No 1 (89) 2012
January - March

Search for Independence

What does artistic autonomy means? How have artists approached this issue over recent decades? The artists taking part in the Jerzy Busza Festival attempted to answer these questions.

Maria Franecka

Art historian. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Maria Franecka

THIS HAS BEEN THE FIFTH EDITION of the annual festival. Its assumption has been to present new trends in visual arts. Every artistic autonomy must have its point of reference: an institution, market, conservative opinions; it cannot function in void - as Charles Esche wrote. It has always been considered in historic and political context.

In the 80's in Poland the issue was the artistic autonomy versus the state. The works presented on the exhibition put on in the "Power Plant" have been focused on martial law. This has been dominated by messianic and patriotic oriented pieces by Michał Kokot and Andrzej Różycki. During martial law relative creative independence was possible in churches, and this is where the exhibitions were mounted. As Anda Rottenberg stressed, at that period an individual's attitude was much more important than an artistic outcome. Further, the mentioned exhibition showed works by Adam Rzepecki, a co-founder of the Łódź Kaliska group. These have been mainly full of humor, i.e., "A Little Tail" being a semantic game based on the fact that one word can carry various meanings. An ironic approach helped to distance oneself from the communist Poland realities, and to develop certain independence. This type of an attitude has been described by Krzysztof Jurecki during the seminar on art during martial law. His paper was devoted to the postmodernism reception in the 80's.

He mentioned the Łódź Kaliska and Kultura Zrzuty. Zbigniew Libera belonged to the latter. Making fun of the communist Poland absurdities was an important element of their creative efforts.

During the seminar, Marek Grygiel - who ran the Small Gallery in Warsaw in the 80's - quoted an article by a journalist who wrote for a Swedish counterpart of the "Photography". This journalist remembered his trip to Poland during martial law and his interview with Jerzy Busza. The statement quoted indicates that Busza was frustrated with the lack of creative freedom and opportunities for intellectual development in the 80's.

Orońsko has been the location of subsequent festival meetings. The Chamber Gallery presented the "Lady Snow" sculpture by Kijewska & Kocur duo. The sculptures by these two artists have usually offered generally known motives combined into surprising constellations, thus resulting in hybrid pieces. The piece goes back to 2006; the period when apparently everything was allowed, on the other hand, everything has already been said. During martial law, an enemy was clearly defined. Today, the mechanisms of power and constrains are dispersed; more subtle, harder to pinpoint. The work by Zbigniew Libera and Robert Rumas deals with following one's own intuition and a sense of intelligence, and resisting outside pressure. An e-mail from the Kijewski & Kocur duo sent to Robert Rumas - where they accentuate how important it is to stay true to oneself both in life and in art - has been one element of the mentioned piece. The second component is a huge, black cube - attached under the ceiling - lined with sound muffling foam-rubber and loudspeakers put inside. One can here various sounds. The cube can be interpreted as an attempt to cut off from outside influence and to turn towards one's feelings.

The "Without a Title" performance by Justyna Górowska has presented an infringement of a naked female body surface with cartridges the artist was placed on. The work brings to mind associations with Ion Grigorescu, a Romanian artist, who self-inflicted injuries to make a point that under Ceausescu regime an individual freedom was violated so much that one could not feel safe and at home with one's own body. Through a change of geographic and political contexts, the piece by Górowska has adopted new meanings. The body should be defined within the context of emotional reactions it generates and succumbs to. The publication, summing up the history of 5 festivals, is to be published shortly

The 5th Jerzy Busza Festival, the "Power Plant" Contemporary Art Center, Radom; the Polish Sculpture Center, Orońsko, December 2011.