No 3 (63) 2005
July - September

Hunt without a Map

The 4 Biannual Photography Exhibition turned out to be a wide, multilevel presentation of the Polish photography, an attempt to outline its contemporary scene, as well historic background.
Michał Lasota

An art critic, graduate of culture reslated studies, regulraly cooperates with the Gazeta Malarzy i Poetów.

Michał Lasota
This duality has been reflected by the fact that the event covered the main program and accompanying exhibitions. The core of the exhibition included the presentation by young artists, born after 1970. These have been accompanied by retrospective exhibitions by the Polish photography veterans (Jerzy Lewczyński, Bronisław Schlabs, Marian Kucharski). The concept to entrust an arrangement of the main part of the Biennale – entitled Hunt for Objects – to four curators (Paweł Bownik, Łukasz Gronowski, Jacek Kołodziejski, Marek Noniewicz) resulted in a great variety of the works presented: nevertheless it has been questionable to a certain extent. None of the young curators (besides Gronowski whose exhibition I will mention later) has made his part of the exhibition distinctive enough so as to tell apart the group of the artists he selected, from the artists chosen by his colleagues. Thus, the choice, in a way, has been restricted to inviting favorite artists with hardly any common links, apart from the social. Every single artist, taking part in The Hunt, could have been selected by any of the four curators. Certainly, the above is not necessarily a weakness. This might be enough, if the Biennale objective was to present the most interesting phenomena, subjectively selected, though this was responsible for a certain conceptual and display related chaos. In order to outline, if only in general, the picture of the new Polish photography offered by this year Poznań Biannual Exhibition, instead of dwelling upon its drawbacks, it is better to stress some of its strongest points. Simultaneously, one can reorganize the above described chaos, using the Curators “map”. In my opinion, the most striking work in the group selected by Marek Noniewicz has been the Re-medium, project by Tomasz Dobiszewski, presented at the “Arsenal” Town Gallery. Dobiszewski has constructed a perforated device out of an empty pill box. As a result, he has made a series of - small in size, though rich in metaphors – photos, where a human body – minimized and multiplied – has formed regular rows, resembling the rows of pills in the package. Further, it has created an impression of the perception error, momentary astigmatism, as though one were under an influence of a drug of unclear effects. The series by Szymon Rogiński, four urban suburbs night photos, has been a gem in the set offered by Paweł Bownik. Dead objects and architecture dimly lit by an artificial light of street lamps have been shown in a rich variety, on the photos of an extremely strong impact. The strategy according to Rogiński - night outings into the unknown – perfectly fits the Biennale title, being a real “hunt for objects”. Anna Orlikowska and Karolina Kowalska, two artists invited by Łukasz Gronowski to take part in the exhibition, have shown large size photographs, outside the gallery, in the town space. The Dance Macabre, panoramic triptych by Orlikowska, presented in a cheap bookshop located in the Old Town in Poznan, has depicted a secondhand clothing shop, car repair shop and an interior of a private flat. The figure - wearing a bull’s mask; a mute witness, an absurd counterpoint in the chaos of objects - has been a binding element for the whole triptych. The billboard by Karolina Kowalska, An Unexpected Advertising Market Slump, employs a simple, though quite striking trick. A symmetrical landscape of an ordinary Polish street has been striped off all types of advertising space. Everything, from huge billboards through logos on the T-shirts worn by passer-bys, have been replaced with white, blank spots. By this move, the artist has succeeded in telling about the public space more than a number of sophisticated, academic analysis. Agnieszka Chojnacka, invited by Jacek Kołodziejski, presented the Microreality series hidden in dark corners of the Old Brewery Malt Section. In eight wooden boxes of varying size, the artist has arranged surrealistic scenes, using snapshots and plastic toys. Her imagination has not been merely directed to achieve aesthetic qualities, she has been critical, and her “microrealism” shows satirical features. The public space – explored by the Town Strategies artists in the course of the Biannual Exhibition – has been closed down in a wooden box and grotesquely deformed. The best works of the series share the characteristics of typical of kids theater and of the anti-utopia dread at the same time. Among the works by other artists, two works by Kinga Eliasz have distinguished themselves: the project What Are You Like? and the photo installation, Jigsaw Puzzle. The former referrs to telling a female identity from her handbag contents, the latter draws one’s eyes with attractive aesthetic qualities. To sum up The Hunt for Object, it is worth mentioning that the exhibition participants have been nearly equally divided with regard to sex; a sign that the parity has been already achieved in the sphere of art. Nevertheless, sex related issues, a domain of the feministic art, have been absent from the Biennale. Similarly, the exhibition has lacked other vital issues, less comfortable to deal with than dwelling upon worn out topics. The 4 Poznań Photography Biennale has certainly offered a portrait of the Polish photography. At the moment, it is hard to tell whether this exhibition has outlined any future perspectives. One can hope the artists whose voices have been the most resounding – to paraphrase curators’ comments by Marek Noniewicz - will remain on the artistic scene. The 4 Photography Biennale, Poznań, May – June 2005.