Despite that, this very museum is an interesting phenomenon that reflects, through short-term exhibitions of its collection, a long and high-quality tradition of Polish graphical design. However, the young Polish artists and critics themselves doubt their position and appeal. In this regard the leading “hater” is probably the magazine SZUM, which comments intensively – online – on cultural events, and provides information to a wider spectrum of readers in the form of a printed quarterly. Although SZUM is largely a platform for a very specific critique, that is less accessible to laymen, it does provide the necessary reflection to the art scene. This reflection is all the more intimate given the absence of translations of Polish texts (in the case of Artalk, the situation is not significantly different). However, according to Adam Mazur, Editor-in-Chief of the SZUM, it does not make sense to translate reviews, since nobody cares about what is happening inside the scene, and the one who does care, does not know the context, that is needed to really understand a translation. To understand what? Each cultural scene has its gossip, defamation and intrigue – and if that is supposed to be the “context” mentioned, it really is not worth it. If it is not, a critic should be able to uncover the circumstances of local events for the few readers outside the artist bubble. Not everyone is willing to google everything.
That precisely is why, despite this being a period totally saturated with internet, the attempts to establish personal contacts with the art scene of the neighbouring state may not seem to be completely useless. On the contrary, due to the absence of the translation, this may be a good idea. Moreover, with regard to the Polish scene in particular, Piotr Sikora can not do it for all (an attempt at a joke, understandable only to a negligible group of readers). However, real live “networking” perfectly reflects the current functioning of virtual social networks, and is rarely more than vacuuming contacts for future needs. Networking is a naughty word, why do we still want to say it?
To a Praguer, the young Warsaw art scene does not teem with any unusual exoticism. Both environments provide more or less original approaches conditioned by current global aesthetics or the need for critical reflection of the present. However, in comparison to Warsaw, virtually limitless number of exhibition venues are opened for the beginning Czech artists to present themselves, including those still studying. Warsaw, on the contrary, surpasses by the number of private “art-fair” galleries, where, unfortunately, the quality of the exhibited works tends to be of the “living room” rank. Those of the younger generation, who do not get through to the gallerists (which happens to be a good thing, given the standard of the exhibitions visited in the capital of Poland), do not have many opportunities to present their work, aside from the exhibitions in large state institutions. This fact is probably the reason for the opening of many private dwellings, or their parts thereof, to contemporary art.
A space in Warsaw, that is outwith and very “in” at the same time is a room of a shared flat, where two exhibit platforms operate beside each other – LAW and Śmierć Człowieka. Despite being an apartment gallery, young artists there have adopted the aesthetics of clean exhibition space and a elegant institutional presentation. The second such a project (at Elektoralna 14B) has not yet been named and it hosted but one exhibition, though the next one is being prepared. The third had just perished when the curators moved from Warsaw, and the fourth is a critically aimed act of the SZUM magazine editor, operating the gallery in a plastic bucket (Kubeł Gallery). These projects are related, in addition to their off-spaceness, by an interest of the young artistic scene as well as successful self-institutionalization (logos, press releases, network presentations etc.).
LAW and Śmierć Człowieka – both projects by the curator, organizer and artist Kamil (or Kamil # 2 – according to the project) – repeatedly represent art based on post-Internet aesthetics, that surprises with its still surviving “purity of style”. It is necessary to emphasize, to a reader tearing out his hair because of the usage of phrases in the previous sentence, that what strikes in the exhibitions is that they work the aesthetics as a style that survives itself. How long can these self-exploiting projects work, if they are built on the kind of aesthetics that rather quickly ceased to entertain the rest of the art world? However, due to their fluidity and low cost, it will certainly not be a problem to open up a new platforms, when the curator runs out of enthusiasm or artists influenced by the post-Internet wave.
Although these humble projects can not be compared with the beginnings of the legendary Warsaw Czułoć platform, which, for a while, filled the void brought about by the absence of independent exhibition spaces, and whose wild opening parties were a flash of the 90s on the turn of millennium, they definitely concentrate the freedom and creativity that is lacking in sales galleries. Those are not, unlike in commercial exhibitions, simply translatable by google translator, although it seems they speak the international language frequently.
What is not immediately intelligible, usually seems to be more attractive. Unfortunately, it often turns out that only the decryption of the dialect was the interesting part, which was the case with the projects mentioned above. The two following exotic and hard to translate performances, which eventually yielded the desired resolution without ceasing to be interesting, drew their appeal not from the transformation of international trends but from the reflection of the local political and social situation. The first of these projects called Przyjaźni moc (Power of Friendship) took place in the exhibition space Lokal_30, the second was a performance of the movement-vocal group Chór Kobiet (Women’s Choir). Both enterprises were related by the pleasantly ironic, critical and confident position of the participating artists. The artists represented at the Lokal_30 exhibition, creating under the pseudonyms of Alexis Anorexis and Marija Histerija, share the use of mass trash visuality (participation in popular TV competitions and the appearance of cheap market bags) and taking the female position attributed by a large portion of the traditionally “masculine” society, both in order to criticize the current situation. The Choir, that has been successful at many international festivals, also opposes the traditionally postulated feminine position and authoritarian role of the Church. The Magnificat performance, characterized by calm breathing (movements and sounds), is truly impressive, and compared to somewhat aggressive feminism of the previous years, is more likely to be taken seriously enough.
While these critical projects are performed in a Slavic language incomprehensible in the Western context, their message is clear and no translation is needed. Although it is possible to read them through globally comprehensible feminism, their specificity is felt in the light of Polish events – unique in Europe and destructive – merger of the Church and the State. They emanate from the opposite need than is the approaching of some short-term dominating trend – they come up from the bottom. Projects of this type require not only the concerned presence of the visitor, but also a partial knowledge of the political situation. The pursuit for interpretation and intelligibility towards the global art-world is meaningful only when these projects are promoted beyond the borders of a given country. On the contrary, the translation of artistic practices, administered to the local scene from global trends, seems to be counterproductive, at least when it comes to the projects mentioned. And if Czech translations suffer a certain amount of delay in the case of global momentum, it seems it is even a bit worse with the Polish independent art scene.
The point of artistic networking tours does not necessarily have to consist of business card collecting. One ought to subject to an intensive dive in a protective pressure suit with a small visor, that prevents excessive contamination by the surroundings. Then, while ashore, it is easier to look through a similar narrowing on things familiar. This visitor then might realize that openness towards the foreign scene can also impart openness to the vicinity of his local art-world bubble, in which are the difficult art magazine articles and exhibitions often written.
This text is an output of author’s residency in Warsaw, realized within the frame of East Art Mags project, that has been a cooperation between the Czech and Slovakian editorial boards of the Artalk.cz, the Hungarian artPortal.hu, the Polish SZUM, and the Romanian RevistaArta. The project is funded by the Visegrad Fund.