Opening: June 4, 7 p.m.
Open daily except Mondays from noon to 6 p.m., June 5-Sept. 30
Location: Wyspa Institute of Art
Curator: Hadas Maor
Assistant: Maks Bochenek
Caption: Grzegorz Klaman, Blow-up #1, video still, 2007
Grzegorz Klaman, an artist who is also known as an activist, educator and a driving spirit for an independent artistic movement from the early 1980s onwards, has in recent years been deeply involved with the subject of the materialization of memory, and modes of approaching the subject of history. For Klaman, being an activist and setting up venues for art like Wyspa is an inseparable part of being an artist. He is probably the first Polish artist to have consistently combined the political and the visual in such an uncompromising fashion for over a quarter of a century. His activities include events and performances – such as inviting a Lech Walesa lookalike to the former Solidarity leader’s workplace and setting up the Subjective Bus Line, which became a polyphony of the long-unheard voices of shipbuilders – as well as dealing with actual objects. His strategies of displacement reframe random objects, presumably connected to legendary people and places. He did this with a fragment of a Gdansk shipyard wall and recently with the former workbench of Lech Walesa, which is soon going to be breaking through the back window into the Nobel Museum in Stockholm (a commission by the museum scheduled to be completed by June 2010).
This summer the Wyspa Institute of Art is exhibiting new works by Klaman that have never been publicly displayed in Poland before. Including installations, video works and sculptures, these pieces appear to mark a new stage in the artist’s creative trajectory. The collection at the Wyspa Institute of Art is the first individual exhibition of Klaman’s work in Gdansk in 12 years.
In Political Things, Klaman explores the tensions between subject matter that materializes history, singularity and communal life, space and its political economics.
Klaman arrived on the Polish art scene as a student of the Fine Arts Academy in Gdansk. He soon went on to become a key figure among the young generation of artists whose ideals and approaches took shape during the workers’ strikes of August 1980, the period of martial law from 1981 to 1983 and the economic and political changes after the collapse of communism in 1989. The nature of his art and his interest in self-organization and structural independence were key factors in helping him become one of the country’s most frequently discussed artists in the 1980s and 1990s and one of the most prominent figures in the new expression and then in critical art. His wood sculptures and monumental projects made of wood and steel are among the most distinctive hallmarks of his work, along with projects which refer to knowledge and politics and tackle space and symbolic meanings.
Movement and the disruption of perception are the most distinctive features of his new project, which shows bodies in paralysis and bodies in panic. The camera is always on the move, conveying the sensation of a car in motion or the rush of a person running with a camera. The locations are over-idealized, like the university campus in Florida, or completely degraded, like the ruins of a designers’ office in a shipyard. These are strange sets intermingling bodies and political subjects. Movement characterizes his installations as well, where the dynamics of the figure or picture build tension between the body represented, the body of the spectator and the space; between observation and delusion.
The exhibition is accompanied by a book entitled Grzegorz Klaman, edited by Krzysztof Gutfranski, with text and interviews by Kuba Szreder, Waldemar Baraniewski, Roman Dziadkiewicz, Dieter Roelstraete, Hadas Maor, Gabriela Salgado, Artur Zmijewski, Lukasz Gorczyca, Krzysztof Gutfranski, Kamila Wielebska and Aneta Szylak. The layout was designed by Tomasz Bersz.