The works of Agnieszka Polska and Iza Tarasewicz are being presented in South Korea. Agnieszka Sural talks to Maria Lind, the director of Tensta konsthall in Stockholm and artistic director of the 11th Gwangju Biennale, which is taking place from 2nd September to 6th November 2016.
Agnieszka Sural: What’s your first memory linked to Poland?
Maria Lind: I came to Poland for the first time in December 1985, when I travelled around the country by train with a friend for three weeks. We were fed up with family holidays and wanted to explore the world! At that time I had not yet started studying art history but I remember seeing the Leonardo da Vinci painting in Krakow.
Otherwise, I recall going to the grave of the priest Popieluszko, where many candles were lit, and during a walk around the area where we rented a private room suddenly ending up in front of a grand residential house with a high fence and a soldier telling us not to come close. It was the home of Jaruzelski. We also visited Auschwitz, and it was complicated to get there, we had to change buses several times. There was no contemporary art on that trip! Since then I have been back maybe ten times, mostly to the Wyspa Institute of Art in Gdansk.
This year, you made a study visit to Poland. Any surprises?
This time, coming in January 2016, it was interesting, and frightening, to learn more about the current political developments – the revenge of the rural – and how this also plays into art. It is very unusual with ‘right wing art’ on the contemporary art scene elsewhere. I was intrigued by how many artists actually turn to the rural in interesting ways, making projects and exhibitions there. Fernando Garcia-Dory, a GB11 artist who founded Inland and whose work deals with food production, land rights etc., actually says that ‘the rural is the new queer’.
You’ve invited two emerging Polish artists to the Gwangju Biennale.
After our research trip, when we met many interesting artists, and finally visited the amazing Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the renovated Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, we were interested in inviting Iza Tarasewicz. We hadn't met her personally but we were curious about her work, which we'd learned about. Looking up other artists whom we had not met, I decided to meet with Agnieszka Polska when I was in Berlin. They have strong practices, which have a distinct relevance in relation to art and society today. Both are showing existing works: Iza – Arena I, and Agnieszka – Glass of Petrol.
The title of the Biennale poses a question: ‘what does art do?’ What’s your personal answer?
This is a big and complex question. The proposal here is that thanks to both its imaginative and literal aspects art is more necessary than ever, and that we try and engage with the individual art works in the 11th Gwangju Biennale, to figure out what each of them does. Not what it is but precisely what it does.
For example, what kind of reverberations does Metahaven’s online film commission Information Skies have (which can only be seen online: www.informationskies.com)? What kinds of ripples on the water does it create? Asking what art does means accepting that it is different from art work to art work, although they share the status of partaking in the meta-category of art, which is a form of understanding, like philosophy, science, politics, religion, etc. But contemporary art differs from all of them because art includes all the other forms of understanding: art is radically heterogeneous and operates in myriad ways. The question reflects a desire to connect more with art itself, without letting go of its contexts and conditions.
‘The Eighth Climate (What Does Art Do?)’ is a title, not a ‘theme’ or a ‘concept’ but rather an indication of a set of parameters in GB11. It is about placing art centre stage, art’s capacity to always say something about the future, connect dots over small and big distances, embeddedness in particular situations, and mediation. What happens if we try to tease out more of the artworks in this eclectic, kaleidoscopic, and puzzling adventure? If we accept their invitation to engage, and take their interpellation more at face value? One of the things which we might end up doing is entering a dance of futurity where the past is neither completely forgotten nor a guiding light. In this sense, GB11 is a temperature check of art today.
In fact, the ‘eighth climate’ of the exhibition’s title refers to a state, or inter world, one might reach using imaginative capacities. The notion of the eighth climate dates back to the 12th-century Persian mystic and philosopher Sohravardi, and was elaborated by 20th-century French philosopher Henri Corbin. It is an addition to the seven physical climates of the earth identified by ancient Greek geographers. Unlike the seven earthly climates, the eighth climate is not based on a separation of matter and spirit, history and myth; rather, it is ontologically real and has concrete effects. It is characterized by its imaginative qualities and potentiality. In this way, the eighth climate shows interesting parallels with how contemporary art functions.
Do you have any future plans with Poland?
I am not thinking in terms of nationality, and in GB11 the artists are not described that way. We mention cities rather than countries. In any case, Agnieszka is doing an online project with Tensta konsthall this fall, and I would be surprised if that was the last time I work with an artist from Poland!
Warsaw – Gwangju, August 2016