The exhibition presents impressions of Lebanon as seen through the eyes of two young Polish artists
"Journey to a Perfect Fantasy" is the fruit of an artistic collaboration between Marta Bogdańska, a photographer and free-lance curator, and Stanisław Strasburger, a Polish writer with a special interest in the Middle East and Lebanon in particular. The exhibition comprises ten large-format collages of black and white images by Marta Bogdańska combined with excerpts from Strasbuerger's writings of Stanisław Strasburger.
Bogdańska & Strasburger's collages combine word and image on a strictly equal footing. They have drawn their inspiration from the cultural templates familiar to both Arabic and European traditions reaching from ancient miniatures to modern comic strips. Walid Raad's conceptual collages and urban projections by Jenny Holzer have provided contemporary points of reference.
For Bogdańska and Strasburger travel is a way of life and their artistic medium. The forthcoming exhibition is the result of their studies centred on Lebanon and the Middle East. It is also an invitation to the viewer to become engaged in a discussion about the challenges faced by anybody who wishes to familiarize him/herself with a foreign culture. To what extent is it possible to immerse oneself in a different culture? Can we, regardless of our best intentions, understand The Other?
On another level, the project concerns itself with issues of perception: is the image in front of our eyes the message in and of itself or does our literary baggage influence this message? Does this baggage constitute our primary reality? Does it dictate our visual frames of reference, preordaining these perceptions?
The collages presented in Beirut contain photographs made in 2008-2010 in Lebanon. Texts come from the novel Strasburger published under the pseudonym John Subart, entitled Handlarz wspomnień albo bitwa poetów" / "Merchant of memories or the Battle of Poets, 2009) and a series of publications Impresje Bliskowschodnie" / "Impressions of the Middle East, 2008-2010). Albina Horbaczewska created the illustrations in collaboration with the authors. Małgosia Skawiński and Rana Siblini translated the texts into English and Arabic, respectively.
For centuries, writing and painting are the two main media forms that have allowed artists of different cultures to deal with the world around them. The form of collages in the exhibition is an equal combination of the two media. The inspiration for designs can be found in many cultures, such as old miniatures paintings and contemporary comics. A contemporary point of reference was provided by conceptual collages of two of the most important artists in Lebanon, Walid Raad and Jenny Holzer.
"Fantasies of Travel. Lebanon" also questions what we really perceive. Is what appears before our eyes, the reality? Or is it only through the texts, which we somehow carry within us, that we design our reality? Or maybe is it that the texts are our primary reality?
Marta Bogdanska - cultural animator, photographer, curator and activist. For many years, she worked in NGOs and socio-cultural initiatives. In recent years, she has focused on photography and the preparation of cultural and artistic projects, especially from the Middle East. Her last project, "Fenix Cities" was a combination of workshops for artists and cultural practitioners from Lebanon and Poland with a presentation (the first in Poland) of contemporary art from Lebanon at Galeria Raster and presentations (also the first time) of work by young Polish artists in Beirut. The project, promoting cooperation and exchange of experience, ended with the issue of an anthology of Lebanese comics translated into Polish.
Stanisław Strasburger (aliases: Jan Subart, Jonasz Ryba) - writer, traveler. The author of novels and radio plays Handlarz wspomnień albo bitwa poetów" / "Seller of Memories or Battle of Poets (2009) as well as a series of articles Impresje Bliskowschodnie" / "Near Eastern Impressions dedicated to Lebanon (2008-2010). A number of literary and musical events in Poland, Germany and Lebanon accompanied the realease of Handlarz wspomnień. He is involved with the Nazi documentation centre in Cologne, where he leads projects and historical education classes with special emphasis on the cultural background of young German immigrant.
The project has been organised in collaboration with the Adam Mickiewicz Institute within the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Beirut.
Exhibition runs between December 1, 2010 - January 1, 2011.