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The Legality of Space – plein air installation by Ewa Partum

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Date: 21–23 April 1971

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizers: Ewa Partum and BWA Gallery, Łódź[1]

Location: Freedom Square (plac Wolności), Łódź

The installation appeared in an open space between two houses near Freedom Square in the center of Łódź. Ewa Partum exhibited numerous boards with prohibitions: actual traffic signs and others, created by the artist, bare absurd messages—for example, “Prohibiting prohibited” or “Permitting prohibited.” For the opening, invitations were sent out. Since the road-signs had been borrowed officially from the Transportation Department of the city, they were guarded by the police, and some of the passersby took it as an exhibition of traffic signs. During the opening, Partum drove around the square and from the car with a megaphone shouted the captions placed on the tables. The artist published a catalog of the performence in 150 copies. Her installation was not granted any attention from the official Polish art world. The local media reacted with curiosity and compared Partum to Dalí, the Spanish Surrealist, because her work was equally “crazy.”


[1] Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych [Office of Art Exhibitions] was the name of the city galleries in Poland in the ’80s.


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Presence – performance by Ewa Partum

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Date: 17 November–17 December 1972

Participant and organizer: Ewa Partum

Location: Address Gallery, Łódź

Partum was one of not many women artists in the era of the People’s Republic of Poland interested in the critique of art institutions. The issue manifested itself emphatically in the context of the figure of the artist and of space in 1972, when, at Address Gallery run by her since 1971,[1] she showed Polish (Krzysztof Wodiczko, Zbigniew Warpechowski) and international Conceptual art (for example, Endre Tot, mostly in mail-art forms).

In the performance Presence, as the gallery was open only during the artist’s presence, Partum identified the object of art with its subject. The piece can be viewed as a woman artist’s response to the notions of space and the institution, as a proposal to perceive space through the aspect of the body’s materiality—one of the main elements of the subjective construction. In terms of Conceptual art, Partum’s strategy can be described as breaking with the institution as that which sanctions the object of art, and breaking with the object of art itself as an artwork.


[1] The gallery was functioning till 1977 first located in the Club of Creative Unions based at ZPAP [Association of Polish Artists and Designers], then since March 1973, in the artist’s apartment. In 1971 Partum published a leaflet gallery manifesto that was republished in 1972 in Robotnik Sztuki [Art Worker], an art magazine published by EL Gallery in Elbląg.


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The Dialogue – street action for film by Anna Kutera

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Date: 1973

Participant: Anna Kutera

Location: Wrocław

In wintertime the artist engages passersby and provokes very simple interactions with them in busy but not significant places in of Wrocław. The six-minute black-and-white 16 mm silent movie documenting this action is divided into five parts and every one of them is marked by a caption with a slogan describing the artist’s actions. The first étude, “Good morning!,” shows simple welcome signs. The second one, “Presentation,” introduces the viewer to longer conversations (that are not heard) between the artist and the chance acquaintances. We can assume, according to one of the captions, that the artist accosts them, saying, “My name is Anna Kutera. Here is my photo. I am a student of the Fine Arts Academy and just right now I am shooting a movie about how I am introducing myself to you.” After that she hands her portrait photo to everyone. Some of them laugh or smile, some have further questions, but all the interactions are absolutely friendly. Other études are entitled “What time is it?” and “Where is Anna Kutera’s street?” The latter one, the funniest, shows a group of passersby trying to help. The last episode is the most tautological one: it refers mostly to the medium itself. It is entitled “Goodbye!” and we see the artist herself in the similar frame as that of the photo. She smiles, laughs, saying something to the person behind the camera while saying goodbye by a gesture of nodding the head. After cutting, which gives the impression of some rehearsal, we see her now serious, just nodding and turning her back to the camera.

Through the simplest gestures and the category of a chance encounter, the artist asks here about the role of the artist in society and puts the accents not on the art piece itself, but rather on social interactions. Kutera was a member of the Polish group of Contextual artists who participated in the exhibition “Contextual Art” in 1976 in Lund with Jan Świdziński. She also represented the Polish Contextual movement in Toronto at the Center of Experimental Art and Communication, during the meeting and discussion with Joseph Kosuth in 1976.


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Procession – performance by Teresa Murak

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Date: 1974

Participant: Teresa Murak

Location: streets of Warsaw, Poland

In the very early spring of 1974, the artist put on herself a cress seeds coat grown earlier (the working method being a reference to the tradition of handiwork and “female labor”), and set out on a Procession through the streets of Warsaw, thus introducing the figure of Mother Nature into a realm of specifically belonging to culture. This gesture, primarily referring to the relationship between the feminine and the natural being—also a main focus essential to feminism, albeit differently—present in corporal feminism, was at the same time a political one, an intervention in urban space which manifested a sensitivity extremely different to that officially valid in the People’s Republic of Poland.

The cress seed, a small fast-growing plant with a distinctive smell, became Teresa Murak’s trademark. Co-existing with the artist, in most cases the plant becomes the subject of her examination and the object of care while her art practice connected with the seeds is based on the idea of co-existence.

The action was documented on photos as well as it exists as oral history. A young Polish artists, Anna Lesniak, made a project Fading Traces (2011), in which she asked the female artists who were active in the 1970’s in Poland to tell about their practices. While we hear from the off Murak’s story, we see the track of her walk filmed by the Lesniak contemporary.


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Natalia! – performance by Natalia LL

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Date: 1975

Participant: Natalia LL

Organizer: Fourth Meeting Festival Art in Belgrade

Location: Turkish Hall, Belgrade

Natalia LL emphasizes the conjunction and disjunction of the work of art’s experience by the viewer and the artist-as-producer. During the performance, an actress read out a text—a “libretto”[1]—which was then repeated by a chorus of university students. LL played the role of the conductor of a spectacle taking place in a room with excellent acoustics: “The impression was extraordinary, because the chanted words were for me a message of the forgotten language of some unknown civilization. The energy of the words blasted in the historic interior.”[2] The gesture was based on a purely intellectual procedure, focused on the analysis of a word—the artist’s name, one of the components of subjectivity: “Treating letters as individual elements, ‘bricks,’ which form words, and changing the order of letters, I used them for constructing new words. In this way the building NATALIA! originated as a result of the multiplication.”[3] What is also interesting here are the games played on the author’s figure in the text, where the subject manifests itself and deconstructs itself through the interventions on its name, and the subjective position taken by the artist on a variety of levels.


[1] Natalia LL, “PERMAFO — SUMA,” in Prace Natalii LL 1970–1973 (Galeria PERMAFO: Wrocław, 1973).

[2] Natalia LL, “Natalia! (1),” trans. K. Bartnik, in Natalia LL, Teksty (Bielska Gallery: Bielsko-Biała, 2004), 290.

[3] Ibid., 285.


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The Introduction – performance by Anna Kutera

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Date: 1975

Participants: Anna Kutera, Piotr Olszański, Lech Mrożek, Jerzy Olek, Kazimierz Helebrandt, Romuald Kutera (film documentation), Niels Lomholt (Denmark), and anonymous artists from Budapest, Prague, and Zagreb

Organizer: Festival of Students from Baltic Art Schools, “F-ART”

Location: Gdańsk

The performance was presented during the festival. Kutera sat behind a table. She provoked interactions between herself and the nine invited male members, whom she called by their names to take their places by her side. This performance is part of  cycle Stimulated Situations, and it was documented in a photo series and a black-and-white ten-minute 16 mm film (which were shown during the exhibition “Contextual Art” in 1976 in Lund, Sweden). The actions were presented to the viewers only by the mute gestures of Kutera herself or her partners (we always see a one-to-one relation), as well as by the accessories held by the partners. The pretext for this intercourse was the situation of creation portraits of Kutera and showing her through relations with people in different social and cultural roles. But in the images we see her every time in the same place, beside the table. The partners sat on her left. Every meeting lasted only around one minute in silence and action was introduced by Anna in these words: “I am happy to be together with a group who understands the meaning of being together in art and getting to know each other without words.” She describes it as a very difficult emotional situation of intimacy. All encounters seem to be similar, the changes are very subtle—which creates a large field for interpretation and calls the viewer’s attention to compare details and look for a significance, or even giving up when the most important—what happened in the immanency of the space and time in between the social actors—is no longer available to understand.


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Prayer for Rain – land-art performance by Maria Pinińska-Bereś

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Date: Summer 1977

Participant: Maria Pinińska-Bereś

Location: Field of Prądnik, Kraków

Since 1977 a couple of Polish artists made land-art performances that took place only in the presence of the camera or nearest friends invited especially. In all of them, Maria Pinińska-Bereś connected land-art and feminist strategies, which can be compared to the art of Ana Mendieta. This performance started when the artist, wearing a green-blue, ritual-like dress and sandals, kneeled down on her knees with hands and face near to the grass. Then she marked out a circle and scattered around the stones she found inside. Using a knife she cut the grass in the circle and marked the circumference with pink flags put in the places of the stones she removed before. When the installation was ready, she took off her sandals and trampled the ground with her bare feet, in kind of ritual dance. At the end she lay on her back in a goddess pose. The way the performance was carried out, her preparation, and the usage of the color pink, which was a kind of marker of her artistic practice, show how she connected the cultural and essential or natural influences on the female subject. In other land-art pieces she used similar means to reorder the place or build into the natural environment—one defined as the asylum for art and woman artists in totalitarian Poland, where the access to gallery space and art institutions was limited. Her art has a huge ironical potential, which was also visible in Prayer for Rain.


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Women’s Art 1980 – exhibition

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Date: November 1980

Participants: Izabella Gustowska, Anna Kutera, Natalia LL, Ewa Partum, Krystyna Piotrowska, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, and Teresa Tyszkiewicz

Organizers: Izabella Gustowska and Krystyna Piotrowska

Location: ON Gallery, Poznań

The first national exhibition of the practices of Polish women artists interested in negotiations of feminine subjectivity was organized by two artists who run the gallery associated with the Fine Arts Academy. Izabella Gustowska, when asked about the concept of the show, said she had been familiar with most of the artists from previous exhibitions at ON except for Ewa Partum, whom they invited due to her clear-cut artistic position, and Maria Pinińska-Bereś, whom, in turn, they wanted to honor as a pioneer of a certain kind of sensitivity. This was why the “L”-shaped gallery’s smaller room was devoted entirely to Pinińska-Bereś. The pink-quilted fluid rug spilling out of her Well of Pink ran across the floor of the larger room above, where the works of the younger artists were on display together with photographic works, films, and works on paper. The invited artists presented performances or live lectures (except for Krystyna Piotrowska, Teresa Tysziewicz probably made a comment to her movies) during the two-day symposium opened by speeches of the theorists Alicja Kępińska and Jerzy Ludwiński. What the different realizations had in common was, in my view, their focus on the issue of space and the representations of the subjectively understood feminine body.

“Although the exhibition had not been thought as a feminist demonstration, the title provoked questions about distinguishing the characteristic of art created by women artists—their peculiar features and goals. The organizers wanted to provoke such a discussion and posed questions that had never been asked in Poland before. […] I do not say that nothing like women’s art does exist, because art has no sex (is sexless),” wrote Grzegorz Dziamski. “But look at what women artists do and wonder if in the pieces presented by them there is something you will not find anywhere else—another sensibility, other imaginations, a different approach to the world.”[1]

Beside the Polish Film Chronicle that reported on Partum’s performance, the exhibition was not reviewed in the media and stayed forgotten for a long time, mentioned only in Dziamski’s articles on women’s art and in the catalogs of Presence III and ON Gallery. The thematic was continued by Gustowska in the “Presence” exhibition cycle in the 1980s and 1990s.

Detailed description of the exhibition

Document: Izabella Gustowska: WHY? (1998)


[1] Grzegorz Dziamski, “Drobne narracje,” in Drobne narracje. XV lat galerii ON (Poznań, 1994), 6–7.


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The Dialogue – video-performance by Anna Kutera

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Date: 1985

Participant: Anna Kutera

Location: Gallery Labyrinth 2, Lublin

No documentation remains of the first action performed in Osieki. The video-performance was repeated three times: at Gallery Labyrinth 2 in Lublin, Poland (1985), Philip Waters Gallery in Banff, Canada (1985), and during the “Polish Manifestation” exhibition in Drents Museum, Assen, the Netherlands (1986).

The title dialogue takes place between the artist in the gallery space and an image of herself prerecorded on video playing on a TV screen. The conversation concerns the situation in which the artist found herself: the relationship between herself and her image, and their relation to the audience and the gallery space (the actual one as well as the empty one in which the recorded performance took place). The final dialogue concerns a misunderstanding between the two Annas: the TV one whose space of action is clean and neutral and the live one whose space of action is always relational, always considered an encounter, never neutral. She suggests that her TV image consider her art in the illusionary freedom gap and even does not take responsibility for her actions because she is only an image.


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Hommage à Solidarity – performance by Ewa Partum

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Date: 9 August 1982

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizer: Czyszczenie Dywanów

Location: Czyszczenie Dywanów [Rug Cleaning] Gallery, Łódź

Rug Cleaning was an independent art space in Łódź during the martial law in Poland in the 1980s. Partum was invited to perform there on the first anniversary of the state’s legalization of the Solidarity movement as a workers’ union. She stood naked in front of a long banner of paper on the wall that had “Hommage à” written on it and talked about the internal emigration of artists after the marital law in Poland had been announced. Then she imprinted with her lipstick-painted lips the letters “S,” “O,” “L,” “I,” “D,” “A,” “R,” “N,” “O,” “Ś,” and “Ć” on the paper after speaking each of them separately, after which she scattered flowers on the floor and lit candles.

In this performance Partum managed to accomplish an individual transgression—the subversive use of her autograph—the imprint of her lips, used before in her conceptual poems. Here, as a flesh-and-blood woman, she finally appears as the subject of expression in the act of the rhetoric of the pose[1] . Her action can also be read as the act of rewriting and reviving the passive[2] allegory of Polonia established in nineteenth-century iconography. The action was reenacted by her in Wewerka Gallery in Berlin in 1983, after her emigration from Poland in 1982.


[1]A Craig Owens term.

[2] Polonia, the allegory of Poland is always shown as a  passive figure.


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Exhibition of “Blo” Association

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Date: 1987

Participants: Ilona Baradulina, Huzel Zalayeva, Artur Klinau, Lus (Andrej Lusikau), Siathej Pilat, Valery Pesin, Vital Charanbrysau

Location: House of Cinema, Minsk

The exhibition of artists group called “BLO Association” in the House of Cinema (now – The Red Cathedral) comprised individual and collectively-produced paintings, installations and performances. “The Songs of a Superman” was performed by Artur Klinau at the opening. The exhibition was the first group show presenting the works of artists who were not associated with official Art Academy and felt unrestrained in their methods and approaches. As opposed to ‘academic’ artists who emphasized the importance of the early avant-garde tradition, geometrical abstraction, picture-based works, they used pop-culture imagery and trash in their installations.


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The Art Holiday. Narva-88 – seminar on non-official art

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Date: 21–30 May, 1988

Participants: Artists from Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. Belarusian artists Andrej Bialou, Aliaksander Zabauchyk, Ihar Kashkurevich, Yauhen Kirylau, Artur Klinau, Uladzimir Lapo, Valer Martynchyk, Viktar Piatrou, Vital Razhkou, Ludmila Rusava, and  Dzmitry Yarmilau.

Organizer: Department of Culture of Narva Gorispolkom (the city’s Executive Committee) of Estonian SSR, and curator Ninel Ziterava

Location: Narva, Estonia

The USSR seminar on non-official art that took place in in Narva, Estonia, was titled “The Art Holiday. Narva-88,” and was organized by the Department of Culture of Narva Gorispolkom (the city’s Executive Committee) of Estonian SSR and curator Ninel Ziterava. Participants included artists from Belarus, Russia, Georgia, Armenia, and Kyrgyzstan. The seminar included individual performances by artists, spontaneous collaborations between artists to make outdoor installations, site-specific sculptures, and other forms of visual art. It was first time that Belarusian avant-garde artists had participated in a large art festival in the Soviet Union—this was made possible thanks to Perestroika, a political movement for reformation. During the festival, Belarusian artists who usually felt isolated from those artists working in other Soviet countries, were able to introduce their artwork to their peers from other parts of the USSR, to make connections, and to become part of the larger network of non-official, avant-garde artists. Some fruitful, international collaborations between artists formed at this historic festival stayed viable for many years after.

Sourcehttp://partisanmag.by/


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Kazimir Malevich-110 – group exhibition

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Date: 4 November–4 December 1988

Participants: the association of Vitebsk artists known as Kvadrat (“Square”); Pluralis”; Ihar Kashkurevich; Ludmila Rusava; the artist collective Komi-Kon; Association of Experimental Visual Arts (SEVA, Leningrad)

Location: Union of Artists, Vitebsk

The opening featured performances by the collaborative duo Ihar Kashkurevich and Ludmila Rusava, and was dedicated to the 110th anniversary of Malevich’s death. The event was the first in a series of ritualistic performances exploring Malevich’s legacy in Belarus (other exhibitions included “Kazimir’s Revival” in Minsk, 1988 , and “Suprematist Kazimir Revival” in Moscow, 1990). This exhibition also marked the beginning of artistic collaborations between performance artists Kashkurevich and Rusava.

Source: Volha Archipava. Belarusian Avant-garde of the 1980s. ‘pARTisan’s Collection’ series. Minsk 2012. http://partisanmag.by/

 


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Su-terén / The Basement – collective exhibition

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Date: 14–28 February 1989

Participants and organizers: Milan Adamčiak (b. 1946), Július Koller (1939-2007), Matej Krén (b. 1958), Radislav Matuštík (1929-2006), Peter Meluzin (b. 1947), Milan Pagáč (b. 1960), Peter Rónai (b. 1953), Viktor Oravec (b. 1960), Jana Želibská (b. 1941)

Curator: Radislav Matuštík

Location: Konventná 14, Bratislava, Czechoslovakia

The exhibition was conceived by Peter Meluzin as an Action art piece that would end up in a collective exhibition. Action artists made it known that a new artistic trend was emerging in the heyday of the Neue Wilde movement. In order for this to be true, it was essential that the artworks presented in this show were of a high standard. Radislav Matuštík accepted the role of curator, and most of the participants were Action artists, associated with the group called Terén/Terrain. The entire exhibition, from start to finish, required both conceptual and organizational planning in order to realize the project. This included: discussions with artists;  the search for an appropriate location; structural adjustments to the exhibition venue; realization of objects and installations for the show; documentation of the entire process from the initial planning stages to the exhibition opening; press coverage; film journal; catalog printing, etc.

(Exhibition notes according Peter Meluzin.)


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Panarama – exhibition

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Date: 13 October–4 December 1989

Participants: Individual artists and artist groups such as Galina, Kvadrat, BLO, Forma, Pluralis, Komi-Kon, Bismark, and others

Organized by: Belarusian Cultural Fund (BFK)

Location: Empty house on Handlevaya Street, Minsk

The exhibition “Panarama,” organized by the Belarusian Cultural Fund, was held in an old deserted house on Handlevaya Street in Minsk. It was a very significant event of the decade. Paintings and installations exhibited in empty apartments  created an atmosphere of artistic underground. Performances by Belarusian and international artists happened throughout the exhibition. The exhibition catalog “First Survey of Belarus Non-Official Art” was later published. In his introductory article, the artist Ales Taranovich wrote:

“To answer to the question asked by the Belarusian Cultural fund, ‘What kind of exhibition would you like to see the most?,’ the majority of the audience answered, ‘unofficial art.’ When making the decision to organize this exhibition, BFK’s goal was to show the direction that contemporary Belarus art was going by that showcasing the presence of non-Realist traditions: Expressionism, Surrealism, Conceptualism, Pop art, installation, performance, and others.”

Source: Volha Archipava. Belarusian Avant-garde of the 1980s. ‘pARTisan’s Collection’ series. Minsk 2012. http://partisanmag.by/


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