The artistic group known as Azorro, or Supergroup Azorro, was established in 2001 before seemingly disbanding in 2010. It consisted of four artists from Kraków and Warsaw: Oskar Dawicki (b. 1971, performer), Igor Krenz (born. 1959 video artist and creator of artistic actions), Wojciech Niedzielko (b. 1959, photographer and video artist) and Łukasz Skąpski (b. 1958, sculptor, installation artist). Together, they created videos and artistic actions in which they also usually performed.
Azorro’s work revolved around the realities of the art world – galleries, exhibitions, curators, and art dealers. Therefore, art as such became the subject of their works. As Magdalena Ujma put it:
Members of Azorro succeeded in being artists without creating art.
In their films they touched upon the problematic role of the artist in society, namely, upon the expectations, myths and stereotypes associated with it. They also reflected upon the issue of the function of a work of art and its reception. Distinguishing features of their actions were irony, humour and the grotesque. They attempted to portray reality in an exaggerated and absurd form, aggrandizing the associated problems.
One of Azorro's first films features the artists coming out of the leading exhibition centres in Warsaw (for instance, from the Zachęta Gallery) and extolling with exaggerated words and gestures the art pieces they have seen. Each of their comment ends with the titular phrase – Bardzo nam się podoba (We Like it a Lot, 2001). The irony contained in the film refers to both the quality of art exhibitions as well as to the simple categories in which viewers describe and evaluate art. Similarly comical commentary on the typical criteria and hierarchy was a leitmotif of the video Miara jakości (The Measure of Quality, 2002), followed by Czy artyście wszystko wolno? (Is an Artist Allowed To Do Anything? 2002) which refers to stereotypes about artists, their behaviour and attributed freedom (allegedly greater than that enjoyed by the rest of society). In the video, we see members of Azorro walking around the city and ostensibly breaking various existing rules – crossing a street at a red light, whistling at the sight of women, etc.
In another two works made in 2002, the artists addressed the issue of collaboration with curators and the role they play in today's art world. During an exhibition opening, members of the group posed for pictures in such a way as to be captured with well-known Polish curators. The series of photographs and a video titled Portret z kuratorem w tle (Portrait with Curator in the Background) ironically refer to the old habit of taking pictures with Lech Wałęsa, and thus to the significance to which contemporary curators aspire. The second video Propozycja (Proposal) shows Azorro’s telephone conversation with a curator who proposes that the group participate in a prestigious exhibition after making a payment.
An important recurring theme in the works of Azorro is the avant-garde paradigm of originality and novelty in art. The group addressed this subject in particular in two films under the same title Wszystko już było (Everything Has Been Done, 2003), which feature the artists talking about coming up with a new artwork. Each of their ideas overtly brings to mind the work of another famous artist, which makes them relentlessly say that "it has been done". As a result of their unsuccessful attempts they come to a final conclusion: "everything has been done.”
The video Koniec sztuki (The End of Art, 2003) revolves around a similar topic. Members of the group are trying to wake up a sleeping colleague, shouting, 'Get up! Art is over.' The video does not explain, however, why the man has to wake up – whether he is supposed to be sad, happy, or to go to art’s rescue. In another of Azoro's projects, art is compared to a disease or an addiction. In 2004, Azorro produced a CD-ROM called Smart. The title was an acronym for 'Stop Making Art'. The CD contains interactive therapeutic programs designed to help artists break the habit of creating.
In turn, the video Rodzina (Family, 2004) shows a marriage couple with children spending their free time together at home. They seem ordinary, but their activities and topics of conversation prove otherwise, for they revolve around contemporary art. Azorro reduces to absurdity the postulate of artistic education of Polish society. From their perspective, it leads to a situation where children paint Malewicz’ black squares and form Kozyra’s Pyramid of Animals out of plasticine.
Some of Azorro’s works have been interpreted in the context of the 'analytic movement' and experimentation with the medium, especially films that consist in incongruous juxtapositions of picture and sound. This is the case of Hamlet (2002), in which the original soundtrack of the English production of Hamlet, which has a clearly exalted style, is imposed on a recording of the artists playing idiotic games. A similar confrontation occurs in the film Pyxis Systematis Quid Video Dicitur (2003), which is a documentary of the artists travelling to Vienna to supply VHS tapes for an exhibition at the Museum Ludwig. During the trip, Azorro members speak only Latin, which emphasizes the contrast between everyday modern life and the connotations evoked by the extinct language. The film also contains a reference to the nomenclature which is used to speak of a "new, united Europe.'
In 2005, members of Azorro took part as extras in the famous film about John Paul II – Karol – Człowiek, który został papieżem (Karol - A Man Who Became Pope). The artists starred as priests, professors of the Jagiellonian University, Nazi soldiers and Jews. Subsequently, they screened the film as their own, and showed photos from the shooting. By taking on different roles, the artists erased the boundaries between victim and persecutor, but also problematized the issue of authorship and the possibility of simple appropriation. As Łukasz Gorczyca wrote, 'it is a project about interweaving of different realities: filmic, artistic, historical and about the arbitrariness of what is primary and secondary on the film set.'
One of Azorro’s last actions concerned the future of art. For the 2005 exhibition in the W samym centrum uwagi (In the Spotlight) series at Warsaw's Centre for Contemporary Art, members of the group asked Polish art critics for their visions of the art which will be made in 2050. Their replies were embedded in a special capsule in the courtyard of Ujazdowski Castle. Its opening is scheduled for 2050.
When it seemed that the Azorro group had broken up, and in accordance with the principle of 'everything has been done' – the gallery visitors would be shown only the same well-known works by them, the artists came up with the new project and a series of retrospective exhibitions curated by Joanna Zielińska. The video Ostatni film (The Last Film, 2010) made in a similar convention to Everything Has Been Done, is a behind-the-scenes look at working in an artistic collective. It features Dawicki, Krenz, Niedzielko and Skąpski arguing and trying to push their own ideas, on which they fail to agree or reach a compromise. As a result, we observe an embarrassing squabble over who put more effort and work into group activities. The title of the film was also used as the title of group's last exhibition in the Raster Gallery on Hoża Street in Warsaw.
The Last Film has been shown on at a number of retrospective screenings summarizing the achievements of the 'supergroup'. However, as an ironic commentary on the concept of retrospective exhibitions, it has also been presented at group exhibitions such as Idealna Wystawa (Ideal exhibition) at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Toruń, Lepiej być nie może (Good as It Gets) at the Arsenał Gallery in Białystok, and Ostatnia wystawa 1 (Last Exhibition1) at Goldex Poldex in Kraków and at BWA Awangarda in Wrocław.
Presentations of Azorro’s works were accompanied by a diagram depicting the history of the group, and a collection of artifacts – drawings, documents, objects and props from films (Timeline, 2010). It included drawings from the video Rodzina, Fonetyczne notatki po pretigalsku (The Family, Phonetic notes in Pretigal) and Niech się dzieje co chce (Let whatever happens), as well as items such as a special lock used by the artists to lock themselves up from the inside of a train compartment.
At their 'last' shows, Azorro announced that 'at least half of the members of Azorro no longer consider the group formula valid and speak openly about breaking up of their long-term cooperation.' But are we to believe the supergroup that the Last exhibition is really the last one?
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, November 2006; update: March 2011, transl. GS, 01.09.2014