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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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Only a Broom – performance by Maria Pinińska-Bereś

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Date: December 1984

Participant: Maria Pinińska-Bereś

Organizer: Labirynt Gallery

Location: Labirynt Gallery, Lublin

The performance took place during the exhibition “Intellectual Tendency in Polish Art after the Second World War” and it was one of Pinińska’s first gallery appearances after the martial law was lifted in Poland, during which she refused for political reasons to participate in any art shows organized by official institutions. The first time in her artistic career dressed only in black, without any of the pink attributes so characteristic of her art, she entered the gallery space and, in the midst of the crowd, started to sweep the floor with a broom with a long handle—that was also a flag mast with the little grey linen flag at its end. As the broom cleaned the space under the feet of the audience, the flag made the air above everyone’s heads vibrate. After a long while, when the action was over, the artist hung the broom on the wall, making the inscription on the flag fully visible (“Only a Broom”) and left the gallery. Using the popular feminist-art motif of bustling around, and the figure of a witch, in an ironic and characteristic way, Pinińska-Bereś made a comment on the political situation in the Polish art world of those times and in a symbolic way removed a spell that hung over art practice and the art space—she was a supporter of the thesis of the supremacy of the aesthetic over the political in art.


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