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WMMNA: Communism, Fantasy And Homemade Bombs At Polish Art Exhibition

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Regine Debatty takes us into the world of Polish Art from the exhibition called 'The Power Of Fantasy' held at the Bozar Center in Brussels.

Caroline Ku
  • 15 august 2011


At first sight, an exhibition entirely dedicated to art from Poland might seem like an exotic eccentricity but visits to art fairs, exhibitions and festivals have opened my eyes times and times again to the high number of talented artists from Poland. Or maybe it’s just that I’m especially sensitive to what they do: the heavy, meticulous, and at times distressing, historical references in Robert Kusmirowski’s mock-upsKrzysztof Wodiczko‘s homeless vehicles, Artur Żmijewski’s video documentation of social experiments, etc.

I was therefore really looking forward to see The Power of Fantasy – Modern and Contemporary Art from Poland at the BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts when I went to Brussels last week.

Divided throughout the 19th century, occupied during the Second World War, and subsequently under the Soviet yoke for decades, Poland became a democracy in 1989. In this wounded country, victim of a succession of oppressive regimes, there developed a flourishing culture that gave expression, down the centuries, to a spirit of resistance to any order imposed from outside. Via the absurd and the fantastic, Polish artists reacted to the chaos of the real world with art imbued with a spirit of resistance, not in order to flee reality, but with a view to reconstructing it.

Memories of communism, shadows of the occupation, fantasy, irony and look at the catchy image used to promote the exhibition:

Clearly, that was a show I was going to like. Unfortunately, BOZAR might be a bit of a kill-joy because of 1. The fairly high entrance price, it’s 15 euros to see 3 exhibitions (you can also buy tickets to see individual exhibitions, their price is 6 euros, 6 euros and 3 euros which makes the ‘combined ticket’ such a fantastic bargain). 2. The absolute interdiction to take picture. Which would be fine if BOZAR provided visitors with good photos of the shows on their website. Instead, you have a to make-do with a couple of unsatisfactory photos that were taken in other contexts. Or buy the catalogue.

But let’s get back to the exhibition:

Kuśmirowski and Żmijewski whose work I mentioned earlier were came with heavy boots. The former reconstructed a catholic cemetery using cardboard, wood, heaps of dirt and polystyrene while the latter showed the short film The Game of Tag, in which adults of various ages enter a former concentration camp gas chamber. They are naked and asked to play tag. After the initial moments of awkwardness, the players seem to go for it and merrily run around the death chamber. The artist compares the experiment to a therapy used in psychology: the re-enactment of a traumatic event with a simultaneous shifting of its meaning.

A couple of meters away from the video, Zbigniew Libera, who made the headlines with his Lego Concentration Camp (1996), is showing a large, staged photo titled The Exodus of the People from the Cities, which probably meets all the clichés we might come up with when we stop and think about people who immigrated from Poland to work in “Western” countries.

Continue reading here.

Régine Debatty is the creator of the blog ‘We Make Money Not Art‘ and an art show curator. She has also spoken at several conferences and festivals about the way artists, hackers and interaction designers (mis)use technology. Learn more about Régine Debatty.

 

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