That's How Things Are – and Also Quite Different. A German-Polish Exhibition
The starting-point for this venture was an intellectual affinity linking artistic orientations and collections at the three institutes involved. In Poland avant-garde art (in particular Constructivism) established itself at Warsaw and Lodz from the beginning of the twentieth century.
It was thanks to the efforts of Wladyslaw Strzeminski, himself an artist, that many contemporary works found a permanent home at the Sztuki Museum. This collection was then augmented by the creations of following generations. At Mönchengladbach the museum has concentrated on Minimalism and Concept Art since the sixties and seventies.
Involvement with the main emphases in these collectionsYoung West and East European artists – whose contributions seemed likely to be responsive to the main elements in these three collections – were invited to participate in a German-Polish dialogue. The expectation was that they would take up the avantgarde's utopian achievements, subjecting them to critical assessment and updating their focus.
The point of departure for discussion was provided by two leading artists from an intermediate generation, Edward Krasinski (b. 1925) and Marcel Broodthaers (b. 1924). These two artists already had doubts about their intellectual precursors' claim to absolute validity because they didn't believe that art could force upon the world a rational system held to be fundamental. In their opinion the lasting value of a work of art entails its shifting, place-dependent, and temporally-limited co-existence with the surrounding space or the public. Up to now these two lateral thinkers were largely unknown in the other country involved in this presentation.
The Abteiberg Museum has on show a large-scale installation by Broodthaers, which is on permanent loan. Individual objects and signs within this installation are only self-referential, excluding any reference to something outside themselves. Krasinski's contribution is a big installation consisting of pillars covered with photos. These provide a fragmented depiction of the artist's studio in Warsaw which today constitutes the Avantgarde Institute.
Calling in question the impact of art on societyAll of the artists presented in this show advocate – in contributions that are sometimes laconic, sometimes humorous, sometimes resigned – a critical stocktaking of art, and call in question any direct utility for society. Nevertheless superimposition of these two themes can revive their utopian potential. That is the case with Jens Ullrich's photographic prints (mounted on racks) of young demonstrators holding placards whose political message is replaced by an abstract construct utilising familiar forms.
More direct contact with society is sought by Artur Zmijewski and Pawel Althamer in a project dating from 2005. A film documents how they, working together with fellow-artists, students, handicapped people, and prostitutes on a creatively critical process, time and again transform artistic space. Social needs intermingle with elements specific to art. Documentation of a storage area full of junk but lacking any human presence is sufficient for evocation of the charged absurdist atmosphere of Broodthaers' former film studio, mediated in a video by Tacita Dean.
Igor Krenz's video installation Correction of Curvature (Korrektur der Verkrümmung) is appropriately situated in the hall for abstract artists and Constructivists because the screen provides a duplication in its presentation of a glance into a comparable space. Simply by tilting his screen Krenz calls in question Piet Mondrian's absolute trust in the right-angle.
In Monika Sosnowska's installation the entire structuring of spatial experience begins to totter. In a closed cube all four walls (each fitted out with a door) plus the floor and ceiling are identical, but each is displaced by 90 degrees. Martin Creed's heap of marble slabs grows out of the museum's pale-grey, trapeze-shaped, floor-paving. In an intermediate zone where the stairs descend this marble obstacle makes intensively apparent its ambiguous existence as both sculpture and architectural detail.
One astonishing outcome of this exhibition is that works by young artists suggest and reflect ideas from both Germany and Poland. Peter Piller's grotesque scribble-drawings from his studio-office thus both continue Broodthaers' 'constructive destruction' and can also be seen as echoing Krasinski's discovery-inducing process of dismantling. It is not by chance that the Pole's photographic sequence from his complicated cable-action J'ai perdu la fin! is hanging in the same hall. Henryk Stazewski's Endless Vertical Composition also dates from 1969. This involves nine beams of coloured light conjoining at a height of 500 metres. This dream of a perfect Constructivist work was revived for the exhibition opening.
Städtisches Museum Abteiberg and Muzeum Lodz: Porzadki urojone. So ist es und anders. Until June 1, 2008.
This exhibition is one of six projects in the European Partnerships series, initiated and supported by the Goethe Institute and the NRW Art Foundation.
is a freelance journalist and art critic
Translation: Timothy Nevill
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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