Piotr Wyrzykowski was born in Gdańsk in 1968. He started as a performer. In his artistic activities he uses films, video performances, Internet, installations and video projections set in public spaces.
At the beginning he studied interior decoration (1989-1991) and then painting (1991-1995) at the Fine Arts Academy in Gdańsk. He was also a student in professor Witosław Czerwonka's Pracownia Intermedialna. He's a club VJ (performing under the name Peter Style). In the 1990s he took an active part in the Gdańsk artistic milieu, as a member of Stowarzyszenie Ludzi Aktywnych (1991-1992), director of C-14 gallery, a member of Galeria Otwarta Foundation (1992-1993), director of Łaźnia Miejska, vice-director of Wyspa Progress Foundation (1993-1995). In 1995 he founded and became the artistic director of CUKT (Centralny Urząd Kultury Technicznej, Central Bureau of Technical Culture). In 1995 he received the first, and in 1997 the second prize at the WRO festival. In 2003 he was nominated for a Spojrzenia Award founded by the Deutsche Bank Cultural Foundation. He lives and works in Kiev and Gdańsk.
Piotr Wyrzykowski started his artistic activity as a performer in the early 1990s. Since 1990, for three years, he had formed a performance duo Ziemia Mindel Würm with Marek Rogulski. They conducted actions similiar to magical rituals and mystery plays that lasted many hours, often in some natural sourrounding or on the Wyspa Spichrzów in Gdańsk. Their actions were complemented by sculptures, fire and music. As Wyrzykowski himself wrote in a text entitled Potrzebna nam transfuzja krwi (We need a blood transfusion):
Mundel Würm is the rythm of millions of years, a current that I am trying to join. It is an effort to find oneself in the existing system. It's a tragedy of knowing that a return to virginity of nature and man is impossible.
Joanna Ciesielska, a member and observer of the Gdańsk artistic milieu, wrote at the time that the performances by the duo reinforced:
the awareness of being in a world constructed differently, in a world of media and artificial, virtual reality, where the authenticity of those experiences, often extreme, is doomed.
In his individual performances the artist started to use elements of video art and TV transmissions. In 1995 in the Mózg Club in Bydgoszcz he conducted the performance Przysięga prezydenta (The Presidential Oath). During an evening show in public television, where, among other things, the oath of Aleksander Kwaśniewski has been shown, Wyrzykowski put on different masks – Santa Claus's (the performance took place on Christmas Eve), carnival masks, cartoon characters' masks, photographs of Wałęsa and Kwaśniewski. All trough the performance the painting of Matka Boska Częstochowska was projected on his face and the artist, mimicking the face on the painting, made two cuts on his cheek. During another action, using video projections, he quoted the new copyright act, and on his right arm the sign © has been tatooed, which symbolised the right to own one's body and also the exclusive right to its reproduction and copying (Copyright, 1995).
Around the same time Wyrzykowski started to make films, which connected elements of media analysis and documentary values (like Runner, 1993, which was also a performance shown in Bremen in 1993). His most famous video from that time is Beta Nassau (1993), a film that has become part of the collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art. An almost abstract frame shows a rusty ship boardside. Often described as „videopainting” it evokes (especially because of the connection of the image with ominous music) a feeling of some hidden danger. As the artist explains, it was inspired by an idea of German authorities who tried to solve the problem of illegal imigrants by organising a camp for newcomers on such a ship.
Wyrzykowski's art has been quickly dominated by new technologies and his interest in their impact on the perception of the human body, the phenomenon of 'telepresence', the multiplication of body in TV shows (which is also an important subject of his performances), and also the exploration and possibilities of creating the virtual world. His works were not only presented in galleries but also on the Internet and on CDs. On his website he created a virtual character, whom he called David EverBody, and who could be changed and deformed by the spectators (There Is No Body, 1998). The digital body was created on the basis of the artist's own body and the process of scanning and digital registration has been recorded on the Oglądaj mnie (Watch me) video. Cyborg's Sex Manual was registered on CD: it was a manual based on popular self-help books for teenagers, which explain the world of love and sex, but addressed to cyborgs. Polish history has also become a part of the virtual world. Program 44, published on the Internet and based on the painting Poczet Króli i Książąt Polskich by Jan Matejko allowed to transform and create different versions of the biographies of 44 Polish sovereigns.
Described works have been rooted in the activity of CUKT, that opened in Gdańsk in 1995. Apart from Wyrzykowski also Rafał Ewertowski, Robert Mikołaj Jurkowski, Artur Kozdrowski and Jacek Niegoda formed the CUKT. The group's biggest achievement was the creation of Obywatelski Software Wyborczy (OSW, Civic Election Software), a 'computer programme created for collective decision making'.
Politicians and presidential candidates were replaced by Wiktoria Cukt. Through contacting her, OSW was supposed to change 'the representative government into a fair and effective model of direct digital democracy'.
CUKT organised the Wiktoria Cukt campaign in major Polish cities and on the Internet.
Around 2000 Wyrzykowski started his collaboration with the Ukrainian artist Ilia Cziczkan. Among the results there was a photography cycle and a film entitled Obrońcy (2001/2002). Officers of an elite aerial unit of the Ukrainian army took part in the video. Their positions were modelled on photographs from advertisement campaigns of famous companies (Gucci, Valentino, Hugo Boss, Dolce&Gabbana). Together with Cziczkan, in 2002, Wyrzykowski made the film Atomic Love. It was shot in a disclosed area in Chernobyl, next to the nuclear power station, where tha catastrophy occured in 1986. A couple dressed in silver, protective suits takes a walk on the contaminated field. The suits must be worn because of a possible radiation and health loss, but they make intimate gestures, hugs and sex much more difficult. The seemingly funny film actually shows the probability of such a scenario.
In Communostalgie (2004), an installation built with lightboxes with video elements, Wyrzykowski connected constructivist soviet collages by avant-garde artists (like Rodchenko), texts by Vladimir Mayakovsky and pyramids built with athletes' bodies with some elements of the rough reality of the former Soviet Union (like excercises in an open-air gym constructed with steel pieces reminiscent of a scrapheap). The modern Ukrainian reality embodied by two homeless boys living on the streets of Kiev, was shown in the 24-hour long projection of I Will All of You Set Free (2002) and a video installation entitled Young Ukraine (2001), where the shots of a hundred Ukrainian kids were preceded by close-ups of the Ukrainian flag. The Soviet heritage was recalled in Polowanie na człowieka (Man Hunt, 2006), videos and photos which presented the monumental architecture of the Kiev underground. Wyrzykowski deprived it of its function and created a vision of a hostile, underground world, reminiscent of science-fiction films and computer games. As Ewa Gorządek wrote:
The astonishing and overwelming architecture of the underground becomes an independent world, its practical function ceases to exist, dominated by the majesty of the architectural forms and the impression of a never-ending space.
Like with Atomic Love, the power of this work is founded on a crash between the apparent fiction and the reality of the presentation.
During the Ukryta Ścieżka festival in Gdańsk-Wrzeszcz, Wyrzykowski collaborated with Robert Rumas on the creation of Pomnik pijących piwo (Statue of Beer Drinkers, 2007). The video installation set in the public space gave their place back to the inhabitants of the area who once used to drink beer 'on the street, in the so-called open public space'. Former employees of the Wrzeszcz brewery took part in the project.
In the video and photography cycle The Nobody Family (2008) Wyrzykowski analysed modern forms of communication, using texts copied from websites. They are spoken by real people, although electronically masked by the artist. Viola Krajewska wrote that in this project
human beings armed with the technique of sharing their opinions with any person in the world through message boards, disappear as a subject who can express meaning.
The installation Przeżyją tylko ci, którzy to zaplanowali (Only the ones who planned it will survive, 2009), presented on the Moscow biennale, signs the return of the topics of cold war, crash of empires and nuclear war to the artist's work. Wyrzykowski expands the form of video-poster (used already in Communostalgie, 2004), where the video image is a part of the poster composition. Przeżyją tylko ci, którzy to zaplanowali is based on original American publications from the 1960s, 70s and 80s which promoted building shelters next to single-family houses. Each of the six video-posters shows one scene from the life of a family who lives in hiding. Wyrzykowski relates to the layer of propaganda (creating the fear of a foreign empire), at the same time fantasizing about 'what would happen if...'.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2007; updated: November 2009, translated by N. Mętrak-Ruda 7.10.2015.
1990 - Warszawa - Gdańsk – Wyspa Gallery, Gdańsk (Ziemia Mindel Würm)
1992 - Czysta energia – C-14 Gallery, Gdańsk (Venom Underground)
1993 - Performance inauguracyjny – National Art Gallery, Sopot
1999 - Cyborg's Sex Manual 1.0 – Entropia Gallery, Wrocław; Prywatność akt III - David Everybody w wirtualnym performance – National Art Gallery, Sopot; Promocja – Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warszawa
2000 - Biuro wyborcze Wiktorii Cukt – Art Museum Łódź; Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warszawa (CUKT)
2001 - Obrońcy – RA Gallery, Kiev (in a collaboration with Ilia Cziczkan)
2002 - Obrońcy – Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdańsk (in a collaboration with Ilia Cziczkan)
2003 - Developed Body - Cyborg's Manual - Hunting the Posthuman - MOMA Theatre, New York, USA
2006 - Polowanie na człowieka – Centre for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski, Warszawa
2008 – Art Centre Wro, Wrocław
1990 – International Performance Festival – Wyspa Gallery, Gdańsk (Ziemia Mindel Würm)
1993 - Sztuka - Miasto - Maszyna - Open Atelier, Gdańsk; Eleonora in Tallin – Art House, Tallin, Estonia
1994 - Ucho Beethovena - Open Atelier, Gdańsk; Kolekcja – Wyspa Gallery, Gdańsk
1995 - Antyciała – Centre for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski, Warszawa
1997 - Media Art Biennale WRO 97 - Wrocław (CUKT); LAB 6 – Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warszawa (CUKT); Emotion Transformer - Budapest Gallery, Budapest, Hungary; New Trends in Video Art - Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA
1998 - W tym szczególnym momencie – Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warszawa
1999 - After the Wall - Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden (CUKT); Public Relations – Centre for Contemporary Art Łaźnia, Gdańsk (CUKT); Oikos- Leon Wyczółkowski Museum, Bydgoszcz
2000 - After the Wall - Neue Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, Germany (CUKT); Negocjatorzy sztuki - Centre for Contemporary Art Łaźnia, Gdańsk (CUKT); Scena 2000 - Centre for Contemporary Art atUjazdowski Castle, Warszawa
2001 - In Between - Art from Poland - Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, USA (CUKT); Digital bodies – Ludwig Museum, Budapest, Hungary; Invasion - Moldova
2002 - Matrix of Collaboration – Centre for Contemporary Art, Kiev, Ukraine; Transmediale International Media Art Festival - Berlin, Germany; Art in Public Spaces - Kunsthalle, Vienna, Austria; Artificial Emotions - ITAU Center, Sao Paulo, Brazylia; Freiheit - Rebell Minds Gallery, Berlin, Germany
2003 - Prague Biennale - Prague; Fair Moscow - Gelman Gallery, Moscow
2004 - Za czerwonym horyzontem - Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warszawa; "BHP" – Wyspa Art Institute, Gdańsk
2005 - Polska. medium, cień, wyobrażenie - Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle, Warszawa
2006 - Come into My World - Łódź Biennale 2006, Patio Art Centre, Łódź;Nomadowie współczesności - Centre for Contemporary Art Łaźnia, Gdańsk; L.H.O.O.Q. - Piekary Gallery, Poznań; Polyphony of Images – Polish Cultural Institute, New York, USA
2007 - Ukryta ścieżka - Gdańsk; Chodź, opowiem ci pewną historię – Manhattan Gallery, Łódź; Od monumentu do marketu - BWA, Zielona Góra (video screening);
2008 - Poland Street Underground - London Design Festival, London
2009 - Places out of Space - Wyspa Art Institute, Gdańsk; Idee - Centre for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski, Warszawa; New Old Cold War. Post Socialist Countries Experience 3. Biennale of Modern Art – Red October Chocolate Factory, Moscow.