No 2 (90) 2012
April - June

Regaining Properties

This exhibition brings about a lot of hope. The authors describe reality; though they do not give up interfering into it, they base their actions on a dialogue. The dialogue, where listening and understanding take priority over judgments.

Zofia Ratajska

Art historian, she publishes texts on contemporary art.

Zofia Ratajska

THEY ATTEMPT, STANDING SOMEWHAT ASIDE, to observe carefully what is different, occasionally funny, imperfect. Thus, their outlook is open, multi layer, ambiguous. Historical photographs of Elbląg , the city with a complex history, refer directly to the definition of the "regained territories". They express Zbigniew Łopieński's fascination with the form and results of the 1965 Spatial Forms Biennial, the initiative related to "cultural management of the Western and Northern Territories", under the banner of working people alliance with culture and art. Assisted by the Zamech steel plant workers, the artists of such stature as Henryk Stażewski, Zbigniew Dłubak and Edward Krasiński, prepared spatial projects. The artists had an opportunity to work with various forms and materials, while the city got the museum of contemporary art - an open gallery, and new image. Regardless of the fact how one would assess today the combination of constructivist ideas with communist slogans, then it was an extraordinary event, an authentic takeover of the urban space.

Within the context of two other projects, and the title of the Zachęta exhibition, it is interesting to look at the "local patriotism"; something that is shared, something that concerns everybody, somehow describes them, marks, defines. By means of shared values, people develop a community; communities differ depending on what has been shared.

Thus, the "Social Museum", a multi motive project by Krzysztof Żwirblis - the director or rather, a guiding spirit of the process - gives inhabitants of some, selected parts of Warsaw and Lublin, a clue on the aspects, including artistic elements, which they might share. He does not examine or reveal structures that organize local societies way of perception and understanding their shared territory. Instead, he encourages them to join forces to develop the ties that will help them to consider a given place their own. First of all, he is listening. People start telling stories; fragmentary, anecdote like, then they switch to their life histories.

They show objects that are important for them, memorabilia, their own works and collections - here videotaped, occasionally presented at local clubs or cafes. There is an element of the authentic in it, and this, in turn, wakes up creativity. It turns out that Żwirblis' interlocutors are eager to share with others. First, they allow their closest neighbors to see all these, next the group of audience grows, finally, there is the exhibition at the Zachęta, available for general public. The project opens space. First, video report characters refer to the past - the author inquiring them about their stories, after all asks them about the future.

Different type of regaining the suspended, undefined, no-man's-land, has been presented in the A-Z Series (Educational Cabinets) by Andrzej Tobis. The 1954 German-Polish dictionary - and its perverse figuration in the changing Silesia - offers not only linguistic absurdities that are still present today, for example in Google Translator. Besides social contexts and historical connotations, the photographs by Tobis carry a warning against a one-sided description of the world, by means of words and names that can adopt unexpected, no longer comical, designates. "The rule governing the combination between the word and the image was to remain open and unpredictable. The artist says that the unpredictability of connections was planned as a result of a clash between the ordered dictionary structure and the chaotic reality." Here, the local character is deprived of patriotism or liking. People are rather accustomed to a place, but they would not necessarily call it their own. Shabby and ugly houses, backyards, devastated monuments and sport facilities are a part of everyday life here, all got used to it, and show no surprise. The artist initiates a new look at the ugly, ordinary locations that are neither from here, nor from there. He has reduced them to absurd figurations, for example an "inner bottom", "overhead balloon", "cross-section of a an oblong egg".

Can art "regain" or heal some selected territories, or can they be regained for the sake of art? The question remains open.

Bogdan Łopieński, Andrzej Tobis, Krzysztof Żwirblis, "Double Regained Territories", the Zachęta Gallery, Warsaw, March - May 2012.