No 1 (89) 2012
January - March

Mess, Decay and Decomposition

Wojciech Makowiecki, the Director of the Poznań Town Gallery invited Stach Szabłowski, a wellknown Warsaw curator and critic to organize the Poznań young art exhibition in Poznań.

Maciej Mazurek

Poet, painter, art critic, literary critic, columnist. He worked for TVP Kultura in 2006 –2011. Editor-in-Chief of the “Arttak – Fine Arts” quarterly.

Maciej Mazurek

STACH SZABŁOWSKI HAS ENTHUSIASTICALLY DESCRIBED A TYPICALLY POZNAŃ PHENOMENON, i.e., the "Penerstwo" ("Hoodlums") group. Some years ago young Poznań artists talked about "The Ugliest Picture in the World" exhibition. At that occasion the term "Penerstwo" was mentioned. A "Pener" refers to someone representing a social margin. From the Warsaw perspective one could clearly notice how consistent young Poznań artists were in introducing - in a most spectacular manner - the marginal, the repulsive, the macabre and disgusting into the area of art.

These interests, typical of kids fascinated with their own physiology, frequently types of deviations described in psychiatric studies have been a topic generally addressed by the youngest generation artists of the Internet era. If they wanted to have a say, they had to differ from their predecessors. The latter, pursuing critical art, put standards extremely high. This "existential anarchy" was marked particularly strongly in Poznań against a very specific background. There is an established belief that Poznań inhabitants are generally respectable, well adopted people. Against such background, the dirty seems even dirtier.

The "Arbeitsdisziplin. The Spirit of Poznań Art around 2012" exhibition - which title refers to a famous work by Rafał Jakubowicz - showed 12 artists and two galleries. Stach Szabłowski and Anna Czaban, the curators, made an effort to put some order to the anarchy. A reference to the piece by Jakubowicz was a slightly ironic gesture faced with anarchical emotional load of the presented art. Nevertheless, a new quality has been developed. A reference to a given work made the exhibition an artistic creation, a new piece by Jakubowicz and the curators. Art is being revealed through contexts; embodying, grasping, organizing.

"The Transportation to the Arsenal", a piece from the Dog (Pies) Gallery, caught one's eye upon the entrance. It was strikingly simple. The Poznań local slang "gemyla" which means collecting wastes from the dump. It came to my mind that when a neighbor leaves his wastes on my plot, it is a symbol of aggression, stronger than verbal, however not yet physical. He has showed his vulgarity and crudeness. In this artistic demonstration one can hardly see any artistic factor besides the visualization of bad emotions. The whole trend of evoking a sense of evil and terror has been written into the poetics of late romanticism. A macabre performance by Tomasz Mróz, the "Penerstwo" member, is an evidence here. A main character of his installation is a lewd, silicone gnome with a huge penis stuck into a hole in the wall. He features a sleazy, spiteful smile. The piece by Mróz reveals a real character of contemporary dwarfs who are no longer good-natured.

Interesting, mysterious works by Zofia Nierodzińska refer to romanticism and its "dark, narcissistic self-adoration". Wojciech Bąkowski, the most famous "pener", offered the "We are not at Our Place" that shows black loudspeakers playing hypnotic tunes. These sounds could easily psychologically torture and break inmates.

"Is it safe" by Ewa Axelrad depicts something resembling "an altar" where a photo of an enlarged, giant tooth - namely the most long-lasting element that does not decay after human death - is an object of worship. Smell is a one of the components of this piece. Installations by Gizela Mickiewicz refer to human fears of the loss of breath, illness. These are excellent visualizations of strong neurosis. A sign of the times.

I was walking around this exhibition, the "backwater" of resentment, aggression and fear of life, and I wondered in what degree an artistic tradition - i.e., the location that consecrates even the stinking, ugly and not aesthetic - elevated these objects to the rank of art. Further, I wondered how strong is this tradition mercilessly tested by the young art world.

"Arbeitsdisziplin. The Spirit of Poznań Art around 2012", the Arsenal Town Gallery in Poznań, January - February 2012.