No 1 (65) 2006
January - March

Approaching the Other

Since we have been living in the times dominated by the post visual culture – oriented towards the aesthetic and artificial – it might seem that the only thing left for artists is to penetrate the areas of the “border” beauty, or – paraphrasing the title of the work by Jadwiga Sawicka – “the lost innocence” of beauty.
Roman Lewandowski

Theoretician and art. critic. Curator of the Baltic Contemporary Art. Gallery in Słupsk. Lecturer at the Cracow Fine Arts Academy Inter Media Faculty.

Roman Lewandowski
The fact that art has been functioning in the aesthetically depreciated world, does not play down its intervention driven role. Today, one cannot demand from artists to codify values, though negotiating or contesting values can turn out to be a vital part of practical statements. Within this context, touching upon the problems of excluding from the visual space both the figure of the Other, as well as the topics - customarily pushed out on the fringes - gets particularly significant. If one has a closer look at (or reads more carefully) most of the works displayed at the “Towards the Other” exhibition, it is easy to observe that the artists perceive a number of aspects of the figure of the Other and the issues related to death, old age, passing, poverty and pathologies. For the majority of artists, the project starting point is to redefine their own subjectivity revealed – as it was suggested by Lacan – by means of identification with the Other (or with different surroundings) on the grounds of a “lack” or “shortage”. The Other(s), however, has/have not been a motive that fully dominates the subject. This is rather a non-topical changing space that gets separated from, or fights against all ideologies and standards. This relations model has been visible in the moving works by Jerzy Truszkowski. In fact, they have been a photo registration of a performance, in this sense they evoke “meeting” in the drama of coexisting with the Other. On the other hand, the fact of applying colorful large size technology typical of advertising, as well as the titles going back to Beuys or Nietzsche, indicates inter-textual dimension of the works by this artist and shows natural involvement of the medium into the problems re-presentation. The videos by Anna Konik seem to be quite interesting. This artist has, just like Truszkowski, built up her narration based on her own meetings and walks shared with people who had been expelled, with or without their consent. The ramifications of contact reveal the identity and existential dimensions. Krzysztof Wodiczko has joined the nomadic discourse, particularly in the works “A Vehicle” and “ A Wanderer’s Walking Stick”. The artist - dealing with archetypical symbols of poverty, the Alien and changing places – interferes into visual reality directly approaching and addressing questions to random passers-by. The “Observer” performance by Paweł Althamer, has been more subtle and movie oriented. The photographic register of complicated connections between the observing flãneurs (themselves being the object of observation by Althamer) and unaware passers-by. An aspect of interaction between the artist, viewer and model has been, in a sense, the topic of the work by Przemysław Kwiek. He has presented a multi element work entitled “On the Wall/ by the Wall Composition of 150 Parts” including photo records of the artist’s actions and sculpture being a natural “environment” for the appearance by Kwiek. A separate motive of the Katowice project covers the works undermining socially functioning perception standards of the aging, the sick and the handicapped. Out of these, undoubtedly worth mentioning are the works – already displayed a number of times – by Artur Żmijewski, “Singing Lesson”, “Intimate Rites” by Zbigniew Libera, “Old Age Is No Fun” by Jan Świdziński or “Humanitarian Cases” by Ąlicja Żebrowska. Against this background, “The Psycho – Dynamic Pedagogic”, a new installation by Grzegorz Sztwiertnia seems quite interesting. He has applied an example of a “clinic” to deconstruct the oppressive discourse of power. Simultaneously, this work is a polemics by the author with an idea of a “spectacle” society, taking place in prevailing virtual reality where the parts of the subject and the Other are mutually replaced and their status gets equal. Under these circumstances, one has certain doubts whether the Other still remains a “party”, as the exhibition title seems to suggest…. “Approaching the Other. Observations and Interventions”: P. Althamer, M. Jabłońska, P. Szewczyk, A. Konik, G. Kowalski, P. Kwiek, Z. Libera, J. Modzelewski, J. Rajkowska, G. Sztwiertnia, J. Świdziński, J. Truszkowski, K. Wodiczko, A. Żebrowska, A. Żmijewski; Stanisław Ruksza, curator; the Contemporary Art Gallery, Katowice, December 2005 – January 2006; Town Art Gallery.