The picture of the culture of our times is difficult to grasp. Each artist individually is like a letter building the word, and these in turn are part of the complete and closed sentence. There are various currents/trends, movements, and styles/modes which interact with and influence one another. From the broader perspective, however, there is this interesting common denominator that defines the art of a given place and a given time. When trying to establish
a picture of the Polish art, very helpful seem to be the presentations focusing on the specific issues. Sometimes there are also attempts at reflecting and summing up the phenomenon or the generation of the artists. Such exhibitions are rare, too rare. It is because they require the courage and determination. Even more rarely, a foreign institution undertakes to present the Polish current art. These presentations are additionally interesting, since they look at the Polish scene from a different perspective. They accentuate different elements.
What is the current nature of the young Polish art? Can we say that the direction of its development is coherent? How does the viewer see it in Poland, and how abroad? Creating the Contemporary Lynx, we often ask these questions to ourselves.
A few weeks ago we posted the interview with Stefanie Kreuzer, the curator of the exhibition Twisted Entities in Leverkusen. Having in mind the above-mentioned questions, we believe that this already ending exhibition at the Museum Morsbroich is worth examining a little closer.
The average living room that is easy to find in many Polish homes (video installation by Zuzanna Janin In Between [Mothers and Daughters],2006). A sofa, a bedspread, a dresser next to it, a lamp and across from it – a TV set. There is nothing distinctive about this story. Everyone knows it from his/her own flat. It is warm, quiet, cozy – a little boring. The television is turned on. It is broadcasting a programme and the television waves are hypnotizing and moving us into the world of family relationships. Apparently, there is nothing distinctive about these relationships either, but… The grandmother, the mother and the daughter – three generations of women talk about their relationships. These are shown inside out and broken down into the basic elements. Interactions are not always easy and pleasant. Sometimes they hurt; reveal the changes in the family relationships, generation-related changes in the consciousness and changes in the relationships with the environment. The only thing that is unchangeable is the role of a woman in the society. Regardless of the generation, the story loops back. From one hand, for the people who are afraid of changes it brings relief, from the other, for those who want something more it evokes uncertainty, doubt or rebellion. The opposition grows over time. Our disagreement with the silence, with the polished and powdered life is more and more expanding. A scream escaping our lips. On the wave of it and the surging sounds, we move (being still hypnotized, we follow the dream rules, or rather the lack of them) to the strange, isolated room. White walls and the white light surround both us and the cluster of microphones that do not pick up the sound but actually produce it (The End of the Radio by Konrad Smoleński). Words, sounds that are indistinguishable and unverifiable for us. After some time, the spiral and cacophony of the information becomes unbearable. Too different, too contradictory, too persistent. By destroying the existing, harmonious situation – it would seem, the harmonious reality – by multiplying the sounds, Smoleński evokes in the audience the feeling of anxiety, exasperation and disagreement with their remaining in the same state. So, we run away to the next room. But here…
…there is yet another surprise awaiting us. Wall units that we know from our childhood have been bent, deformed and reduced (Jan Mioduszewski, Cabinet with bedclothes box from the set Odra). Their three-dimensionality has become an illusion, a mirage that has survived in our memories since the time of the previous political system. Until now, the traces of socialism have been very much present in our society. We can encounter them at any time: in the street, at home, in our mentality. With the passing of time however, in contact with reality, they have lost their initial value. Although at first glance they deceive and beguile us with their shapes, after a while they appear to be dummies, something unnatural and perverted. In the time of globalization and mass media dominance the boundary between truth and falsehood is very thin. Sometimes it is even hard to notice. There is no one truth, the only right way. The frames that used to specifically define the concepts and values have been erased. The distinction between the sacred and the profane, between the copy and the original has disappeared. The original work of art – what does it really mean? Let’s have a look at the work of Honza Zamojski Raz Dwa Raz Dwa (One Two One Two). It is a photocopier – nothing more nothing less. When we get closer, a photocell activates the copier. One after another – he process is endless – the copies of the book opened on the reproduction of the Christ sculpture are being printed. Something that once belonged to the sacred sphere has been secularized. The identity of the presentation has been blurred. Can we, in this situation, talk about the original at all? If yes, in what stage of presenting/reproducing we come across it? Or maybe each additional copy makes a unique and separate entity? It is impossible to untangle this Gordian knot. Thus, in this malaise we must look for the strength and the driving force for our future work. It seems that Robert Kuśmirowski is exactly at this stage. In his installation, he directly refers to Andy Warhol’s factory. Frequently cited symbol of postmodernism is being duplicated over and over again (in this case, it is the Campbell’s soup can). The initial form of the original does not exist. The original – if we may use the term – that we deal with currently comprises each individual activity and action, even if the effect is “the quotation of the quote.” It is the endless layers spiral. “We are locked in the world that endlessly quotes everything, in the endless quote called the world”.1
This point of view is also a turning point in the way we perceive the human nature and the human relationships. Like in Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris (Zuzanna Janin’s installation Pasygraphy. Solaris I is referring to the novel) it is difficult to distinguish the human being from the beings that resemble the people only materially. Like Lem’s indeterminable, neither living nor dead matter, the surrounding world provides us with more and more space and opportunities. It gives us more and more pictures that are our materialized dreams, fears, perceptions and memories. It frequently surprises us. It forms hypnotizing, breath-taking creations right before our eyes. From one hand these creations are copies, the duplicates of the “ideas,” from the other they are unique and finite forms. The artists are scanning the reality and the existing relations, “the processes separated from the rest of the mind, enclosed, suppressed, walled in, sore spots of the memory”.2 In their artworks, like in a distorting mirror, we can see our misrepresented selves, “our own monstrous ugliness, our own buffoonery and shame, magnified as if it was under a microscope”3 – for this purpose we do not need to “conquer the cosmos.”
The Twisted Entities exhibition did not aspire to summarize the current Polish art. It was merely to emphasize certain characteristic elements that do exist in the output of Polish artists. The works for the exhibition had been selected accordingly. In these artworks we can find a very strong tendency for trying to define the reality we live in, for analyzing the basic mechanisms and forms. Very often this exploring and searching for the answer, takes the artists through the deconstruction of what exists, its deformation and breaking down into the basic elements. Quite often it requires the endless copying, scanning of the real nature of the existing “things.”
1 Thomas Bernhard, Zaburzanie, Czytelnik, Warszawa 2009, p. 176. (Thomas Bernhard, Gargoyles (Verstörung, 1967), translated by Richard and Clara Winston (1970)
2 Stanislaw Lem, Solaris, Warszawa 1963, p. 86.