Surrealism for the re-aligned and activism for the insiders.
By Polish contemporary art we usually mean the artists of critical movement. It is thought to have begun in 1993, when Katashina Koziri’s work ‘The animal pyramid’ was exhibited in the Warsaw National Gallery of Zahent. There was a raise of critical art in Poland in the beginning of 2000s, and in the vacuum that had formed after this raise the artists of a new generation have been trying to find their niche in art process. Many of them turned to their inner worlds, but each with different objectives and motivations.
Some of them literally retreated from reality and, postulating the position of total society alienation, tried to hide from its destroying influence. A couple of years ago some Polish critics marked out a whole new movement, which they called ‘tired of reality’ or ‘over-realists’. It’s only a formal reverent gesture towards surrealism, because there is neither a definite manifest nor any critical background. This art is interested in its own inner world; not analyzing it but only stating the fact of its existence.
Another category of the artists is the ones who treat their inner world as an active part of reality. They are, alike the representatives of the critical wave, interested in a human being, their physical and spiritual bodies, their motivations and roles in society.
The format of the 1990s and the beginning of 2000s, when the end of painting and drawing art was enunciated, made the artists use precisely these media, so unpopular among activists. However, through abstract form they usually express a specific critical position. (Z.Gramz, R.Litva, T.Mroz)
Among the participants of the exhibitions there are not only ‘over-realists’ but the critical insiders as well. There are also non-typical for the critical format works of the artists who started in 1990s (Z.Ianin, I.Malinivsky) and the drawings of Robert Macheuk, who creates his own unique world. The artist doesn’t hide in it from reality, though, but he carries on a dialogue. Macheuk doesn’t depict outside world but portrays it.
There is also a work by multi-media artist Konrad Smolensky. His film ‘Draw’ (2000) is the uniting element for all the exhibited works.
Poland was fighting for capitalism for 70 years under the socialist occupation of Russia and the left-wing movement has always been perceived as an alien and forced one. Besides, there is a distinct boarder between Polish artists and activists; even classical critical art here is very different from what is thought to be critical in many Russian artists’ point of view. In Poland it is above all the art that turned to the problem of a body and its interaction with the authority and discipline in the modern culture. Polish art critic Petr Petrovsky suggests that art brings us beyond the boundaries of eyesight and thinking automatism. Polish critical art of 1900s commented on reality, showing its hidden, marginal and unclear parts. One of its main functions is to provoke thinking processes.
In Russia the situation is slightly different. Firstly, there is no such prejudice against left-wing ideas here. It’s thought that if you are not involved in political struggle, than you are at the other side of the barricade, supporting the present regime by your indifference and letting it to use you. Secondly, the re-aligned art in Russia provokes another target group and by other means. It’s possible that in Russia re-aligned art has come almost simultaneously with the development of medial political (or social) technologies, and of course there came the artists who can use them to attract attention to the particulate problem – basically the one with the ruling regime and its bureaucracy. One of the main artists, who protests radically against the existing value system, is Avdei Ter-Oganian. His action ‘Young atheist’, which he conducted together with his students from the School of Contemporary Art in Moskow Manege in 1998, was the first in Russia art action that was prosecuted for blasphemy.
After that the artist had to ask for a political asylum in the Czech Republic. Almost all the artists from Russia, taking part in the project, are somehow connected with Ter-Oganian. They were students of his School of Contemporary Art, members of the Radek society or the skype-club, which Avdei initiated several years ago. Most of these artists chose team-working, whereas in Poland on the contrary, almost all artists prefer working individually. Common denominator for Polish and Russian participants is the art of drawing and everything connected to this medium. However the development processes in art space of these two countries are going in different directions and the contrast is getting more obvious. The exposition is divided into two parts – Russian (the re-aligned) and Polish (the insiders) art.
Comparison of the two polar vectors enables us to analyse this complicated art process more precisely.