The exhibition "Good Neighbourhood? German themes in contemporary Polish art/Polish themes in contemporary German art" is presented at Berlin’s Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien Studio 1. Inspite of a geography which could facilitate friendly relations, Poles and Germans are often strangers for each other
The exhibition "Good Neighbourhood? German themes in contemporary Polish art/Polish themes in contemporary German art" is presented at Berlin’s Kunstraum Kreuzberg Bethanien Studio 1
Inspite of a geography which could facilitate friendly relations, Poles and Germans are often strangers for each other, and the wounds of World War II do not heal quickly at all. The theme of war is constantly referenced in Polish and German contemporary art.
Although a fascination with the West was always strong, recently it is Poland that seems to raise a new interest among artists. And it is not necessarily Polish stereotypes and cliches, but a deep observation that has become the key inspiration for works of art. Pieces exhibited as part of the "Good Neighbourhood? German themes in contemporary Polish art/Polish themes in contemporary German art" can be grouped into three categories. There are works which directly address the neighbourhood of the two countries, those which present a critical stance towards prevailing stereotypes about the two countries, and those which are illustrative in character.
List of works and authors taking part in the exhibition:
• Aleksandra Polisiewicz - "Wartopia", 2006
In this work, computer graphics and an interactive visualisation convey a reconstruction of what the city of Warsaw would look like if the urban planning for its rebuilding by Stalin and Hitler was realised.
In 2004, Aleksandra Polisiewicz (born in 1974) founded Syreny TV, a radical feminist art group together with Ewa Majewska. In her projects, which include video works, art objects, installations and murals, Polisiewicz reflects on the principals which govern today's world and the possibilities of their change.
• Andrzej Wasilewski - "Ping-pong", 2010
The ball in this video-installation is a medium carrying what is exchanged in Polish-German relations: images of stereotypes and superficial assumptions and biases the two nations have about each other. The game is all about neither of the sides playing being ready to receive what the other brings.
Born in 1975, Andrzej Wasilewski creates video works and installations. In his art, he addresses contemporary culture and civilisation as well as man's condition.
• Grupa Twożywo - "Polnische Schweine", 2006
The term 'polnische schweine' is associated by Poles with an insult used to describe the Polish by German occupants during the war. Yet, it's commonly assumed that this expression still best illustrates the stance of some Germans towards Poles. Twożywo deconstruct the any resentment the expression may inspire, not only through its affirmation but also thanks to connecting it with an absurd image of a nice pig in a suit.
Founded in 1995, Twożywo is an artistic group whose team has not changed since 1998.
Krzysztof Sidorek (born in 1976) and Mariusz Libel (born in 1978) works in public spaces, creating murals, billboards, posters, stickers, net-art pieces, and columns in various journals. The play between words and images is a key element of their works, which draw upon the traditions of avant-garde constructivism, dadaist typography and concrete poetry.
• Jerzy Kosałka - "Nie wybaczymy / Wir verzeihen nicht / We won’t forgive", 2008
The point of departure for this work is a Polish sitcom "Czterej Pancerni i pies"("Four Tank-men and a Dog"), which was broadcasted between 1966 and 1970. The series strongly influenced a historical awareness among Poles. The artist takes up a scene in which the tank Rudy 102 is damaged during fighting. He adds to it a slogan "We won't forgive". Literally, he is addressing the depicted situation and may seem to present an childish reaction of anger. On the symbolic level, however, he is referncing the famous theme "we forgive and ask for forgiveness", which open up the process of reconciliation.
Jerzy Kosałka, born in 1955, is a member of the Luxus artistic group. He creates art objects, installations, mock-ups and objects within public space. He analyses the elements constitutive of contemporary awareness: cliche historic images and the visual sphere of modern ideologies.
• Józef Robakowski - "Zwykli Niemcy"/ "Ordinary Germans"
in 1979 , as a guest of Juergen Blum-Kwiatkowski, the director of a tiny artistic village called Kleinsassen, I had the opportunity to become close with people who lived there. I decided to make a group portrait of them. We don't see these kinds of Germans on photographs, because usually they stand stiff and posed in front of a camera. My photos peel this typical make-up off their photographic images, without taking away any of their natural charm and pride.
Józef Robakowski, 1987
Józef Robakowski was born in 1939. He is the founder of numerous artistic groups, among them ZERO-61 (1961 - 1969) and Warsztat Formy Filmowej ("Film Form Workshop") (1970-1977). He makes films, objects, installations, videos. He also works as a curator. His art is a constant experiment, concentrating on the use of optical media.
• Kamil Kuskowski - "Polen - Deutschland", 2006
Polish-German history, the way it is taught in Polish schools, seems to be made of perpetual struggle which almost always ends with a defeat of the Polish side. The few victories seem all the more precious. In Kuskowski's works, the fight is is ironically compared with a football match and the battleground with the football field.
Kamil Kuskowski, born in 1973, is active as a curator. Since 2008 he conducts the Zona Sztuki Aktualnej in Łódź. In his art, he employs objects, installations, and videos in order to question the status of painting and touch upon the most significant of contemporary issues.
• Laura Pawela- "untitled (Friedrich)", 2008
Three video projections form an image of the contemporary frame of mind. This frame seems to be defined by a sense of the end of a certain culture, or even civilisation. In order to portray this feeling, the artist reaches for German Romantic painting and English Renaissance plays.
Laura Pawela, born in 1977 works as a painter and makes video pieces, art objects, installations and games. In her recent work, she analyses the relationship between emotional experience and the subject who is touched by them. Her points of reference are artitstic traditions and a deserted, deteriorated landscape.
• Leszek Knaflewski - "Good mit uns", 2004
Leszek Knaflewski uses puns in his play with certain expressions and visual signs of a discourse burdened with historical connotations. He creates a complex pictogram, in which desire is depicted as the function of an ideological order.
Leszek Knaflewski (born in 1960) was a member of the Koło Klipsa group, which functioned between 1983-90. He performed with numeours music bands Knaflewski is the author of sound performance art pieces, installations and video pieces. With his work, he analysed the individual’s involvement in ideology and religion as well as a person’s unconscious limitations.
• Leszek Lewandowski - "Mój dziadek był w Wehrmachcie" / "My Grandfather Was in the Wehrmacht", 2007
Lewandowski comes from the region near the Polish-German border, and he provocatively affirms his family’s past. He shows the photo of his grandfather wearing a Wehrmacht army uniform, thus addressing a more complicated and multi-layered version of history, especially in the case of borderland regions.
Leszek Lewandowski (born in 1960) has been running Galeria Sektor I in Katowice since 1998. In the past, the artist used to paint, currently he concentrates on making art objects which experiment with the mechanisms of perception and optical illusion. This work is a means of inquiring about ways of constructing reality. He is also interested in methods employed in manipulting history, which form the image of this reality.
• Łódź Kaliska - "Zabójstwo Hindenburga"/ "The Murder of Hindenburg", 1995
The film is a grotesque story about the murder of a marshall, who has most likely died a peaceful and natural death. The contradicting of facts is conveyed in an sentence if text at the very end of the film. This neodadaist farse makes pure nonsense its only message.
Łódź Kaliska (founded in 1979) is an artistic group whose members are Marek Janiak (ur. 1955), Adam Rzepecki (ur. 1950), Andrzej Świetlik (ur. 1952), and Andrzej Wielogórski (ur. 1952). Their happenings, performance art, films, photography, objects and drawings mockingly criticise social conventions, often
• Marcin Berdyszak - "Militärfrüchte", 2003
This small object is part of the Militärfrüchte series, in which bananas are metaphorically mobilised and become a piece of the equipment of some unidentified army. The use of German in the title of the piece plays its role in the humorous piece which transforms fruit into weapons. The association of Germany with militarism is a play on the stereotypes about Poland's neighbour.
Marcin Berdyszak, born in 1964, creates objects, installations and drawings. For a long period his works took up the motif of still life, using it as a way to analyse the contemporary world, and the issues of production and decay,survival and conservation, and the diminishing of nature induced by technological interventions.
• Monika Kowalska, Grzegorz Kowalski, Zbigniew Sejwa- "Wspomnienia z miasta L." / "Memories from the City of L.", 2004
The film touches upon the past of formerly German territories that were incorporated into the state of Poland after World War II. It is an attempt at reconstructing the town of Gorzów Wielkopolski before the war. For the film's authors it's an attempt at recognising the traditions of a place where they live.
Monika Kowalska, born in 1970, animates various cultural events and interdisciplinary artistic projects. She is also the co-author of documentaries " Opowieści z miasta G." / "Tales from the city of G." and "Czerwiak". Grzegorz Kowalski is a germanologist and translator. He founded the Galeria Nowych Mediów in Gorzów Wielkopolski in 2003 . He works with photography, installations, objects, video and documentary films.
• Paweł Jarodzki - "Polentransport II", 1997
The title refers to Joseph Beuys' action. The German artist brought and donated a collection of his works to the Art Musem in Łódź. Jarodzki poses the question of what Poland could offer Germany, apart from its own merchandise, produced at low costs thanks to cheap labour force.
Paweł Jarodzki (born in 1954) is member of the artistic group Luxus. He curates the Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych (Bureau of Artistic Exhibitions) in Wrocław. He works with drawing, graphics, comics and creates art-object and paintings.
• Przemysław Truściński – "Księżyc" / "Moon", 2001
The comic book presents a fictional story of a technological race that accompanied World War II, and which perhaps constituted the primary battleground. Przemysław Truściński aka Trust (born 1970) creates a comic book which is a way of not only commenting, but also shaping reality. His comics were published in Gazeta Wyborcza, Machina, Newsweek, Playboy, Twist, Plastik, Fakt, Nowa Fantastyka and Talizman. In 2006 he created a mural at the Warsaw Uprising Museum in Warsaw. In 2000, together with the National AIDS Center he organised a competition for comics on HIV, which resulted in an anthology "Comics vs AIDS". He has taken part and won various awards at the International Festival of Comics in Łódź.
• Rafal Jakubowicz - "Arbeitdisziplin", 2002
The elements of this installation (photography, video and postcards) document a situation observed by the artist in a factory of Poznań's Antoninek district. "EB, 2006" This project was designed for the interiors of a castle built in Poznań for Emperor Wilhelm II, later adapted for Adolph Hitler. In a disguised code, Jakubowicz took up the erotic and even romantic dimension of the Nazi legacy of this place, mounting neon letters "EB" - the initials of Eva Braun - on one of the doors.
Rafal Jakubowicz (b. 1974) is member of the artistic Wunderteam. He is also an art critic. Jakubowicz creates installations, objects, video and painting. His work has strong features of conceptual art, and it is essentially an analysis of the discourse of power, exclusion, as well as the real and symbolic violence of the contemporary world.
• Robert Maciejuk - "Untitled", 2000
The cycle consists of four polyptychs, made up of thirty-five elements each. The base of this projects are reproductions of aeroplanes, which the artist found in an album - "Combat aircraft of World War II."
Robert Maciejuk (b. 1965) creates paintings, drawings, and ceramic pieces. He is interested in the properties of images, symbols, logos, pictograms and the typography one finds in architectural spaces, in early Renaissance painting, and in the everyday environment, be in the TV, newspapers, at the library, or in a bookstore.
• Tomasz Bajer - "Remedy Bajer," 2005, "Bajer Mixture of remedy," 2005, "Bayer & Bajer", 2005
In these works the artist plays on a double game with identification: on the one hand Bajer's personal identity, and on the other - the visual id of the famous pharmaceutical company. The artist uses the Polish spelling of his German surname in order to impersonate the identification of Bayer corporation Tomasz Bajer (born 1971) works with Jolanta Bielanska, with whom he realised the "We Are Slavs Not Slaves" project in 2007, as well as with Andrzej Dudek-Dürer and Jerzy Kosałka during the Kollegengruppe V3. In his work, he employs objects, sculptures, installations, animation and painting in order to analyse contemporary discourses of power, mechanisms of violence which determine the individual's possibilities in today's society.
• Wunderteam - "Die Deutschstunde", 2005
The film is a rather specific documentary of liberation, which ends with a question about the limits of freedom. Unlimited freedom granted to rabbits living in Münster, provoked the artists to buy rabbits bred in a Polish foodfarm and release them in one of Münster's parks. Wunderteam (founded in 2002) now works composed by Wojciech Duda (born 1964), Rafal Jakubowicz (born. 1974), Maciej Kurak (b. 1972) Previously the group also included Włodzimierz Filipek (1957-2005) and Paweł Kaszczyński (b. 1973). The group mainly creates films, installations and makes interventions. The works are saturated with pure non-sensical humor, commenting in a humorous way on the paradoxes and anomalies of reality.
• Zbigniew Libera - "Kolarze"/ "Cyclists", 2002, "Mieszkańcy" / "Inhabitants" 2002
The works belong to the "Pozytywy" / "Positives" series. Seven images, classic pieces of historical photography are the main point of reference for this series.
Zbigniew Libera (b. 1959) creates objects, sculptures, films, installations, photographs, and performance art. His work examines social mechanisms of identity as well as the individual and collective consciousness, in order to construct subversive works.
Date: 25th of September – 23rd of October, 2011
Opening night on the 24th of September, 2011, 7 pm
Venue: Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien/Studio, Berlin
Organised by: Gdańska Galeria Miejska, agitPolska e.V.
Partners: Polish Embassy in Berlin, Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien Berlin, Miasto Gdańsk.
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland and the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute