An Ode to Joseph Beuys on an International Car Journey
#photography & visual arts
small, An Ode to Joseph Beuys on an International Car Journey, Deutschlandtransport by Polen Performance, 2016, photo: promo materials, polen_performance_deutschlandtransport_3.jpg
It’s 3am on 11th November 2016. In the Museum of Art in Łódź, two young artists dressed in white uniforms enclose themselves in a wooden chest together with an archive of their work.
In 1981, Joseph Beuys performed the Polentransport action, during which he travelled by car from Düsseldorf to the Museum of Art in Łódź. The aim of this journey was to give over a thousand works to the museum, started at the end of the 1920s thanks to gifts from representatives of the international avant-garde. On the 35th anniversary of the artist’s famous action, the Polish-German duet Polen Performance returned to Düsseldorf to give the archives of their artistic output to the Kunstpalast Museum. The performers of Deutschlandtransport said:
In a time of migration and economic crisis, we are going to reverse Beuys’s act and transport ourselves back in this chest.
The action of Justyna Los and Mikołaj Sobczak, members of the Polen Performance group, is a perverse answer to Beuys’s original action. Antoni Burzyński, the curator of the project, writes that the gift gave more benefits to the givers than to the institution itself:
When Beuys brought his works to Łódź, he was a celebrity in the art world. From that point of view, one can say that on the art circuit, dominated by the market, the Kunstpalast Museum receiving Deutschlandtransport is a gift for Polen Performance, because it automatically pushes up their symbolic capital.
The chest, along with the two performers, contains documentation of their previous actions: different objects used in their previous performances as well as a USB hard drive with pictures and recordings of them. Antoni Burzyński said in an interview with Culture.pl:
These objects tell the story of particular performances. The animals and masks were used in Thank You for Performance! at the Contexts Festival 2016 in Sokołowsko. There are also the receipts from their realisation at the Villa Straylight opening. From the moment of their foundation, Polen Performance has realised performances to order. At the opening of the Centre For Contemporary Art in Ujazdowski Castle, under the nickname Vernissage Service, they gave opening services on the basis of receipts presented by the visitors. Receipts were given, for instance, for negative or approving comment about the exhibition, a massage, or a refill of wine.
Polen Performance is a German-Polish duet created in May 2015 by Justyna Los and Mikołaj Sobczak. The artists realise their works in the form of performances or videos, in which they perform wearing peculiar white uniforms with a yellow logo. Their actions take place in the real world as well as in the virtual space of the social media. They call themselves the authors of the first performance on Snapchat (Snapformance, 2016 with Tomek Pawłowski) – the artists styled themselves as carollers visiting Warsaw galleries asking for a fee for their participation in the action.
Their most important performances are: Deutschlandtransport, Museum of Art in Łódź (ms2) – Kunstpalast Museum in Düsseldorf, 2016; How To Behave During A Terrorist Attack, Artloop Festival, Sopot, 2016; Thank You for Performance!, Sokolowsko Festival of Ephemeral Art Contexts, Sokołowsko 2016 Unpacking, The Zachęta Project Room, Warsaw 2016; Vernissage Services, Centre For Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw 2016; Polen Performance Paranormal, lokal_30, Warsaw 2015; Performance, Welcome to Polen!, Poligon, Warsaw 2015; Performing Services/Usługi Performerskie, The WRO Media Art Biennale, Wrocław 2015.
Partners of the project: Lokal Sztuki Foundation, Kunstpalast Museum in Düsseldorf, the Polish Institute in Düsseldorf, Studio Gallery, Culture.pl. TVP Kultura.
Polen Performance – Deutschlandtransport
11th November 2016, Łódź – Düsseldorf
Curator: Antoni Burzyński
Museum of Art in Łódź
Kunstpalast Museum in Dusseldorf
Sources: polenperformance.tumblr.com, smkp.de. Originally written in Polish, translated by BR, proofed by MD, additions by AZ, 6 Dec 2016