No 2 (82) 2010
April - June

A Neighbor

Karolina Breguła has applied photography and video in her performances that combine a social message with the new forms of artistic effort in the urban space. A city and its contexts have been her playing field prone to the interactive actions offered by the artist.

Krzysztof Żwirblis

Independent curator. In 1992 - 1997 he ran the AR Gallery in Warsaw

Krzysztof Żwirblis

"In the Midsummer", her latest work, features a large, white Styrofoam cube, displayed in the Warsaw  Constitution Square. While it was biting cold, in its heated interior she simultaneously projected four videos shot in the same location in summer time. "Good Neighbors" have been the project implemented for three years now. The artist has attempted to extend a good neighborly gesture to include inhabitants of a neighboring state. Breguła herself, brought up in the borderland city, has been inspired by a sense of proximity with the Alien. Three years ago, she was greeting strangers from a neighboring state across a border river in Cieszyn. The "Hello Neighbor" addressed - by means of wishful thinking - our relations with the Czechs which had been quite complex, especially in this particular area.

In Berlin, she offered coffee, serving it at the portable table in various locations around the city. This has been a sort of an openness test, checking the readiness of the invited for coffee to meet the Alien artist who did not speak their language. In Vilnius, she was watering city flower beds, as though she was doing this in the little garden in front of her own house; using a small watering can resembling a child's toy. Her actions have been futile, when confronted with the vast urban green areas and serious matters suggested by the architecture of the one of the formerly most important Polish cities. The initiation into the world of "our" district and "our" market place involved joining a Lvov inhabitant for grocery shopping in the local market place. This has been a report of everyday activities, familiar from our culture, however distinguished by the participation of the artist who created the whole situation. Another neighborly gesture has been an eavesdropping through a glass put against the wall. The artist presented this in the streets of Sillein - the Slovak capital in the period of cooperation with the 3rd Reich. She has paradoxically brought to the open the embarrassing behavior that usually takes place within four walls. This scene has been ambiguous for the observing locals who could not fully grasp the references to dark secrets, since it has been performed by the artist who enjoyed herself.

Inhabitants of Russian Konigsberg took part in a popular form of neighborly sharing; dropping next door to borrow lacking ingredients to make a cake. The Konigsberg cake - consisting of flour, yeast, salt an sugar collected on an ordinary housing estate - has been already baked. The artist planned to send helpful neighbors at least its photo. At this point, she faced a lack of trust and fear not so much of the Alien, rather of the Fellow. Few, who disclosed their mailing addresses, will receive letters and photos. The remaining, hopefully, will have a different chance to see the cake. The trip from the border to Grodno, Belarus, takes about 40 minutes ona nearly desolate train. Once there, the artist dropped in to a typical high-rise apartment. She brought her own beer and wanted to watch a match. There wasa TV set put on, friendly conversation, home made cold cuts and sausages, and some booze.

The actions by Karolina Breguła - when confronted with a number of other performances conducted and registered in an urban space - strike with their light tone. A simple gesture extended to border states, originating in everyday neighborly assistance, has adopted a metaphorical sense. It has led to selfless contacts and symbolic actions breaking an everyday rut. The artist has been skillfully opened onto the Other. What is often an obstacle - the presence of a camera and an observing outsider - in this case only helps. Ordinary situations have been uplifted to gain an aura of higher and more festive order that offers energy and encourages more creative attitude. The whole project has been a sequence of private situations, disregarding stereotype opinions on the Other, official channels and special bodies responsible for relations with foreign neighbors. The artist's courage in implementing the project, her strong conviction that such actions are needed, have been based on the belief that there are no barriers that would have prevented communication.

I think that one could hardly offer better examples - than the works by Karolina Breguła - of individual actions that have been developing, through art, the understanding between the nations of the new, slowly growing Europe.

Karolina Breguła, "Good Neighbors", records, The Gray Gallery, Cieszyn, February 2010; the Studio Gallery, Warsaw, May 2010.