Ewa Partum: “Ewa Partum’s Real Problem” – A Reply (1979)

Emphatic Portraits – poster action by Ewa Partum

Mr Andrzej Osęka, well known art columnist writing for the “Kultura” weekly, has recently published (issue 37) a subtle piece devoted to my work and my person. While appreciating good will of the editors, who graciously offered some space for pondering on my humble feminine problem, and an ardour of Mr Osęka, who has chosen to write on me instead of producing yet another eulogy in a continuous series about the-state-as-an-art-patron, I am nonetheless in a position to clarify certain issues. I am neither of the same age as Mr’s Osęka, nor that young, and for sure not as handsome as Mr Osęka regards me to be (which I take as a real honor).

Perhaps that is why getting older is not a problem for me, neither are new wrinkles, nor a fear that some fine gentleman, able to value female for other virtues than her appearance, might lose their gusto for me. As we know only too well from a heated exchange between colorist painters and Zachęta Gallery, Gericault in his Officer of The Imperial Guard didn’t strive to render a horse bigger-than-life: something altogether different was there at stake. After ’53 a number of those ready to adhere to a view that value of true art is measured by its ability to depict nature, considerably shrinked, and I am surprised that my true intentions were lost on Mr. Osęka. But so it is with official art critics of upper ranks.

Putting a poster on view, which is far from extraordinary both in my career, and in contemporary art in general, althought Mr Osęka seems to be of different opinion, I did want to say that woman’s problem today is neither to be a glamourous creature „to man’s heart content”, nor reaching equal standing with men – as our grandmothers suffragettes assumed – but to be aware of  specific problems connected with womanhood.. For me it is a scope of interest of new feminist art, a courageous step towards self-definition of a woman-artist, and her experience of “being a woman” in a patriarchal society.

I am sorry the English version turned out so badly. I am not as well groomed as Mr Osęka, far less educated, don’t know English and had to get a help of someone who does, but who, eventually, failed in their task. But, alas, who is free of mistakes? Mr Osęka, or anyone on „Kultura” staff, for that matter, should know, that if a poster advertising a production of the Midsummer Night’s Dream reads at the bottom line „Gryf. Targowa Street, c. 1400963600 W-7”, we are not necessarily to jump to a conlusion that The Bard was the author of a said „Gryf… etc”. But I don’t have a grudge, and last assured that Mr Osęka, a honest critic of highest integrity, when writing on Sheakespeare would certainly refer to the encyclopedia to check everything what ought to be checked. In my case it wasn’t possible.

And the last problem: yes, I have prepared bilingual poster – in Polish and in English. State illustrious patronage in arts might there be, for what it is worth, but I had to pay for my own work. As a person of rather scanty resources I wanted to get something I could also use abroad. Not only apparition and loosing it, not only eternal problem of what beauty in art is, but also lack of money could pose a problem for many an artist in Poland, which might be something beyond comprehension for the critics of such a high stature. We don’t get money for our artistic problems, writing columns. We also don’t make living out of our art.

In a last paragraph Mr Osęka writes: „Isn’t it symptomatic of our times, that a young person, feels free of any obligations to such an extent, that has to inform residents of our city, through 600 posters, about something so meager”?

And you? Do you feel free of any obligations towards the readers?

Source: Ewa Partum, “Prawdziwy problem Ewy Partum – odpowiedź” [“Ewa Partum’s Real Problem” – A Reply], Kultura 38 (1979).