Polish Threads at the Venice Biennale 2017
An American in the Polish Pavilion, Stanisław Lem in the Hungarian one, an imagined pavilion of a non-existent country – Culture.pl takes a look at all the places Polish culture was represented at the 57th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition.
Sharon Lockhart in the Polish Pavilion
This year Poland is represented at the Venice Biennale by the well-known American artist Sharon Lockhart. Her exhibition, Mały Przegląd (Little Review), is a continuation of her work with the wards of the Youth Socio-therapy Centre (Młodzieżowe Ośrodki Socjoterapii) in Rudzienko, near Warsaw. Referencing the ideas and methods of the Polish-Jewish pedagogue and writer Janusz Korczak, Lockhart works to give voice to young girls.
The Biennale exhibition, curated by Barbara Powowarska, includes a film documenting several months of workshops with teenagers from Rudzienko, their photographic portraits, and, translated into English for the first time, the pre-war magazine Mały Przegląd. The journal, edited by Korczak, appeared between 1926 and 1939 and was entirely created by children.
Hanna Wróblewska, the Polish Pavilion Commissioner and Director of Zachęta National Gallery of Art, said:
Among the various features, which convinced the members of the jury to choose Sharon Lockhart’s project for the presentation at the Polish Pavilion, one element was the most appealing and unique: Sharon Lockhart refers to the history of the life and work of Janusz Korczak but she does not concentrate on the dramatic aspects of his biography for which he is most known. The main goal of her project is to recall the extraordinary quality of Korczak’s pedagogical approach and his teaching method and present it to a worldwide audience. Janusz Korczak created a newspaper, which for 12 years gave a voice to children and was a unique platform for them to express their thoughts and emotions. Sharon Lockhart refers to Korczak’s methods, yet with the use of her owns means of expression. She treats children, who are the main subject of her work, with the respect they deserve.
Alicja Kwade and Agnieszka Polska in Viva Arte Viva
The Biennale consists not only of the few dozen national pavilions but also a large international exhibition in Arsenale and Giardini, prepared by an invited curator. This year, Christine Macel, curator of the Pompidou Centre in Paris, proposed the slogan Viva Arte Viva for the main show – an event about artists, for artists, and by artists. Among the 120 participating artists drawn from around the world are Alicja Kwade and Agnieszka Polska of Poland.
Alicja Kwade’s cosmological work, Pars Pro Toto (2017) is a set of stone balls, planets of the solar system, which play a recording produced by the American program Voyager Golden Record in 1977. The soundtrack was recorded for extra-terrestrial civilisations and people in the future to convey the diversity of life and cultures on Earth. Also exhibited at the Biennale is Kwade’s installation WeltenLinie (One in a Time) (2017). Comprised of a set of mirrors and bronze objects, it is designed so that when one moves through the space, the rocks and trunks of trees double and change their surface. The The New York Times included the installation in its list of the top ten works at the Venice Biennale.
Agnieszka Polska’s contribution to the exhibition is the black-and-white video Uczulanie na Kolor (Color Sensation) (2009). In the video, she reconstructs Włodzimierz Borowski’s presentation of the same name, performed at Poznań’s Galeria Od Nowa in 1968. Borowski is portrayed as a figure whose creativity reflects the most important trends of post-1945 Polish art.
Ryszard Winiarski at Pallazzo Bollani
A retrospective exhibition of Ryszard Winiarski’s work, curated by Ania Muszyńska at Pallazzo Bollani, will accompany the events of the Venice Biennale. Winiarski, an engineer, painter and set designer, died in 2006 and in the 1960s defined his own concept of art and was a forerunner of conceptual art in Poland. His work attempted to transfer game theory, mathematics, statistics, and information technology to the canvas. Winiarski’s constructions of black and white geometrical modules are spatial and kinetic objects. Some of his works invite spectators to participate, such as his Salon Games, a set of board games from 1976 presented in Venice.
Stanisław Lem in the Hungarian Pavilion
The Hungarian Pavilion features an exhibition by Gyula Várnai connected to the environment of neo-conceptual artists. His exhibition, Peace on Earth!, explores utopian concepts of future in the context of ever-changing visions of the future. In his series of works related to the ideas of the 1960s, Várnai incorporates an interview with acclaimed Polish science-fiction writer Stanisław Lem about archaeology, climate change, futurology and human evolution.
Michał Frydrych and Sputnik Photos in the Pavilion of San Escobar
San Escobar is a state that doesn’t exist. It is the creation of a Polish politician, who once mistakenly claimed to have established diplomatic relations with the country. Sebastian Cichocki, curator of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, revived the idea of creating non-existent states, both by politicians and artist, introducing the hypothetical territory of the new country in his text A Flying Tomb Disguised As An Airplane / The Embassy of ***S(+)E*** , part of the catalogue of the Maltese Pavilion. The imagined exhibition at the Embassy of San Escobar includes the linguistic sculptures of Michał Frydrych and the collected work of Sputnik Photos. In the Maltese Pavilion itself, returning to Venice after a 17-year absence is the satirical exhibition Homo Melitensis: An Incomplete Inventory in 19 Chapters. Its hero is the Maltese man, a special species of human being. The curators are Bettina Hutschek and Raphael Vella.
Sources: materials of the organisers & author’s own materials. Originally written in Polish, 29 Jun 2017; translated by AGA, 5 Jul 2017