Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

OPEN ART Project on art which has got outside

The OPEN Art Project, organised by two Kraków-based higher-education institutions – the Academy of Fine Arts (ASP) and the University of Economics (UEK), is to provide the audience with the experience which can be placed somewhere between visual and performance arts, music, acoustics, optics, and kinetics. Thanks to a wide range of events on the agenda (theatre plays, performances, interventions, concerts, workshops, and lectures) this year’s edition of the project has attracted huge interest.

Contemporary Lynx has talked to the curators of an exhibition showcasing interdisciplinary student projects – Margaryta Vladimirova and Emilia Kutrzeba, about inspiration, the essence of the project, challenges the organisers had to face, and numerous accompanying events.

Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

Oliwia Kaczmarzewska: How would you define the openness of the festival demonstrated in the title?  

Margaryta Vladimirova: The event’s name, Open Eyes Art Festival evolved from the name of a congress, Open Eyes Economy Summit, and in this context, it refers to opening your eyes, to adopting a new point of view on the economy and the related cultural values. Yet the artistic interpretation is more appealing to me.

“Art has got out well” is the motto of the first edition. The art got outside the Academy, has become visible, audible, and discernible. Various institutional, interpersonal, artistic, academic and business cooperation paths have also been discovered and paved. As part of the festival, several dozen events took place, for example an interdisciplinary exhibition of student projects OPEN ART, which I curated with Emilia Kutrzeba.

OK: How did the openness translate into the exhibition you curated.

MV: “The “openness” in the title of the exhibition of multidisciplinary student projects OPEN ART was a programme in itself, a synonym of freedom and independence of statements made by the Academy’s students. The exhibition was preceded by an open-call, as part of which artists studying at the ASP could enjoy the freedom in the selection of the topic and the form of artistic expression. The only condition was the collaboration between faculties and universities. In practice, it meant that they were meant to be team and interdisciplinary projects. The jury selected from the submitted applications 25 student projects which obtained funding and the possibility to be showcased in the city space – in a four-storey building at 15a Kopernika St. and at the campus of the University of Economics. 

The approach of the exhibition organisers – the Academy of Fine Arts and the University of Economics – was also open. They did their best to provide holistic conditions for the students to embark on creative work. Through the open call, they motivated the students to cooperate with one another and conceptualise their ideas. It is also worth noting the importance of financial, content-related, organisational and publicity support provided by ASP and UEK with a view to facilitating the implementation and demonstration of art projects. This approach of these higher-education institutions, full of trust and support to students’ initiatives, was evident at every stage of preparation and holding the OPEN ART event.

As curators, we vividly experienced the openness in the direct cooperation with students. Meetings and joint activities gave us joy and satisfaction. We enjoyed the enthusiasm, inventiveness, flexibility, wisdom, and readiness to reach a compromise on the part of the students. It was nice to observe the exchange of experience and mutual inspiration among the artists, during meeting at the corridors in these festival circumstances, and the need to act jointly in a shared space.  

In most general terms, the art itself and the idea of creative expression are the essence of openness. Art is free to take up vital topics, the small ones and the big ones, and to search for the most accurate and moving forms. It is free from the imposed boundaries of disciplines, it may depict scientific, social, ecological, and political issues in a specific and exciting way.

Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

OK: What is the origin of the festival? When and in what circumstances the idea for it was born?

Emilia Kutrzeba: The Festival had travelled a long way before it assumed the form we could experience this year. The Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków has been cooperating with the Open Eyes Economy Summit and with the Open Eyes Festival co-created by the representatives of the movement for several years now. In 2021, the cooperation was intensified. The Academy of Fine Arts has become the co-organiser of the event, and its new formula was renamed as the Open Eyes Art Festival. In collaboration with the Foundation of Economy and Public Administration, the Nowa Huta Cultural Centre, and the artistic agency called Przedsiębiorstwo Społeczne Agencja Artystyczna GAP works were commenced on the organisation of festival events. There were a lot of them this year, including 30 various artistic undertakings in over 20 locations.

Margarita: I believe that in Kraków we are experiencing a shortage of visual arts presentations in a festival and international formula. A few foundations are doing an amazing job, but it is difficult to reach the scale and rank of film, music, an literary festivals organised in Kraków. I can’t say if the organisers of the festival were aware of the situation, but surely it is a response to this demand – and all the more so I am glad that, as a curator of the ASP Gallery, I was able to organise three exhibitions as part of the festival, and supervise the OPEN ART project.

Open Art_Open Eyes Art Festival from ASP w Krakowie on Vimeo.

OK: What is the essence of the OPEN ART project? What is the most important to you in this project?

Emilia: The essence of the project can be expressed in one word – “cooperation”. As for the Open Art exhibition, it was planned as cooperation between the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and the Cracow University of Economics, already at the open call stage, and as part of the “Art at the UEK” project implemented by the University. That is why the festival gave the audience the possibility to experience art in unconventional spaces, and supported artistic activities of young creators.

What was also vital to us it was the cooperation with a significant group of students, the possibility to get to know their work methods and observe how they engage in bringing their ideas to life. During the opening night of the exhibition, artists and visitors could exchange their experience, and discuss the final form of exposition. It is a huge success that we have managed to create a space that favours such exchange of opinions, temperaments and sensitivity outside the familiar Academy.

Margarita: I am guided by the idea of supporting cooperation between students outside the boundaries of their fields of study. Interdisciplinary projects are powerful tools in every sphere – social studies, sciences, art, or music. The 21st century is very complex in terms of the available knowledge, technology, and communications. To grasp the surrounding reality, we turn to extreme specialisation. That is why we are losing a broader perspective, it is increasingly difficult for us to connect the dots, move outside the imposed framework, notice mutual interrelations, and get inspired. Therefore, it is vital for the students to have conditions for the exchange of experience and develop inter-faculty and inter-university projects. Such activities teach us to communicate beyond divisions and differences in outlooks on life, languages, and work methods. Such meetings help me understand communication codes, and I can take a look at the fascinating world of a programmer, sculptor, economist, art conservator, engineer, musician, or a designer. This can open new horizons, provide new perspectives, teach us to be humble, and become an inspiration to cooperate.

Open Art Project, Cracow,Vira Kosina, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, Cracow, Vira Kosina, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

OK: Where did the non-obvious choice of the two locations of the exhibitions come from?

Emilia: OPEN ART took over the unconventional spaces of the campus of the University of Economics and the former hospital in the Wesoła District (15A Kopernika St.). Each of the places has a history of its presence at the festival. As we’ve already mentioned – the cooperation with the Cracow University of Economics designated one of the locations for showcasing our works.

The University Campus is not an obvious exhibition space, but it brings together large groups of students who had an opportunity to see how art has been incorporated into the architecture of the place they visit on a daily basis.

Margarita: On the other hand a very important discussion about the future of Wesoła has been held in Kraków for several years now. Until recently the space was occupied by Jagiellonian University hospitals which were moved to other buildings. The Vice-Chancellor of the ASP, Prof. Andrzej Bednarczyk takes part in the debated on the future of the place. The Academy wishes to engage in the revival of Wesoła for culture and art purposes. That’s why we were looking forward to the perspective of developing Wesoła artistically as part of the OPEN ART. Young artists were given a chance to showcase and promote their creative work in a place of such a great significance for the city.

In general, the non-obvious choice of exhibitions was at the same time a way to provoke and mobilise all entities engaged in the Open Space – organisers, partners, artists, and curators. It was a challenge to leave the Academy and enter an unknown,  empty, and untamed space which had not been related to art before. It was a great adventure!

OK: The programme of the OPEN ART was supplemented with a lot of accompanying events – can you tell me about them briefly?

Emilia: We sometimes joke that the Open Art is a festival within a festival. In addition to the designs of exhibitions, the artist could also propose accompanying events. The range of the programme was spectacular, from techno music concerts, through theatre plays to discussions about the theory of art. We also organised meetings with projects authors, which were a chance to learn more about the story behind the exhibitions. This wide selection of proposals was put together into a programme taking up the entire month during which the exhibitions were opened!

There was so much to choose from that everyone could decide to take part in an event which corresponded best to their interests. Without doubt, a very interesting experience was a concert of plants organised at the UEK as part of the TRANSFER project by: Karolina Kowalska, Lena Witkowska, and Monika Krzynówek. Other spectacular events we can recall are performances which were staged as part of theatre projects: Szekspir: makieta (Mira Mańka/Anna Rogóż) and Porcje 2.0 (Anna Oramus/Zdenka Pszczołowska). The opening and closing of OPEN ART was accompanied by a concert by DUKT which hypnotised the audience with their music which enriched the visual narrative of the OUTPUT exhibition (Filip Czaja, Erwin Jeneralczyk, Sylwia Marszałek-Jeneralczyk). 

Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

OK: Who was the project addressed to? Students? Young people, or just the opposite?  

Margarita: Young people were the most numerous group. The shape and size of the audience was changing and growing like fractals – students who took part in the Open Art, spread the word to other students, their friends and relatives. The audience at the University of Economics was mainly composed of students, but also lecturers and administration staff members. As for statistical data regarding encounters with art objects and installations presented as part of OPEN ART at the UEK campus, they were mostly accidental viewers, whose daily routines and the comfort of a familiar space were disturbed through a clash with art surprising them from behind the corner, viewers who had to face this art, whether they liked it or not. 

Emilia: The project was also widely publicised in the city space, and it was difficult not to notice magenta posters and banners promoting the exhibitions. In addition, the viewers were attracted by the Wesoła district itself and greatly interested in the story behind the place.

OK: Some of the projects implemented as part of the festival required engagement from the audience. How do viewers respond to invitations to take part in art projects? Do they really want and feel the need to be part of them?

Margarita: A similar question was asked by the authors of the OUT PUT project we have mentioned. In addition to an intermedia installation, they created a narrative game as part of their exhibition. Viewers-players answered “yes” or “no” to questions, and an algorithm created their personality profiles, or avatars which were further printed. Over 500 people played the game, and the printed profiles of visitors, together with their characteristics became part of the exhibition and were updated on an ongoing basis.

Emilia: Another participatory project engaging recipients was the Podwodna Partia Syrenek [Underwater Mermaids’ Party] (Jakub Sikorski, Julia Szczerbowska, Anna Zuzela). The authors of the exhibition were persuading the visitors to join the ranks of an underwater political party. To sign in the PPS, it was enough to put on a prepared mermaid costume and take a photo in an enormous shell with a pearl. This way an Instagram archive of people who visited the exhibition was created. 

Margarita: The OPEN ART project enjoyed great popularity. The visitors came in crowds to the exhibition at the UEK campus, and at 15A Kopernika Street. On the opening night of the exhibition, people were queueing in front of individual halls and objects. We received an enthusiastic feedback from the recipients representing various circles. Apart from participating in accompanying events, we provided guided tours of the exhibition to school and university students.

Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

OK: What conclusions did you make after the project was completed? What would you like to change?

Margarita: It was a very positive source of experience in curating and implementing projects. We’re happy about the course and the results of cooperation with students – on our part, the gratitude and awe for amazing works and fruitful, crazy cooperation!

Emilia: We have some ideal about how to make the organisation and project delivery more efficient, as early as at the open call stage, to which we would like to prepare students better. Our dream is to run a training programme which would teach them how to formulate and write concepts and scripts of the projects. We’d like to hold meetings after which students would be able to implement project works outside the Academy in the future. We want to provide tools they could use while preparing to the open call, so that the jury, the curators would be able to read their concepts, ideas and proposals as accurately as possible. During this year’s edition, we had to guess a lot of issues, and our idea of proposals not always corresponded to the form to be created during the exhibition. We wanted to place emphasis on an effective and efficient communication between artists and curators, by which we mean a specific imagery and the compatibility of thought and its realisation.

Margarita: My dream is to make the OPEN ART an international project. A contact with other educational centres is always a powerful and developing experience for students.  The Academy cooperates with a lot of universities worldwide. Perhaps we will manage to foster joint activities and exchange of experience between students on the occasion of demonstrating projects as part of the OPEN ART. It believe it is achievable, but requires strategic activities, planning, time, and people to work.

OK: What surprised you in this project? 

Emilia: No sketches were required in the submissions, though some students sent in their visualisations, but it was a small proportion of projects, that is why we were surprised by the physical form of concepts, of which we had previously had only a theoretical notion, a concept only. Based on these conceptions, we had to arrange and plan the entire exhibition. The interior of former hospital at 15A Kopernika St. and the campus of the University of Economics made a huge impression on us during the first on-site visits – it was a mixture of fascination and a sense of being overwhelmed. The number of rooms, pavilions, passages, floors, labyrinths, the size, the diversity of interiors and their equipment. How to grasp which floor we are in, how to interpret the technical spatial plan? In time, as we were going deeper in the artists’ concepts and “settling in” both at the UEK and in Wesoła Street, we managed to choose a harmonious place for each project.

Margarita: At the stage of assigning space for individual projects, we tried to get the feel of the essence of concepts, we talked to the artists, and searched for the right solutions, groping in the dark a bit. Our greatest surprise was the fact that we trusted each other, and it worked! We were fascinated how the students were able to adapt to the conditions of the space they were assigned, and respond to it creatively. It was a positive surprise that, for each project, we managed to select appropriate space, and the students managed to bring their creative and ingenious projects alive in the often problematic locations they were imposed.

We were also amazed by the diversity of the ways the open call was interpreted. Some students submitted project which constituted an open call within an open call, putting themselves in curators’ shoes and creating a type of box within a box within a box … (Trzeba iść – Got to go; Szukam miejsca, w którym się zaczynam – Searching for a Place I Begin in; Tkana przestrzeń – Woven Space), while others provided site specific process-related exhibitions (Tkana przestrzeń). The authors of Transfer planned residencies in the bosom of nature for themselves, to focus on the leitmotif of their project – silence. The creators of Podwodna Partia Syrenek established a political party and encouraged visitors to join them with a slogan “Comrade! Put on a shiny majestic tail and join the land of eternal happiness!”

Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, vernissage, Cracow, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

OK: The project is planned as a recurring event. Have you got any ideas for new editions?

Margarita: This year’s edition was a flagship undertaking as part of the Open Eyes Art Festival, and we a making every effort to prepare a new edition, the next open call, and to be able to present student projects outside the Academy. We would like to maintain the interdisciplinary form of the open call which will allow us to search for innovative solutions and to shuffle the faculties of the Academy of Fine Arts. We are keeping our fingers crossed for next year’s edition! The students who participated in the exhibition this year have already started to prepare projects for the next open call! I’d like to encourage students from Poland and abroad to get involved in inter-university and interdisciplinary projects with students of the ASP in Kraków. We will be happy to help establish contacts and search for co-participants on our side.

Emilia: We wish to stress the importance of students’ own artistic expression, free from the scary questions whether the professors will appreciate the works. Will they be received well at the Academy? Through their participation in the Open Art, students will have a chance to bring their ideas to life – and that is what we want to encourage.

Interviewed by Oliwia Kaczmarzewska

Open Art Project, Cracow, Vira Kosina, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.
Open Art Project, Cracow, Vira Kosina, courtesy by the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow.

Return to the homepage

This might interest you