A Simple Guide to Making Art at Home
#photography & visual arts
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Art at Home, 'Untitled (Shelters)', Joanna Piotrowska, 2017, photo: Dawid Radziszewski Gallery, bottom, untitled-2017-joanna-piotrowska-fot.-dawid-radziszewski-2.jpg
Visiting online exhibitions, eyes glued to the monitor, is not exactly the most exciting experience in the world. Instead of condemning oneself to online substitutes for museum visits, it's better to look to artists for an answer to the question: What can you do at home?
Look out the window
Z mojego okna / From My Window / Józef Robakowski
The world outside an apartment window is a priceless sociological instrument, providing an attentive observer with a whole panorama of impressions, even during a widespread quarantine. From observing human-animal relations, for example, neighbours walking their dogs, to action scenes of police chasing down illegal strollers. Józef Robakowski knew this – he made short films from the kitchen window of his apartment located in the Łódź district of ‘Manhattan’, editing their fragments into one of his pivotal works entitled From My Window.
In the scenes, filmed over a period of twenty years, from the late Władysław Gierek-era to the end of the first decade of the transformation, the concrete square between apartment blocks became a live theatre of urban life in which history discreetly plays its own role – the May Day processions disappear, the rich become poor and vice versa, and police patrol cars are replaced by new cars imported from the West. Robakowski's film ended in 1999, but anyone can shoot a sequel themselves.
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Implement radical renovations
Converting a flat into a workplace that guarantees a relatively reasonable mental balance doesn’t have to be limited to moving stacks of papers from one place to another. Dozens of square metres can be organised with the panache of a modernist urbanist planning an entire city – with a meticulous, functional division into zones fulfilling their specific roles while at the same time caring for the aesthetics and ambiance of the space.
It was in this manner that Katarzyna Przezwańska organised her own apartment in Warsaw's Bielany district. Wrzeciono 5 m. 145 is an early work of the artist, which she created for her diploma, but simultaneously one of the most effective – a living space designed down to the smallest detail, from the spatial arrangement and painted divisions on the walls to tableware and flower vases of her own design. While writing this text, the flat ended up being rented out after years, so now the artist's fans have a unique opportunity to intimately acquaint themselves with this work.
My Flat is My Hobby: Life in a Tiny Apartment
Very small spaces can also be inviting, for example, a fort made from sofa cushions or a tent under a table. These types of constructions, which we often associate with children's games, were documented by Joanna Piotrowska in the series Frantic published as a photobook. However, the makeshift forts captured in her photographs do not result from children's play but are shelters made from personal items by adult residents of London, Warsaw, Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. They become something between a still life and a psychological portrait, and concurrently a sign of universal existential uncertainty, imparting a feeling of the fragility of the modern order.
FROWST – Joanna Piotrowska
Give your things away
attachments? And just think about how this could assist neighbours in need. Honorata Martin – known for some outrageous activities – is a supreme example of how to practice radical hospitality. In her campaign Come and Take what You Want, she invited people to her flat and encouraged them to take from it whatever they desired. As you might expect, the invitation was properly exploited and the artist's flat was stripped of its items within a few hours.
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Develop your DIY instincts
All it takes is many weeks of isolation to understand that, for example, the field of robotics is not as mysterious and difficult as it may seem. A pioneer in the category of artistic DIY as well as robotics DIY is none other than Janek Simon – someone most certainly worth checking out. One of the artist's early works is Kraków Bread from 2006, originally prepared for the Views competition at Zachęta National Gallery. You may not build a Transformer on your first try, but you can end up with an army of mechanical bread waddling around your kitchen. Watching them, making a slight hum with their robotic legs, can brighten the most onerous moments of quarantine.
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Observe the sky
Astronomy is perhaps a scientific interest that is a little easier to develop. Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, who had already constructed his first telescope at the age of thirteen, proves that you don’t have to leave your kitchen to travel the ends of the galaxy. You can also let the cosmos into your flat. The Sun is a series of photographs that were taken in the artist's apartment of the sun travelling across his kitchen wall in Wrocław one July afternoon in 1972. The solar disk, reflected with a telescope and mirror, glides over the homey horizon of cupboards, cups and kitchen utensils creating one of the most poetic images in the history of Polish conceptual art.
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Doze off in front of the TV
The vision the Azorro Group had for their work Family – in which parents sit with their children in front of the TV about to watch a programme about Zbigniew Libera, the kids are moulding a Pyramid of Animals out of modelling clay and are drawing a Black Square – is quite detached from reality.
WOJCIECH BĄKOWSKI / SOUND OF MY SOUL / 2014
Pleasure, however, can be derived from simply dozing off in front of the TV, regardless of the content of the programmes displayed on it, by absorbing the rich soundscape of the flat: muffled laughter from the telly and the low voice of the narrator mixing with the sounds of kitchen bustle, as in the Sound of My Soul by Wojciech Bąkowski, a master in contemplating the banal details of everyday life.
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Stockpile pickled foods
The ability to pickle foods yourself and to collect private stockpiles that can allow months or even years of survival in seclusion is more valuable than ever before – perhaps the social group best equipped and prepared for a disaster are grandmothers and their home pantries. Adelina Cimochowicz built this kind of apocalyptic pantry during a short artistic residency in Poznań, preparing well over a hundred jars in a garage-like setting but with a sophisticated culinary composition straight from the contemporary Polish culinary magazine Usta. Her Pantry, in the form of a private bunker filled with jars, may have seemed escapist until recently; today, however, it is actually an example of applied art.
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Play video games
Shortly before the pandemic, a new Japanese invention appeared on the market – a bed connected to a gaming station, allowing the user to meet almost all their needs in a horizontal position in front of the console. You do not have to resort to such radical measures, but if there is one group that proves that remaining almost motionless on a few square meters can, in fact, be a pleasure – in the case of streamers and e-sportsmen also a source of serious earnings – then that group consists of gamers.
If someone out there still does not believe that games are one of the key media of contemporary culture – well, now is the best time to be persuaded. Tips on how to organise your own desk so that you never want to get up from it can be taken from the series Gamers by Paweł Bownik. The photographer presents, in two series, e-sports players and their training positions. Typological representations of the interior maintained in a homogeneous colour tone, bathed in a greenish glow like scenes from The Matrix, are similar to the interiors of houses from Zofia Rydet’s Sociological Record, except that instead of sacred pictures, laced tablecloths and crystals in the sideboard, there are controllers, loudspeakers and office chairs.
Stay at Home & Play Polish Video Games
Play with your child like a conceptual artist would
contemporary polish art
contemporary polish artists
Even infants and toddlers can participate in the artistic transformation of reality – as the duo KwieKulik, Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek, showed in the 1970s that from a limited number of objects and situations you can derive an infinite number of ‘aesthetic outcomes’. As part of Activities with Dobromierz – one of the boldest conceptual works fusing art with life – little Maksymilian Dobromierz was photographed by his parents in several hundred various, sometimes quite surreal situations, in combination with subsequent objects and textures, in compositions referring to strictly logical-mathematical operations.
Over time, Activities with Dobromierz also naturally became an extremely detailed family album, precisely depicting the growing up of a child – the moment from when the body was treated as a passive sculptural object to when it became an active co-creator of the photographed situations.
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