Right or left, Mr. Artist? – Interview with Artur Żmijewski, curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale
Polish artist Artur Żmijewski, who was born in Warsaw in 1966, was best known for his photo and video works that deal with social and socio-political themes. After Żmijewski was appointed curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale (2012) in September 2010, he surprised everyone in November 2010 with an “open call”: artists were not only called upon to “submit artistic material for research purposes”, but in the same context also “to provide information about their political inclination.”
Mr. Żmijewski, the deadline for the open call has run out some days ago. Can you say how many anwers you got?
Around 7.000 so far. Mostly via internet.
That’s quite a big number. How do you want to deal with it? Is there a team which cares about these submissions?
Yes, there is an artistic office here, the purpose of which is to organise and produce the Berlin Biennale.
Selecting from 7.000 submissions
The idea is to check each of the answers and to create an archive in alphabetical order. This plan has already been implemented.
Taking a look at the question on the artists’ “political inclination”, which is an issue of the call, can you say already what the tendency of political inclinations from the submissions is, a tendency for a specific political direction?
I can’t say at the moment because we don’t have all results archived, yet. We started with the digital data which was sent via internet by the largest number of artists. I expect that in two or three months it will be finished. So, there is probably a kind of a tendency. It’s quite visible in art: we behave like left-wingers and we think like left-wingers. There is an incredible success of left-wing ideas in art.
“Political inclination is usually being hidden”
It’s usually being hidden. That’s why the open call was formulated this way. It’s invisible although with your knowledge you are able to define the political standpoint of the artists as left-wingers. It’s usually not being talked about directly by the artist. But they are for example interested in people who are excluded from society. Looking for solutions, how to include people who are excluded is a leftist issue.
What do you think is the reason why most artists, according to your assumption, are left-wing?
These are attractive ideas. But it’s also, let's say obligatory for the artists to be left-wing, even if they do something abstract. So, it's really interesting to be informed about other stands of the artists. That’s why this open call was created.
“The aim of the open call is to get informed what artists do”
In general the aim of the open call is to get informed what artists do, about their artistic practices. And we want to create an atmosphere in which you can talk freely about your political opinions and what you identify with. Of course, I’m very interested in what artists do. This is the main task at the moment, the main aim of the open call. I think we should do something with art, in art, that should ensure an atmosphere in which political opinions can be exchanged openly.
Will all the submissions be made open to the public?
Yes, there are plans to do this.
You were talking about the topic of exclusion and inclusion before, which is also something that appears a lot in your work. Would you say that you are a political artist yourself?
Usually artists who define themselves as political just create political ideas. They do not make a step further, like politicians do. So, I expect something more from these artists who define themselves as political or socially involved. Also from myself.
Private fantasies and active politics
What is called “private” in this text is actually political itself. It exists as “private” fantasy, not as active politics. Politics is the way people act, how people create common reality. People do not only fantasize about possible forms of reality, they also materialize it. I think that art is able to create such situations as well.
In the open call there are some suggestions listed about what a political inclination could be, such as “left-wing” or “masculinist”. If you were asked, would you have a term for your political inclination?
Left-wing and masculinist.
Masculinist, what does that mean to you?
It’s someone who thinks about the rights of the male population. Exactly like feminists who think about rights for the female population.
In the open call for the open call, we ask you to tell us your views in 1000 characters: Is it true that most artists have left-wing views? Are you, like Artur Żmijewski, of the opinion that political beliefs are not openly exchanged in art at the moment? Does art have to be political? Or should it be specifically non-political? And: What’s your general opinion of a survey that asks for your political views? Please fill in the online form. We are looking forward to an animated discussion at an international level.
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concucted the interview. He lives in Berlin as a free-lance author.
Translation: Jo Beckett
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
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