A performance duo formed by Karolina Wiktor (b. 1979) and Aleksandra Kubiak (b. 1978).
A performance duo formed by Karolina Wiktor (b. 1979) and Aleksandra Kubiak (b. 1978).
Both artists graduated in 2004 from the Fine Art Department of the University of Zielona Góra (Kubiak – art education, while Wiktor – painting). They collaborated since 2001. They title their performances with numbers of Chapters and Episodes (occasionally also making mistakes in numbering that led to confusion among art historians). In 2007, they were nominated for the Views Deutsche Bank Foundation Award. In the same year, they were awarded the International Prize for Performance w Trento. They are based in Warsaw and Zielona Góra.
The activities of Sędzia Główny (Chief Judge) are based on the formula of live sculpture and image. Its members usually perform naked, while their actions touch on issues related to politics, patriarchal culture, gender roles, and objectification of women.
During their performance at the Stara Winiarnia Gallery in 2003, the artists were lying inside of a giant hamburger, placed on flags of Poland and the United States joined together. In this way, they turned into the object of consumption, which was additionally emphasized by the fact that the patty was auctioned off. They also appeared as a product at the festival Interakcje (Interactions) in Piotrków Trybunalski in 2005. They invited men to compete for the right to “possess” the artists for full twenty four hours (the details were regulated by a contract drawn up by a lawyer). When an abortion clinic on a ship moored in the Władysławowo harbour, they “gave birth” to eggs at Gdańsk's Modelarnia and, having smashed them, offered them to the audience.
The performance organized on the occasion of Women's Day, taking place in Kraków in 2004, was carried out in building niches covered with perspex sheets. In one of them, a video was projected in which Karolina Wiktor (absent in person, due to a smallpox infection), applied medicine on her rash. In the other one, Aleksandra Kubiak inserted needles with flowers attached to them, into her body.
During a happening taking place at the opening of the Dzień Matki (Mother's Day) exhibition at the XX1 Gallery in 2005, the artists connected their mouths and vaginas with plastic tubes, thus expressing a symbolic unity between them. Sędzia Główny often highlighted the feminist traditions they drew on, e.g. by making references to the works of Natalia LL (Hommage a Natalia LL 2006) and Zofia Kulik Hommage a Zofia Kulik 2007).
An important element of Sędzia Główny's performances has also been testing their endurance in opressive conditions. In 2005, at the Dom Kolejarza in Zielona Góra, the artists lied in a water tank filled with ice cubes for on hour. In 2008, the artists staged a performance in a theatre in Opole, in which they were running up and hitting against an iron safety curtain, hung between the stage and the audience. The viewers would first hear a thud, to only a moment later realize what was happening. In 2009, in Wrocław they subjected themselves to a kind of training, conducted by a male voice. Half-naked, they complied with its orders and hit one another, dropped to the ground, ran on broken glass, until they were completely exhausted. All of this took place in the glass vitrine at the BWA Wrocław Gallery, enabling the passers-by to witness the performance. The performers organized a quite peculiar experiment in 2008 at the CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, based on the experience of stillness and boredom. The state of hibernation of the two artists locked in a room was interrupted only by meals and leech therapy sessions.
In 2004, the artists started staging performances co-directed by the audience. During the defense of their joint diploma piece, Wypróbuj przyszłego magistra (Test the Future Master of Arts, 2004), they stood still in containers resembling doll boxes, while the task of the examination board was to enliven them. In two of their actions, they obeyed the orders of random people. In 2004, in Bunkier Sztuki, they resided in a closed lift and carried out activities requested via speakers. Some of them were brutal, asking the artists to hit each other on the faces or lick the floor. In 2005, they took part in the live show Noc artystów (Night of the Artists), emitted by TVP Kultura. Standing next to one another, they performed orders passed on by the viewers via telephone, thus exposing the latter's primitive needs – a lot of the men who called wanted them to undress. When refusing control over their own bodies, they managed to deceive the viewers in specific way. The audience members were easily decoyed into the mechanism of artistic provocation. The artists would often put them in an uncomfortable situation, in which the audience launched the “machine of evil” just by stepping in.
In 2006, the duo carried out the action Wirus (Virus) at the Rozmaitości Theatre, the intention behind which was to “infect” the performance of Śluby panieńskie (Maiden Vows). The artists performed the spectators' commands, thus interrupting the actors and eventually leading to the discontinuation of the show. At the same time, they revealed a significant difference between theatrical and performative activities:
The differences are contained in the very work of the performers. – the artists wrote – The extremely trained actor and a performance artist, who is confident about her own decision, however doesn't define her gesture (as a medium) until the moment of creation. Sędzia Główny's performance at the exhibition Mentality, organized as part of the Łódź Biennial in 2006, incorporated screens with a video projection showing women (who in 1945 were resettled from Bukowina Rumuńska) from the folk group Wichowianki, singing a song about the loss of virginity, getting married, and the changes in women's reality, the resistance towards tradition, the need to break the oppression. The artists stood in narrow, transparent perspex tubes, with their wrists wrapped in wire. Whenever they dropped their hands, the wire would tighten and disrupt their breathing. The action was ended when one of the artists became utterly exhausted.
In 2008, the artists conducted the series Beznadziejnik, based on a separate, arabic numbering. After creating Chapter LXVI, Furie (Furies, 2007) – a film prepared for the Deutsch Bank competition – they declared that it was the start of the series. In the video, in which Kubiak and Wiktor were accompanied by their friend Weronika Pilarczyk, they impersonated goddesses of vengeance, at the same time making an ironic reference to the name of the group. They are assisted by policemen with dogs and black sportsmen. Justyna Kowalska, an art critic, wrote that the artists reach in it to the matriarchal roots of the judicial power.
In the Beznadziejnik performances, the artists made an auto-ironic comment on their own work, by acting as “Art Chicks” (Łódź) or “Artists Upside Down” (Białystok). Małgorzata Ludwisiak wrote about the cycle:
The Sędzia Główny group celebrates and at the same time mocks itself and subjects its art to a semi-serious analysis, creates a meta-language for ridiculing the fundamental structure that the language itself refers to.
One also shouldn't forget that the activities of Kubiak and Wiktor carry a deeply personal dimension. In their performances, they refer to such experiences as illness of a father, death of a loved one, or their mutual relationships. “Some of the performances are strongly embedded in our intimacy, but the knowledge of them is redundant for other people” – they add. The artists admit that art can be self-therapeutic. Karolina Wiktor explains:
Sometimes something sits so deep inside that looking at it from another angle seems impossible, while if you do a performance about it, the matter gains a new dimension.
The personal dimension appears in the repeatedly enacted performance Szepty (Whispers), engaging the spectators through the unique atmosphere of an intimate contact between the two artists.
In 2009, BWA in Zielona Góre published a book reviewing the activities of the group to date.
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, November 2006; update: November 2009. Transl. Ania Micińska, August 2015
- Chapter LXXVII, Kont Gallery, Lublin
- Chapter LXXVI, BWA Awangarda, Wrocław
- Chapter LXXV – Jan Kochanowski Theatre, Opole
- Chapter LXXIV Zezwierzęcony glamour / Bestialized Glamour, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw
- Beznadziejnik, Chapter 2 – Artystki na głowie / Artists Upside Down, Arsenał Gallery, Białystok
- Beznadziejnik, Chapter 1, 86 Gallery, Łódź
- Chapter LXXIII", 343 Museum, Brussels
- Chapter LXXII, solo exhibition, Out of me / into me, Museum Junge Kunst, Frankfurt (Oder)
- Chapter LXXI, BWA Awangarda Gallery, Wrocław
- Chapter LXX, Brema
- Chapter LXVIII, Galeria Civica, Trento
- Chapter LXVII, Galeria BWA, Zielona Góra
- Chapter LXVI Furie/Furies, Views 2007, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw
- Chapter LXV, Sektor I Gallery, Katowice
- Chapter LXIV, BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter LXII, Dla… Gallery, Toruń
- Chapter LXI, Manhattan Gallery, Łódź
- Chapter LX, Niklas Belenius Gallery, Stockholm
- Chapter LVIX, Weld, Stockholm
- Chapter LVIII, Polish Institute, Stockholm
- Chapter LVII, BWA Gallery, Jelenia Góra
- Chapter LVI, screening at the opening of the Kartell store, Warsaw
- Chapter LV, You Cannot Come Closer – exhibition of the artists of the Lokal_30 Gallery, Cell Project Space, London
- Chapter LIV, ArtCity Art Festival, Silesia City retail space, Katowice
- Chapter LIII, Urządzanie / Arranging, part of the ArtCity Festival, urban space: Sejm Śląski Square, Katowice
- Chapter LII. Episode III, exhibition Mentality, II Art Biennale, Łódź
- Chapter LI, Art Forum – International Fair for Contemporary Art, Berlin
- Chapter L, Preview – International Art Fair, Berlin
- Chapter XLIX, Le Madame Birthday, M25 Club, Warsaw
- Chapter XLVIII. Episode II. Tahur, 2nd exibition of contemporary art Zwyczajny Terror / Ordinary Terror, Sektor I Gallery, Katowice
- Chapter XLVII. Tahur. Zwyczajny Terror / Ordinary Terror, lokal_30, Warsaw
- Chapter XLVI, 2nd Festival of Art in Racibórz, TrzASKoff, Exhibition Więzy / Bonds, urban space of the Racibórz city – the Mother Poland monument
- Chapter XLV. Natalia LL's & Botticeli's Project, 1st birthday of TVP Kultura, Fabryka Trzciny, Warsaw
- Chapter XLIV, performance meeting PerfoPop, BWA Municipal Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter XLIII, Virus action during the performance of Magnetyzm Serc / Magnetism of Hearts, Rozmaitości Theatre, Warsaw
- Chapter XLII, Club Le Madame, Warsaw
- Chapter XLI, Exhibition of Female Performance Art Preformanceess, Wozownia Contemporary Art Gallery, Toruń
- Chapter XL, Noc Artystów / Night of the Artists tv show, TVP Kultura, Warsaw
- Chapter XXXIX, Entropia Gallery, Wrocław
- three performances, art residency, Warszawski Aktyw Artystów, Warsaw
- Chapter XXXV, 13th International Performance Festival Castle of Imagination, Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Ustka
- Chapter XXXIV. Episode I, 2nd edition of the exhibition Mother's Day, Budapest
- Chapter XXXIII, International Festival of Alternative Theatre Groups A-part, Old PKP Railway Station in Katowice
- Chapter XXXII, 2nd edition of the action Koszulki dla Wolności / T-shirts for Freefom, Le Madame, Warsaw
- Chapter XXXI, workshop of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, Field Trip Centre, Skoki
- Chapter XXX, Interakcje – International Performance Festival, Eden Club, Piotrków Trybunalski
- Chapter XXIX, 100th exhibition of the Galera Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter XXVIII, Święto Kobiet / Women's Day, Rdza Club, Kraków
- Chapter XXVII, Weekend Performance – International Performance Festival, Stary Browar – Atrium, Poznań
- Chapter XXVI, Le Madame, Warsaw
- Chapter XXV, exhibition Dzień Matki / Mother's Day, XX1 Gallery, Warsaw
- Chapter XXIV, exhibition INC., BWA Municipal Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter XXIII, exhibition Ładnie o ładnym, Stary Młyn, Kraków
- Chapter XXII, B@zart Theatre Festival, Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków
- Chapter XXI, Tryktak performance meeting, XX1 Gallery, Warsaw
- Chapter XX, Women's Day Female Art Festival, Kawiarnia Naukowa, Kraków
- Chapter XIX, Le Madame, Warsaw
- Doświadcz mnie / Experience Me, PWW Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter XVIII, TerraPolska – Polish Art Festival, Kesselhaus Kulturbrauerei, Berlin
- Chapter XVII, exhibition of students from the Fine Art Department of the University of Zielona Góra, PWW Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter XVI, The Lublin Region Museum, Zielona Góra
- Chapter XV, performance meeting, PKP Railway Station, Głogów
- Chapter XIV, International Festival of Alternative Theatre Groups A-part, Katowice
- Chapter XIII, Farbiarnia Club, Bielsko-Biała
- Chapter XII, Grocery Shop – A Polish-French Festival of Contemporary Art, Warsaw
- Chapter XI, Noc Świętojańska / St. John's Night, Modelarnia, Gdańsk
- Chapter X, Kontperformance Festival, Kont Gallery, Lublin
- Chapter IX Performance, exhibition Sztuka beze mnie nie ma sensu / Art Makes No Sense Without Me, Stara Winiarnia, Zielona Góra
- Chapter VIII Performance, Innerspaces Contemporary Art Gallery, Poznań
- Chapter III and Chapter IV, Performance, International Inter-University Multimedia Workshop, Żagań
- Chapter VI, Fisheye 2 – Youth Art Biennial, Baltic Contemporary Art Gallery, Słupsk
- Chapter V, 4x performance, BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra
- Chapter II, performance, The Art and Visual Culture Institute of the University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra
- Chapter I, Teatr Mrowisko Gallery, University of Zielona Góra, Zielona Góra
- Out of me / into me – Musuem Junge Kunst, Frankfurt (Oder); For Natalia LL – 86 Gallery, Łódź (with Karol Radziszewski).
Selected group exhibitions:
Dzień matki / Mother's Day – XX1 Gallery, Warsaw; Platan Gallery, Budapest
Więzy / Bonds – Racibórz; Zwyczajny terror / Ordinary Terror – lokal_30, Warsaw; Sektor I Gallery, Katowice; Mentality – 2nd Art Biennial, Łódź
Święto kobiet / Women's Day – Manhattan Gallery, Łódź; Views 2007 – Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw; Odczarowanie / Disenchanting – BWA, Zielona Góra; BWA, Wrocław (2008); Miejsce do mieszkania; miejsce do kochania / Place to Live; Place to Love – BWA Gallery, Zielona Góra
Wenus polska AD 2008 / Polish Venus AD 2008 – Kraków; Odsłoń mnie / Uncover Me – Arsenał Gallery, Białystok; Dziedzictwo / Heritage – Zamek Culture Centre, Poznań; Godzilla kontra neoludzie / Godzilla Versus Neohumans – Sektor I Gallery, Katowice; 5 Triennale Młodych / 5th Triennial of the Young – Polish Sculpture Centre, Orońsko; C.D.N. / T.B.C. – Four Cultures' Dialogue Festival, Łódź.