Włodzimierz Borowski was an artist whose conceptualist attitude strongly emphasised the relationship between aesthetics and ethics. He placed the issue of attitude at the centre of his artistic practice.
Włodzimierz Borowski's happening in Galeria Od Nowa, Poznań, 1968, photo: Tadeusz Rolke
The latest exhibition dedicated to Borowski's works focuses on the question of the author's ego, subjectivity and the effects of time on the value of an object or idea. The curators have created a multi-layered collection of Borowski's across a range of periods as a sort of farewell to his syncretic formula
Włodzimierz Borowski (1930 – 2008) was an artist whose conceptualist attitude strongly emphasised the relationship between aesthetics and ethics. He placed the issue of attitude at the centre of his artistic practice. But his uniqueness is exemplified foremostly by the radical redefinition of the problem of author and subject. With Borowski, we are not dealing with a simple ascertainment of the death of the author, which was meant to be combined with the reader's emergence. Rather, according to the insights of Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Giorgio Agamben, we are confronted with the opening of the space of his continuous disappearance in successive expositions: paintings, objects, exhibitions, texts, and finally in the Syncretic Shows.
This space, which hosts the author's endless disappearances and appearances, became in Borowski's art the birth scene of an unsteady, fractured subject and of all questions related to his condition, position, and responsibility vis-à-vis the reality in which he appears. Włodzimierz Borowski's shows from this period never constituted monographic or retrospective exhibitions. However, they were connected with the word's Latin root: expositio understood as an exhibition-for-show, as evaluation.
The exposition concerned the author's ego, which was then subject to such treatments as humiliation, thus undermining the conventional notion of the avant-garde artist, the master, he-who-knows. Each exposition possesses the characteristics of an autonomous whole, while also carrying the hallmarks of a lecture with narrativistic historical mechanisms, exchanging the linear operations of the positivist machine with heterogeneous points in the space of a dead, standstill time. Borowski made use of his oeuvre by literally opening it onto the destructive effects of time: he deprived objects of value, insisting on their process; by placing them within precise, albeit unstable and fragile constellations, he treated objects like mock-ups. He subjectified objects and processes, leaving behind traditional hierarchical object-subject relationships and the anthropocentric vision of the world.
The latest exhibition to feature the artist's work, entitled "The Net of Time", focuses on these issues. It takes on the challenge of creating yet another ex-position of the Author – this time in his absence, but by using the guidance of this character "ever looming in the stage background." As a starting point, the curators chose Włodzimierz Borowski's conceptual realisation entitled "Playing Field", a work that has been overlooked by art historians, at Warsaw's Współczesna Gallery in 1972. It has been overlaid with documentation evoking the Syncretic Shows, as well as works documental in character in which Borowski continues the auto-achiving process – detaching himself from his own identity.
Włodzimierz Borowski's "Playing Field" - exhibited in the Współczesna Gallery in Warsaw (13 July - 5 August 1972) - was an exposition arranged by the artist using almost all of his works created between 1956 and 1972. The space of Playing Field included structural paintings, Artons, Maniluses, several later independent works, as well as a reference - in the form of the author's reconstructions - of "Syncretic Show III - Closet" (1st National Meeting of Artists and Scientists, Puławy, 1966), "Syncretic Show VIII - Sensitizing to Colour" (odNowa Gallery, Poznań 1968) and "Coda to Show VIII" (Współczesna Gallery, Warsaw 1968). In the bright, symmetric space of the Współczesna Gallery, the artist - Włodzimierz Borowski, and the curator - Janusz Bogucki, created a kind of black "box" with a drawn out floor layout reminiscent of a sports field, which was then filled with artworks. According to the catalogue list, there were 58 such works, plus sketches, documents, and props for "Syncretic Shows" , displayed in a side room parallel to the main gallery space.
The presented reconstruction is a faithful restoration of the specific space, together with all the relations between objects present within the show. It presents 42 works by Włodzimierz Borowski and six reconstructions of unsurviving works. The goal was to recreate as closely as possible the situation and meanings of the 1972 exhibition. This exposition - hitherto overlooked by art historians - can be interpreted as a farewell to Borowski's formula of the "Syncretic Show", understood as the culmination of conceptual art and its parting with conventional formulas, a watershed moment in the artist's work, in which he destorys his oeuvre, so as to expose his subjectiveness - his approach.
The exhibition is accompanied by a conference dedicated to the oeuvre of Włodzimierz Borowski (1930-2008). The conference is the first international session dedicated to the oeuvre of Włodzimierz Borowski, organised in connection with the exhibition. It aims to summarize the current state of research and to draw new theoretical perspectives and methodological views helpful in interpreting works of this eminent Polish avantgarde artist of the past.
To find out more about the conference go to www.artmuseum.pl
The exhibition runs from November 18, 2010 through January 16, 2011.
Opening: November 18, at 7 PM
Curators: Luiza Nader, Paweł Polit, Agnieszka Szewczyk
Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
ul. Pańska 3, 00-124 Warsaw
director: mgr Joanna Mytkowska
tel. (+48 22) 596 40 10
fax (+48 22) 596 40 22