artluk nr 1-2/2019

Jacek Kasprzycki

The first La Biennale di Venezia took place in 1895 and hosted an exhibition of predominantly decorative art. It is the oldest recurrent event of that kind in the world. At the beginning of the 20th century the Biennale gained attention outside Italy. Foreign national pavilions have been appearing on the premises of Giardini since 1907. After the First World War contemporary art has started to become a primary focus of the event. History of the Biennale is as turbulent as exhibitions depicting contemporary “interesting times”. That is what artists have been showing and describing at previous Biennales, and once again are presenting at this one. The event had many “ups and downs” across the years. However, often in spite of a crushing critique, it fascinated and seduced artists, curators and – above all – audience. Ralph Rugoff, the curator, decided to make a Chinese proverb – “May you live in interesting times” – the leitmotif of this year’s Biennale. Is that sentence a blessing or a misleading prophecy of a global cataclysm? “May You Live in Interesting Times”, the main exhibition in Central Pavilion and Arsenal, shows an uncertainty of our existence in a first half of the “glorious” 21st century. The Venetians hate the winter Carnival, but love the summer Biennale (making money on it). This issue of “Artluk” gives you an opportunity to experience various, often critical takes on the latest Biennale di Venezia, and read about its numerous accompanying events – such as Józef Robakowski’s “What Can Still Happen”. What’s more, anyone can verify whether or not authors of the articles are right because the 58th International Art Exhibition will last until November 24, 2019.
We also present profiles of exceptional Polish and foreign artists: Gabriela Morawetz, Jonas Mekas, Andrzej Maciej Łubowski, Adam Myjak, Thomas Houseago, Sandy Ding and others. Aleksandra Hołownia and Dobrosława Nowak mention how the problems of art created by women still arouse imagination of audience and critics. As always our selection of authors (Andrzej Kostołowski, Krzysztof Jurecki, Sławomir Marzec, Paweł Sosnowski, Jerzy Olek, Jan Stanisław Wojciechowski and others) guarantees the highest quality of each piece, and the graphic layout provides unforgettable aesthetic impressions. As usual, the “Artluk” depicts events and cultural phenomena from multiple points of view, not favouring any artistic or ideological option. Enjoy the reading.
Andrzej Maciej Łubowski, “W cieniu III” / “In The Shadow III”, 120 × 100 cm, oil on canvas, 2010. Photo: the artist’s archive

Paweł Sosnowski

In a cold downpour and strong crosswind – weather not seen in Venice for half a century – people are standing, hiding under umbrellas. The queue is long, hour and a half of waiting at least. Crowd fills to the brim the quiet Celestia street that gave name to a nearby vaporetto stop. Generally, only lost tourists wander here. No wonder then that an old lady on a roofed balcony looks down with surprise and overt distaste, muttering something under her breath. Most likely she’s unaware of the fact that over a dozen thousand fans arrived to witness the opening of the greatest event of the art world – Biennale d’Arte. She also doesn’t know why these strangers are crowding in front of usually closed back entrance of the Arsenale – an old shipyard and former military port. And even if she knew that right behind the wall there is a Lithuanian exhibition that has just been awarded the Golden Lion, and that’s why everyone wants to see it, she probably wouldn’t bother to come down and get into the line. But the worst revelation is still ahead of her – strangers will be loitering under her balcony for the next six months.
The “Sun & Sea” project is an opera created by three young Lithuanian women – Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė (direction), Vaiva Grainytė (libretto) and Lina Lapelytė (music). It takes place on an artificial beach made inside the hangar. Professional singers mixed with ad hoc volunteers bask on the sand under few huge lamps. The audience is led to a gallery surrounding the beach. They can look down and listen to the opera. Perfectly prepared play lasts seventy minutes. Action is built by a mellow, beach dolce far niente interrupted by arias, and ends with a choral pro-ecological message.
However, the old Venetian lady from Calle Celestia has a bit of luck after all. Due to lack of funds the opera will be performed only twice a week. Like many countries that don’t have enough money for expensive environmental investments, Lithuania could not afford to keep the pavilion open to the end of Biennale. That’s why the creators started a public fundraiser a while back, and that kept the project – which, as they say, consumes three dollars per minute – alive.
Organisational costs of the Biennale alone reach thirteen million euro. Costs of individual exhibitions – over a hundred of them this year – start from two hundred thousand euro. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that some countries (Kazakhstan, Algeria) decide not to participate. In the worst situation are states that do not have a permanent pavilion in Giardini, and that’s majority. The lowest price for renting an old palazzo or an empty warehouse is ten thousand a month. The same applies to exhibitions accompanying the Biennale (about one hundred this year). Adriano Berengo is an owner of a mighty fornace, a glass factory at Murano. For ten years he has been organising his “Gasstress” exhibition in a magnificent Franchetti palace in the heart of Venice. This year he decided to hold it in his factory because, as he said, it was too expensive. Nonetheless, he spent two million euro on it.
1. Lina Lapelytė, Vaiva Grainytė, Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė, curator – Luci Pietrorouisti, “Sun & Sea (Marina)”, Lithuanian Pavilion, Belgian Pavilion, 58th Venice Biennale, 2019. Photo: © A. Dudek-Dürer
2. Laure Prouvost, “Hard Connections”, Glasstress 2019. Photo: © Francesco Allegretto, Glasstress press release

Julia Korzycka

An old Chinese proverb – “May You Live In Interesting Times” – has become the title of the 58th International Art Exhibition taking place in Venice since 11th of May until 24th of November. Immediately, it evokes ambiguity. World shown by the artists appears in diversity, but that diversity becomes a curse.

That proverb is incredibly relevant nowadays. Disintegration of the old order has led to an instability of the modern times, making it difficult to keep up with. At the last Biennale, Massimiliano Gioni pointed out the world spinning out of control, calling the time we live in an Age of Anxiety. Nothing has changed. However, maybe we – numbed by the catastrophic images from all around the globe consumed everyday with a morning coffee – just have got used to such reality?
For the past twenty years Paolo Barratta, the president of La Biennale di Venezia, followed a criterion of an “open” art. This year he opened the dialogue to non-mainstream and local works of art, while still trying to avoid a utopia of cosmopolitanism. In this edition’s exhibitions Paolo Barratta refers to an idea of a semiotic analysis of an artwork – described by Umberto Eco in “The Open Work” – which shifts an emphasis from a relation between creator and artwork to a relation between an artwork and audience. Seventy-nine artists in ninety national pavilions are supposed to show intertextual art that speaks about the most pressing issues of a modern world. The present social inequalities, climate change, economic crises and fake news are to be a point of reference for the exhibition in Venice. Responsibility of interpreting all of that has been left to the viewer.
What is to be the most important is the viewer’s meaning-making reflection, balancing between a structure of a work of art itself and an idea of its creator. That indeterminism holds hope for a conscient confrontation with a contemporary world. The Art Biennale presents the most current problems and avoids being cheap documentarism and rhetoric. A viewer, invited by Ralph Rugoff to actively interpret the “interesting times”, ought to rise to the challenge posed by ambiguous artworks. The Biennale strives to invigorate spirit and mind, to hone sensibility by a direct exposition to a work of art.
The enormous international exhibition “May You Live In Interesting Times” held in the Arsenale and the Central Pavilion is divided into two parts. Pluralism of creation of a single artist attracts curator’s attention. Despite the fact that particular artworks have been created by the same artists, they differ enough in form and the way they are displayed in different spatial contexts to make it difficult for an unprepared viewer to recognize the same author. Rugoff invites everyone and shows a variety of art. Guided by tolerance and equality, he counteracts any marginalisation: gender, racial and national.
1. Christoph Büchel, “Barca Nostra”, 58th La Biennale di Venezia, 2019. Photo: © A. Dudek-Dürer
2. Roman Stańczak, “Flight (Lot)”,  Polish Pavilion, 58th La Biennale di Venezia, 2019. Photo: © A. Dudek-Dürer

Krzysztof Jurecki

Gabriela Morawetz received a formal education in visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. She studied graphic arts in the 1970s, when that field reached a peak of its development after the Second World War. Today its significance is more illusory. It’s often reanimated with digital techniques. However, they tend to produce an image of world that is more mechanical than manual. Morawetz works have been exhibited a number of times, recently in France – “Chambre d’(a)pesanteur” (Galerie Thessa Herold, Paris) and “In illo tempore” (La Galerie Sagot-Le Garpec, Paris) – and China – “Vanishing Deconstructions” (See+ Gallery, Beijing).
It’s worth mentioning that, in general, photography has a lot in common with, and seems to depend on, thinking associated with graphic arts. Many artworks by Gabriela Morawetz’s can be interpreted from a perspective of graphic arts development, intaglio techniques in which a black line often determines the image. In an email to me (09.05.19) she said the following about that: “Graphics are a way of perceiving the world. When I was fascinated by etching and aquatint, what I was looking at somehow transformed into a graphic image almost by itself. It was as if I was wearing some kind of special glasses that changed the colours to black and white tones. The darkness of these images referred not only to colours, but also to a mental sphere.
Graphics encompasses multilayered thinking and acting, even though the final result is a two-dimensional picture. From a preparation of a metal plate to a final stage of applying the paint we deal with multiple layers. It also applies to a mental sphere because the image in creation has to be seen in layers that will build it step by step. The process of digestion and leaving bright spots, as well as creating colour prints by a number of metal plates, e.g. in etching and aquatint, or separate colour screens in screen-printing or lithography, are also the classic topics of graphics.
One could say that exactly this “thinking with layers” remained an important element of my work. Even though right now the most used medium is photography in a broad sense. So, from a formal point of view, imposing images with two or more surfaces, or composing them in a form of polyptychs, is often used”.
Gabriela Morawetz, “15 04 2015 II” 80 × 100 cm, silver emulsion on a convex glass, pigment print on Hahnemuhle paper, 300 g, 2016. Photo: the artist’s archive

Dobrosława Nowak

Multimedia installation “What Can Still Happen” comprises 9 screens displaying video relations documenting current events in Poland. Recordings follow the artist’s characteristic “dirty” style, typical of a structural film. Source videos, predominantly from social media, are shot “hand-held” and include all buttons, texts and frames that surround them. Emphasising materiality of a film fabric and stripping moving images of their illusion to induce an intellectual self-reliance in a viewer, were elemental features of structural film from its very beginning in the 1960s. The goal is to avoid a kind of “mechanisation of watching”, to encourage discovering ever new layers of image/reality, to reject the only one, “right” perspective. After “Nearer, Farther” exhibition in an Italian city of Prato in 2017 Lucarelli wrote that a structural film executed by Robakowski is a “way of deconstructing reality and regaining its autonomy” .
Inundating with Internet plays one more role at the “What Can Still Happen” exhibition – it brings attention to how important is that powerful medium in creating contemporary reality. As the artist said during conversation, social media are force that “cannot be stopped”. They are easily available and enable anyone to create their own narration and to express their opinions. They are a place where anyone can be an author, producer or a distributor. They guarantee an uncontrolled information flow. The way the images are used and how they function in the Web is as important as what is shown. “That open stage provides images of reality towards which contemporary art is increasingly helpless” .
A new, unshackled field of communication has emerged. One that the artist as an astute observer, documentarian, collector of images and manipulator of media coverage merrily notices, comments on and makes use of.
Józef Robakowski, “What Can Still Happen” project, frame, recordings of Internet, MAK Gallery in Venice, 2019. Photo: D. Nowak

Daria Skok

Contemporary national art institution – whether a museum or a gallery – by definition should be a space of social mediation, an open, inclusive place. Social and/or educational programmes offered by almost every institution subsidised by the state strive to achieve that. On the occasion of “Late Polishness” Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw prepared a series of debates with experts on culture, sociology and history of art. When Dorota Monkiewicz was the director of Wrocław Contemporary Museum, Bartek Lis ran an elaborate and very professional social programme. BWA Wrocław organises meetings with Polish artists (recent meeting with Zbigniew Libera established a new record of popularity). Social and educational programmes, even those compliant with very high standards and prepared with moral responsibility for conveyed contents in mind, remain static, and – despite their intended effects – kind of distant from society. Is there a model that could transform a public institution into a living space of social mediations? I dare to say it is already happening thanks to Daniel Rycharski and his “Fears” in the Museum on the Vistula.
I believe everything that could have been written by everybody about Daniel Rycharski’s first individual exhibition in Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw already has. A large piece about the artist appeared in “SZUM”, articles were also published in “Wyborcza”, “Newsweek”, “Agora”, and even “New York Times”. Thus, I approached this text very reluctantly. I observed how weeklies, magazines, journals and blogs write about “Fears” one after another. Why duplicate what everyone already have said? I was disappointed and mad at myself, that I didn’t act immediately. Now that I finished those articles, those lectures with students, these revisions and applications required by deanery that clogged my “to do ASAP”, and I can finally deal with Rycharski, it’s too late. Is it? Or maybe reminding about that exhibition now that the hype in media slowly dies down, and I can take a look at “Fears” from a certain distance, is worth a shot? Was my enthusiasm (and media’s praise) for the exhibition caused by short-lived emotions or are are witnessing something truly exceptional?
I agreed to write this article because Rycharski’s exhibition is important for at least three reasons that are enough to earn him good publicity. Firstly – as the artist underlines – it’s a completely new quality in art, i.e. a kind of contemporary art combining two attitudes that up until now were separate in Poland: a gay artist activism, for whom speaking about his homosexuality is one of fundamental differentiators of his activities, and deep religiosity of the author, who despite his sexual orientation would like to be a part of the Catholic Church. Secondly, Rycharski rediscovers for contemporary art the Polish countryside, which in a context of modern art is rather not a very sexy topic. Yet 60% of Poles live in countryside, why then they do not have their representation in a field of visual arts (or why is it disproportionately small)? Thirdly, in terms of formal, material and aesthetic qualities it’s just a very good art, well worth taking a look at.
Daniel Rycharski, “Pomnik Chłopa” / “Statue of a Peasant”, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2019. Photo: D. Chrobak, MSN press release

Alexandra Hołownia

Until 1947 lands of the present Bangladesh belonged to India and were under British rule. In 1947 British India gained independence and has been partitioned into Indian Union and West and East Pakistan. Unfortunately West Pakistan dominated East Pakistan, and proclaimed Urdu an official language. That decision led Bengalis from East Pakistan to protest and fight for a right to use their own language.
Consequently, East Pakistan split from West Pakistan, proclaiming in 1971 an independent state of Bangladesh with Bengali as an official language . Birth of Bangladesh has been paid for with a bloody war and the worst crimes of the last century. The Bengalis lost three million people. Intellectuals, lawyers, teachers, journalists and doctors were exterminated. Over two hundred thousand women were raped. Nowadays Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated and the poorest countries in the world.
Bengali artist Tanjila Siddiqye, graduate of the Dhaka University Faulty of Arts, established an Artopolitan organisation with a seat in the capital of Bangladesh. It promotes local art and culture in the world. This year, to commemorate fight for Bengali language, Artopolitan initiated a show titled “Celebrating Mother Language”.
Both Bengali and international artists specialising in ceramics, painting, sculpture, graphics, photography, performance, video art, installations, and architecture were invited to participate. The artists touched on the subjects of beauty and cognisance of national language in relation to multitude of cultures. As much as 2289 artworks from 50 countries have been submitted into competition. Only 212 from 32 countries were selected.
Tanjila Siddiqye, ceramics, Artopolitan exhibition, “Celebrating Mother Language”, Dhaka 2019. Photo: the artist’s archive

Dorota Grubba-Thiede

The term Ecovention refers to essays and curatorial works by Amy Lipton and Sue Spaid, who used it for the first time in 1999. Theoretical works were an outcome of noticing uncountable, grass-roots level activities of many artists of different nationalities, who raised an alarm about a drastic fate of the world caused by the actions of transnational corporations that led to a revokement of laws protecting live creatures (including humans) and ecosystems, and to establishment of a quick, spectacular financial success as a subjective value. In autumn of 2017 Museum de Domijnen Hedendaagse Kunst (Sittard, Netherlands) opened a huge international exhibition titled “Ecovention Europe: Art to Transform Ecologies, 1957-2017”. Among artists who accepted invitation from Sue Spaid, the curator, were Tatiana Czekalska and Leszek Golec. A duo of precursors of posthumanistic art devoted to protection of even the smallest living beings . In 1997 they prepared a series of “Avatars” – beautiful, designer silver utensils for catching unwanted home insects and releasing them into the wild. Intrinsic nature of these precious objects, exhibited i.a. in 2002 in New York by Holly Block, somehow emphasised the importance of saving life, combining gravity of helping with a haptic pleasure of doing so. These artists create wise, semantically and aesthetically surprising objects by consciously arranging them against particular white cube spaces, using white colour to build tension and catalyse meanings. In a renewed postulate calling for mindfulness toward our “Friars Minor” Czekalska+Golec singled out i.a. the “Contract Killer” project, in which they compile research proving actual harm that eating meat causes to human organisms. The artists, being vegans, deciphered numerous components, hidden behind enigmatic symbols and used by food processing plants, cosmetics manufacturers (and others), whose production involves harming and killing animals and insects.
Tatiana Czekalska + Leszek Golec, “Live”, Signum Gallery, curated by Grzegorz Musiał, 2019. Photo: the artist’s archive

5 Anything can happen
in the interesting times
Jacek Kasprzycki

6 Mondo cane.
Venice Art Biennale 2019
Julia Korzycka

12 Chaos, women and technology
Anita Kwestorowska

18 Three dollars for a minute on a beach
Paweł Sosnowski

20 Deepened workshop spaces
Kamil Lipiński

24 Artopolitan
– contemporary art in Bangladesh
Alexandra Hołownia

26 Almost human…
Thomas Houseago
in City of Paris Museum of Modern Art
Agnieszka Kluczewska

28 Everything except words.
Pavilion 02 in Giudecca Art District
Dobrosława Nowak

32 Ecovention.
Artists for ecological mental horizon
Dorota Grubba-Thiede

35 I want to be a woman
Alexandra Hołownia

38 Gabriela Morawetz’s
worlds in creation
Krzysztof Jurecki

46 Hypnotist and a wizard
Marek S. Bochniarz

52 Jonas Mekas
– independent film-maker
Jacek Kasprzycki

58 Excerpts from incoherent whole
Jerzy Olek

66 Adam Myjak’s new sculptures.
Strenght of spatial form’s
“active negative”
Jan Stanisław Wojciechowski

74 Home for memories and feelings
Sylwia Hejno
interviews Anna Płotnicka

78 Rycharski.
Gallery as a space of social mediation
Daria Skok

82 New places,
new texts. News from Gdańsk
Maksymilian Wroniszewski

84 Being in and out of reality
– on the paintings by Andrzej M. Łubowski
Hanna Kostołowska

92 Oops…! He did it again
Dobrosława Nowak

96 Polish Academy of Painting on Silk
Dorota Grubba-Thiede,
Isabell Florkovska

100 Against the current
Zuzanna Sokołowska

103 Catch the art
– a verbal documentation
of “In statu nascendi
– karkonoskie intermedia
– spotkania sztuki aktualnej” event
Katarzyna Jeleń

106 Art as a… downfall?
Sławomir Marzec

108 Image of a sculpture as a stub
(Essays on the condition
of sculpture at the State Higher School
of Fine Arts – Academy
of Fine Arts in Wrocław)
Andrzej Kostołowski