The Gallery of Polish Arms and Uniforms of the Kraków National Museum Main Building hosts a summary exhibition from controversial artist Zbigniew Libera. The exhibition celebrates the work of one of the most prominent artists of the last few decades and a pioneer of critical art. Libera analyses the visual representation of history and its influence on collective and individual memory and national identity. The artist conjures up a portrayal of a fictional brotherhood of guerilla warriors...
Zbigniew Libera, photograph from the series "The Gay, Innocent and Heartless" / "Szczęśliwi, niewinni i bezduszni", 2008. Photo: press materials
The Gallery of Polish Arms and Uniforms of the Kraków National Museum Main Building hosts a summary exhibition from controversial artist Zbigniew Libera. The series presents photographs from the 2008 series "The Gay, Innocent and Heartless", one of the most recent acquisitions in the museum's permanent collection
The exhibition celebrates the work of one of the most prominent artists of the last few decades and a pioneer of critical art. The event marks the culminating point of the 5th anniversary of the reopening of the 20th Century Polish Art Gallery. It is also the first presentation of Libera's art at the National Museum in Kraków.
The Gay, Innocent and Heartless reprises many of the artist recurring themes since his debut in the 1980s, which includes such topics as the influence of mass media on human identity. Thus the show can to some extent be considered a vivid retrospective. The presented set fits into to the museum's permanent collection, in spite of its controversial take on masculinity and the military. The references to the symbols of national defence and national identity are the reason why this particular exhibition has made it into the Polish Arms and Uniforms gallery, emphasising the multi-dimensional link between his work and other disciplines, such as martial arts.
In this project, Libera analyses the visual representation of history and its influence on collective and individual memory and national identity. The title The Gay, Innocent and Heartless is inspired by James M. Barry's book Peter Pan and Wendy and presents a series of staged photographs of an unidentified unit on a mysterious mountaineering expedition. The cumulative effect of Libera's project is displayed in a book of photographs from a fictional article from National Geographic, which explains that "The Gay, Innocent and Heartless" are a group of young guerilla warriors fighting for freedom, encountered by archeologist David Gorgos and photographer Zbigniew Libera during an expedition to Madagascar. The book also presents pictures from a fictional handwritten diary of the partisans.
The whole set of documentation depicting this imaginary story is completed by quotes chosen by Libera, taken from William S. Burroughs' prose dedicated to a utopian land free of restrictions dictated by the bourgeoisie and excerpts from Che Guevara's My Revolution in which the leader writes about the charms of the Guerillas and the revolution of the proletariat.
This ostensibly romantic story built by Libera is meant to explicitly seduce the viewer, but also provoke to a critical appreciation of the subject. As reviewer Piotr Piotrowski acknowledges, the project is not a naïve tribute to boyish fantasies about a common expedition in the woods, nor is it a nostalgic expression of a grown up man longing for a failed revolution and lost youth. Libera actually submits those desires to a raw critical reflection, twisting its primary perception into a critic of the phenomenon as well as his own art. The Gay, Innocent and Heartless can be perceived as a perverse game with the ideal of manly brotherhood, a martial adventure and eternal glory. The artist points out the symbolic figures determining human behaviour and their visual representations. He refers to history, art, medias and their roles In the construction of images that become often more realistic than the actual reality influencing our actions. The project is a very cohesive patchwork of Libera's favourite themes, which the artist also submits to scrutinized criticism. Having evolved in the anarchic movement "Kultura Zrzuty", Libera takes the position of a toned down classic established artist looking back at his own long years of fighting.
The exhibition is produced as a part of the series "Galeria Żywa" of the National Museum in Kraków.
Curator: Dominik Kuryłek.
The exhibition runs through November 18, 2010 - March 31, 2011.
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Source: Press release.