No 4 (84) 2010
October - December

Political Things

Grzegorz Klaman, whose output has been mainly associated with the stream of critical art, speaks openly about political dimension of his art. The most recent works, presented by the artist in the Island Art Institute, do not take up "hot" social topics.

Przemysław Chodań

Art critic. He publishes texts on contemporary art.

Przemysław Chodań

THE AUTHOR EVER MORE OFTEN AVOIDS DIRECT COMMENTS ON THE REALITY. This does not mean, however, that his art has lost its critical potential. The latest pieces by Klaman (made in the years 2007 - 2010) tell about unspoken political aspects, blurred in space and public institutions, visible in human behavior, in irrational feelings resulting from fear and cracks in the sense constructing nomos (law and social order).

The "Blow up #1", made on the campus in Florida, serves as an introduction to the exhibition. This is the movie with no narration, referring - mainly by means of slow guitar music - to the road cinema tradition. A fast moving camera registers an urban landscape: anonymous buildings, deserted parks and parking lots, human silhouettes written into these surroundings (one is not sure whether they are dead or asleep). While watching the video one has an impression that this is a report from a location that suffered a weird, contagious disease. That is why one wants to escape as fast as possible.

The "Fear and Shivers" from 2007 stays in striking contrast to the unreal atmosphere of the "Blow up #1". The former, extremely realistic, if not literal, resembles the works from the nineties more than any other pieces presented. Here, religious fundamentalism is the interpretation context suggested by the artist. The "Fear and Shivers" piece features three sculptures, most likely male figures kneeling by the wall covered with a black cloth. The title, borrowed from Sǿren Kierkegaard, indicates that the illness, in other words religious fanaticism might be rooted in one`s lack of satisfaction with life, frustration and bitterness. Simultaneously, it is an argument with Kierkegaard who glorified the paradox of faith, religious zeal unresponsive to the rational, by the same token potentially dangerous. Comments to the piece read: "he (Kierkegaard) presents strong religious tension (...) focused on one` inner self. Contemporary religious tensions are transformed into outer aggression, into "theological suspension of ethics", while aggression is turned into an ideology and war".

The "Blow up #1" returns to the issue of culture forming aspect of human body. The "Emblems" and "Katabasis" series (1993) provide an analysis of transformations in perceiving and making use of human bodies in sacral and medicine oriented processes. At present the artist seems to outline more fundamental problems; the body approached as a political object, abused by history and ideologies, while a person does not suspect anything. This is not a totally new motive in the output by Klaman. He touched upon this problem in 1995, in the "Political Anatomy of the Body" performance where he referred to the concept by Foucault.

Political things comprise buildings, public institutions and their operation mechanisms. The "Blow up # 2"reveals the fragility of bureaucratic politics which - in every system - are aimed at utilitarian, standard behaviors. A narrator, equipped with a moving camera, is running in circles around a dilapidated building of a large institution, registering its degradation. Naked people are running around in search of something, most likely the exit. The dynamic pace of the video and tight frames give an impression of chaos, with a shade of the apocalypse. Klaman appears to tell about the unpredictable "forces" that cause a sudden crisis, about vague links between politics and economy. About the unstable of systems and symbolic values they represent. The "360°" installation refers to the destroyed rationality. Four channel video (projected inside a silos resembling construction, where one can only put one`s head) covers the viewer`s perception horizon with images of ruined, unserviceable (nevertheless quite picturesque) post industrial areas. The Gdańsk Shipyard offers a number of such locations. Supposedly, the one used in the installation features a former work post of Lech Walesa. This piece, as the whole exposition, has been focused on the political character of public places aesthetics.

Hadas Maor, the exhibition curator, suggests that "Political Things" open a new chapter in the work by Grzegorz Klaman. The Gdańsk presentation has been a continuation of the motives earlier present in the output by this artist, while the angle is much wider; without fast and easy diagnoses.

Grzegorz Klaman, "Political Things", curator: Hadas Maor, the Island Art Institute, Gdańsk, June - September 2010.