Artur Zmijewski- Centre for contemporary art Ujazdowski caste
Artur Zmijewski’s exhibition “Working” is the artist’s first presentation since the conclusion of the important curatorial project he undertook at the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art in 2012. In Berlin, Zmijewski underlined that a key task of the art displayed at the Biennale was to emphasise its link to politics and the possibility of effectively participating in social transformations by forging links between political and artistic action. Moreover, Zmijewski appears to have a broad conception of politics, embracing its role as a tool for the purposeful generation of change by the community. The exhibition in the CCA is not directly linked to Zmijewski’s curatorial work, but instead reflects his beliefs about culture being a field for political thought and action.
The exhibition is a retrospective presentation of the artist’s oeuvre from the last few years. The strands in this which are touched upon include: opening up art for others, rejecting artistic quality in favour of more egalitarian culture, the range of community power and the politicization of culture and citizen culture, as well as art as a tool for summary action untainted by any ambition to occupy the attention of future generations, who will have other problems to solve than us.
The exhibition is an auteur project by the artist, who has made a selection of his own works. The exhibition is composed of about fifty films completed from 2007 to 2012. The film narrative is supplemented by drawings and paintings, the work of project participants, as well as continuations of the “Democracies” film cycle gathered by the artist for the occasion and an archive of press clippings relating to the filmed events.
All of the films, as the title suggests, are the result of the artist’s day to day work rather than creative tension. His oeuvre is basically his day to day to work. What the artist and his crew seem to have in common with the protagonists of “Selected Works” is that they all work – some clean or pour concrete, while others film. The social position of both parties engaged in this work and the profits arising from it are different, but the effort involved is similar. The burden of work is felt by both groups.
First series to be exhibited is “Democracies” (2007-2012). This series of thirty short films, varying in length from under 10 to up to 20 minutes, documents diverse manifestations of political activity in public space. The artist and his crew headed out to the streets with their cameras in order to observe political events of a diverse nature. This process led to a set of short documentaries covering the course of demonstrations the artist had been tracking in Europe (e.g. in Poland), Israel and the West Bank. These include events which appear to be of a clearly political nature, such as protests, rallies and parades. But there are also events whose political nature is concealed or secret, maybe leading to them more effectively performing their ideological work: scenes from the reconstructions of historical events, a record of Jörg Haider’s funeral, street disturbances in Berlin during Euro 2008 and Masses at St Stanislaus Kostka’s Church in Warsaw.
Another series, made of 18 films is “Selected Works” (2007-2012). The artist filmed daily activities, i.e. the work and free time of people of various occupations. These occupations are united by a need to perform repetitive activities: a cleaning lady, an excavator operator, a cashier, a female hot-dog seller, a laundry assistant, a construction worker, a mechanic and a female tram operator. We take a camera eye view of the male and female protagonists over a 24-hour period: at their workplaces, at home, eating their supper or cleaning their teeth, and also when sleeping. The films were shot in Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Mexico.
Film “My Neighbours” (2009) film arose during the artist’s stay in Israel at the invitation of the Digital Art Lab in Holon. This was the time when the Israeli invasion of Gaza codenamed “Operation Cast Lead” was taking place. The palpable state of social tension caused by the war going on a few dozen kilometres away, the military propaganda in the media and street demonstrations for and against the attack on Gaza inspired the artist to visit his neighbours in the tenement where he was staying, as well as those in the immediate area. He asked them for their opinion on the war and Gaza’s appearance after prolonged rocket fire. Zmijewski and his crew held many conversations with residents of Holon and Tel Aviv. Their interlocutors responded using words and drawings. The dominant opinion was that “the war will change the circumstances of the people in Gaza for the better”. This harsh opinion was still being repeated today when the Israeli army attacked Gaza, codenaming the latest attack “Pillar of Defense”. The screening will be accompanied by the drawings executed by Zmijewski’s interlocutors during the film’s recording.
“Blindly” (2010) is a film that documents the seemingly impossible – blind people painting pictures. It shows blind people attempting to express the appearance of the world by painting portraits, landscapes and images of their own homes and physical appearance. Recognition processes, seeing, being seen – this film depicts their efforts to familiarize themselves with reality and their struggle to visualize remembered or merely imagined images of it. The film is supplemented by works created on paper, which came into being during the course of the workshops.
“The Mass” (2011) is a film record of a Catholic Mass faithfully reenacted on the stage of the Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw. On the stage appeared an altar and on it, a Roman Missal. Next to the altar were liturgical candles, a cross was hung and a tabernacle was set in place. The performance of the Mass according to the script of the “Rites of the Holy Mass” was accompanied by organ music and singing. The roles of priest and seminarian were played by actors from the Dramatyczny Theatre.
The Centre for Contemporary Art- ul. Jazdów 2, Warsaw, Poland