Making Artwork as a Type of Resistance

WARSAW — When the brand new director of Warsaw’s Zachęta Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, Janusz Janowski, was appointed final yr, he was the town’s second artwork museum director in two years to be nominated by Poland’s right-wing populist authorities with out an open job search. Janowski has no earlier administrative or managerial expertise and is just about unknown amongst Poland’s modern artwork scene. Final month, he contributed an essay to — a brand new platform for Europe’s right-wing conservatives — by which he envisions the artwork establishment as “a religious area” that precludes political agendas, together with LGBTQ+ and different human rights. His inaugural exhibition is predicted to open in a number of months, though particulars are scarce.

Zachęta’s present exhibition, The Discomfort of Night, has the dimensions and ambition of a biennial that might be unthinkable as soon as Janowski’s regressive and discriminatory ideologies are carried out. The present focuses on youthful Polish artists (most born within the Nineties), together with a number of energetic in Warsaw’s artwork scene. 5 of its six rooms are full of an array of works, comparable to video projections subsequent to work, salon-style shows, pictures, sculptures in dialog with installations, and numerous flatscreen TVs. In a single poor curatorial choice, framed drawings, superbly rendered by Iwo Panasiewicz, are positioned flat on a slim desk as an alternative of being held on the wall. 

Set up view of The Discomfort of Night at Zachęta Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, Warsaw; middle: Kacper Szalecki, “Recreation of Phone” (2022), video

However the exhibition’s tendency towards messiness adequately captures the pressures {that a} youthful technology of Polish artists face with an more and more oppressive and Eurosceptic authorities. Generally, the artists deal with matters head-on: the vulnerability of the self (Kornel Leśniak and Patryk Różycki); queer identities and gender stereotypes (Kacper Szalecki and Sebastian Winkler); establishments of oppression (Adam Kozicki and Ala Savashevich); our our bodies’ relation to digital/digital realities (Everlasting Engine, Martyna Miller); and folklore, mythology, and the function of the absurd in on a regular basis life (Cyryl Polaczek and Karolina Konopka).

Sebastian Winkler’s sculptural work originated in a collection on self-abuse whereas alluding to sexual fantasies of subordination inside a queer context. Winkler takes images of himself, which he then prints, tears, and collages onto the floor of a polyurethane foam core. In “David and Goliath,” a sneaker pressed right into a face is each a fetish object and a menace, fusing need, ache, and worry. Winkler’s work externalizes his anxieties via his sculptural collages whereas acknowledging his weak place as a queer particular person in conservative Poland.

Sebastian Winkler, “David and Goliath” (2022), digital print, polyurethane foam

One other physique marked by societal strain and historic weight is that of Belarusian-born Ala Savashevich. The artist’s video, “Pose. Place. Manner” (2019), exhibits a pair of ft (presumably the artist’s) strolling in excessive heels, by which the heel is a purple star that punctures via the only of the shoe. With every try to take a step, the ft press down into the height of the star. Each step is a painful reminder of how Savashevich’s Belarusian identification is intertwined with the nation’s Soviet legacy — notably as Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has not too long ago allowed the Russian military to make use of Belarus as a staging floor for the warfare towards Ukraine

After visiting The Discomfort of Night, a quote by Virginia Woolfe got here to thoughts that I had learn at one other Warsaw exhibition (Dominika Olszowy at Galeria Foksal): “The longer term is darkish, which is the perfect factor the long run could be, I feel.” The artists gathered right here perceive what it means to be threatened by establishments, as embodied by Zachęta’s new director. Regardless of its darkish undertones, nonetheless, Zachęta’s exhibition demonstrates that within the face of unprecedented native and international turmoil these younger Polish artists are main the best way exactly as a result of they see hope and alternatives for artwork.

Adam Kozicki, “Make It Fucking Faster” (2022), acrylic, ink, and airbrush on canvas
Set up view of The Discomfort of Night at Zachęta Nationwide Gallery of Artwork, Warsaw; foreground: Karolina Wojtas, “Species: Brother. The best way to Annihilate” (2020)
Kornel Leśniak, “Potential” (2021), oil on canvas

The Discomfort of Night continues at Zachęta Nationwide Gallery of Artwork (pl. Małachowskiego 3, Warsaw, Poland) via October 16. The exhibition was curated by Magdalena Komornicka.

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