences and socialism, various local tensions and absurdities in the relationship between the state and the citizen. All this, however, stayed within the boarders of the country. Can we say that now Polish artists are finally free of that burden and that despite the visible local references they comment on universal issues?
I think that good art always refers to problems and matters which are universal. Even if the artist evokes some private matters, it can be done in such a manner that his privacy becomes universalised. In my opinion this makes sense – talking about something which pertains to us all while referring to a seemingly local problem or story, which happened here and not anywhere else. I think that the tension between the state and the citizen is a universal issue, not to mention the more serious matters such as the Holocaust, Jewish matters, or generally the issues of exclusion. The language of modern visual art gives such vast (practically unlimited) opportunities that the message may reach a broader group of people, rather than being heard only by e.g. the Albanians, who were presented by Adrian Paci in his video Turn on.
Agnieszka Rayzacher: art-critic, curator and director of lokal 30
translation: Ewa Tomankiewicz