Tekst został opublikowany w książce: Przechwałki i pogróżki pod redakcją Łukasza Białkowskiego i Piotra Sikory (Wydawnictwo Kolegium Sztuk Wizualnych, Szczecin 2019, s. 52-66). Link do rozdziału: “Czy buce mogą mówić o sztuce?” O konfliktach wśród performerów lat 80. i 90.
A paper delivered at the 51st AICA Congress.
The history of performance art in Poland reaches back to the year 1978 when the word was used for the first time on the occasion of the I AM (International Artists Meeting) – a performance art festival at the Remont Gallery in Warsaw. As Łukasz Guzek pointed out, when thinking of this kind of art, art critics use either a diachronic (historical) or synchronic (ahistorical) approach. The first one leads towards depicting performance art as a practice always present in art and immanent in artistic activity. It blurs the specificity of performance art as a genre and its connection to the modernist avant-garde. It also neglects the local circumstances of its birth.  This kind of approach is represented e.g. by Rose LeeGoldberg. The synchronic approach presents performance art as a separate discipline. Its advantage is the recognition of local characteristics, which is important in this case, as it is tightly connected with the political and social environment. In this approach, the key point is the emergence of the word“performance art” as a moment when the discussion about this genre of art begins. For the purpose of this paper, I will take a synchronic approach and will take 1978 as a date when performance art emerged in Polish art history, although many performance artists call their earlier actions “performances” post factum.
Among artists who participated in the first performance art festival in 1978 only Krzysztof Zarębski continued to practice performance art. He started his career as a painter and his performances were very erotic and sensual. He used erotic gadgets such as dildos, artificial nails and lingerie. The artist went to New York in 1981before Martial Law and therefore decided to stay abroad when it was imposed. In his performances he fetishizes mass culture products and media, which distinguishes him from the Western trend of criticism towards mass culture. Another performance artist from the oldest generation was Zbigniew Warpechowski whose background was in poetry. He did his first performances together with TomaszStańko – a jazz musician. Jazz was obviously connected with freedom and improvisation in art and for Warpechowski it was a way of presenting poetry in a non-traditional way. He called his first performances “poetic realities”.
As we can see just based on those two meaningful examples, despite the conditions of the regime – of isolation and state control over most aspects of life – or maybe actually because of that, art was supposed to be pure and free from politics. Artists had in mind the way art was instrumentally used by the communist regime at the time of social realism so they did not want to engage directly in politics. Engagement in politics has been doubtful since Walter Benjamin wrote: “Such is the aestheticizing of politics, as practiced by fascism. Communism replies by politicizing art.” The other option at that time was to associate oneself with the Church but for most artists this represented a similar form of a mental oppression. However, practicing an anti-institutional art which was functioning outside the official circuit, the academy and official Artists’ Union were under these conditions – became paradoxically – a political gesture as Jacques Ranciere would like to see it. The politics of art here means an interference into the sphere of senses and it shows something that was unimaginable before. Above all – in the case of performance art – it changes and questions the language that was used to describe the life of the community – making it possible for new subjects and new postulates to exist in the political field. Since performance art has no definition, from now on, art is not what fulfills the imposed criteria, but what revolutionizes and creates its own rules. At the same time, art loses all norms that decide what can be or what cannot be art which goes in accordance with a permanent crossing of its own borders by art, which is a certain paradox. Among the pioneers of Polish performance art only Jerzy Bereś – who called his actions “manifestations” or “holy masses” (e.g. Political Mass, Romantic Mass, Philosophical Mass, Polish Mass etc.) thought that art is a moral sphere, hence the political engagement of the artist is his/her moral duty. But the strong moral stance was characteristic for performers of that time in general. Zbigniew Warpechowski before one of his performances wrote a Decalogue for Performance Art. Also, Władysław Kaźmierczak says that: “To be a performer is an attitude towards the world and oneself, not towards art. Performance’s struggle is a silent, heroic fight for the freedom of expressing momentous and significant ideas.”
In the USA the birth of performance art is tightly related to the art of protest. LucyLippard indicated that art activism and organizations such as AWC, BlackEmergency Cultural Coalition, Women Artists in Revolution did not come “from the raised fists and red stars of the ‘revolutionary’ left as from the less consciously subversive reactions against the status quo that took place in the mainstream – primarily in minimalism and conceptual art.”The critic then pointed out that they were blunt and blatantly noncommunicative. This statement comes in accordance with what Polish performance artists active in the 70s and 80s say. Kwiekulik (a duo: Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek) wrote, that in the reality of the regime it was impossible to create conceptual art, hence the success of contextualism formulated by Jan Świdziński. Zofia Kulik said: “We, however, could not be pure conceptualists, because we would have cheated ourselves into believing that were fine, there are no institutional nor existential problems, there are no potboilers etc. How could one then practice conceptual art in Poland? Till now Ican’t comprehend that.”The example of the group is interesting as one could say that their methods such as the project: Art of the Ministry of Culture and Art which was a mail art action – sending letters to theMinistry of Culture and Art – was a proto-activist action. As Klara Kemp-Welchnoted: “the sense of the correspondence with officials steps outside of theproblems raised by it that refer to art, and becomes a fight for human rights,pointing at the pure human aspect of being an artist.”An interesting exception in Polish performance art was the Orange Alternative –a group which organized absurd demonstrations since 1986. Today we could alsocall them pioneers of Polish art activism.
Martial Law in Poland in1981 meant the beginning of the so-called Dark Ages of performance art and –any art – in Poland. Artists announced a boycott of official/public galleries. Some events were organized in artist-run-galleries or private studios. The majority of performances were about the state of emergency, oppression, and uneasiness. Even though the context of Martial Law evoked a political interpretation of all actions – artists did not declare openly their engagement in politics. Peter Grzybowski – a member of Awacs group (with MaciejToporowicz) once said that: ‘our performances may be interpreted as political, but we didn’t want to make them this way. We wanted to be as far from politics as possible’. One of their actions was the performance Awacs (KlubPod Ręką, Kraków 23.05.1981) in which a blindfolded Toporowicz led by signals from Grzybowski was supposed to jump on light bulbs lit on the floor. The performance was potentially life-threatening as the action scene was surrounded by an electric wire and Toporowicz had a heart condition. As Łukasz Guzek noticed, artists at that time were not apolitical but non-political. This non-politics had a political reason – it resulted from the lack of faith in that an individual may change anything. Escapism was more and more understandable under the conditions of Martial Law but it was even more difficult to isolate oneself from politics because of it. Focusing on existential problems was, therefore, a form of political stance. It is interesting, as the same structure of the performance, was later used by Grzybowski when he did his solo performance RemoteControl between 2003-2006 – supplementing it by images from capitalist and post 9/11 world reality. Here he was himself jumping on the bulbs and the remote control was operated by another person. So the political and economic system changed but the artist remained oppressed by it.
Even though Poland was isolated, the politics of gender was slowly getting through. Some female artists (Ewa Partum, Teresa Murak, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Zofia Kulik and Natalia LL) moved proto-feminist topics. The only known proto-queer artist from the 80s was Krzysztof Jung. The postmodernization of art shifted its interest from the form to the context. The democracy that was brought back in 1989 meant that Polish performance artists started to be able to travel freely around the world which is extremely important in the case of art which requires the physical presence of the artist. The date also marks the beginnings of institutional critique and becoming a part of the international circuit. The 90s were a time of transition and so-called critical art which meant criticism towards capitalism, Church, globalism, ecological issues etc. The artists became more and more aware of the global social, economic and political problems. The content became more and more socially engaged, commenting on the surrounding changes in reality, however, the language of expression was still the same as the one developed in the 70s and 80s.
The new generation of artists who started their careers in the conditions of a newborn democracy was more likely to be involved in social activism. In the year 2000, the C.U.K.T group traveled around Polish clubs and alternative spaces with a presidential campaign for a virtual candidate, Victoria Cukt, whose main slogan was “politicians are redundant”. The public was asked to enroll into the political party Victoria CUKT, to sign a petition to the Parliament to make her become an official candidate (in Poland one needs to collect 100 000 signatures in order to register) and to write down their postulates, which automatically became a part of her political program. Nowadays, 18 years later, the scandal of Cambridge Analytica proved that real politicians do use Victoria’s method.
Evenmore so, the crisis of 2008 caused a new wave of art activism in the world. Boris Groys wrote: “A certain intellectual tradition rooted in the writings of Walter Benjamin and Guy Debord states that the aestheticization and spectacularization of politics, including political protest, are bad things because they divert attention away from the practical goals of political protest and towards its aesthetic form. And this means that art cannot be used as a medium of a genuine political protest – because the use of art for political action necessarily aestheticizes this action, turns this action into a spectacle and, thus, neutralizes the practical effect of this action.”But the question is – is this always a spectacle? Stephen Wright in his famous Toward a Lexicon for Usership suggests that participation and usership are a remedy for spectacularizing.As Andrzej Turowski wrote: “If democracy is a means of improving collective life (rather than a political utopia), and politics a means of achieving asocially desired order (rather than political power), then the art of the particular sparks that unrest without which democracy as a form of critical participation in the collective project would be unthinkable.”
In 2011 Cecylia Malik and Modraszek Kolektyw mobilized hundreds of young people who, dressed in blue butterfly wings, protested against developers who intended to build another estate in the last green enclave of Kraków, where a rare butterfly (a blue) resides. The artist is a well-known activist, her recent actions also include the action against tree cutting Polish Mothers at a felling and the Mother River action against the artificial regulating of rivers and building of dams, during which women entered the Vistula river holding signs with other rivers’ names. Paweł Hajncel joined a Corpus Christi procession as a “Butterfly Man” for the first time in 2011, for which he was prosecuted later. He has repeated the action every year in various costumes since 2011 and was arrested for the last time on May 31st, 2018 as offending religious feelings in Poland is prosecuted. Monika Drożyńska is an artist who uses embroidery as a means of expression – however, she turns it into an “embroidery activism” – by organizing a collective called Golden Hands which embroiders slogans weekly and also before manifestations. Anyone can join. The form of embroidery is, of course, a feminist way of expression and, as traditionally associated with beautiful and “feminine” objects, when contrasted with explicit content it became a subversive form of expression in which delicate form meets a radical message.
Political engagement of the new generation of artists who now often become art activists relatively new in Poland, even though performance art has been always connected with social activism since its birth in the 70s. This shift causes conflict between artists in the discussion about the role of art and artists in society, especially in the context of art education which, in its nature, aims at preserving and strengthening the old forms rather than provoking a new way of thinking. Therefore, most interesting cases of perfo-activism in Poland come from artists from different backgrounds than performance art. And this is exactly as it was in the 70s when performance art was a marginal genre for the most radical.
 See: Łukasz Guzek, “Above Art and Politics – Performance art and Poland,” in Art Action 1958 – 1998, ed. Richard Martel (Quebec: Intervention, 2001), 254.
 Por. RoseLee Goldberg, Performance Art. From Futurism to the Present (London-New York: Thames & Hudson, 2010).
 There was also Janusz Bałdyga, but he participated as the Academia Ruchu Theatre group.
 Walter Benjamin, The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media, trans. Rodney Livingstone Edmund Jephcott, Howard Eiland (Cambridge, MA-London: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2008), 42.
 Guzek, “Above Art and Politics – Performance art and Poland,” 258.
 Lucy Lippard, “Trojan Horses: Activist Art and Power,” in Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology 1968 – 2014, ed. Hilary Robinson (Malden, MA-Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 76.
 Tomasz Załuski, “KwieKulik i konceptualizm w uwarunkowaniach PRL-u. Przyczynek do analizy problemu.,” Sztuka i Dokumentacja, no. 6 (2012): 79,
 Klara Kemp-Welch, “Sztuka dokumentacji i biurokratyczne życie; Sprawa Pracowni Działańm Dokumentacji i Upowszechniania,” in KwieKulik. Zofia Kulik & przemysław Kwiek, ed. Łukasz Ronduda and Georg Schöllhammer (Warszawa: MSN, 2012), 517.
 The interview recorded on the CD enclosed to the catalogue: Ruchome-nieruchome. Performensy Marii Pinińskiej-Bereś, (Kraków: Bunkier Sztuki, 2007).
 Maciej Toporowicz, “AWACS Performance Kraków,” High Performance 17/18 (Spring / Summer 1982): 57,
 Łukasz Guzek, Rekonstrukcja sztuki akcji w Polsce (Warszawa-Toruń: Polski Instytut Studiów nad Sztuką Świata; Wydawnictwo Tako, 2017), 453-54.
 See: Stephen Wright, Toward a Lexicon of Usership (Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum, 2013).
 Andrzej Turowski, Sztuka, która wznieca niepokój. Manifest artystyczno-polityczny sztuki szczególnej [Art That Sparks Unrest. The Artistic-Political Manifesto of Particular Art (Warszawa: Książka i Prasa, 2012), 88.
The exhibition Faux painting. Performer’s Objects features a series of painting objects created in the 1990s, which has so far been shown mainly in solo exhibitions in the United States and collective presentations including the Grand Palais in Paris and the Zachęta National Gallery of Art (exhibition “We are”). This is the first solo exhibition of Peter (Peter) Grzybowski in Poland featuring this series, which was sent from New York after the artist’s death. The series is made up of a number of painting objects – imitation materials, mainly wood and stone created in the 90s.
The title of the exhibition Faux painting. Performer’s Objects is derived from the text accompanying the exhibition in Bielsko-Biała by Wladysław Kaźmierczak – an artist and performer, curator of performance festivals – about Peter Grzybowski who died last year in New York. The material delves into the performer’s way of thinking and the pedigree of his painting during the New York period. Peter Grzybowski’s paintings are much more than mere canvases – they become the “performer’s objects”, something that is inextricably linked with the artist’s philosophy of creation, and not just practicing the art of faux painting for the sake of earning money. The text will be published in its entirety in the portal “Obieg” at the end of August, just before the opening of the exhibition.
“The exhibition in Galeria Bielska BWA is Poland’s first such large presentation of paintings created by Peter Grzybowski in the 1990s. Shipping these large canvases from New York became possible only after the artist’s death – but the task required enormous financial and logistical effort, and the paintings together with the New York studio were almost lost forever. These are very original works – turning the previously anonymous decorative techniques into art. For me this is a very important exhibition, allowing me to believe in the words written on the grave of Duchamp’s: “D’ailleurs, c’est toujours les autres qui meurent” and thus deal with personal tragedy”, says Małgorzata Kaźmierczak, curator of the exhibition.
Peter (Peter) Grzybowski (born. June 16, 1954 in Kraków, d. Aug. 29, 2013 in New York) – multi-media artist, performer and painter. Degree in painting from the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków in 1982. In the early 1980s he began his first experiments with the art of performance – both individually and with groups of AWACS and KONGER – which he continued after moving to New York in 1985. The first paintings created by Grzybowski in the 1980s constituted a photorealistic reconstruction of performances in the form of paintings on canvas. In his performances he used multimedia, the surrounding reality and deconstruction techniques. He commented on and criticized the world, with its ongoing changes – for which he often resorted to destruction of objects. In recent years, the artist created multimedia performances and installations, for which he used computers, digital video, sound, light, UV and interactive CDs.
The artist participated in many international festivals and performances; he was a member of the Art Fort Association and IAPAO, organizer and curator of meetings and performance festivals, such as “Kesher” in the United States and Poland.
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. […]
The full version of the text was published at: http://www.livinggallery.info/text/changes_show
Préavis de Désordre Urbain is an International Laboratory Festival of Performance, created in Marseille (2007) by Redplexus network, in which performance artists are invited to explore public and urban space, provoke, cause chaos and disruption. Radical, subversive and poetical actions are encouraged and it is expected that the audience will go through unexpected experiences.
Clearly questions like “how far we can go in disrupting a public space?” or “what kind of disorder and why?” are not only being treated as art issues “tested in reality” during the Festival, but they are also being discussed during meetings in bars with town planners, sociologists, psychiatrists, politicians, policemen etc. What comes out of these discussions is another story, because the artists’ way of thinking is and always will be totally unconventional.
The entire text was published at: http://www.livinggallery.info/text/marseille
W tym roku InterAkcje zaprezentowały się jako uczestnik międzynarodowej sieci festiwali performance „A Space For Live Art” skupiającej siedem europejskich organizacji. Do współpracy kuratorskiej zaproszono kuratorów ze Słowenii (Marę Vujić z organizacji City of Women), Belgii (Antoine Pickelsa – kuratora festiwalu Troubles) i Hiszpanii (Nieves Correę – kuratorkę festiwalu Accion Mad). Pozwoliło to na poszerzenie bazy artystów, szczególnie bardzo młodych. Równie ciekawy tzw. program OFF młodych polskich artystów przygotował Janusz Bałdyga. Tegoroczną nowością była absolutnie poprawna reprezentacja kobiet; organizatorzy (Piotr Gajda i Gordian Piec) z pomocą współpracujących kuratorów osiągnęli wręcz idealną proporcję (21 artystek i 21 artystów). Kilka pokazów polecam szczególnej uwadze.
Tekst został opublikowany w: http://obieg.pl/rozmowy/25436
One needs to admit that all in all, Interakcje was a very successful festival not only because of the high artistic level, and the opportunity to see a lot of the artists in Poland for the first time, but also because of the occasions that artists and spectators had to socialize. Each festival is not only an opportunity to meet with the audience but also with ones’ friends and this aspect is never neglected in Piotrkow Trybunalski. It is also worth mentioning that also the audience in Piotrkow, part of which may not be necessarily considered particularly cultured, respected the artists work. Two days after the festival when Boris Nieslony (Germany) performed at the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art Krakow (MOCAK) the artist had to struggle for attention among chatting and laughing crowds.
The entire text was published at: http://livinggallery.info/text/interakcje
Nieraz słyszałam relacje o Peterze Grzybowskim, członku KONGER-u (grupa powstała na przełomie lat 1983/1984 w Krakowie1) i jego wcześniejszej akcji – wręczeniu czarnej róży Marii Pinińskiej-Bereś na otwarciu dokumentacji po pierwszej części IX Spotkań Krakowskich pod koniec listopada 1981. Performans ten odnosił się do performansu Sadzenie różu tej artystki2. Grzybowski i Maciej Toporowicz weszli w asyście dwóch kolegów ubranych w mundury amerykańskiej armii na otwarcie do galerii BWA (dzisiaj Bunkier Sztuki) owinięci czarnym bandażem, z zabandażowanymi również głowami, wręczyli polakierowaną czarną różę i wyszli. Weszli i wyszli tak szybko, że nie zdążyli zauważyć, jaka była reakcja Pinińskiej. Historia ta obrosła legendą odzwierciedloną w wywiadach ze świadkami tego wydarzenia, opublikowanych w formie audio na płycie CD dodanej do katalogu wydanego po wystawie w Bunkrze Sztuki w 2007 r. Oto jak historię tę relacjonują jej świadkowie.
Jerzy Bereś: „Nagle pojawiło się trzech mężczyzn, zamaskowanych. Przynieśli i ofiarowali, tak oficjalnie, Pinińskiej na czarno pomalowany bukiet róż”. Artur Tajber: „Oni byli w skórach, wyglądali groźnie, Marysia ich chyba nie zidentyfikowała w ogóle, a oni bez słowa, bardzo oficjalnie, wręczyli jej ten kwiat”. Łukasz Guzek: „To było odebrane jako taki gest zerwania solidarności między artystami, że artysta wzywa policję na innych artystów. A Pinińska tłumaczy, że w tym czasie było dużo takich prowokacji UB, więc ona się bała takiej prowokacji, nie przyjęła tej róży, odrzuciła ją i wezwała policję”. Jerzy Hanusek: „Zaskoczenie to było wręczenie tych róż”… Bettina Bereś: „Jednej róży…” Jerzy Hanusek: „…natomiast pamiętam przy okazji tych kolejnych spotkań, że to wydarzenie obrosło taką jakąś mitologią, że podobno po wyjściu z Bunkra nimi się zainteresowała milicja i padło oskarżenie, że to organizatorzy tych spotkań wezwali milicję po tym wydarzeniu, co absolutnie nie było prawdą. Pinińska pisała potem listy wyjaśniające, że nic takiego nie miało miejsca, że mimo że ona i Andrzej Kostołowski byli mocno zaskoczeni tą demonstracją, nie były podjęte żadne kroki administracyjne w stosunku do tych młodych ludzi. Natomiast potem pojawiły się takie oskarżenia”. Brygida Serafin: „Marysia miała przemowę i w pewnym momencie podeszło dwóch facetów, zamaskowanych, cali na czarno, może nie w skórze, ale wyglądali jak terroryści zamaskowani i jeden z nich miał różę pomalowaną na czarno, którą jej wręczył. Ona zbaraniała zupełnie, była tak ciężko przerażona tym faktem, że właściwie tak wzięła tę różę i w tym samym momencie ją odłożyła na podłogę (z obrzydzeniem i strachem). Pamiętam, że ją trzymała z takim obrzydzeniem. Potem się dowiedziałam, że to był Grzybowski z Toporowiczem… Ale wiem, że to była atmosfera absolutnej grozy…”. Jerzy Serafin: „Ale które to były spotkania, który to rok był? […] W osiemdziesiątym pierwszym roku w grudniu…, wtedy co była akcja Beresia na Rynku, Ewa Partum w żarówkach goła w Bunkrze… Bo to był listopad…”. Brygida Serafin: „Przerażające to było. To nie było tak, że oni weszli prosto i do niej z tą różą, tylko oni weszli, obeszli salę, obejrzeli eksponaty i wyszli”. Jerzy Serafin: „Patrz, jaka pamięć niesamowita…”. Brygida Serafin: „Tak, bo to było takie mocne wrażenie”. Jerzy Serafin: „Ale to się czuło, że to jest takie sztuczne oglądanie, nie że oglądają, ale żeby się działo”. Brygida Serafin: „Zrobili akcję, ale nikt nie wiedział, co to jest, co to ma znaczyć. Naprawdę, przerażające. Nagle weszli jacyś obcy faceci i nie wiadomo było, co się stanie. Bo nie wiadomo było, czy nie wyjmą jakiejś spluwy, co za chwile zrobią”. Jerzy Serafin: „To jest właśnie realność, to jest Tadeusz Kantor, to się działo naprawdę”3.
Pełna wersja tekstu została opublikowana w http://obieg.pl/felieton/23043
InterAkcje this year participated as a member of an international network of performance art festivals entitled “A Space for Live Art” that includes seven organisations. The festival was co-curated by Mara Vujic (Slovenia), Antoine Pickels (Belgium) and Nieves Correa (Spain). This allowed for a broad range of artists, especially featuring very young ones. The so called OFF programme was prepared by Janusz Baldyga. As in previous years, the name “OFF” was only a formality, because often performances by the artists who were invited to participate in this “OFF” category, were more interesting than the ones by the more experienced artists.
The entire text was published at: http://livinggallery.info/text/interakcje2012