"A Theory of Vision: A Review" presents issues relevant to the "physics and metaphysics of visuality" - visibility, perception, observation and visual cognition - across diverse ideological and technological configurations. The title refers to Władysław Strzemiński's 1936-1958 treatise on capturing a visual image of memory and transferring it onto the canvas.
Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz "Encke Comet", 1918, pastel, 48 x 61,5 cm, from the Ewa Franczak and Stefan Okołowicz collection, photo: press materials
"A Theory of Vision: A Review" presents issues relevant to the "physics and metaphysics of visuality" across diverse ideological and technological configurations
The exhibition focuses on fresh and original approaches to visibility, perception, observation and visual cognition within the framework of the Polish modernist tradition, in addition to selected lesser known works of contemporary artists. Its title refers to Władysław Strzemiński
's treatise Teoria widzenia / The Theory of Vision (1936-1958). Strzemiński was a forerunner of the international avant-garde, demonstrated through the accompanying works on tracing paper - never previously shown - which are closely connected to his landscapes, collages and paintings. Strzemiński's idea had dual references: it expressed the desire to grasp human memory (history) through the eye and to crystallise it in the spatial structure of the painting (afterimage).
Strzemiński's attempt to overcome illusion, one having a long tradition in modern art, referred to different theories of visuality. On the one hand, it was the history of creation of perspective painting in all its variations from the 16th century up until today. On the other, it was the history of optical machines, initiated by the Renaissance camera obscura, from the magic lantern to the stereoscope. The key viewing machine of the exhibition is the well-known peepshow; its three-dimensional pictures viewed through a system of lenses in a rotating structure fired the imagination of mass audiences from the end of the 19th century until the 1950s.
The Twentieth-Century history of vision and its ideological motivations are presented in two subsequent parts. Firstly, it is expressed by a transgressive attempt to look at what in our unconscious is hidden most - in the works of Max Ernst, Tristan Tzara, Luis Buñuel, Salvador Dali, Alicja Żebrowska, Jadwiga Maziarska. The second part focuses on the eye of modernist radicals - Jerzy Kujawski, Tadeusz Kantor
, and Józef Robakowski
- who wanted to see beyond the perceptible by using the structure of abstract the painting. The issues of cosmic visibility vanishing in abstraction have been expressed in a series of experiments on "painting in motion" (1949) made by Jerzy Kujawski, Andrzej Pawłowski's Kineformy / Kineforms (1957), as well as in the film Uwaga malarstwo / Attention, Painting (1959) related to Tadeusz Kantor's informel work. This part of the exhibition is summed up by Zbigniew Rybczyński
's utopian spherical vision. The film experiments made by Stefan Themerson, full of paradoxes themselves, point in his direction.
Another part of the exhibition focuses on contemporary ideologies of viewing and perceiving. Here the political history of the eye in its scope covers the margins of what is accessible to sight; it refers to the peripheral fuzziness of the gaze and to the intended exclusions from the field of observation. The eye forms a critique of reality, and viewing is a form of resistance to image manipulation - as in the works of Zbigniew Libera
, Thomas Ruff, Aernout Mik, and Jill Magid. Thomas Ruff's paintings-photographs based on pornographic films remain in stark contrast both to Aernout Mik's video work, comprised of a montage of reporter's videos of battles and war life in former Yugoslavia rejected by television stations, and to Jill Magid's installation based on street video surveillance, a totality of human observation threatening their freedom.
The exhibition picks up another thread, one more closely related to the technologies of viewing. It starts with a peepshow with "exotic views" placed at the very beginning of the exhibition. A miniature depicting a "strolling panorama owner" by Jan Piotr Norblin is located beside it. The exhibition continues with Jerzy Rosołowicz's paintings made of lenses (1968) and a reconstruction of Krzysztof Wodiczko
's forgotten 1970 installation of "seeing and hearing instruments". Then comes Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz
's painting, a piece from his astronomical compositions series, surrounded by photographs of the universe recently taken by the Hubble telescope.
Another work of interest is Duchamp Ciné, a screening of a replica of Marcel Duchamp's work was made by Sturtevant, a French-American artist. Her piece can be found at the end of a long corridor and to some extent serves as a summary of the exhibition: Duchamp Ciné is a postmodern "afterimage" of modernism's perverse creator.
Artists: Konstanty Brandel, Luis Buñuel, Max Ernest & Paul Éluard, Hans Hamngren, Tadeusz Kantor, André Kertesz, Jerzy Kujawski, Zbigniew Libera, Jill Magid, Michal Martychowiec, Jadwiga Maziarska, Aernout Mik, Jan Piotr Norblin, Andrzej Pawłowski, Józef Robakowski, Jerzy Rosołowicz, Thomas Ruff, Zbigniew Rybczyński, Władysław Strzemiński, Stefan Themerson, Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Andrzej Wróblewski
, Jan Ziarnko, Alicja Żebrowska.
Curators: Professor Andrzej Turowski, Zofia Machnicka.
Opening: September 13, 2010, 18:00.
The exhibition runs through November 1, 2010.
Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle
Jazdów 2, 00-467 Warsaw
acting director: Henryk Gac
phone: (+48 22) 628 76 83, 628 12 71-3, 628 64 08
fax: (+48 22) 628 95 50
Source: press materials