‘Her Own Way’ or Shinayakana Tatakai – ‘a subtle fight’: this is the title of an exhibition dedicated to Polish female visual artists currently showing at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.
This year marks 100 years since the diplomatic relations between the Japanese government and the Republic of Poland were established. To celebrate this anniversary, Tokyo Museum of Photography (TOP Museum) and the Adam Mickiewicz Institute present an exhibition dedicated to Polish visual artists, covering works from the 1970s to the present day. Her Own Way, created in collaboration between Polish and Japanese researchers and curators, provides a fresh look at the path that Polish contemporary art has gone through in the past five decades against the backdrop of historical events.
The exhibition showcases a panoramic view of changes in the visual expression of Polish female artists from the times when the communist regime limited the availability of video cameras and artists began to experiment with film recordings, through the period of system transformation, to the present day, when expressions with the use of video cameras and digital technologies have become a popular medium. The exhibition presents various strategies that, depending on the generation, the artists employ, such as camera actions, a kind of ‘selfie’; applying surprising perspectives, transforming everyday life into something extraordinary; critical approach or hacking existing systems and media. Curators Keiko Okamura and Marika Kuźmicz trace the experimental spirit that connects pioneers of the Cold War era with the representatives of the contemporary globalized digital generation.
The exhibition at the TOP Museum also addresses the problems of women, expressed by the global slogan #MeToo, or Japanese #KuToo (a word game combining #MeToo and the Japanese words kutsu – ‘shoes’ and kutsuu – ‘pain’, referring to the requirement to wear high heels at work) that affect us every day. Her Own Way shows how Polish women deal with the traditional social roles of ‘good mother’, ‘good wife’, ‘good daughter’ and ‘good employee’. Added to this are issues arising from discrimination resulting from differences between Eastern and Western Europe, often hindering women’s self-realisation. Faced with these hidden problems, Polish female artists use art as a way of living life on their own terms. They challenge themselves to fight with gender stereotypes and carry the hope of living in harmony with themselves.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue Her Own Way—Female Artists and the Moving Image in Art in Poland: From 1970s to the Present. Majority of presented works are shown in Japan for the first time.
The exhibition consists of four sections, in which curators focus on different aspects of changes in Polish contemporary art:
1. Limited Access: Experiments of the Pioneers | 1970–1980s
In the times of the communist regime, female artists working behind the Iron Curtain had only minimal access to equipment and training. They were, nonetheless, able to experiment with a variety of approaches to film and video expression. Marika Kuźmicz, a respected art historian and archivist who has curated this section of the exhibition introduces the critical results of her recent research in Poland.
2. Transition: In a Current of Critical Art | Since the 1990s
Following democratisation, Polish society achieved economic growth and material affluence as part of the new order in Europe. At the same time, however, it experienced growing income gaps and rapid changes in values. These changes have stimulated the rise of ‘critical art’ in the 1990s devoted to exposing contradictions in society and the darker aspects of human nature.
3. Perspectives into the Past and the Future | Since the 2010s
Many artists who spent their childhood under the communist regime but received their higher education after democratisation necessarily maintain a certain distance as they look back on and examine the past, interpret current conditions, and test out new perspectives. Among them we find an attitude of interpreting the presence to discover new perspectives on the future. While critically observing complex social and political conditions, they pour their creativity into making visually and conceptually diverse video works.
4. Sensitivity of the New Generation
The characteristics and evaluation of the younger generation of artists born after democratisation are still in flux. The exhibition presents a few captivating examples. Instead of adhering only to the art system exemplified by museums and galleries, they display a positive stance toward the use of accessible media to convey what they have to say to society. They engage in and spur action, selfaware of their own implication in the contradictions of the global economic system.
Artists participating in the exhibition:
Limited Access: Experiments of the Pioneers | 1970–1980s
Ewa Partum (1945‐), Natalia LL (1937‐), Jolanta Marcolla (1950‐), Jadwiga Singer (1952‐2008), Barbara Kozłowska (1940‐2008), Izabella Gustowska (1948‐), Anna Kutera (1952‐), Teresa Tyszkiewicz (1953‐), Iwona Lemke-Konart (1958‐)
Transition: In a Current of Critical Art | Since the 1990s
Julita Wójcik (1971‐), Zuzanna Janin (1961‐), Katarzyna Kozyra (1963‐), Joanna Rajkowska (1968‐)
Perspectives into the Past and the Future | Since the 2010s
Honorata Martin (1984‐), Bogna Burska (1974‐), Anna Molska (1983‐), Karol Radziszewski (1980‐), Karolina Breguła (1979‐), Agnieszka Polska (1985‐), Agnieszka Kalinowska (1971‐), Alicja Rogalska (1979‐)
Sensitivity of the New Generation
Anna Jochymek and Diana Lelonek (1988‐), Jana Shostak (1993‐), Weronika Wysocka (1994‐)
- Relay Talk
15th August 2019 6:00-7:30 pm
Joanna Rajkowska, Karolina Breguła, Jana Szostak (artists participating in the exhibition)
- Lecture & Discussion: Polish Art and Feminism
18th August 2019 godz. 1:30-4:30 pm
Anna Kutera (artist participating in the exhibition), Marika Kuźmicz (art historian, Arton Foundation), Agnieszka Rayzacher (director of lokal_30 Gallery)
- Lecture: In the Circle of Critical Art
31st August 2019 1:30-4:30 pm
Akiko Kasuya (curator, art historian, KCUA)
- Gallery Talk by the Curator
16th August 2019 2:00 pm
30th August 2019 6:00 pm
6th September 2019 2:00 pm
20th September 2019 2:00 pm
4th October 2019 2:00 pm
Source: press materials of the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, edited by YNA Associates, 25 Jul 2019, originally written in Japanese, translated by KS, AW, 29 Aug 2019