Born in 1966 in Wrocław, Poland, Baumgart is a multimedia artist who represents a feminist perspective focused on personal, often hidden, problems and obsessions, also delving into the subject of "Other" in culture. She works in video, installation, performance, sculpture, and artistic tattoo.
She is a multimedia artist who represents a feminism focused on personal (often hidden) problems and obsessions.
In 1994 Baumgart graduated from the department of sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. She had her first solo exhibitions in 1994, receiving in 1995 the Award of the City of Gdańsk for the Most Interesting Debut. In the 1990s she collaborated with the most important centers of the Gdańsk artistic scene: Wyspa Gallery, Spichż 7 Gallery, Baltic Cultural Center and CCA Łaźnia. Very important at the beginning of her career was her participation in Status Quo at the Center of Polish Sculpture in Orońsko, 1996, where she showed sculptural objects that were close in character to Minimal Art.
She began with minimalist sculptures, such as Let Unrestrained Anger Be Eliminated (1996), using electric and optic devices as well as liquid substances such as honey (which can be related to the influence of Joseph Beuys). These juxtaposed the biological with the technological, revealing the artist's interests: it was apparent that in these works the biological (the hidden femininity) won out. In this first stage of her career, influences of ecological art are visible, but since she was looking for archetypes of femininity, she treated it from a feminist perspective.
Within a few years Baumgart resigned from sculptural objects in order to move to video, realising Who Speaks? (1998), Mother (1999), Condoms, Money, Lady - No problem! (Prezerwatywy, pieniądze, money, lady - no problem, 1999), in which she took on the issue of feminine emotionality, involvement in relationships, and patterns in education. Baumgart continues this themes, employing pastiche themes in the video series True? (2001), where through digital editing she placed her own figure into fragments of feature films (Lecą Żurawie by Michail Kalatozow and Miś by Stanisław Bareja). In the project Ecstatics, Hysterics and Other Saintly Ladies (2004) using the aesthetics of a documentary, she analysed the phenomenon of female auto-aggression and hysteria.
In retrospect, her early works certainly belong among the most significant in 1990s feminist artworks, even though in this period she was not part of any major exhibitions. It was only towards the end of the 1990s that her videos were featured in some important video and performance art exhibitions, among them WRO - Media Art Biennale in 1997 and 1999; as well as major group shows: At The Time of Writing, Centre for Contemporary Art Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw, 1998; and Public Relations, CCA Łaźnia in Gdańsk, 1999. In 1999 she had a solo exhibition at the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw.
The third period in Baumgart's career started in 2000 when she moved to Warsaw and opened (initially leading it with Zbigniew Libera) Café Baumgart at the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski: a café of an anarchistic-feminist character, organizing meetings, performances, promotions, etc.
She has also tackled the themes of gender in realistic sculpture pieces realised since 2002, such as I Got It From My Mom (2002), Bombowniczka (2004), or Warrior (2005). A stucco sculpture I Got It From My Mom - devoted to complicated mother-daughter relations (including her own) was shown at her 2002 exhibition at the XXI Gallery in Warsaw, together with a series of color photographs, Mothers and Daughters, based on newspaper iconography. The artist took images of well-known women and their daughters and incorporated accessories from Christian symbolism, thus juxtaposing two artificial discourses and stylistics. The sculpture Bombowniczka (2004) depicts a young pregnant woman, whose attributes contradict the accepted vision of a mother, juxtaposing it with an independent, defiant woman conscious of her own power. The neological title provocatively refers to a female bomber. In her most recent sculpture, Weronika AP (2006), Baumgart turns to the subject of the relationship between the media and the fate of an individual.
An important element of Baumgart's artistic biography has always been her social and organisational activities on the art scene. In 1994-1995 she co-created the program of Gdańsk's Delicatessen Avant-garde Gallery and of the Forum of Contemporary Art at the Gazownia Gallery, organizing the Salon of Video Art project. In 1998 Baumgart founded the Bureau for Creative Initiatives. She also organized projects of an artistic-didactic character, such as Multimedia and Improvisational Music Workshops, as well as Praga Fair - a socio-political project engaging young fashion designers. But the most important of them was Cafe Baumgart at the CCA Zamek Ujazdowski, which soon became a veritable institution - a popular, thriving catalyst for Warsaw's art world.
Over the first decade of the 21st Century, Anna Baumgart has become one of the most active and interesting women artists, skillfully employing various media and being consistent in addressing ever more profound problems. She has taken part in the most important shows of Polish art at home and abroad, and in 2004 Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw organised her exhibition in tandem with Birgit Brenner. She has received stipends from Fundacja Kultury (2001) and the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage (2005). Baumgart's works are in the collections of Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, Museum of Art in Frankfurt a/M, and in private collections.
Text based on: Krzysztof Jurecki, (www.culture.pl), 2004; www.lokal30.pl, www.leguern.pl
Source: www.polishculture-nyc.org March 2007.