No 2 (94) 2013
April - June

Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More…

The 55th edition of the Vienna Biennial is coming shortly. This time the Polish Pavilion will belong to Konrad Smoleński. This is not typical at all, since lately Poland has been represented by artists considered classics of the 20th century Polish art.

Dobromiła Błaszczyk

Art historian, curator. She publishes texts on contemporary art.

Dobromiła Błaszczyk

THIS YEAR WINNING PROJECT BY KONRAD SMOLEŃSKI has been entitled Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More. An initial name of the project refers to the title of the book by Alexei Yurchak who analyzed paradoxes of late communism. The researcher dealt with an issue of coexistence of mutually opposite forces. The tensions and mergers of contradictory concepts. He analyzed an attitude of citizens who on one hand lived with the regime, convinced about the strength and stability of the state, on the other - their actions were a silent kind of protest that was slowly but surely destroying communism, little by little doing the trick. Yurchak tried to prove that for many years this mechanism had not functioned as the state - citizen dichotomy, the situation had not been clear cut in black and white. The fall of the system came as a great shock, though in a way it had been expected.

How does Smoleński relate to this? So far, being familiar only with the project description, it seems that the artist will attempt to cope with emotions and reactions of people forced to be a cog in the wheel, who suddenly face the cacophony of sounds, as well as mutually existing contradictory information. As was the case with the system analyzed by Yurchak, all trends and stimuli - both inner and outer - will be cumulated to suggest seemingly contradictory type of (everyday) existence. As the competition jury statement says: The installation evokes a sense of emotional anxiety and tension, focusing on an issue of accumulation, classification and subordination to knowledge, posing a problem of a lack and excess of information, and as curators put it; slowing down history, suspending its course.

Participation in the Biennial has been yet another huge success of Smoleński, following the Deutsche Bank Foundation award and his one-man exhibition at the Pinchuk Art Center in Kiev. If the above mentioned project assumptions are met, the installation will certainly stay in line with the so far artistic search by Smoleński. He has been a multi media artist who has effortlessly pursued video, installation and photography. Further, sound plays a significant part in his oeuvre, offering an opportunity to affect other senses of a viewer. Smoleński has been a co-founder and a member of such bands as Mama, Kristen, K.O.T., Sixa, BNNT. The sound has not been merely a frequently applied element of his installations (It's Bigger than Me), it has happened to be a main means of expression. The End of Radio piece presents a room annexed by Smoleński, filled with his "music", so as upon entering one could not make out individual words. Audiences felt a sense of weird uncertainty, if not danger. It seems that the mentioned work has been based on similar premises as the project submitted for the Vienna Biennial. Music functioned there the tight compact matter that overpowers one's senses, like chaos that takes over one's body and automatically urges one to leave the room. Under such circumstances one feels assaulted by surrounding sounds. Guided by a natural impulse, a viewer is looking for a place to hide, where the sounds will be more real and recognizable.

In search for balance between extreme emotions and feelings, Smoleński destroys the harmony, thus checking its value and meaning. A sense of anxiety is one of the means to achieve this aim. Occasionally his projects are more literal and involve the act of destroying, burning or decay (The End 2007, The Death 2008). In this manner he disturbs the existing situation and points out a fleeting, fragile nature of artistic creation, but first of all, of our reality. The works by Smoleński have been constantly provoking and directly "touching" a viewer. They infringe upon a viewer's safety zone and leave there an open wound.

The text has been prepared for the 55th Art Biennial, Venice, June - November 2013.