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Maciej Kurak


Installation artist and graphic artist. Born on April 15, 1972, in Poznań.

Maciej Kurak studied painting, graphic arts and sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań from 1993 to 1998, graduating with a diploma in traditional graphic arts. He later went on to get a PhD in graphic arts in 2003, and since 1998 he has been working as an assistant in Professor Mirosław Pawłowski's silkscreen workshop. Although Kurak never gave up graphic arts, he is known mainly for his site-specific installations. Since 2004 he has been a member of the Wunderteam artistic group, and in 2005 he won the top prize in the Deutsche Bank art competition.

Kurak makes use of both public and private architectural space in his work. He chooses the places himself – places in cities, galleries or private flats – into which he inserts his artistic interventions, changing the perspective and the perception of reality and relying on architecture to provide the frame for human life. These works often use the element of surprise to deceive the viewer, involving him or her in a three-dimensional illusion.



Serenada / Serenade

The point of departure for Kurak's spatial inquiries is the idea of playing with the scale of objects and the notion of architecture as a medium of history. In the "Praktiker" (2000, see photos) exhibition, he used both an ordinary box of tea and an enlarged copy of it, blown up to the size of a person. The same year in the Grabary 48 gallery he created a reconstruction of the shop that was once located in the gallery's building (Przestrzeń / Space - see photos). The project was partly sentimental, but it also posed questions about the place's history and our ability to connect with it. In 2001 he turned his attention toward a half-demolished building on Zydowska Street in Poznań, where he attached furniture and other objects to one of the remaining walls (Serenada / Serenade - see photos).

Many of Kurak's other projects have also appeared in public spaces. As he says:



"The desire to inscribe oneself smoothly onto reality, while at the same time maintaining its balance, allows for the possibility to totally transform the existing view of one's surroundings while maintaining a high level of coherence with the city's infrastructure."
Symulacja autentyczności / The Simulation of Authenticity

In 2001 the artist placed multi-coloured cables in various locations in Tarnowskie Gory, everywhere from lawns to wall cracks and basement windows. The installation, called (Globalizacja / Globalization - see photos), was a reference to the normally-invisible, constantly growing network that is becoming denser and more chaotic by the minute. Another installation, Symulacja autentyczności (The Simulation of Authenticity - see photos), built in Zielona Gora in 2002, consisted of rooftops covered with TV antennas suspended directly above the ground, suggesting that the rest of the building was underground. The artist's was ironically commenting on the growing role of communication through electronic devices, supplanting the need for direct contact with the world through, for example, windows.

The motifs of dwelling and refuge recur frequently in Kurak's work. In 2002 he created a dwelling under a bulge in the parquet in the Wschodnia Gallery in Łódź (Dekonstrukcja / Deconstruction - see photos). The next year he set up a tent in Szczecin through which, upon entering, one could descend into a subterranean room decorated like a bedroom (Jezioro słoneczne / Sunny Lake, 2003 - see photos). The artist has also orchestrated bizarre dislocations in pre-existing buildings. In 2004 he used partition walls to build a small, sterile, white-walled apartment inside another apartment in Poznań (Sweet Harmony - see photos), thus confining the apartment's real inhabitants to the space between the walls. Following the competition for the "Deutsche Bank Cultural Foundation Award", which Kurak won in 2005, the artist created a fragment of an apartment in a small section of the gallery, complete with furniture and "cut through" by the gallery's walls; it was featured in the exhibition "Spojrzenia 2005" (Views 2005).

At the "Art Poznań" Art Fair in 2005, Kurak transformed one wall of the old slaughterhouse complex in which the event took place – the Stara Rzeźnia – re-creating the façade of a single-family house on one side and the façade of a block of flats on the other (see photos).

W skrócie / In Brief

In so doing, the artist juxtaposed not only two housing models but also two social classes, while at the same time playing with the concept of inside and outside. Kurak used a similar technique in 2006 during an exhibition at Warsaw's Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, where he built a copy of a part of the castle inside the gallery (W skrócie / In Brief - see photos).

In 2006, the artist presented Wszędzie dobrze, gdzie nas nie ma / Everywhere Else is Always Good) as part of the Biurowiec / Office Block project in Poznań. From behind a closed door in one of the rooms one could see lights and hear sounds suggesting that a party was underway; this time Kurak was not manipulating space, but was creating a mirage of a more attractive but inaccessible reality.

He also creates installations on a smaller scale, in which he takes advantage of the surprising effects of "freezing in time" a fragment of the surroundings. Passe-Partout (2004, see photos) consists of a frame with an unusually broad white mat, in front of which the artist placed both a hyperrealist sculpture of a woman and a real woman. Both conceal but also obstruct the frame, and what appears to the viewer to be an obstacle to seeing the work turns out, in fact, to be the work itself.

The strategy that the artist employed during a performance for the 2005 opening of the "Pojedynek" ("Duel" - see photos) exhibition in Poznań was similar, but the illusion created was even more convincing. He invited a group of a few dozen elderly people (most of them wearing characteristic berets) and placed them in front of the entrance to the exhibition. Hence the "real" guests were forced to break through the crowd, only to realise in the end they had taken part in a performance.One of Kurak's most recent works is the installation Fifty-Fifty (2006 - see photos), which includes a "maluch" (a polish Fiat 126p, a vehicle typical of the PRL) whose spinning wheels operate a sawing machine. The artist once again makes use of an absurd inversion of scale, since his installation relies on an inefficient process – the complicated mechanism of a car serves only as an energy source for a much simpler device.

Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, November 2006.

Selected individual exhibitions:

  • 2000
    - "Przestrzeń / Space" - Garbary 48 Gallery, Poznań
    - "Praktiker" - Inner Spaces Centre for Contemporary Art, Poznań
  • 2001
    - "Serenada / Serenade" - ul. Żydowska, Poznań
  • 2002
    - "Dekonstrukcja / Deconstruction" - Wschodnia Gallery, Łódź
  • 2003
    - "Prototyp / Prototype" - Wieża Ciśnień, Konin
    - "Jezioro słoneczne / Sunny Lake" - Szczecin
  • 2004
    - "Granice / Borders" - University of Zielona Góra
    - "Sweet Hormony" - Wierzbięcie Street, Poznań
  • 2006
    - "W skrócie / In Brief" - as part of the exhibition cycle W samym centrum uwagi / At the Very Centre of Attention, Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
    - "To tu i to tam / This Here and This There" - AT Gallery, Poznań

Selected group exhibitions:

  • 2001
    - "Precedens 01" - Tarnowskie Góry
  • 2002
    - "Precedens 02" - Zielona Góra
  • 2003
    - "Oder/Odra" - Galerie 2yk, Berlin, Germany
  • 2004
    - "Art Poznań" Art Fair - Stara Rzeźnia, Poznań
    - "Dwa w jednym. Poznań Art Now / Two in One. Poznań Art Now" - Łódź
    - "Bez tytułu / Untitled" IV Triennale Młodych / 4th Triennial of the Young - Centre of Polish Sculpture, Orońsko
  • 2005
    - "Pojedynek / Duel" - Stary Browar, Poznań
    - "Art Poznań" Art Fair - Stara Rzeźnia, Poznań
    - "Sense in Places" - Sligo, Ireland
    - "Jak rozmawiać o sztuce współczesnej? / How to Talk About Contemporary Art?" - Arsenal Gallery, Białystok
  • 2006
    - "Spojrzenia. II Edycja / Views. 2nd Edition" - Zachęta National Art Gallery, Warsaw (top prize);
    - "Zobacz to, co ja. Młoda sztuka z Poznania / See What I See. Young Art from Poznań" - Ośrodek Propagandy Sztuki, Łódź; Wozownia Art Gallery, Toruń
    - "Zwyczajny terror / Ordinary Terror" - Sektor I Gallery, Katowice
    - "Via Space" - Trondheim, XXX
    - VI Triennale Grafiki Polskiej / 6th Triennial of Polish Graphic Arts - Katowice
    - "Biurowiec" - Poznań

Photos are published courtesy of the artist.



Praktiker 2000
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Space 2000
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Serenade 2001
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Globalization 2001
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The Simulation of Authenticity 2002
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Deconstruction 2002
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Sunny Lake 2003
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Sweet Harmony 2004
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Passe-Partout 2004
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Duel 2005
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Untitled 2005
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In Brief 2006
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Fifty-Fifty 2006
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