“The length of the reins determines the diameter of the arena” and performance art tends to stretch these reins. The exhibition which opened at the Contemporary Art Gallery in Opole focuses on two important questions of the today art.
FIRSTLY, IT WAS SHOWN that performance is a motor for art. in general through the fact that this art form constantly crosses boundaries and redefines art in its broadest sense. The next very important topic is the role of art. documentation and the question whether documentation can become an independent work of art in itself.
The full text was published at Exit, no. 2 (90), 2014, http://kwartalnik.exit.art.pl/article.php?edition=53&id=873&lang=en
Performance has been considered the most energising type of art of the 20th century, nevertheless, today it is interpreted in a specific way, completely different than in the early 70’s. Further, at present it has been subject to commercial manipulation.
A HUGE ABYSS between the commercial world’s pretending performance art and performance art itself is a certain fact. In my conversation with Fabio Cavallucci I heard an opinion that “performance art festivals present third rate artists and one does not have to keep searching for new performers, as the choice has already been made.” I decided to test this false statement expressed by Mr Cavallucci that questions the open nature of performance, during the festival in Piotrków Trybunalski. The festival of “third rate artists”, who are never perfect.
Low-budget performance art festivals irritate commercial (and institutional) curators who are promoting performance celebrities according to their own scheme. The festival meetings always propose a whole variety of art, multiple contexts, openness and lack of compromise towards the way the world is evaluated. Here the creation of celebrities is false and banal.
The curator of the jubilee Interakcje festival in Piotrkow Trybunalski was Prof. Artur Tajber who based the main structure of the festival on inviting artists who were born within 10 year intervals. Probably neither the public nor the organisers actually focused much upon when everyone was born although classification according to one’s age did indicate the existence of some generational waves in performance art. However the issue of a performers’ age that earlier had been discussed many times, in this kind of art turned out to be an antithesis – all performance artists are equally ageless because we live here and now. We react to the contemporary world, not historical programs or occurrences. This does not mean, however, that performance artists do not make history, they do make it and their anniversaries just happen from time to time. The 15th jubilee of Interakcje featured the same mechanical pump with which the festival opened for the first time in 1998 in the Europa Restaurant. Proof of the anti-generational atmosphere of the festival was the large scope of proposed ideas, quotations, parallel stances and slogans, repetitions, reminders and references. Independent of the artists’ age.
Between March 22nd and April 19th in the gallery BWA Sokol, Nowy Sącz, Poland a photography exhibition by Manuel Vason was presented. It was titled RE-PERFORMANCE. Between performance and photography, and I had the pleasure to curate this exhibit. Since I am not in a position to write a critical text about an exhibition which I curated, I would like to merely document the show and the performances that took place during the opening. These were performances by Dariusz Fodczuk and Anne Seagrave – one of the artists featured in the exhibition.
During the exhibition photos of international cutting edge performance artists were shown: Stuart Brisley, Anne Seagrave, Alastair MacLennan, Władysław Kaźmierczak & Ewa Rybska, Suka OFFduo, Helen Spackmann, Joshua Sofaer, Sachiko Abe, Ronald Frazer Munroe and Franko B. In accordance with the spirit of the collaborative aspect of the photos, I treated the exhibition as a group show by Manuel Vason and the performance artists presented in the photos. An important element of the presentation were the displayed statements of these artists outlining their thoughts about the collaboration process with Manuel Vason.
Until very recently when we thought of “Czestochowa”, the concept of ‘contemporary art’ would be our very last association. Not without reason. Perhaps it would be better to forget about the artwork of Jerzy Duda-Gracz from Czestochowa and the Museum of Zdzislaw Beksinski is better avoided by each contemporary art lover who cares anything at all about art.
As we look through the program of the Municipal Gallery in Czestochowa we can see what we have there: an exhibition entitled Contemporary landscape, an exhibition of the Drawing and Graphics Biennale from Kalisz, an exhibition entitled Landscape by Artur Śpiewak (painting) and an exhibition by two allegedly exceptionally talented but unknown artists produced in co-operation with the International Graphics Triennial Association in Krakow. The artists and their art are non-threatening, non-controversial, academic, aesthetic and even decorative. The exhibits do not conflict with the Holy Mary Sanctuary in Jasna Gora, which is close to the gallery. Neither do they conflict (unfortunately) with the giant figure of the former Pope which now stands in the park of sacral miniatures. At times we could say there are some similarities. What else is happening in contemporary art in Czestochowa? Well, the Art Department of the Jan Dlugosz Academy published a beautiful album about marine painters.
The last time that cutting edge performance artists performed in the Municipal Gallery was in 1997 (Jan Świdziński, Marek Chołoniewski, Władysław Kaźmierczak, Piotr Wyrzykowski, Dariusz Fodczuk and Wojciech Kowalczyk). Does this mean that the only presence of performance art in Czestochowa should be the memory of that event and the fact that the artist Arti Grabowski studied here for a while? Does this mean that when the public would like to see contemporary art they must always have to buy a bus ticket to Warsaw, Krakow or at least nearby Bytom? No.
Peggy Phelan once wrote: Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology…. The document of a performance then is only a spur to memory, an encouragement of memory to become present.
Performance artists of the 70s and beginning of the 80s generally did not care about the documentation of their work and the performances were to take place only once. Grzybowski, however, was already a performance artist, whilst still a student of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. His diploma work was a “painterly documentation” of paintings based on photographs taken during his performances. The photos to be re-created as paintings were of a technically low quality, usually out of focus, but they had an aesthetic sense. The preparation of performance art “documentation” in the form of painting is surprising even today. As Lukasz Guzek wrote: […] making art based on documentation causes a situation, in which the starting point of creating art refers to a form, not “making meaning”, and this means that the vector of artistic searches which began in Kosuth’s conceptualism and postmodern practices has been reversed.
The paintings by Peter Grzybowski shown during the exhibition Changes in Piotrkow Trybunalski (curator: Paulina Olszewska) are based on performances which are known to a very narrow audience. These performances have never been repeated, so an exhibition of their painterly “documentation” provides the first opportunity to view the beginnings of Grzybowski’s art, including performance. The paintings exhibited come from three series, and include Painting from 1981 (Pod Reka Students’ Club, Krakow), Cummulation from 1982 (from an event organised during martial law in his own studio in Krakow) and Red Lights from 1984 (performance for camera, without audience). Among them only the last series was exhibited in the 80s, in Buffalo, NY and the paintings look very fresh even today. […]
Anne Seagrave (born 1962 in Nottingham, UK) is one of the most recognised performance artists in Europe. Her work is dance based and she has presented performances since 1982, often accompanied by original video-installations and audio recordings. She has performed in Great Britain, Ireland, Poland, Holland, Belgium, Spain, France, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, USA, Argentina, Uruguay and Israel. Since 2009 she has lived in Krakow.