Piotr Bujak is a visual artist, born in 1982 in Będzin. In his works, he uses mixed media to create interdisciplinary projects. He navigates between video art and object art, experimenting with found objects and consumer products.
Piotr Bujak graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków (2009) and the San Francisco Art Institute in the United States (2012). He holds scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation and the Japanese government. He is currently working on his doctoral thesis at Tokyo’s Tama Art University. Between 2017 and 2019, he also conducted a research stay at the Tokyo University of the Arts. He is a member of Obywatelskie Forum Sztuki Współczesnej and Inicjatywa Pracownicza Labour Union.
Piotr Bujak’s art combines the punk culture of protest, minimalism, conceptualism, neo-avant-garde inspirations, and critical discourse. With the principles of Low Budget, Quick and Dirty, Do It Yourself and Hit and Run in mind, the artist comments on violence, identity, cultural heritage, politics, and the pathologies of neo-liberalism. He analyses the activity of the Catholic Church and the mechanisms of disciplining an individual with the use of media. Bujak consciously opts for modest methods of provocation and, by refusing to use softened language, composes formally austere but strongly saturated visual signs.
Critical Art. Selected Issues
Satans Kinder is the title of a novel by Stanisław Przybyszewski – the first Polish ‘Satanic’ publication and an anarchist manifesto. It prompted Bujak to reflect on the intellectual heritage of the writer in visual arts and its contemporary interpretation. The event was organised by the Imago Mundi Foundation and the National Museum in Kraków as part of the Place Called Space project. The exhibition had two parts. During the first, performative part, Piotr Bujak showcased a video work titled Arcade #1. The clip was a reference to the famed Passages by Walter Benjamin. However, the flaneur holding the camera strolled around a cemetery. The cemetery is supposed to be a space free of marketing – however, due to cultural practices, this has also become subordinated to economical goals. Through marketing techniques, the cemetery also became a part of the mechanisms of purchase and sales. This is because the religious communities who control the viewer’s imagination, for example, by instilling a fear of hell, encourage actions which allow them to gain money. This is how one could interpret Arcade #1, in which a stroll around a cemetery is juxtaposed with the image of a hairless cat which brings depictions of Satan to mind.
In the second part of Satans Kinder, Bujak presented a minimalistic work titled The Vapourizer in the Dark House in Krakow. It consisted of an old-fashioned pot, an electric oven, and holy water. The holy water (‘borrowed’ stealthily from different churches in Kraków) was slightly heated up, releasing the aroma of incense in the room. A vaporiser is a device used for inhaling cannabis, thus corresponding with Marx’s saying that religion is the opium of the people. Additionally, fire and boiling water might suggest that the quickest way to hell is through the institution of the Church. The gesture of stealing holy water is also a reference to Jean Genet, who stole money from church collection boxes.
Poor, Miserable, Discarded & Found: Objects of the Polish Avant-Garde Theatre
Separating oneself from broadcast culture
The Place Called Space programme was a script for criticism of the institutional. It was initiated and produced by the Imago Mundi Foundation and constituted of a series of exhibitions, discussions, and artistic residencies. One of the institutions which gave space to the project was Jasny Dom (Bright House) in Kraków. The name itself was inspired by a building designed by Jan Zawiejski – a bourgeois tenement house which was one of the first buildings built with the concept of open apartments in mind. In this former bourgeois space, Piotr Bujak realised his installation titled Secession From The Broadcast. He proclaimed empty TV boxes to be works of arts and placed them on the walls of the exhibition space.
The project’s title is a reference to a series of lectures by Gene Youngblood, a media theoretician and one of the first to recognise video art as a new art form. In Secession From The Broadcast, Youngblood postulates separating oneself from the dominating culture of broadcasting. He expresses the view that private media are an even better way to control society than national media because they appear to be neutral. This ostensible transparency of private media allows it to normalise the values and views of the dominating class. This is why Youngblood considers liberal democracy to be a fiction masking an oligarchic system. Bujak proposes a radical separation from mass culture and encourages belief in utopia. According to the artist, the revolutionary desire to change the system is not naïve – it is only portrayed this way by broadcast culture.
In his work, Bujak distances himself from soft forms of anarchism (or post-anarchism) and embraces a more radical approach. TV sets slipped out of their boxes, tempting with the fulfilment of middle-class dreams and aspirations, and changed the existing manner of information flow, most importantly by socialising it. The new form of information distribution proposed by Bujak turns the consumer into the decision-maker – not only freely administering content but also broadcasting it. Declarations of ‘the end of the old television’ and ‘new-generation devices’ are yet another context of the work. At the same time, the artist’s gesture targeted the art world which, according to him, has became fabricated – it focuses mostly on the distribution of the content of a given artist and allows the fetishisation of the art object. This, in turn, handicaps and reverses the evolution of art. For this reason, Bujak used ready-made objects for the publication accompanying the exhibition, minimising production costs. Instead of ordering new artbooks, the artists simply photocopied pages from the publication. In the zine, we can also find TV manuals, graphs presenting how the receivers work, and TV test screens besides Youngblood’s texts. These technical diagrams are a form of protest against the inherent sensuality of advertisement.
A to Z of Art & Technology
In 2016, Joanna Rzepka-Dziedzic, an artist and the curator of the Szara Gallery, invited Bujak to take part in an exhibition titled Re:Syndrom Feniksa (Re:Phoenix Syndome). The artist cut toilet seats in half so that they resembled butterflies. The work’s title – Czarnosotniowe Motyle (Black-Hundredist Butterflies) – is a reference to the conservative, pro-tsarist movement which formed in Russia during the 1905 revolution. In this way, Bujak sparked a discussion about the increase of xenophobic, conservative and nationalistic attitudes in Europe and Poland, as well as about the pro-Russian policies of some countries.
Aesthetically cheap reversed monuments
For the Reversed Monuments: Chapter One project in 2014, which was shown in Wschodnia Gallery in Łódź, the artist presented a video, a series of black-and-white prints from an office printer, and an e-book which contained reproductions of the photographs. In accordance with open-source culture, it was made available as a free download and could be freely distributed. In the introduction to the Reversed Monuments e-book, Bujak and Mikołaj Iwański wrote the following about the monuments:
Poland's 11 Most Intriguing Outdoor Sculptures
They turn their backs on the audience to which they were dedicated. At the same time, when shown from their least representative angle, they turn away from their primary goal – the often intrusive and grandiloquent purpose of commemoration. As it is widely known, there are two kinds of monuments – the ones which appeal to memory and the ones which are appeal to sensibility. Conventional figurative monuments are machines of remembrance – similar to Buddhist prayer wheels, they remember for us, fulfilling the definition of interpassivity.
The artist’s experience from his time spent researching in Japan was first showcased in Wrocław Contemporary Museum. In 2018, as a part of the Red is Bad exhibition, Bujak presented a series of designs with a clear political message which strongly referred to the concept of resentment.
In a found-footage video previously shown at the 7th edition of the Warszawa w Budowie (Warsaw Under Construction) festival, the artist juxtaposed footage of military parades in Poland and Japan. He created an intense spectacle of repeatable gestures, resembling kindergarten rhythm classes. The absurdity of progressing militarism – a tendency noticeable in both countries and strongly based on the mythos of the American soldier – is also a theme featured in the work titled UN-NATO. In this piece, the crest of NATO was used in a triptych of identical flags based on colours characteristic of the Zapatistas: black and red.
The issue of justifying intolerance and emigration policies which are based on intolerance is directly expressed in the titular work Red Is Bad. By using the analogy between Polish and Japanese national colours and the prevalence of identical pictograms in the roadside landscape, Bujak created a performance during which he painted the red section of a ‘No Entry’ sign white. Another element of the work was the documentation of the artist’s intervention in social media during which the artist provoked an aggressive exchange which exposed the xenophobic stance of some of the members of a group of Polish emigrants in Japan.
Architectures of Gender: Women and Contemporary Art in Poland
polish visual art
Originally written in Polish by Wiktoria Kozioł/Imago Mundi Foundation in 2018, translated to English by PG
- 2019 – CELEBRATION, group exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relationships between Poland and Japan, Kyoto Art Center, Kyoto, Japan, Trafostacja Sztuki, Szczecin, Poland, Uniwersytet Sztuki, Poznań, Poland
- 2018 – CHŁOPCY DO BICIA (Whipping Boys), solo exhibition for the Służbówka project, CSW Kronika, Bytom
- 2018 – RED IS BAD, solo exhibition, Wrocław Contemporary Museum
- 2017 – WARSZAWA W BUDOWIE VIII (Warsaw Under Construction VIII), Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
- 2017 – CZARNA WIOSNA (Black Spring), group exhibition, Wrocław Contemporary Museum
- 2017 – THE WALL. ART FACE TO FACE WITH BORDERS, group exhibition, Trafostacja Sztuki, Szczecin
- 2017 – CZARNA WIOSNA (Black Spring), group exhibition, Wrocław Contemporary Museum
- 2017 – THE HYGIENISTS, group exhibition /with Miłość Gallery/, international art fair, Supermarket, Stockholm, Sweden
- 2017 – RE: SYNDROM FENIKSA (Re: Phoenix Syndrome), group exhibition, Szara Gallery, Katowice
- 2016 – CENZURA (Censorship), group exhibition, Galeria Tabacka Kulturfabrik, Koszyce, Republika Słowacka
- 2016 – ARTERIA SZÓSTY STRZAŁ (6th Shot Artery), with Katarzyna Górna, visual arts festival, Centrum Promocji Młodych, Częstochowa
- 2016 – KOŚCI WSZYSTKICH LUDZI (The Bones of All Men), group exhibition, CENTRE OF CONTEMPORARY ART ZNAKI CZASU, Toruń
- 2016 – BUDOWA SYSTEMEM GOSPODARCZYM (Construction as an Economical System), group exhibition during the public space visual arts festival NOWE CIEPŁO, Nowe Miasto Lubawskie
- 2016 – WISH YOU COULD HAVE SEEN THIS, international group exhibition, San Francisco, USA
- 2016 – WHITE POWER PRELUDIUM, performance, Kronika Contemporary Art Centre, Bytom
- 2016 – BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP, a series of performances with Aleka Polis, BWA Gallery Bielsko Biała, Labirynt Gallery, Lublin, Zamek Ujazdowski Contemporary Art Centre (unofficially), Warsztaty Kultury, Lublin,
- 2015 – IMPLOZJA (Implosion), group exhibition, Jasny Dom, Kraków
- 2015 – CLOSER, solo exhibition, Labirynt Gallery, Lublin
- 2015 – SATANS KINDER – PART 2, group exhibition, Ciemny Dom, Jasny Dom, Kraków
- 2015 – SECESSION FROM THE BROADCAST, solo exhibition, Jasny Dom, Kraków
- 2015 – THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, group exhibition, BWA Sokół, Nowy Sącz
- 2015 – OBSERWATORIUM MIEJSKIE: GRANICE (City Observatory: Borders), public space festival, workshops and exhibition, Miłość Gallery, Toruń
- 2015 – PASSAGES, solo exhibition, Bałtycka Galeria Sztuki Współczesnej, Słupsk
- 2015 – SATANS KINDER – PART 1, THE KING OF NEW ZION, group exhibition, National Museum in Kraków
- 2015 – THE WALL. ART FACE TO FACE WITH BORDERS, international group exhibition, Careof/DOCVA Gallery, Milan, Italy
- 2014 – REVERSED MONUMENTS, solo exhibition, Wschodnia Gallery, Łódź
- 2014 – PLICA POLONICA, group exhibition, CSW KRONIKA, Bytom
- 2014 – ARTERIA CZWARTY STRZAŁ (4th Shot Artery), visual arts festival, Częstochowa
- 2014 – DIRTY WORKS, solo exhibition with Stephanie Syjuco, CSW Kronika, Bytom
- 2014 – WORLD IN COLORS, solo exhibition, Anarchistyczny Klub/Księgarnia ZEMSTA, Poznań
- 2013 – WORKERS OF THE ARTWORLD UNITE, group exhibition, CSW Kronika
- 2013 – VOLUME I: Fifteen Feet of Pure White Snow, solo exhibition, CSW Kronika, Bytom
- 2013 – SIX SWEET STORIES, solo exhibition, Savernack Street Gallery, San Francisco, USA
- 2013 – DEMONSTARCIA, group exhibition, Ściana Gallery, Kraków
- 2013 – LIGHT RHAPSODY, solo exhibition, The Performance Art Institute, San Francisco, USA
- 2013 – GLEE, solo exhibition, The Performance Art Institute, San Francisco, USA
- 2012 – DZIWNY ARTYSTA (Peculiar Artist), solo exhibition with Grzegorz Sztwiertnia, Otwarta Pracownia Gallery, Kraków
- 2012 – 9th Exhibition, group exhibition of the Małopolska Fundacja Muzeum Sztuki Współczesnej collection, BWA Tarnów
- 2012 – GALLERY HEIST SUMMER SERIES SHOW, 3-people exhibition, Gallery Heist, San Francisco, USA
- 2012 – PLAYBACK, experimental TV exhibition, Queens Nails Projects, San Francisco, USA
- 2012 – CONCRETE ACTION, group exhibition, Luggage Store Gallery, San Francisco, USA
- 2012 – MAKING… AND THE MAKING OF, group video showcase, Kadist Institute, San Francisco, USA
- 2012 – THE BAY AREA, solo exhibition, Painting Department’s Gallery, Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków
- 2011 – 100 PERFORMANCES FOR THE HOLE, performance festival, SOMARTS Cultural Center, San Francisco, USA
- 2011 – DE:FIGURATION, group exhibition, Lutheran Church of ST John the Evangelist, New York, USA
- 2011 – THE 99% ART!, group exhibition, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, USA
- 2011 – (re:)FORM ART, group exhibition. Lutheran Church of ST John the Evangelist, New York, USA
- 2011 – ARBEIT MACHT FREI, solo exhibition, Queens Nails Projects Gallery, San Francisco, USA
- 2011 – ARTIFICIAL, group exhibition, BWA Zielona Góra
- 2010 – MUSEUM NIGHT, video work showcase, Painting Department’s Gallery, Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków
- 2010 – ARTENALIA, group exhibition, Rzeźnia Gallery, Poznań
- 2009 – CHRISTAM PALM, group exhibition, Freies Museum, Berlin,Germany
- 2009 – ROZJAŚNIENIE 2 (Illumination 2), group exhibition, Erdal Factory, Kraków
- 2009 – KRYZYS GATUNKU (Crisis of the Species) – 16th International Sculpture Triennale, group exhibition, CSW Zamek, Poznań
- 2009 – SURVIVAL – 7th YOUNG POLISH ART SHOWCASE IN EXTREME CONDITIONS, group exhibition, Pawilon Czterech Kopuł, Wrocław
- 2009 – GRANICE WNĘTRZA (Border of the Interior), performance festival, Przychodnia Gallery, Poznań