When we use the term early years in reference to the careers of musicians, artists, or writers we usually imagine the most fiery period in one's creative time, marked with naiveté, faith in one's exceptionality, but also full of authenticity, independence, and heroism.
When we use the term early years in reference to the careers of musicians, artists, or writers we usually imagine the most fiery period in one's creative time, marked with naiveté, faith in one's exceptionality, but also full of authenticity, independence, and heroism. Such cliché can also be applied in the context of institutional dilemmas related to another wave of establishing new museums of art, which are in a way a side effect of the complicated processes of transformation in Central and Eastern Europe.
Warsaw's Museum of Modern Art was called into being in April 2005, and from its very inception there has been a common belief that this new institution would be a tool in supporting and boosting processes of modernization. The fierce debate, full of antagonisms, clashing opinions, and common prejudices which accompanied the Museum in its early years was unprecedented in the entire post-war history of Poland. Much before the edifice has been erected (the construction is planned for 2014), the design project became the arena of conflict, tearing apart and polarizing the artistic, architectural, and political community. It should be emphasized that the previous museum in Warsaw, the National Museum located in Aleje Jerozolimskie, was opened over 70 years ago – in 1938.
The new Museum is to be built in Plac Defilad, a place in the very center of the city and irrevocably burdened with ideology. The square, with a stand for party dignitaries who would receive official parades there, was created in 1955 as background for the iconic building of the Palace of Culture and Science. Today, the structure is treated as symbol of the soviet domination over Poland and so, as a result, there are systematically recurring appeals to tear the building down, or annihilate it by means of urban planning and expansive architecture. The most visible conflict in connection to the Museum is, therefore, the wishful architectural temperament of its building. When in February 2007 results of the competition for architectural design were announced, some of the media, city inhabitants, and even members of the Museum's Program Council were petrified. The winning design is disciplined and reserved, and its author – the Swiss architect, Christian Kerez – related to the building of the Palace of Culture and Science in a way which was both indirect and very nuanced. The whole project, based on the shape of the letter L, is a levitating concrete structure which is already being cynically compared to a supermarket. The accusation which was constant and ubiquitous in daily press and public opinion polls could be seen as shocking by researchers of the esthetic likes and dislikes of Poles – the design was said not to be sufficiently avant-garde.
The short history of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, which is intended to become the biggest museum of Central and Eastern European art, is the quintessence of the problems related to seeing an art institution as an effective political tool to be used for the purpose of achieving short term economic or propaganda goals (which remains in contrast with the activities and motivations of the Museum itself). Hence it is now suspended somewhere between hope and disenchantment, engagement and compromise, but it is also characterized by the deep belief that a museum can be invented anew, regardless of external pressures, traditions, or political games.
The Early Years exhibition is, in a way, a report from the construction site, or rather from the battle field of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. The photograph by Jan Smaga and the film by Artur Żmijewski were made at Plac Defilad - the place were Kerez's design is to be realized, and which is also the area of tensions between different circles (which was made visible by the riots caused by attempts to evict shop owners from the market hall located there). Most of the presented works were created in collaboration with the Museum, as a sort of a research project on Warsaw and modernity – for example the pieces by Yael Bartana, Tania Bruguera, or Sharon Hayes. At this early stage, the institution is to a large extent formed by its collaborating artists, who have the imagination, intuition, and vision to stimulate the search for new directions of the Museum's development. Yael Bartana's film Wall and Tower is a symptomatic example of this - a political hallucination just as much as it is a tale of pioneer years, untainted by cynicism or calculation. The first kibbutz in Europe, a foreign body in the Warsaw's city tissue, could be a metaphor of the inconvenient but strategically exceptional position of the new Museum.
Artists: Wojciech Bąkowski, Yael Bartana, Tania Bruguera, Oskar Dawicki, Sharon Hayes, Sanja Iveković, Daniel Knorr, KwieKulik (Zofia Kulik i Przemysław Kwiek), Zbigniew Libera, Anna Molska, Paulina Ołowska, Agnieszka Polska, Jan Smaga, Anna Zaradny, Artur Żmijewski.
The exhibition at KunstWerke in Berlin is presented by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw as part of The Promised City, a shared project of Warsaw and Berlin realized in collaboration with Mumbai and Bucarest; in the course of the program artists, curators, people working in art and culture, as well as scientists from Poland, Germany, India and Romania will try to come up with many new, interdisciplinary projects; the common denominator for all these projects will be a reflection on dreams, illusions, quest for happiness in monern cities.
Organizaters: Polish Institute in Berlin, Goethe-Institut and The City of Warsaw Magistrate.
Opening: February 27, 2010, at 5:00 pm.
Exhibition open: until May 2, 2010.
Institute for Contemporary Art
link*www.kw-berlin.de*http://www.kw-berlin.de** **Source: press release