artluk nr 1-2/2021

Piotr Wełmiński

In the beginning of human era we were enthralled by nature. Emerging beliefs were a result of a meticulous observation of flora and fauna. Through most of mankind’s existence our consciousness have been shaped by animism, and religions such as fetishism, totemism, and shamanism. The world of animals provided examples of behaviours that allowed people to survive in a harsh reality of hostile environment. The matriarchal system – a copy of societies created by bees, ants, and termites – dominated for millennia.

What is our attitude towards animals today? Humans driven by their greed mercilessly subjugated the world, in “accordance” with the biblical dictation: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth”. So, man breeds animals in a barely humane way on an industrial scale to eat them, and to wear their skins and fur. He doesn’t hunt to survive, as it used to be, but for pleasure. He has exterminated a plethora of animal species due to unsustainable hunting and harvesting, and by destroying their natural habitats.
And how do artists perceive animals? In this Artluk’s issue we present two different approaches to the matter, based on different cultural traditions. Artists from the Far East approach the subject differently than those who grew accustomed to European tradition. That minor, yet significant in it’s consequences, difference can be noticed while reading articles by Magdalena Furmanik-Kowalska (“Insect co-authors”) and by Marek S. Bochniarz (“Transformation of the living beings”).
The current issue brings also a lot of information on what is happening in Poland, and on art in the free world: Paris, Basel, Berlin, Rome or Prague. We have a pleasure to present an extensive display of Yayoi Kusama’s works, an interesting exhibition titled “Ciao maschio” at GNAM in Rome, devoted to a role of males in present societies, the latest realisation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, as well as Zuzanna Sokołowska’s report from the “Fleeting – Scents in Colour” – an exhibition held at Mauritshuis in Hague, whose organisers made an attempt to show one of the primordial senses, the sense of scent, in the context of art.
Going back to insects, it is the scent that is the basis of their communication. Since they communicate by recognising pheromones, we have to be aware of their great organisational skills. It may seem that scent can’t be a complicated carrier of information, but it is the insects who are ahead of humans in many areas. For millions of years they have been able to grow mushrooms and breed aphides in their dwellings, and to build marvellous and functional constructions like air-conditioned termitaria and multi-level anthills. Their adaptive capabilities allowed them to survive most of the world cataclysms. They have been here for 300 million years and most likely will still be on Earth long after extinction of humans. Let us then observe and admire insects like the artists do.

Anita Kwestorowska

There is not much talk about men as inspiration in contemporary art. Used to an image of a woman-muse, we are usually surprised by a statement that the main protagonist of a work of art, and thus subconsciously “the beauty itself”, may be a man, who – quite interestingly – in Polish may be referred to as a representative of the “ugly sex”. Meanwhile, the “‘Ciao maschio’ Volto, potere e identità dell'uomo contemporaneo” exhibition at the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Rome demonstrates that he may very well be the protagonist of a work of art that is not an ancient Greek statue or a Renaissance painting. Through over a hundred works of famous international artists the exposition follows a change in an image and socio-political role of men since the 19th century until now. The exhibition includes installations, paintings, graphics, photos, films and video-performances of such artists as Giacomo Balla, Vito Acconci, Gino De Dominicis, Willem De Kooning, Luigi Ontani, Gilbert & George, Andy Warhol, Pino Pascali, Mario Schifano, Erwin Wurm, Francesco Vezzoli and Alba Zari. Most of the artworks come from the Roman collections of contemporary art and private collections, and are presented for the first time. Gathered works focus on various aspects of male culture, on a contemporary role of a man, the power he possesses and identity. Sometimes he’s a hero, a seducer, an idol, a guardian of a household, other times he’s an indifferent tyrant, a dictator planning tortures, battles and bombing runs. Title of the exhibition, borrowed from a 1978 Italian film by Marco Ferreri – “Ciao maschio” (Hello man) – may be a tad misleading, but the exposition does not intend to simplify the subject by reducing it only to a “concept of masculinity”. Its goal is to deepen it through showcasing social and artistic contrasts associated with a figure of a man, and to entice a reflection on evolution of his role at the turn of the 19th and 20th century.
“Ciao maschio” Volto, potere e identità dell'uomo contemporaneo”, GNAM (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna), Rome, from 23 June to 14 November 2021
Agnese De Donato, “Chi era costui?” 1.0, 1973. Collezione Donata Pizzi

Magdalena Furmanik-Kowalska
About the selected works by Liang Shaoji and Yanagi Yukinori

It’s hard to tell exactly when did live animals became part of artistic acts. Certainly the most well-known artwork of that kind is Joseph Beuys' performance “I Like America and America Likes Me” from 1974, in which the artist involved a coyote. In the same time Zbigniew Warpechowski made his own works with a live carp. Among others, in 1972 in Lublin he performed an extraordinarily eloquent “Dialogue With a Fish”. However, both these works are the examples not of a cooperation between the artist and an animal, but of an instrumental use of a living being. The animal is not the co-author, and instead only a tool used to achieve a specific artistic goal. The situation of insects involved in Liang Shaoji’s and Yanagi Yukinori’s creative process is entirely different.
Insects might be both fascinating and repulsive because of how different they are from vertebrates. At the same time resilient and fragile, short-lived, for centuries they have stimulated imagination. Perhaps in art they seldom have been treated as an independent subject, but they have commonly been used as symbols, especially in the Far East. The works of both aforementioned artists stay close to that tradition. Yanagi’s ants and Liang’s silkworms are co-creators, included in the process of making art. Simultaneously, as significant elements of the artwork, they perform symbolic functions. Thanks to insects the artists managed to create works that combine spatial forms with performative activity. Their artworks change with time – showcasing an inevitable transformation of matter. Avant-garde pieces, yet permeated by traditional philosophy of the Far East. Bridges between the old and the contemporary, crossing previous boundaries.
1. Yanagi Yukinori, “Wandering Position”, 1997, Chisenhale Gallery. © YANAGI STUDIO
2. Liang Shaoji, “Snow Cover – Oblivion”, 2019-2021. Photo: Lu Jun. Courtesy of ShanghART Gallery

Dobrosława Nowak
About the selected works by Itamar Gov

Itamar Gov (b. 1989 in Izrael) is an artist in whose works a recurring motif is the uncovering and questioning notions: those of dangerously obvious status quo (in culture, societies or politics), and those attempting to set clear boundaries between fact and falsehood, as well as memory and imagination. The artist constantly arranges opportunities for confrontation, using art as a tool for demystifying erroneous politics: both past and present, culturally distant, and close. Subtly, although bluntly, he reckons with the past by adroitly using tools of interdisciplinary art. Importantly, his causal power reaches even a few generations back.
Isaac was born in 1926 to Bella and Benjamin Pechnik. His parents had a hairdressing salon in Warsaw Ghetto. During war his whole family, except sister, died in Treblinka concentration camp. Thanks to a false birth certificate obtained from a friendly priest, Isaac rechristened as Edward Wiśniewski. He kept his new identity until the very end. He worked in German army until the war ended, then started studies at the faculty of law in Warsaw, to finally join the Swedish marine corps. “We’re looking for surviving European Jews” – he heard once from a ship departing for Palestine, during his regular duty in the harbour. It was 1947 when for the first time since the end of war he has admitted to be a Jew. His decision to travel to Zion begins the history of Itamar Gov, a contemporary artist. Years later, precisely from Edward – known to him as grandpa Edjush – the teenage artist heard hours of war memories. They had plenty of time – every summer they have sailed the Mediterranean Sea.
Itamar Gov, “The Heart of Adolf Hitler”, object (a jar, ethanol and a heart), 2020. Photo: the author’s archive

Joanna Sitkowska

At the turn of September and October 2021, for 16 days millions of Parisians and tourists visiting the capitol of France had an opportunity to marvel during day and night at an imposing silhouette of the Arc de Triomphe packed by Christo and Jeanne-Claude.
The decision to realise a project, for which the first sketches were prepared in 1960s, have been made in 2018 but the coronavirus epidemic prevented an inauguration that ought to take place two years later. After Christo’s death in May 2020 (Jeanne-Claude passed away in 2009) the project has been finalised under supervision of Vladimir Yavachev, Christo’s nephew, who cooperated with the late artists for 30 years.
The endeavour required participation of 140 workers, including 95 high-altitude climbers, who installed a previously prepared steel construction designed to protect the Arc’s reliefs, and who packed the whole monument using 25,000 square meters of fabric and 3,000 meters of rope. Passers-by and visitors have been provided with easy and free access to the Arc (except for paid admission to a terrace on the roof) that could not only be admired from up close, but also touched. Over 350 monitors, representing 20 different nationalities, were employed to greet visitors and provide information in 10 languages. More than 30 specialised, partnering companies from a number of countries have been involved in different stages of the project. The total cost amounted to 14 million euros. Just like with the previous works by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, all expenses have been covered by the artist without involving any state or private funds, nor patronage. All materials used for packing will be recycled. Selling drawings, preparatory sketches, graphics and collages have always allowed the artist to finance such costly ideas, and – what’s the most important – granted complete independence.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, “L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped”, Paris, 1961-2001. Photo: P. Sosnowski

Zuzanna Sokołowska

Jim Drobnick, an American art critic, noticed that museums, galleries and workshops where acts or exhibitions focus predominantly on olfactory sensations head toward aromatopia, that is toward complete immersion in sensual experiences. An olfactory exhibition “Smell The Art: Scents in Colour” held at Mauritshuis in The Hague may be an example of that. Using the sense of smell, the exposition attempts to integrate all human senses. Displayed works are supposed to affect viewers primarily with scents, allowing them to smell aromas of flowers, fruits, portrayed people o even excrements depicted in the paintings. The olfactory map created at the exhibition focuses on scents present in the Netherlands in 17th century. Creators of the exposition assure that they weren’t very pleasant. All kinds of wastes were disposed into rivers at the time, and personal hygiene was significantly different from the one we are used to now – deodorants didn’t exist, and perfumes were available to the rich. People believed that the scent of wastes may lead to illness and could be a threat to mental health. That’s why pomanders were very popular, enveloping the owners in pleasant scents of aromatic substances, protecting from stench.
“Smell The Art: Scents in Colour”, Mauritshuis, The Hague, Netherlands. 18.11.2020-29.08.2021
“Smell The Art: Scents in Colour” exhibtion, Mauritshuis, 2021. Photo: Mauritshuis press release

Marek S. Bochniarz

Marta Bogdańska in her book “Shifters” and at the exhibition under the same title takes a look at armed conflicts, intelligence-information wars from a perspective of animals and birds used by people. Sifting through archives, she reconstructs an unwritten, untold history in a form of visual tale of lost and sometimes indiscernible photos, gruesome projects of using sentient creatures, images of extreme and absurd violence taking place not only at the field of war.
About fiver years ago, when Marta Bogdańska lived in Lebanon, she began to stumble on contemporary articles describing arrests of animals suspected of espionage or being agents. They were usually texts translated from pieces published in local newspapers and reprinted by Western media. “Generally, they were written in a mocking tone, and presented an ironic outlook on Asia and Middle East. Most of the journalists were content with an anecdotal level. Only a few bothered to check a broader context of these acts and pointed that CIA also used to have similar espionage programmes employing animals. It was the first incentive for me to tackle the topic.” – says Bogdańska.
After three to four years of gathering contemporary materials she had an idea to broaden the scope with archival contents. “I’ve found then a great number of incredible informations and stories. I narrowed my search to Western culture since the end of 19th century until the 1970s, making certain choices and selections according to artistic licentia poetica” – she admits. Anna Bas, the curator, emphasises that the story taken up in “Shifters” seems to have no end: one can imagine threads dangling from the book, when you pull one the ball of animal stories will keep on unwinding. Hence the artist and curators from a certain point started to use terms like “trace” or “trail”, intuitively following the branching paths of researched non-anthropocentric history.
“Zmiennokształtne / Shifters” – Marta Bogdańska | Krakow Photomonth 2021
Marta Bogdańska, cover of the “Shifters” book. Photo: Fundacja Sztuk Wizualnych

Katarzyna Kozyra

Curator: Anda Rottenberg
Co-curator: Asia Tsisar
Exhibition duration: 17.06.2021–18.07.2021
Location: Bałtyk office building and the Bay of Art next to Concordia Design
Exhibition production: Vox Artis Foundation
Partners: Concordia
Katarzyna Kozyra. “Summertale”, exhibition, 2021. Photo: P. Łubowski

5 Gazing at Insects
Piotr Wełmiński

6 ART BASEL 2021
The Art of Transformation
Daria Kołacka

11 Photographs in Arles 2021
Joanna Sitkowska

12 Dots and the Evil of the World
Alexandra Hołownia

14 Something About Men
Anita Kwestorowska

17 The Triumph of Christo and Jeanne-Claude
Joanna Sitkowska

20 Beyond the Horizon of Consciousness…
Viktor Pivovarov’s “Moscow Gothic”
Agnieszka Kluczewska

24 Nostalgia Landscapes
Tomasz Zjawiony

26 How do the Colours Smell?
Zuzanna Sokołowska

30 The Heart of Hitler
About the selected works by Itamar Gov
Dobrosława Nowak

34 Insect Co-Authors
About the selected works by
Liang Shaoji and Yanagi Yukinori
Magdalena Furmanik-Kowalska

41 Transformation of the Living Beings
Marek S. Bochniarz

44 Up and to the Side
Jerzy Olek

A Dialogue with History
Grażyna Banaszkiewicz

55 Good Intentions Won’t Suffice
A dissenting opinion on
Wilhelm Sasnal’s paintings
Andrzej Mazurkiewicz

56 Roadless Roads
Jerzy Olek

58 Summertale
Katarzyna Kozyra

61 Built and Demolished,
Lost and Found
Marek S. Bochniarz

62 Włodzimierz Borowski’s „Safari”
– Re-enactment in Galeria Działań
Agnieszka Maria Wasieczko

64 A Treacherous Atmosphere of Gypsyism
Agnieszka Domańska

68 In Statu Nascendi 2020
During Pandemic
Jacek Kasprzycki

70 MEDEA 2021
Mariusz Szajda

71 Internal Landscape of
Magdalena Janota-Bzowska and Joanna Stasiak
Monika Malewska

72 Disappearances
Paweł Łubowski

74 Toward a Narrative Free Nature
Sławomir Marzec

79 “Świat zwariował” (The World Gone Mad)
– a remarkable book
Jacek Kasprzycki

80 Sorcerer’s Apprentice