Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki: Polish Artists Dream in Greece

Polish Artists Dream in Greece
Thessaloniki, 
29.03.2013 – 31.05.2013


Zuzanna Janin Majka From The Movie, 2009-2012, video-installation (9 episodes), color, sound, DVD, courtesy lokal_30

Artists: Stefan Constantinescu, Christoph Draeger, Regina José Galindo, Tomasz Kozak, Zuzanna Janin, NUG, Adrian Paci, Société Réaliste, Reynold Reynolds, Józef Robakowski and Alicja Żebrowska

A show of video works by artists across Europe – and across several generations – explore political and societal change through the immediate individual experience. The show explores our dreams and how history has impacted them and the reality of our everyday existence.

Curated by Agnieszka Rayzacher, the exhibition's central message is inspired by the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King and the impact his speech made on American society and the fight for civil rights. It stretches the idea to our times, to a world where societies across the globe have been protesting inefficient governments and fighting for their rights politically, socially, economically and morally.

The exhibition considers how much can be achieved through the voice and action of the people, through video works of 11 major artists working with contemporary video techniques. The exhibition references a show in the same space in 2012 – It’s the Political Economy, Stupid – which instigated a dialogue about the evolution of contemporary societies.

According to Rayzacher, the reference point for the current show is Raoul Vaneigem’s book from 1967, The Revolution of Everyday Life, which proposed a "situationist" view on social experience, calling the fulfillment of one's desires "the most powerful force". Yet the repercussions of such a sensually-driven rebellion involve the commodification of desire and aspirations. As Rayzacher explains, the exhibition is

    to investigate the incessant pursuit of change, which Heraclitus viewed as the most important element of the world, the engine and fuel of life. What is the origin of this energy and fire? From the futurists, to dadaists, avant-gardists, Fluxus and other utopists of the 20th century, the most important point was the sense of crisis, which compelled a rupture with the old status quo and visions of a new one. A critical moment carries a load of energy to spark theories and movements. We already know that the current crisis has unleashed the energy of change.

Work are diverse in subject and execution, yet share a common spirit, foreshadowing a toppling of an outdated status quo or ideology. Collectively, the videos in the show ask whether there has been any significant change in the world over the past decades, and how the dreams of mankind have either come true or ended up crushed. Ultimately, we are encouraged to consider our own hopes and dreams today and how the world may or may not change.

The four Polish artists, Zuzanna Janin, Alicja Żebrowska, Józef Robakowski and Tomasz Kozak, grew up in different decades and different socio-political contexts.

Józef Robakowski (born 1939) is one of the prominent figures and educators in Polish experimental film and video art and educator. He used film and photography as a language to undermine the communist reality of Poland. Seemingly banal recordings of everyday life in From My Window (1978-1999) trace the transitions experienced by Polish society through a moment of intense political change. Using an ordinary camera, Robakowski translates the private into the public, demonstrating how everyone is impacted by the flux of history and politics – whether we are aware of it or not.

Alicja Żebrowska (born 1956) also uses video and installation to explore issues of the body and gender, as well as the relationship between an individual and society. She is currently developing a nomadic project titled Infiltron. We Are All Ill within Ourselves with Jacek Lichoń, initiated in 1997 with a performance on the London Underground and part of a larger project on performative action in the collective space and participation in social rituals.

Video and installation artist Zuzanna Janin (born 1964) presents five segments of a video installation entitled Majka from the Movie, based on a popular Polish television series from the 1970s starring the artist as a child. In taking frames from The Madness of Majka Skowron, a story of intergenerational conflict between a father and daughter, it spurs a synthesis of the identity of the fictional character Majka, as well as of the real-life figure behind Majka – Zuzanna Janin. Through this process Janin examines the cultural components of a life and identity through experience, identification, mimicry and human interaction.

Tomasz Kozak (born 1971) is a painter and animation/video artist whose works use iconographic representation to explore primal pleasures, the boundaries of the corporeal and the allure of transgression. He uses found footage to build a narrative scheme that unites symbols of the past and present, suggesting that the extreme and subversive ideologies spouted in contemporary forms of pop culture have a significant impact on the human conscience. In Flash of the New Flesh (2011) he uses still frames from David Cronenberg's The Fly to look at contemporary society's approach to the body.

The works of the four Polish artists deftly enter into dialogue with those of the remaining seven artists from across Europe. Their subjects are spread across the issues that contemporary societies grapple with today, from Stefan Constantinescu's commentary of the transformation of technology, sexuality and social life in our times and the dehumanised American Dreams of Société Réaliste to the scandalist art of NUG (artistic monicker of Magnus Gustafsson from Sweden) and Reynold Reynolds' documentary about the destruction of the symbol of totalitarian regimes in the GDR – the Palace of the Republic in Berlin in Last Day of the Republic.


Adrian Paci, "Turn-on", 2004

The exhibition takes place at the Contemporary Art Center of Thessaloniki (Warehouse B1, port area) in Thessaloniki, Greece, opening on the 29th of March at 6 pm and running through the 31st of May.

The Contemporary Art Centre of Thessaloniki is an independent part of the State Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition is supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Athens. It has been organised in cooperation with the lokal_30 gallery in Warsaw.

For more information, see: www.cact.gr

Read an interview with curator Agnieszka Rajzacher at contemporarylynx.co.uk

Author: Agnieszka Le Nart

Source: CACT, curatorial statement, own sources

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