Zofia Kulik, Przemysław Kwiek, Maryla Sitkowska KwieKulik – Art and theory ilustrated by life events, that is ART OUT OF NERVES
Table of contents:
Introduction – History of this text …
PART I – Introduction
PART II – At home
- 1. Home, tradition, influences
- 2. Studies
- 3. First period (1968- 1974)
- 4. Second period (1974-1977)
- 5. Third period (1978 – 1987
PART III – Off
- 1. Receivers
- 2. Critics
- 3. Neoavangard
- 4. Avangards…
- 5. …alternatives
PART IV – Off-off
- 1. “Solidarność”
- 2. Boycott
- 3. Labor unions
PART V – About oneselves
History of this text is very long and it starts at the beginning of 1986, when KwieKulik duet wasn’t yet disintegrated.
In the years 1984-1985 a group of critics associated with Stowarzyszenie Historyków Sztuki in Warsaw has began a project of interviews with artists on the model of questionnaire made in the second half of the 50’s. The aim of questionnaire ,,Artist 84-85″ was the recognition of world views and attitudes of variously domaines creators and generations towards the then social-politic situation and mainly towards martial law, boycott of official artistic life, independent expositions, critic, trade unions, etc.
One of the last, and the longest interviews was that made with Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek. I’ve met with artists after their performance ,,To buy an artist” in Dziekanka in 11 march 1985.
The interview was made by me in February 1986 in their still redecorating house in Łomianki-Dąbrowa. From these sessions has stayed about 8 hours of recording, which was typed out, edited, and then it was given to people reliable for the questionnaire,the fee was given – according to the rules of ,,To buy an artist” action, to artists, as I stressed ,,for P.D.DiU”.
Interview just in first edition exceeded the project of questionnaire. It didin’t also obey the questionnaire questions. It was so interesting material, that we decided – Zofia Kulik, Przemysław Kwiek and I to broaden it to longer intervwiev. We intended to publish it, of course. We keep broadering it, with breakes, until middle of 90s. It was precising the answers, widen some of the topics, reduction of the other -important for questionnaire, and less important for the artists. Despite that artistic and personal situation of Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek, in that time, had changed thorough, their comments concern the period of cooperation as KwieKulik, so that they don’t cross – in reminiscences and in references to concrete events – the end of 80s. In this way the most important value of interview, which is the record of state of mind of the artists in crucial for polish art, artistic and their own life period, was saved.
PART I – Introduction
Maryla Sitkowska: What are the threats to art nowadays according to you? In general, in Poland and you to yourselves?
Przemysław Kwiek: In general, it is the lack of freedom, in Poland – the lack of freedom and money . . .
Zofia Kulik: …and in our case – the lack of freedom, money and will.
PK: Yes, exactly. Ha ha ha! The lack of freedom, money and will.
MS: What do you mean “the lack of freedom”?
ZK – This does not mean the lack of freedom at the stage of creating a work of art… Let me give an example from the past. By the end of the ’70s we needed -I do not remember what for – some copies from foreign catalogues from the Academy library. So we went to a photocopying service in Rutkowskiego Street, the only one available to the public at that time. However, there they told us to go to the censor’s office, because those were foreign publications. At the censor’s office in Mysia Street we were told that we could not obtain permission because there were some copyright regulations or something like that – we wanted just one copy of single articles. Finally, the censor agreed to make an exception for us, yet he made the condition that we had to write an application and we had to state in the application that we needed the copy for scientific research. Moreover we were not allowed to make copies of any consecutive pages. And there was also a demand to write an application form to borrow a book from the Library. Well, yes… Can we speak about freedom here? I think that this is the very problem. I always mean concrete things. It is enough if there is more than one case like that, and they are – as you know – very common and frequent, so I claim that I lack freedom, even though I can walk in the street and can do whatever I wish at home. Yet, I cannot! My activities do not go forward as I wish them to do. In other words, I stand in one place. If I want to go in a certain direction and I remain in one place, I am not free.
PK – This is a recurrent topic which we constantly tackle: practical limitations. If we speak about the degradation of a Pole compared to a foreigner, we speak exactly about this: about the limitations on free activity in general. It is difficult to speak about free creativity, this is the limitation on the freedom of deeds and the lack of possibility of- as Zosia said – going forward. Consequently, this causes an impediment to freedom.
MS – So, this means that no-one hindered you from creative work…
PK – No. However, there were strong existential restraints, It was so difficult to live that is unimaginable! Materials, organising, arranging for things, placing them, this unfortunate photocopying, etc. Thousands, thousands of such things. What happens in the world, in normal societies? The effort of the whole society is directed towards overcoming such petty obstacles Many Poles laugh at American gadgets, because they instilled in us the conviction that if there is a gadget that opens a can automatically, this must be a joke or a deviation. Of course, this is not true because the sum of such gadgets in all spheres of life makes man freer.
ZK – Well this is one of many concepts. I wouldn’t look at it only from one point.
PK – Certainly, or else the opponents of capitalism from those countries would speak about the overgrowth of consumption, over-production and the alienation of man in his own place – all this is not true. Let’s take an example of our “Neo-expressionists”, “Kultura Zrzuty”,1 “nihilists” and traditionalists concerned with enslaving and the sacrum. The people who busy themselves with metaphysics, human existence and the happiness or unhappiness of an individual, those who concentrate on themselves and the rest of Poles with their soaring acts of faith and who do it in absolute isolation from practical problems and, finally, from the problems of luxury as I call them. If someone in the West deals with these things in such a way, i.e. getting separated from reality – they do it while having luxury as their background! Unfortunately, if one wants to achieve a high standard of living, one has to attain it through very hard, dirty, mundane everyday work that contradicts the metaphysical divagations on an individual topic made already in comfort. The world outside can afford it because it has already come through the period of struggling for comfort and yet, thousands of people work hard on all these petty things as if they were half-beasts- as you can might call it. However, in our country they want to tackle – and they realty do it – metaphysical issues with a dry bread-roll in their pocket and standing up. That’s horrible!
ZK – Come on. It’s not so. lam not convinced by your examples. I would treat the lack of freedom in our situation as hindering someone from their work. This pertains equally to a businessman, an employee, a teacher, or an artist. To everyone.
PK – I agree with this. We are not contradicting each other.
ZK – But you talk about some can-openers. Not only do Poles laugh at this but Americans do as well. Do not exaggerate these achievements in can-opener.
PK – This poor opener! I quoted it only as an example of making practical things easy. There are millions of such things. We can easily speak about an electric typewriter, a photocopier or a computer in every household as well. We can speak about a great number of shops, agriculture machines, robots, etc.
ZK – OK Someone solves small practical problems somewhere
PK – And that’s it – when you say ”someone solves small practical problems”, every serious man waves his hand with contempt – huh! small practical problems. This is not the kind of problems we have!
MS – So – what’s the conclusion? We ought to deal with petty things in order to create a perfect whole?
PK – And work on them really, really hard. Work hard for a long time so as to achieve luxury in which we could ponder over existential issues.
ZK – No, that’s not so! It is not like that: first this, next that. No.
PK – So, the alternative is as I have just said: a dry bread-roll and artistic events, similar to our soulful friends – standing in the cold, hungry; without any advertisement, etc.
ZK – It does not matter. It does not. You yourself said that during the Solidarity times nobody objected to being poor or living uncomfortably. That is not the point The point is to feel that something is happening and that it has a sense.
PK – I agree that if a room is cold and there is a candle burning one can give a lecture or organise a scientific symposium. However, if any state includes luxury in its programme and simultaneously neglects this luxury completely in practice and does not know what kind of work or method leads to this luxury, then- excuse me -I consider it an interesting domain for me. And I would like to remind you of one of your projects. Do you remember? We organised adjustable aeroplane seats for the public in the gallery. An air hostess discreetly served drinks and snacks. In such conditions a performance took place…
ZK – NUnfortunately, not realised… However, because of such various feelings of discomfort and as the sum of these feelings we made a piece called “Art from Anger” [“Art of Nerves”]”. This is a slogan, a seal that we carved in rubber. We stamp with it those works which were created because some nonsensical circumstances and difficulties annoyed us.PK – We prize these small difficulties and petty troubles exceptionally highly contrary to many artists “We are lying in ambush and waiting for events, especially bad ones, to take part in them.” This is our motto because we consider it one of the Polish problems. The problem which people abroad do not realise at all. It is simply unimaginable for them! So, how can you speak about any sort of partnership? When we say that we showed something abroad, that they came here on the occasion of various “Iam”, ect, then we do not speak about these differences and our shortcomings in comparison with the abroad. Certainly, this is a simplified picture. I do not think that we can speak about any partnership! Our piece “The Light of the Dead Star” shown in Amsterdam in 1979 speaks about this among other things. One of our writings, sent to the festival in Arnhem, where we could not go because we had been refused passports, contains a sentence that the world is divided, consequently there are two different worlds. Hence we cannot speak about any partnership-like relations or any equality of rights. This division will exist even after political systems become similar.
ZK – The other piece tackling the same issue was our appearance and a leaflet “Heavy Complaints Kill Life” in 1978.
PK – It is mostly stressed in the text. The text transfers it in an artistic way.
ZK – “… poor people queue to buy some oranges for a long time”…
PK – However, we are less interested in the divagations on political systems. Socialism, communism or capitalism – these are secondary matters, which are elevated to the primary level thanks to the mass-media; certainly the mass-media are in the hands of people who deal with such issues and who speak about them just for themselves. A common man is being politically indoctrinated while the real reasons for small afflictions and troubles remain unknown. No-one speaks about them in Poland, they are pushed away to the secondary level.
ZK – Yet, is anyone cheating here? Is someone pulling someone’s leg? Why is it so? Do these ideas, these oral declarations lie? Does anyone have bad intentions? Is this someone’s incapacity?
PK – No. I think this is a typical example of the discrepancy between general laws like the Constitution, the Human Rights Convention, the censorship law, etc. and executive regulations. It turns out that the executive regulations not the general laws govern a particular action, even though these general laws assume the already mentioned equality of rights or partnership. Are general laws controlled by international bodies, while executive regulations and even the decisions of an individual are the domain of a single-party system or a group of people in a country? … At any rate, general laws are one thing and executive regulations -another. And now comes the question: who is trying to fool whom? I am convinced that we can say that still – someone is cheating someone else. We can say so, even though no-one is cheating. Understand? This means that if someone rebels – like “Solidarity” rebelled once -they can say someone was cheating, although no-one was actually cheating. Moreover, he can profit from it. That’s what all revolutions are about – the king as innocent as a lamb, suddenly dies at the gallows: although he did not do anything wrong himself. In my opinion we should find those who are guilty of the lack of creative autonomy in the sense we understand it here, i.e. contradictory to the declared freedom; even if there aren’t any guilty ones. As a warning and as a lesson to society. And I must say that I sometimes introduce certain vindictive elements into my art. It does not matter that sometimes the ricochet reaches me, too. This is calculated in the rules of the game. I would like to remind you of the Malmo catalogue which included my works from the series “Commentary Art” : “Man-Dick” and “A Bird from Plaster to Bronze in the Barracks of Fine Arts” combined together. However, these pieces, even if taken separately, were constructed with the same anger and …the consciousness that they might offend someone. We achieved a great success – it turned out that someone got offended! It hit the bull’s eye and it was so strong that I cannot recall anything stronger at that time. And the reaction to it was – in my opinion – poor anyway.
ZK – You would have punished yourself differently?
PK – I would have granted myself a huge scholarship, ha ha ha!
ZK – If you had made it a painting, perhaps they would have bought it; however, since it was done in “different media”… You are absolutely outside die scope of their interest.
PK – Well, perhaps! A very good and worthwhile remark. Had it been a painting or a sculpture, it would have been locked in a drawer and… silence. Dwurnik told us about Geno Malkowski who wanted to hire his painting for an exhibition in Zacheta from Hermansdorfer in 1985. The painting was very a propos its topic -“Human existence, the fate of the Earth” – the war, albeit Jaruzelski war, etc. Of course Hermansdorfer refused. Later I asked Edzio: Well, if he hadn’t refused, would Geno have shown it? You bet he wouldn’t! Ha, ha, ha! And Geno knew it, and Hermansdorfer did, and Dwumik. Yet, now the painting is no longer restricted. Dwurnik did not have any troubles because of having painted it, etc. Nevertheless, in our case it was shown in a form that was not typical of traditional artistic practice and already in a foreign publication. It was this that made the issue so irksome and painful. It was so because anyone in the street can act in a similar way which made it dangerous for the authorities. An average man from the street will not paint a picture; however, anyone can take a camera, cut flowers from a flower bed and make a caption, eg. PRL*. Any citizen can turn out pieces like that without any traditional training in art, which was later confirmed by the activities of “Orange Alternative” (“Pomaranczowa Altematywa).
PART II – AT HOME
1. HOMES, TRADITIONS, INFLUENCES
MS – Would you, please, characterise your homes, your families where you come from?
PK – I understand you are asking about the ethos in which we were brought up, whether it was positivism, idealism or individualism, etc.?
ZK – Certainly, strong rationalism. Well, we were both brought up in similar houses. I mean our parents…
PK – So called “cold, lay, realistic upbringing” – if we are to use adjectives a’ la Tatarkiewicz.1 Our parents were very active in social issues – in the traditional understanding of the word. In other words: they were constantly on duty…
ZK -… to that system, to be frank.
PK – They participated in the creation of the foundation of that system, yes. Very conscientiously and honestly. Although now I do not consider it my duty to have similar views to my y and honestly. Although now I do not consider it my duty to have similar views to my mother, I know that what she did was clean, honest and full of commitment. As the years were passing I started to realise a certain naiveté, some scout-like character of her behaviour which, finally, ended in a fiasco. It turned out that if she had opened her own craft shop, she would have found herself – and I with her – in an entirely different existential situation. It’s so simple. Well, but these are just digressions.
ZK – But that kind of atmosphere of social work was at your home? This kind of working for ideals, for others, for the common good?
PK – Certainly, this was present as well. We were brought up with the consciousness of the ideal of a wall gazette.
ZK – Yes, we can describe it in this way.
PK – I will add that in my case the origins go back as far as the pre-war period. My mother’s family was medical. My great grandfather was a doctor, the head of department at the Przemienienie Panskie (Transfiguration) Hospital in the Praga district of Warsaw. My grandfather was a doctor, my mother was a doctor, and my father was a doctor, too. A family of doctors in a traditional sense…
MS – Like Judym?
PK – No, not in this sense. It is simple – doctors doing a post mortem see a heart as such, they do not perceive a heart as a metaphor. Similarly, they know what is inside a man but they do not know what a soul is. So we can say the tradition is anti-metaphysical. Certainly, the statement “lay and anti-religious” must follow, mustn’t it? Strangely enough, these doctors couldn’t find anything spiritual within a human body, nor did they discover any bio-chemical God.
ZK – And what about stress?
PK – Well, that’s a different matter. This is a fact – a fact proved by doctors. And by me. Perhaps stress is life? Between Siedlce – the hometown of my father’s family – and Warsaw of my mother… There was constantly a portrait in straw of Piłsudski3 hung by grand-dad who was freed from Paviak4 thanks to a sum of money. This portrait was hanging next to our uncle’s photo who had died young during his first AK5 action in the forest. There were also missionary orations by my grand mother – a simple woman, saturated with mystical love of God, Christ and the Gospel, which made our neighbours cry with repentance. This grand mother led me and, partially, my brothers through all stages of catechism, confession and the first communion. In Warsaw; however, in the years of the greatest enthusiasm, a Christmas tree was decorated white and red – certainly the colours were understood as the colours of the state free from social injustice and superstitions. There, my other grandma – an anarchist, a party member and a great freak – ran a house. She both cooked and gave lessons on law, Polish, mathematics, Latin and two other languages at university level . Grandfather was a fierce advocate of Dmowski6. Strangely enough – after coming back from a Soviet gulag7 , where he had lost 30 kilos, his views became red for a time. And there was also a cousin, an old spinster – always ill, whose one great and unconditional love I was, forever quarrelling with the rest of the family, mostly because of me. The description of her death, which I sent to her relatives, constituted a fragment of my first “Działania” (Activities) in Sigma on Thursday evenings.
ZK – I “appeared” thanks to a great post-war change. My father’s family descended from blacksmiths, teachers and administrator-governors who lived in the Eastern borderlands. My father came from a very poor family of many children who lived in a Galician9 village. Our roots were totally destroyed. The street was my tutor and I was educated by ZHP10, Legia sports club, camps, scout gatherings, and sport training – a constant pursuit for a certain position in the hierarchy of a small, concrete community. I always dreamt that my father was the director of the National Museum. Yes, yes! Those were very powerful, painful and recurring dreams of living in a house where people constantly talk about art and which hosts artistic people. It was not necessary for me to be the family’s own daughter. I might as well have been adopted as a result of intricate and dramatic circumstances and it would have turned out that I was exceptionally talented and worthy of the house which had taken me under its roof. Ha, ha, ha!
MS – Is there anything in the tradition you have just outlined here that you consciously reject in your life?
ZK – I reject one thing that I discovered in one of my parents – the helplessness of a person who has good intentions but is not able to do things well. Is not able to, yet, persists in doing things which are beyond this person. And sometimes this person spoils everything. I reject this now, both in art and in our life. At least I want to reject it. In myself…
PK – I prefer improving to rejecting. If I were to reject I would have to follow the rule of negating the negation and, consequently, I would have to accept what my grand mother and my mother rejected. They rejected, among other things, the situation of those who are looked at by hungry children in rags as they eat cakes at a café.
ZK -Well, you in turn, stare at Coca-Cola from outside in the street.
MS – What else shaped your cultural and world views, apart from tradition and family upbringing, that now constitutes the background and the source to which you consciously refer? In other words: what is the philosophical basis of your activities?
PK – I would say the basis is very broad, this means we do not feel alien to the flow of culture that is available to us through education. We perceived it as a whole, slightly an the academic way, so as not to lose anything from the concepts and achievements of arts and sciences made to date. Yet, the preferences and choices made later – and they were made – depended on a particular situation of inconvenience and , what comes after it, the thought of overcoming it. I do not want to anyone to make a mistake and think that we had a certain pre-conceived ideal which we persistently tried to realize. No. I would rather say that “nothing human is strange to us”; however, the fact that we later chose to deal with a certain thing, and not another – which adds a specific color to our work – is matter of a decision; the decision as to which of the streams in culture we should support bearing in mind the good of our imperfect surroundings. It is likely that if we were to live in another time or other conditions our work would look entirely different. I am not sure whether we would not go more deeply into existential issues, or purely formal or… just different ones.
MS – By saying this, you reveal your philosophical “background”. The dependence on conditions… the fact that existence shapes… the consciousness … yes?
PK – The existence shapes the aesthetics. This is the thesis which I have recently invented. It corresponds quite well with the character of our work. It means that man does not shape his aesthetics because of some unknown reasons, his experiences, etc. It is each previous existence that shapes the following aesthetics. What does it look like in our work, in our moves seen through the eye of the camera or another man? None of our visual manifestations has been taken out of the blue. Each has its background in earlier visual manifestations, in earlier steps. This is the difference between our work and other works of this kind, where one cannot trace their origins. It means, one can see what were ideological or emotional reasons of a given creation but nothing else. And that “else” is important for us. Let me give an example: there is a photo, very pretty, dramatic, expressive, etc. It shows a woman on the beach against a background of dark clouds. However, you do not know who the woman is, why she is there, what the landscape presents. However, if we were taking such a picture, we might present earlier steps which would show the woman in her earlier relations, explain how it happened that we are together with the woman in that place, show even her birth … This is they way we do such things.
ZK – While you were speaking I was thinking of myself and asking whether I have had any contact with any cultural tradition at all. You know… a practical, direct contact which you can present in a reliable way. At home, at school…? In life in general. After all, it did not have to be like that.
MS – It is important which tradition you yourself approve of. That is why I asked about where you search for the stable ground to which you can always return after each adventure.
ZK – There is no such return… I feel a little like a child brought up by mates in the playground who has no distinctly shaped habits or behaviour. This is the way I perceive my relation to culture – I can say no tradition, no influence. That is depressing.
MS – What personalities, authorities, or – perhaps, phenomena in art influenced you significantly in your youth? Let us ignore the period of studies for a while. I am asking about a wider context – of you entering adult life.
ZK – It seems to me that we always – and not only we, each artist perhaps – are influenced by a model and situation of an independent artist, by his fate understood as: he and his contemporary milieu that does not understand him, despises him and is hostile towards him. A romantic myth of a hermit-artist who knows he or she is running a risk, nevertheless, chooses this risk and follows his own way.
PK – Yes, this is one of the contemporary myths which was, at least in those years, instilled by the society. However, we managed to disentangle the myth in time thanks to learning facts – getting acquainted with particular artists. After all, each name or activity of an artist whom we know only from a description is a myth, even if you have seen his works. We realised that meeting people in person or co-operating with them was the best cure for myths. Myths evaporate. We had such an aim in mind when we visited Beuys. Similarly – when we invited other artists to PDDiU.
ZK – Nevertheless, I cannot see any “masters”. There are artists who impressed us at a certain time, e.g. Linke whose retrospective exhibition I saw at the National Museum when still a pupil in 1963. Yet, when we watched the same works on different occasions later; certainly, their impact was smaller. Similarly Malczewski – at first I was strongly impressed by his works but later while looking at several of his pictures I noticed parts of even awkward painting. I felt sad. Things were different in Wróblewski’s case. We always considered his “extra-artistic” activities most important. During our studies we came across an MA dissertation written under the direction of Janusz Bogucki in Torun that explained these issues. His painting was less important for us, we found it, well… mediocre.
PK – Yet, it is this facet of his creative activity which is widely publicised – a fact which does not correspond to what he really created.
ZK – There was also Picasso in Zacheta, there was van Gogh at the Museum. I remember retrospectives in the ’60s: Linke, Malczewski, and others. I watched some educational films at the National Museum… It was also at that time that “a life and works” series of books was published in Poland: van Gogh, Modigliani, Toulouse-Lautrec, Wyspianski. The very titles created a certain mood: “The Passion of Life”, “Hell and Paradise”, “The Guarded Fire”. This mood did not correspond to the official aura of socialist art – merry and invigorating. Who knows, perhaps I witnessed, quite unconsciously, the process of breaking the image of what art is: a merry, futurist slogan or a suffering and madness. When I was seventeen I met Zarebski, Kawiak, the late Ewek… Ewek Kurewek11, the boss of artistic bohemia in Krakowskie Przedmieocie Street in the ’60s! They were living heirs to Modigliani’s and Toulouse-Lautrec’s lifestyle. They created an atmosphere similar to that which is in Picasso’s drawings from the series “at the studio”. They were an important direct contact with the carriers an of anti-Philistine stance, the faith in and suffering for Art. There was also a preponderant presence of art on its applied level. Picasso-like abstraction on curtains, bought at “Cepelia”12 . Professional artists made them and one could see them in every interior. I remember we had moved into a new flat and parents bought a suit of these decorations – you cannot call it furniture – all those tables on three legs, twisted lamps, lampshades made of plastic string, and all those… patches combined with lines and triangles. I also remember the influence of the press, e.g. Oseka’s and Skrodzki’s features. One might say they … poisoned us so much. It was poisoning not because they bored us to death but they poisoned us and made us feel pessimistic and reluctant about anything that was rational, about the will to act and improve things.
PK – As for me, I will say, that I knew Dobrowolski’s “Nowoczesne malarstwo polskie” (“Modern Polish Painting”) by heart.13 I do not know whether someone had taught me it or not, anyway – I knew it. I knew everything that was in museums by heart, and I still do, because I visited museums very often. I was making sketches, etc. so I am saturated with it. Impact – well, I was impressed by everyone in turn: Mehoffer, Wojtkiewicz – a great influence at a particular time, Matejko, why not, Malczewski… Nevertheless, an interesting thing happened – the so called “roots of modernity” did not impress me at all (I am speaking about myself) , Strzeminski, Kobro, or all those constructivist-abstract celebrities, even later ones like Alfred Lenica. And Witkacy.. Well, I did not go in for it too much. An interesting point for a discussion: why? When there was Picasso’s exhibition at Zacheta, I was really interested. Yet, well… perhaps those ones are better. So, generally, I do not find any “masters” in more recent art. As opposed to the art of the period between the two world wars and earlier. Certainly, the issue looks different in case of your direct teachers who automatically become your masters.
ZK – There was a time in our life when we found Kotarbinski14 more inspiring than any artist.
PK – Of course! The whole period…
ZK – We were influenced by truths or theories that were very general. We were more open to them than to concrete realisations of someone’s artistic programmes or theories. The latter we ignored a little.
PK – Yes, certainly. A rational trend originating not from artistic creation but a scientific one; the Lvov-Warsaw school of philosophy with Kotarbinski himself. We were lucky to listen to probably the last public lectures by Kotarbinski and Tatarkiewicz. We have got them recorded. And Suchodolski and Topolski, too. Afterwards we participated for a long time in other seminars devoted to topics not connected with art directly, organised by PAN15 and universities. Kotarbinski’s independent ethics – how well it sounds together with such terms as “independent art”, “independent artist”, doesn’t it? However, it denoted entirely opposite things than those later labels. It was defined as an ethical stance that does not require references to religious or ideological premises, it allowed an individual to rely on his inner experience in this respect. And his “concretism” in ontological and semantic spheres? It let us cut, as if with a razor, illusions pertaining to “the existence of apparent beings” that lurked everywhere in a stupid or cunning way: in critical and political writings, in newspeak – which created victims.
MS – Victims?
PK – And how many were killed, shot in the name of those illusions? Further, there was “contretist somaticim” that encouraged one to speak about the acts of will, thinking, perception, etc. as of the acts of individuals and only in the form of a sentence: “Jan is experiencing, is doubtful, is thirsty.” Like that: Jan, Piotr, I, Zosia – and not like that: they, them, we, collective, mass, socialist society, enemies, artists, labourers, etc. Is it not like a whip for all authoritative, doctrinaire and commenting enunciations of what it was like, what it is like and what it should be like in the brains of Poles in bulk? Shouldn’t this stance of Kotarbinski’s, together with his logic of acting, become for Poles, what pragmatism is for Americans? In the era of marking values with monuments I demand a monument for this man! Hm… such a lot had to be told just to answer the question about influences: a book. The fictional world of literature, cinema, newspapers. After all I have spent half of my life in this world. There is an anecdote from the Academy times: first there comes a book, then comes Kwiek who holds it in his hands, finally comes the rest. Balzac – at that time I read all available Balzac, Flaubert, Stendhal, Cervantes, Boccaccio, Turgenev, Paustovski, Bunin, Sologub, Goncharov, Dostoevski, Reymont, Prus, Stalin, Lenin, Hitler, “A Treatise on Good Work”16, Descartes, Marx… I can add that at that time I constituted an indispensable element of the Philharmonic landscape. The question arises: was it good or bad? Good – because I did not become a drunkard…
ZK – And you were just about to become an element of the landscape at Hopfer.
PK – But I met Hamilton there, I regard him highly. I met Wiktor Gajda, Jurry Zieliński. I saw Himilsbach and all this… vodoo (from vodka+zoo). Well, coming back to the topic – it was bad because it increased my difficulties with crossing the border between imagination and its nourishment on one hand and, on the other, the role of a producer which I was to assume and who had little time for production left. The problem with scraps of time which are being nibbled by an armchair. I have this problem even today…. Wait, how did I write it in my poem? – “if one could pass from the thought and start doing something, anything.” And when the necessity of potboiling got somehow entangled in it, moreover in PRL – a tragedy!
PART II – AT HOME
MS – The catalogue of your retrospective exhibition begins with 1968. You were both students at that time.
PK – My most important achievement at the Academy was to acknowledge a process as a work of art. Acknowledging the process as a work of art and acknowledging documentation as a work of art led to the same effect. Certainly, I understand a process as acting according to the rules of praxeology, i.e. characterised by skill. The skill serves as a tool for adding various aesthetics-decorations to works of art; however, the criteria the evaluation of this skill are always beyond the sphere of art.
MS – How come such an abstract issue of process appeared in a sculptor’s’ studio?
ZK – The point is – let me answer for you, OK? – that you treated seriously the task that Prof. Jarnuszkiewicz had given you. He asked you… well, he did not have to, it was a student’s responsibility … A student had to have stages of his work documented because it often happened that, let ‘s say, while making a nude study a student transformed the sculpted object so much that a work at different stages was like a work on two different pieces – sometimes better, but sometimes worse.
MS – Photographs were necessary for correction?
PK – Firstly, the reason was that the majority of nudes was not cast in plaster. The casts were too expensive, so photography was the only means of retaining the work.
ZK – Yes, Students were obliged to present their photographic portfolios to obtain a credit for a semester.
MS – But the process as a separate issue was not Jarnuszkiewicz’s interest. It was Hansen’s.
PK – How do I know? At that time it was my fourth, and Zosia’s third year, 1967/68, Hansen was still doing basic training.
ZK – But he was constantly talking about process. Being in the process… the processisation… The academic year 1970/1971 was at the apogee of our thinking on that issue. In that year we treated the process as a separate practical and artistic problem – the film “Open Form” was made. We have minutes and recordings of discussions preceding its realisation. During these discussions we tried to answer the question: why should we work with a movie camera? Our analysis followed such a train: if we want to document pasta we should use a photographic camera and if we want to add an earth-worm to pasta, we should use a movie camera. We inflected the word “process” in all possible ways in every sentence.
PK – As a matter of fact, the issue was also derived from my psyche. I was not able – I saw the nonsense of doing something for a longer time, e.g. a nude study and then deforming it so that the study expressed a model’s character better. This was kind of a canon at the Academy. Simply, I was not able to imagine how one could make a realistic study of a model and simultaneously deform the achieved realism, so as not to demonstrate one’s ability to imitate nature but to demonstrate one’s ability to present something different from the study itself, i.e. one’s own or the model’s inner self. Since I could not understand it there was only one thing left for me: to study a model in a copyist manner. Come on! That was not acceptable for me! Even though I had had a four-year realistic training under Helena Stachurska and the Wdowiszewscy. I remember when I started to do such a study already on my second year in Professor Nitschowa’s class. I spent three weeks over one leg. I made it ideally- like Michelangelo or Canova; however, when I realised that there was still the other leg awaiting, and the torso, and two hands, I simply… It was an absurdity compared to what life offered – life which was very colourful and rich in the halls. One thing did not suit the other absolutely, did it? After all – why should it, what drive was there in it? I understand Canova, I understand Michelangelo – such were creative tasks in their time, such was social demand and money were paid for that. So, when I got a camera into my hand in Jarnuszkiewicz’s studio and was asked to make documentation, the rest came somehow automatically. At the very moment the photo was taken, the work lost its importance, because it had already been made permanent. So what? It could have been changed. In numerous ways. And so on, step by step. What was important were the changes coming day after day. And I want to mention a certain psychological motivation. I always wanted to see the reaction of the public immediately. The way of studying obligatory at the Academy, I mean things like studies of that leg, or in a wider perspective – classical approach to art – made this entirely impossible. It is so because the very process of making a work of art lasts a year or more and the process of receiving the work even longer. The artist is not able to obtain any response which will influence his next step in a sufficiently short time. Certainly, there is also a question of contemporary times as such. I felt the need for a response in the shortest time, almost instantly – because this response determines my next step. And then appears the thirst for the next reaction, of course – positive! Perhaps, again, this is rooted in my cool upbringing – I craved, according to the rule of contrast – some warmth, some love, as one could poetically phrase it. The classical mode of studying made the reception of such a psychological compensation which I yearned for impossible. Yet the way in which I stated to sculpt made it possible.
I undertook this issue after doing my diploma work. I decided not to create a work “behind a screen” as graduates used to do. I chose to be among students and follow a syllabus of the next year: nude studies; however, in my own way, starting from making shapes from paper and including all stages of cast making in the process. I wrote a diary-analysis, I made slides, photographs and a film. It was the year 1969/70. I devoted the two entire previous years to studying models in stages- each stage after having photographed a previous one. “Man-Dick” is the second of four stages of the study of a model – Cisak, from 1967/68.
ZK – Yes, but we should remember someone who also made such “steps”. And I know, because I remember, that it influenced you strongly – not the theory propagated by that man, but a practical solution of the problem. This man was Tadeusz Skwarczynski. It was thanks to him that you came across a solution found by a man who did not say anything about it. He did not use the term “processisation”, but he did the thing itself!
PK – Yes. The same happened in drawing… However, at that time, we must not forget, there was a whole complex of problems – the whole glory shouldn’t go solely to Skwarczynski. Jan Wojciechowski made a pretty good distinction of things in his introduction to the catalogue “25 lat pracy pedagogicznej Jerzego Jarnuszkiewicza” (“25 Years of Jerzy Jarnuszkiewicz’s Teaching”). Well, I am glad that such initiatives which someone had taken before are now remembered because this makes my historical background longer and, in a way, makes the history of Polish art longer; it reaches the very source, it does not derive from “Studio International”. Certainly Skwarczynski is no longer worth considering now because he simply stopped doing such things.
ZK – However, if we are going back in search for forerunners…
PK – I can bet we would be able to find someone from whom Skwarczynski had taken the idea.
ZK – No. I think we would find Hansen with his practical teaching methods.
PK – Ehm… Well, yes, yes. But the practice of taking pictures and abandoning the thing in order to start another one was Jarnuszkiewicz’s practice, wasn’t it?
ZK – Indeed, we used a photo camera at Jarnuszkiewicz’s classes, however in a more traditional way. Just for the sake of documenting… You are right, you just reminded me that those who did not make plaster casts made photos and presented them at an exhibition as the achievement of a studio. While in Hansen’s case …. I cannot remember exactly now, but there were films made, for example. A film documented how a student copes with a certain task using a suitable tool. In Hansen’s studio, which was called The Design Studio of Figures and Surfaces, one could find many tools for visual exercises, for practising simultaneous movements and for exercises on the so called “great number”, as well as many others.
PK – Yes, there were…. Simultaneous movements. Nika Kozakiewicz also made a film for her diploma work. The legends circulated about scandals when a sculptor presented a film as an effect of his work to a commission.
ZK – This spirit – of documenting in a way that is adequate to the work, as well as the consciousness accompanying you during your working that whatever you do, you can have it documented, so you can more freely “transform” your work – this spirit comes from Hansen.
PK – I want to remember Szwacz, too. He invented and applied the theory of ars-hormism or “artistic activating of imagination”. “Hormes” is a Greek word meaning: vital force. Manual work, psycho-physical predisposition and an artist’s talent are the most important elements creating the essence of a piece of art, i.e. its pictorial or linear matter, not literary or para-philosophical speculations. Practically, it meant the manifestation of one’s energy by an impulsive movement on a paper with the use of, e.g. a model, if an academic study was a case. Certainly, energy is a continuity and manifests itself constantly in a non-homogeneous way. Thus an effect in, let’s say, the case of one model will be one hundred drawings of every kind. Sometimes it was so, that you divided a sheet of paper into 40 fields and “made” the nude in each field, always in a different way, using different tools. Some students reached absolute perfection in it or, sometimes, caricatured the method. One of those students was me.
ZK – Yes, true. And Skwarczynski, too.
PK – Again, this suited my psyche and my predisposition. This means; there is nothing constant, everything flows and each deformation has no other excuse but technological and material conditions plus the data of a previous stage. I consider psycho-physical predisposition an automatic component. They play a main role in the so called “spontaneous stage” of my Activities. There is nothing like this already mentioned woman in a cloudy landscape. Nobody knows where is it taken from – she, these clouds, these trees… It isn’t so that this line, its softness, its windings stem from my “spirit”, is it? It comes from the fact that a previous drawing was made in a thin, simple line – so it derives from contrast. Through juxtapositions I show the dialectics of both the form and the content, and also the model. And the whole is perceived not from one field but, for instance, from 26. [look a later realizations conceptual-medial: combinatoric presentations on a plane splited into fields]
ZK – Yes, we do not appreciate Szwacz sufficiently today…
PK – And one should absolutely appreciate Szwacz! Yes: Hansen and Szwacz. A good student wishes to penetrate his professor, to become his professor and to realise his theory even better than the professor himself. I was such a student. Combining Szwacz with my predisposition of which I have just told, with this lack of faith in any constant ideals, with one hundred per cent realism which I represented, all this, together with my getting a camera thanks to which I could stop any process in its particular stage at any moment – well, this simply had further implications.
However, Hansen… Hansen’s culture, his ethos – rooted not just anywhere since it goes back to Le Corbusier, always forces one to select the elements of each chaotic or spontaneous vital manifestation. It pushes one to divide, classify, analyse the consequences, model, scrutinise, verify, and so on, and so forth. And to introduce clear criteria of evaluation. Kandinsky with his “Point and a line on a surface” might be an older brother here. Thus Hansen equals methodology.
MS – And not the philosophy of art or even a vision of art? How was it done? Was his lecturing on his theory, did he make verbal comments, or did he only instil it practically through exercises?
PK – Do you mean “Open Form”?
ZK – Certainly, it is a kind of philosophy. According to the definition Open Form is the art of creating the background for unique things. To present it suitably to Hansen’s professional; field, it would be an art of constructing architecture which makes a man using it conspicuous and contrasts with him; it gets into service-like, informative and functional interactions with him and, concurrently, it does not overwhelm with its form. The form can function politically, despite everything. It can simply be a tool of power, e.g. a typical closed form: The Palace of Culture. Hansen would say that – I quote my notes of April 1970: “1) A totalitarian Open Form is impossible. 2) Open Form abolishes a frontal, one-directional approach to any magnitude (work of art, deity), 3) Open Form is fulfilled in the conditions where a man and the other side mutually influence each other, are in a movement, and yield place in favour of the other side.”
Coming back to ourselves: as we have said, we are not able to reject Hansen; even if we wanted to. And sometimes we want to because it simply might make our thinking on a project and its realisation easier. However at present it is not possible. Hansen always appears at a certain stage of thinking on a work. He appears also when we evaluate works of others, which happens very often to us.
PK – Always!
ZK – When we sum up works by other artists we also… we apply Hansen’s language outright. Till today. Although I, and I think that both of us, feel sometimes the burden of the
necessity to analyse, to think in an Hansenian way.
PK – Come on! Let us not exaggerate. Now, we are applying for example our intuition quite often. And what about C-happenings in “The Separate Whole” (“Całostka”), namely free and fantastic things, and “a spontaneous stage” of “Activities” (“Działania”)
ZK – But still, we do not apply expression.
PK – Huh! Expression?
ZK – We always appear as if in armour. We are armoured by Hansen. It pertains also to our self-estimation.
MS – I have also a question concerning your relations with colleagues. Grzegorz Kowalski recalls the existence of a duo Kwiek-Dwurnik at that time.
PK – Indeed. Perhaps not a duo, but really, there was a resonance between us in the Academy. I was expelled from the Visual Arts Lycée after my first year. I had bad marks in mathematics and physics; Edek was kicked out after his third year for bad behaviour. Thus, we continued our lessons on painting and drawing privately under the Wdowiszewscy at their house in Hoża street. They did it completely for free preparing us for the Academy. Consequently, our works were also hanging at the final exhibition of the graduates of the Lycée. This was an exceptional case in pedagogy. Well, at the Academy already, I got the best mark in mathematics, so I was excused from the final exam. I was an eternal, always hesitant sower of alternatives while Edek who knew both life and the folks could make quick decisions – we complemented each other… Until women started to be our c omplements, ha ha ha! I took up sculpture because I was better prepared for the exam. There was no exceptional love for this field of art behind it. In a fragment of my diploma, at the polychrome stage I performed the task of a painter. Edek, on the other hand, which was an amazing event, if not blatancy, swapped painting under Eibisch for sculpture so that he could try Jarnuszkiewicz and Hansen for at least a year. We attended lithography under Pakulski together. However, what is important here, is the beginning of the so called interaction and integration. In 1967\68, Edek painted his town within an interior shown outside which was the last stage of my student’s nude fixed in a plaster cast, after a long period of my search in clay, and I, in turn, entered this town. He was invited by me as a conscious coincidence to “join in” the process. Later, in the April of 1969 at the “Medyk” gallery we drew “to each other” on the walls of the gallery. Teresa Gierzynska also participated in it. In my terminology those were “non-public, interchangeable and simultaneous “Activities”(“Działania”) and “joining in”. We remained close creative contact until Edek’s “black” period in the ’70s.
ZK – The cycle of Sunday meetings at Edek’s at Miedzylesie in 1973, the first exhibition of PDDiU in 1975, our leaflet issued as a part of “service art” that separated Edek from the campaign “For Improvement”, the co-painting of a picture for a competition on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution – all this was in a way a continuation of our former contacts; however, with the two of us appearing as a KwieKulik duo. In 1985 we presented our work for sale at the Dziekanka. It was called “Buying an Artist”. Edek bought us to elaborate and distribute a “sending” containing a response to an article about him in “Kultura Niezależna” (“Independent Culture”). So far, the sending has not happened; however, the stencil has been prepared. This has so far been our last artistic contact with the Edeks.
PART II – AT HOME
3. 1ST PERIOD (1968-1974)
MS – Let us come back to the date 1968 which marks the beginning of your creative work and the beginning of its first period. Why this particular year?
ZK – 1968 was the year of Przemek’s student work in which he applied the already discussed method of “steps” for the first time. Of course, at that stage it was half-intuitive and lacked theoretical justification. That method, when developed further, led to visual games, to group work, to some attempts to solve the questions of integration in art. The photography of his work of 1968 “Man-Dick” constitutes an element of a piece supplemented by a commentary in 1974 “A Bird from Plaster To Bronze in the Barracks of Fine Arts” (“Ptak od gipsu do brazu w Barakach Sztuk Plastycznych”), consequently, they together formed a new piece. We consider both a breakthrough in our work.
MS – The first period lasted until 1974?
ZK – Yes, 1968-1974.
PK – So, we had already started this “way of production” of ours. Here one can use the word “jazz”. This word appeared in the film “Open Form”, in the part shot at the tv studio. A group of artists acted simultaneously in a continuous way. They acted interdependently, including the camera operator. Consequently, a documentation and “Activities” (“Dzialania”) were being created at the same time. In that case a film was a documentation and “Activities” (“Dzialania”) together with the documentation could only appear in a form created in a given moment since there were no repetitions. This was not yet a game since a game is something more systematic, accordant with rules…. One can make comparisons here with all kinds of art that have this immediate response, ha! – even the public’s absolute identification with the artist’s creative process. The unity of space, time, the process of sending and receiving, the simultaneity of registering. That seemed modern to me.
ZK – Przemek did his diploma in 1970 and while I was working on mine for the following academic year 1970-71 he used to visit the Academy as a graduate almost every day to disturb us a little. After all there was a tradition of a tea-table at Jarnuszkiewicz’s studio – a very important tradition of talks on art and not only art. At the beginning of that academic year, in the Autumn of 1970, an important action took place. A group of students – apart from us two there were Jan Wojciechowski and Bartek Zdrojewski – gave the signal: leave the premises of the Academy, find a field larger than the board of the sculptor’s working table and do something in such an external, real situation. We temporarily called the action “Excursion” (“Wycieczka”). We have a film of this – 8mm and photos. A fragment of “Excursion” was published in a magazine “Nowy Wyraz” (“New Expression”) issue 12/1975 together with our title-commentary “Going outside into the open air with a small, clean, rectangular field of consciousness, a red rose and Urszula Kwiek”. I had just arrived from my vacations in London from where I had brought three slide projectors and was then working very hard on documentation. Well, it was my diploma year. I documented situations of every description, including private ones, like the above-mentioned “Excursion” or meetings of the company among whom you could find Grzegorz Kowalski, Magda Falender, Karol Broniatowski and many other people. There was a sequence with a naked model – Halina Zawadzka in her flat, there was another – with Przemek lying on his and Kowalski’s “Horizontal Composition” (“Kompozycja horyzontalna”) built from whole grain black bread…
PK – Mrs Halina, a later discovery of Cieślarowa’s, who exhibited her work in Repassage…. During that “Excursion” and during my visits to the Academy Kowalski was absent, he was in the USA then. We were completely alone. Grzegorz sent us tapes with a lot of news from the USA.
ZK – I used to take a pre-prepared element for an “Excursion” – a white screen. It was my idea to place the screen in various real situations that were, nevertheless, coincidental, not pre-planned. It was meant to be a sort of neutral little field in the surrounding reality that I wanted to organise later in such a way that I would present another slide or film on the background of a picture or slide showing a place with this very white screen. [see a later computer made ‘picture-in-picture’]. In one word – I planned a more sophisticated medial work. And what turned out? During the “Excursion” my screen stared to be used as a normal object: it was either a folded or an unfolded screen or it would wave in the wind, etc…. We were at a cemetery, in front of the Palace of Culture. We took Przemek’s sister with us. She was mentally retarded and she was also a kind of an element, an object which we added to various realities that we met on our way And that was an introduction to our further work in a group – team work.
PK – And still, you continued to work on your diploma.
ZK – Yes, I was constantly making documentation. In every possible situation and with each piece I created such a visual memoir. Later, using this picture-slide material I constructed my diploma work. It was a projection on three screens with its own structural narration. A copy of Michelangelo’s Moses – usually standing in the hall of the Academy – that I made of colourful, stiffened rags was an addition to this medial show. Activities on this edifice (not the copy) constituted an episode of the film “Open Form”, so everything overlapped and linked then.
And as far as team work is concerned, “Open Form” came next after the “Excursion”. What was the team work about? A general premise was not to make a film but to work with a camera. We had seven days. We knew that we would have the camera for only seven days so we divided that period in such a way that we were to work in a different situation, pre-arranged by ourselves each day. We had chosen the following situations: a table with food, a school, Moses’s edifice library, tv studio, Hansen’s studio, the Palace of Culture, an actress’s face, open air Unfortunately, the library material was lost and that was one of the most interesting episodes because there were some activities of reproductions of works of art. I remember we used Warhol’s “Marilyn Monroe” and some other up-to-date work of world art combined with, e.g. Malczewski. Two months later we went for one day ‘s shooting Lodz Film School. There, Paweł Kwiek filmed our activities on slides that had been performed simultaneously with a film and that contained images not present on the film.
MS – Do you mean an episode called “Activities on Slides”?
PK – Exactly. Done for the first time – “Activities on the documentation of Activities” or “Commentary Art”. We are going to talk about it later. At that time no one dreamt about electronic, computer or digital image processing. Certainly, we processed the slides and the images on them manually before the eye of the camera “in micro-scale” during a several-hour session.
A meta-narration in a meta-medial sphere was the objective. Later, the slides enlivened in such a way were set in particular places in the film as a continuation of the live activities. For example, “the behaviour” of Ewa Lemańska with a white screen on the stand in front of the Palace of Culture. It was shot from the side of the square. We wanted to inset a slide into it. She was holding a white rectangle over her head ideally on the axis against the background of the palace. Suddenly this rectangle burns, together with the slide – you can see the head of a match burst and the film of the slide melts. On another shot you can see a tip of a marker approach from the back and putting a tick on the rectangle and on another the whole thing revolves around 360°.
ZK – The film “Open Form” has not really been finished yet, that is, it was re-organised three times on various occasions but it has never been made an orderly whole. Moreover, it still lacks a sound track.
PK – The issue of the film projections is interesting. We did so called “interrupted projections”. The first public projection took place at the Festival of Art School Students in Nowa Ruda in the June of 1971
ZK – Our basis was to have a continuation of what had been going on the screen during the breaks – filmed activities with the public, namely “a provocation with a camera”. In other words – provoking the audience to do something instead of only watching passively what the artist had done. We also planned to have some live activities with various materials, something that today is called “performance”. Finally – the projection on a screen, besides the film, corresponding slides from three projectors, that is a multiprojection. And it was really done so…
PK – And how! A real Niagara. Obviously, a synchronised slide projection failed and consecutive breaks and the light in the room together with cameras making shots of the public made the public gradually more and more furious to the point nearing pandemonium, uncontrolled power – and the cinema was large, panoramic and – full. However, there was a person who introduced himself after the presentation and expressed his regard for the film.
ZK – It was Jozef Robakowski who we met on that occasion.
PK – A next event when we used all that stuff was our appearance in the Boguckis’ “Wpolczesna” (“Contemporary”) Gallery in December 1971. We divided the days of our appearances according to the audience, i.e. different people were invited for a different day: secondary school pupils, students, art critics and, let call it, “normal public”. Each of the evenings had its own script prepared considering the type of the audience from the “building material” we had a few hours before. This was an attempt to apply the method of “the Trojan Horse”. Right afterwards we made a similar synchronic interrupted projection – this time peaceful – during our visit on the invitation by Leszek Przyjemski and Anastazy Wiśniewski in Elbląg in December 1971. Secondary school pupils were our audience. We have got about thirty essays by the participants. The event was combined with the latest music of the time that had not yet reached Poland and was not yet on the radio – the Woodstock festival.
ZK – Elbląg, the most important thing! Earlier, in September 1971 there was a “Dreamers’ Meeting” – but that is another issue. At that time only Przemek was invited and Wojciechowski and I were accompanying persons. Yet, we worked in a similar way as we had worked in the case of “Open Form”, i.e. we were constantly transforming something…
PK – We two. Jan was working individually.
ZK -.. we transformed the present reality, and that meant a gallery and works by other artists. The artists who were present at the event sometimes got very nervous because we touched their work. Constant transformations, composing and documenting.
PK – Let me remind you that it was also at that time that we started to use the term “Parasite art” (“Sztuka pasozytnicza”) or “Activities on others works” (“Dzialanie na dzielach innych”).
ZK – Dreamers’ Meeting” was one thing; however, in the same year we paid the already mentioned visit to Elblag at the “Meetings of the Young Creative Workshop” (“Spotkania Młodego Warszatatu Twórczego”) organised by Anastazy and ourselves with Hansen, Kowalski, students, and the playing at the hill Wzgorze Morela
PK – A team game appeared for the first time there. That is a game between two teams not, as in an episode of “Open Form” between an actress’s face and particular people in one group.
ZK – Do you remember – we suggested a third group apart from the two competing ones, namely a formallyseparate documenting group.
PK – Yes, this was also the first case of introducing a documenting group -Paweł Kwiek, Jacek Łomnicki, Jacek Niedbał and Marian Rumin an art historian who prepared a description of the game.
MS – What was this Red Group that interfered between the Blacks and the Whites?
ZK – The Reds was a group from The Workshop of Film Forms (Warsztat Formy Filmowej) with Anastazy and his red flags. They butted into the game entirely by chance.
PK – By chance from our point of view; however, they, as Anastazy claims in his description, deliberately “went to see how the kids play”. They wanted to enter a school with real life.
MS – In that “Elblag season”, starting from Autumn 1971, a group Sigma at Warsaw University started to act and from March 1972 – Gallery, later called Repassage. Was that something important for you?
Both – Yes, Yes!
PK – Yet, to keep order, we should mention the earlier experience in the field of performance, mostly with actors – meetings at Kazimierz (April 1971) that occurred before Nowa Ruda and meetings in Gizycko (August-September 1971) before the Dreamers. Zosia was absent from Kazimierz. There, a group following me contrasted with and provoked an actor who through improvising had to change his behaviour in accordance with the “background” created in such a way, and the background also responded to his reactions. What was important was our attempt to judge whether his “play” was good or bad. We also tried to make judgements from the point of view of a hypothetical observer whether the whole group-actor created any structural unity. We repeated the thing if either this or that was wrong. I remember my and Wojciechowski’s exhilaration on the way back by coach. I had a sense of having achieved something new. At Gizycko – at the camp of the Co-ordination Committee of Art Schools – we tried to comment on actors’ improvisations using the method of so called “equivalents”. This means that we translated each gesture, movement, word of an actor in everyday situation: a walk, a cafe, shopping, paying, a street, a play into the visual language, e.g. a sign, a symbol. The compositions of signs and symbols can be analysed by visualists from the point of e.g. composition, contrast, dynamics, associations, etc. One can apply this method, not only to us and actors, but also to artists of any field in art in general. The barriers of education and medial languages disappear and one group is to evaluate the other: good or bad. The film “Open Form” assumed this for artists and camera operators. There is only one artist without any modifiers: visual, musician, actor, etc. if only he is able to translate languages. Fields of art are nothing but a variety of languages. I wrote about this in my “Report” from Gizycko.
MS – And what happened in Sigma?
ZK – It was mostly Przemek who appeared there. I didn’t so much… Others who appeared there were Paweł Freisler, Marek Konieczny, Krzysztof Zarębski, Krzysztof Pęciński, Tomasz Osiński, “Gutty” that is Wiktor Gutt and Waldemar Ramiszewski, Jacek Malicki, Milo Kurtis…
PK – That was not a group strongly as linked and following its own problems as in the case of “Open Form”. In that case the work was freer, as if parallel, independent and – what is important – “viewer oriented”.
ZK – Yet, the question of integration, of a group work was constantly raised. There were such proposals for, e.g. musicians.
PK – Yes, in Sigma we met a group of musicians playing so called “intuitive music” for the first time. The musicians used their instruments and played on them in a similar way to that in which we used objects or props in our “Activities” (“Działania”). This was an opportunity to enlarge our idea of integration with musicians. And all in all, such a total form started to emerge… The total form of activities in all fields of art – “an intuitive co-operation”, as I called it. Well, sometimes a visual artist took an instrument and did something with it, and sometimes a musician would take our object and start composing something. The apogee of that group’s activity was “Activities in the TV Studio” (“Dzialania” w Studio TV”) in the Autumn of 1972 that we two had organised. There is a 16-mm film documenting this activity, beautifully dated – the date impressed people even in America. The film was shown in Poland only once, in Lodz in 1983 and is good enough to be presented on tv.
ZK – About 10 people participated.
PK – Krzysztof Zarębski, Jan Wojciechowski, Jacek Dobrowolski, Jacek Łomnicki, Paweł Kwiek, a band “Grupa w składzie”: Jacek Malicki, Andrzej Kasprzyk, Milo Kurtis and us.
ZK – We had a tv studio and a props store at our disposal for four days. Przemek and I tried to organise new situations in a Hansenian way, just create backgrounds, backgrounds and surroundings in which others would behave in some way or do something. The other possibility was to make their constructions or their behaviour “conspicuous”. One day we made “sites” for activities: a word/an expression – sound – a prop/an object. Everyone went through all of them. There was also “an exit” from the studio outside, similar to ours at the Academy There was hours-long, documented intuitive co-operation in the domain of material space music and notion.
PK – Summing up, we lashed our grey world with visual media and unfolded its peacock tail, enfolded in matter. Ontological concretism says: universalia and hypostases do not exist. Thus you cannot paint or sculpt them “from nature”. There are objects, their configurations and structures that can be changed and multiplied endlessly in a process; works of art do not belong to them. Art is a self-training – a training of a changer. Everything has a certain aesthetics – everyday aesthetics. The changer produces a non-everyday aesthetics provoking meanings and displaying alternatives, he demonstrates ability. He gets in a feedback relation with others – experiencing bodies. He works on a pre-associative level: on no subject, whether imposed or welcome.
MS – Summing up your first period one should also mention the very documentation because this had already started.
PK – As for documentation, I think that our influence was great, especially starting form the mid seventies. We brought documentation to Elbląg, Wrocław, and thanks to Paweł Kwiek – to Lodz. We presented it in Sigma, in Lublin, at The Art Institute, it entered “Dziekanka” through Tomek Sikorski. I stress that we do not mean a medial presentation of conceptual works that appeared abundantly at that time. Afterward it became generally clear that documentation has its own role and is an indispensable factor in this kind of art. However, earlier the thing was unknown and someone had to introduce it. I think it was us who introduced it. At the beginning of the 70s none of the artists dealing with so called ephemeral art documented their work. That is a sheer fact. After all you cannot call some journalists’ photographs a documentation in our understanding.
ZK – Do you remember what Bartlomiej Malysa recently told you in New York?
PK – Right! Some facts are only confirmed after a dozen or more years. Malysa used to tell us – he was then linked with a conceptually biased group Galeria Sztuki Aktualnej (The Gallery of Up-to-date Art) from Wroclaw. Its members were Dobrosław Bagiński, Jolanta Marcolla, Zdzisław Sosnowski, Janusz Haka – he told us about them watching our documentation on colour slides at the festival at Nowa Ruda in 1971 for the first time. For them it was like a thunderbolt. Immediately, they organised a workshop in Zakopane where they only acted and documented. Immediately! They had run across such a thing for the first time. Medialism, which they knew, was not so important, rather it was a documented “Activities” (“Dzialania”).
ZK – This is a technical problem and one of the merits: a live appearance as a work of art and documentation as a work of art. What are the relations between them, how true is the document, what cuts are made in the document, what editing, what tricks, etc.
PK – It is certain that a consecutive documentary stage of a given thing can either enhance or spoil the original piece. However, one must realise that. We have a certain knowledge of the possibility of manipulation with these tricks. This has been quite an interesting experience. God forbid that the artists possess this kind of knowledge and the critics or art historians do not. Then there appears an excellent opportunity for manipulation as in Orwell’s “Ministry of Truth”. Especially if one man is both the creator of a fact and its document. Certainly, I have in mind the cases in which an impartial “transparency” of documentation is a condition of re-constructing the truth. Well, this impartiality is a utopia, one should rather say a honest “transparency”. (A writing “Realizacja – film – video – scenariusz – projekt” (“Realisation – film – video – script – project” of 1988 contains more on this topic.)
MS – Let us continue the thread of documentation but in another aspect. Documenting activities and appearances of other artists.
PK – Yes, that was and still is very important because thanks to this a certain period was preserved in some shape.
ZK – Very imperfect… The motive of our documenting in the ’70s was the slogan: we must preserve it. We must preserve it because it will disappear. We were conscious that everything was just … disappearing. And we had to act as if resuscitating a victim. Well, we possess an interesting letter to the then director of the Art Institute, Prof. Starzynski in which we established the formula for our work within a certain institution as those of an “emergency unit”. Having obtained Prof. Starzynski’s approval we made a three-hour presentation “The Art of “Activities” (“Dzialania”), Documentation and What Next?” (“Sztuka Działan, dokumentacja i co dalej?”). We did not want to substitute for scientists, to make an elaboration of something. We wanted to act right on the spot and collect, collect, collect. Only collect. And as for the elaboration – we had neither the technical background nor the zest for it… That was not our profession. First of all we wanted this emergency unit formula. And we needed money for this, mostly for this. In 1974 we asked the Ministry of Culture and Arts to finance our activities as PDDiU; however, for years it was only the weight of the file concerning the issue that increased, nothing else.
PK – Certainly, this is still valid.
ZK – Yes, only both art and media have been changing and others have been documenting, too. And we are changing. We are not able to leave the house just for the sake of documenting something. And now, even if we are present we do not always make documentation. If we do – it is always just on the occasion, we do not go deliberately to make documentation in various places. The documentation we make is rather a continuation of the material we already have in our archives. Simply certain chosen artists. This changed situation makes a condition for documentation: if it is to have any sense it cannot be done “just because…” and it could not be a mere “preservation”.
PK – At any rate, one thing is certain at the moment – when most needed we were at our post.
PART II – AT HOME
4. 2nd PERIOD (1974-1977)
ZK – There are at least two plots in the second period and these plots find their representation in our work. One of them is the further development of laboratory-like thinking, i.e. technical and formal issues. The work for this is Dzialania with our son Dobromierz crowned by a piece with “an unknown quantity x”.
PK – Yes… and the theory connected with it. Since it is one of our key discoveries, perhaps, it would be worthwhile presenting its beauty here? Our son Dobromierz-Maksymilian was born in October 1972. Did I get the date wrong?
ZK – No, not this time…. The 3rd October.
PK – Thus, is there any greater unknown than a new born child?
Let us take, for example, “the output” with Dobromierz until 20 May 1974: 17 actions in our flat and about 12 “aesthetical time-results” out of each , that makes over 200. There were 12 walk-actions that produced about 60 “aesthetical time-results”. Recorded on slides – this is a recording. First comes so called “sketching” on a paper, in a simplified form, which constitutes a part of “Activity” (“Dzialanie”). Next comes “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) that is documented: recorded on slides. Next the slides are placed between window panes which we took off their hinges in our flat as if in a display box. That window was supplemented with commentaries, among others – our leaflets of Nowa Ruda (“PSP is degrading”, “If you are a young, talented, inquisitive artist nobody will help you”, “Get down to work! The enemy is quicker!”). All this, installed on a clumsy easel, was displayed at the “Studio” Gallery during the exhibition “Paintings, graphics, sculptures, non-paintings, non-graphics, non-sculptures”. The piece was entitled “Logical Window”.
ZK – We covered the whole in our flat with foil for the time of the exhibition.
PK – Later, for several following years, when we looked at a piece of the sky we could read slowly fading letters on our window glass: “The wheel of history breaks the artist”, “Subscribe to The Soldier of Art”, “What is the Arts Institute of PAN doing?”. Ha, ha
MS – And what happened to your aspirations to change the world?
PK – At that time, that is in the years 1972/73, 1973/74, 1974/75 and 1975/76 we attended seminars on history, linguistics and logic by Prof. Stanisław Piekarczyk at the Warsaw University first and then also mathematical seminars on lattice theory by Prof. Helena Rasiowa and Prof. ….. Sikorski. We also attended Prof. Wojciech Gasparski’s and Prof. Tadeusz Pszczołowski’s seminars at the Studio of Methodology at the Department of Praxeology at the Institute of Organisation and Management of PAN. The Academy would not provide any extra-artistic, formal or theoretical background that we needed in our work during and after the studies even in the smallest degree. And it still doesn’t. However, in some other places and gradually discovered sources we were able to find such a basis. Yet, the whole burden of combining that knowledge with art and artistic practice – contrary to tradition – fell on us. We were on unknown grounds and it was only gaining experiences gradually, step by step, in places devoted to the presentations of art, with the public expecting art in those places, that could provide us with an answer “if and how could that knowledge be applied for building a form or a medium. And further: what are the aesthetical, dramaturgical, expressive or ‘communicative’ values of this form, also understood as a means, if I may paraphrase a sentence “a means of expressing a message is a message itself”. We had another objective, too: we wanted to achieve and recognise a mastership in the syntax and grammar of a certain new language in which the unknown quantities could be filled with any content for various purposes depending on a context and one’s ego. We simultaneously used parts of this language, very often created “on line”, as artists. Artists, but – what is important – educated. Providing information on this and manifesting our knowledge of already created aesthetics and classical rules of composition constituted additionally an obligatory parameter of our utterances. The point was to learn “what it is all about” in science and what we were doing as artists. We asked ourselves “are there any constant elements in a piece of art or in “Activity” (“Dzialanie”)? ” Are there any constant rules of operating like in logic or mathematics?” “Are there any rules of good design?” “Does a search for the optimal, i.e. “the praxeological better”, have any universal rules that can also be applied to art? Science is concerned with processes and their effects from the point of view of “life” or production, and we are concerned with the appearance, the aesthetic value. What does our piece say, what impact does it make, what associations does it evoke? Science carries on the research to work out optimal and constant steps that lead to the final effect like, e.g. a completed house or a dinner ready at eight sharp – which can be computerised and automatic. In our case “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) can appear as such by itself, “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) for Activity’s sake (“Dzialanie” for Dzialanie’s sake) together with the multiplication of effects for the effects’ sake. All just to be able to – using Tatarkiewicz’s expression – meddle in this inventory already belonging to history and to be able to continue meddling. To be able to group the effects in structures or types where one can see the visual and semantic “power” of the elements of particular effects. This power is lurking potentially in an element – usually homogenous and banal – before a “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) starts. Our goal was to be able to comment on the effects by means of a combination and use them as a material or warp. Certainly, the person doing Dzialania manifests “the power”, too. In a performed series of Dzialania the world goes through a number of states: both of things and a human being. The developing situation can be depicted in a form of the tree. The movement on the branches of the tree is determined by such de-ontic operators as “possible”, “acceptable”, “obligatory” – like in von Wright… All this is a pre post-associative level.
MS -… “pre-post-associative”? What term is it? You have already used it.
PK – Well, it is from my own vocabulary, created before my graduation. Such a stage was realised in my diploma, Dzialania with Dobromierz, on plates, etc. The point is that it is enough to add one defined element to achieve the effect. Just one step is enough to make a thing speak more or less thematically. For example: if you put a stick into a piece of an orange, a tiny vessel starts its sail on nearby peels. If you add a little sail, e.g. white and red or made of a food coupon, well, this is almost a work on a theme: a PRL ship…
ZK – Well, it should rather be a half of a potato with a little rubber truncheon put in the middle and anchored among potato peels.
PK – Ha, ha! Yes, indeed! Coming back to our topic – how about a man undergoing a series of states? If we added to his “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) some meaningful word or gesture?
In the applied art field, in which we include the exhibitions at PDDiU and those in our third period after 1978, we realised mostly an “after-associated” effects, skipping the sequence of Dzialania (e.g. in a live relief “A Hammer, A Hand, Ice…” or “Semantic Monster”, compositions of the little “reist” theatre) or skipping “post-associative” processes as in the case of the performance “Polish Duo” I and II, “The Festival of Intelligentsia”, “There and Back”; although, the narration is constructed by a “variety” in the majority of cases.
The languages of Dzialania and, consequently, the actions and their effects in objects as well as their appearances with the semantic fields belonging to them are diversified. If we add the acknowledgement of the necessity to the process, e.g. participation in art, at PSP, taking care of our son; if we also add motivational functors: epistemic, emotional, proper, normative; moreover, if we add the influence of the interests of various groups of people and individuals with which we find ourselves in a feedback relation, if we add the interests of two – then we will obtain – “The Separate Whole” (“Calostka”). The following pieces are included in “The Separate Whole”:
2.”Having your cake and eating it”
3. exhibitions at PDDiU and our leaflet with “the starving ones”, plus Oseka’s essay, plus our work in the context of CDN
4. elaboration on Malczewski
5. the eagle scandal and Arnhem, plus “A Monument Without a Passport”, plus three appearances at “Body-Performance”
6.”the denunciation” of Cieslarowa
7. Malicki’s “poses”, plus “poses” next to the posters of The October Revolution, plus “poses” at the “Oferta 77”, plus the final projection with 4 slide projectors at the event called “Documentation and Auto-documentation” (“Dokumentacja i autodokumentacja”) at Dziekanka in 1979
8. “A Parcel for A Prisoner of Art”.
“The Separate Whole” is a crowning; however, the typology of Dzialania does not finish with it. It comprises the cases, let us call them instrumental, when we add gestures (like in “Tuba”) or words to Dzialania producing effects that were material-spatial objects. If we add psychological factors such as want or belief (like in Goldman) as emotional causes of Dzialania, then an intentional “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) happens. This “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) is understood as an exemplification of a certain characteristic (e.g. I am lively and satisfied at the moment “t” which means I am characterised by a feature: ‘experiencing the lack of boredom at the moment “t”‘). The need for achieving such a goal – this want – which is simply the next stage of a process; this need together with belief that a proposed “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) will make it, was the reason for our appearance “How are you…” at Mospan. The achievement of the state of “experiencing good feelings” was our motive to expose the table with the unknown quantity x at the National Museum in Wrocław – in this particular place, and no other, in this particular form and no other, on the opening day. To achieve the state “experiencing a sad mood” was the objective of “Grey Paper” (“Szary papier”) in Dziekanka. And to achieve the state “a satisfactory privacy during the resignation from public appearances” was the objective of some steps leading to resignation and compensation in “The Poetisation of Pragmaticality” there.
A person acting in our interchangeable Dzialania and games like in “Open Form” (on Ewa’s face in the tv studio) or during a game with the public in Torun 1972 gained one or many active companions who co-operated with the person either positively or negatively. In “Activities upon the head” (“Dzialania na głowe”), or to the head, the active subject had a partner who was passive but co-experiencing. All this might happen with the third co-experiencing party: the viewers.
The feasibility of the sequence of “Activities” and its compliance with rules, i.e. the criterion of grammaticality, may depend on the performing person’s talent, knowledge and abilities. On the other hand, the achievement of the goals interesting for us, let me remind you that they are different than in normal life, can follow many diverse tracks. After each step, new possibilities appear. In the process of performing our activities we move along some specific branches of the tree of behaviours, we realise a certain “state” both of the process and the effects specific only this to way. The description of the whole contains information about whether the alternatives represented by the tree appeared or not. A viewer creates such a description during the observation and he immediately makes emotional, logical, etc. evaluations. In Activities upon the head the evaluation is made by the head but it does not inform the acting person about it. In co-operation such an evaluation is active and is itself an “Activity” (“Dzialanie”): indifferent, accepting or negating sequences of effects achieved by the partner. The evaluation is expressed by deeds, i.e. a next step. I do not have to convince anyone that there is a gradation of behaviour and effect, from bad to excellent. And if somebody says that it depends on the person because, after all, we are dealing with art here not the production of a pasta factory and then the production of the very pasta, I will tell him that there certainly is one indisputable aspect: the skills and being economical. The lack of these two is usually the reason for boredom, wrong choice or over-abundance. This is not the case when we look at Chaplin acting, at Laurel and Hardy co-operating or at Phil Donahue, at Fred Astaire dancing – this is this splendour of the West at the sight of which we, Poles, lick our lips and which we are not able to achieve. Temperance, simplicity and thriftiness are the features of internal perfection that make their own impact. I would add – a magical impact. I talk about this because the reason why we are becoming national artists while working on our “Dzialania” is not only Polish “post-associations” but also undertaking of one of Polish impossibilities.
MS – Well, let us talk about the second trend in the period 1974 – 1978. The first one was, I remind you, the workshop trend – formal and theoretical. It has just been characterised. However, the initial date of the second period is marked by the appearance of PDDiU?
ZK – PDDiU was a strictly organisational matter, that is it was an attempt to solve certain problems, both our private ones and those of a group of artists. The programme of PDDiU was written at the turn of 1973 and 1974. I remember it was in our letter to Ptasnik, who was a director of the Department of Visual Arts at the Ministry. It was a letter in which we tried to categorise our work rationally and distinguish its features – documentation, such a stage or another, etc.
PK – The name PDDiU appeared for the first time in a catalogue of the “Znak” Gallery in 1974.
ZK – So, this second period started. It was a period of a certain isolation. The years 1975 -1977 meant four exhibitions at PDDiU. Thus, everything oscillated around a place where we slept, worked and led our lives.
PK – We faced a dilemma: how can an artist who has already defined his stance by his actual work and his theory, who has chosen to opt for the negation of a work of art, so for the negation of exhibitions as such, and who, finally, preferred a process – how can he agree to mount an exhibition, say, traditionally with an opening ceremony, etc.; how can he agree to a static exhibition? That was a dilemma which appeared then and had to be solved.
ZK – In the case of the first PDDiU exhibition the stimulus was external: Dwurnik’s painting was due to leave Poland within a month so we decided to show it. It was “Owoce ziemi” (“The Fruits of the Earth”) – a big canvas, 2.70 x 4.70m, I think. Dwurnik wanted to have it shown in Poland and so did we. There was such a possibility, we had a studio-flat in the Praga district, a large room. And, so – well, to avoid having only one, on top of that not even our own, exhibit we added a commentary to the painting. How? We wrote a text about a bottle; a text that concerned some event in our life. We entitled it “Sztuka z nerwow” (“Art From Anger”)
, Tired, we slowly went down to the shop to buy some oil. We took an empty bottle and 18 zloties. The assistant: “What do you think, madam! Such a dirty bottle? We won’t accept it, out of the question. Wash it first and then bring it back… remove the lacquer and the label, too. Powder is good for washing!” We felt anger in our hearts. We said: “We know and we could not say anything else. We went upstairs. We scratched the lacquer off, tore off the labels, washed the grease and we could not do anything else.”
A bottle meant half a kilo of bread. The text was written in big black typeface on white cloth of the same size as Dwurnik’s painting. There was a huge field of earth divided into small rhombus-shaped sections resembling so called “worker’s allotments” – hundreds of miniature farms stretching far up to a high horizon. Our text was repeated in a zoomed-in version in a small field that was cut out of our cloth and glued to one of the fields on Dwurnik’s canvas. That created a certain whole. We took a risk. Dwurnik did not know that it would be like that, that a certain arrangement would be make – an arrangement that would interfere with his work. Not every artist would agree to a thing like that.
PK – Our meddling into someone else’s work has a long history…
ZK – Yes, the history that we called “Parasite Art” (“Sztuka pasozytnicza”). This is a separate issue. Nevertheless, a certain whole was created and that whole was labelled “Commentary Art” (“Sztuka komentarza”). The “Commentary Art” has a long history, also in another cycle which we have mentioned here. So we showed such a combination to viewers. I think that these very deeds went somehow beyond the static equilibrium of an exhibition, the untouchable character and “altar -like” status of the work of art.
PK – The point is that, one can say, “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) was taking place till the opening day.
ZK – Yes, it was, however, hidden from the eye of the viewer and its effect reached beyond traditional exhibiting conventions. Moreover, it was not a group work like in the case of the Self-educating Group (“Grupa Samokształceniowa”) of Wróblewski where people created one common work. In our case Dwurnik made a step and we added a next step. Again, we are in the world of a game. That was the first exhibition at PDDiU, 1975. Next was “Meyers’s Lexicon”… no, I am not going to describe this. It is very well described in the invitations. Summing up – the next one, the next one, and the next one. Three altogether, on the basis of consecutive “steps” which occurred as if in a game – in time. Observing the rule of the unity of place. Each time a previous step was visible, it could be deciphered when one saw the following one. And that’s what makes it a game with visible stages.
PK – Presented in a traditional way… A kind of reconciliation happened here, I mean, the whole three exhibitions were, following our theory, an “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) while particular “steps” – for those who did not acknowledge that “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) or were not interested in it – were regular exhibitions. In other words one could say that in static things, taking a classical exhibition as a basis, everything that had been our work in the first period was exhibited once again as well as what would be presented in the performances of the third period. Yes! However, with the reservation that in “a game” the whole process required an hour or two and in the case of exhibitions it took years. And the number of steps was small. There were also other distinguishing elements that we used, e.g. the term “Collage of content”, specifically: Zosia used it.
ZK – Yes, the “Collage of content” was a commentary art treated in a free way because in that case I did not want to aim at an “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) upon the documentation of Dzialania. What was important there was the combination of three exhibitions.
MS – And the subjects. I think we can speak about subjects in this case.
ZK – Yes, subjects, starting from the “Lexicon”, the first of the cycle of three. Przemek said then that the point was to show a “non-avant-garde ” content in an avant-garde way. Moreover, to show it on both sides. Polish avant garde did not deal with such subjects, e.g. anti-war. The “Lexicon” was a conspicuously anti-war piece. And yet….
PK – Or like the next one, against famine. That was for the avant garde, for the other side it was: do you want a socially committed art? So, there you have it!
ZK – Yes, because our government and journalists had a particular idea about socially committed art, like “graphic art that presents the atrocities of the war.” And piles of corpses. The end.
PK – nd, so we got them! Certainly, it was again a cunning trick on our side. No-one could accept it.
ZK – The apogee of that lack of acceptance was during the second exhibition against famine. We made it in relation to a great event “CDN” by Sosnowski, Wojciechowski and Drabik.
In “Lexicon”, the mandatory German question was linked to the important theme of the war, to the pain of “pre-deadline completion” (the rewarding of socialist realism not of the quality of the work but its pre-deadline completion) and the fact of degradation of our existence in our environment, all as enumerated in the “KwieKulik Circle” (“Kolo KwieKulik”).
In the exhibition “May Universal Starvation Never Happen” (“Niech sie nie stanie powszechne glodowanie”) the weighty, universal issue of famine was combined with financial, legal and moral absurdities of a new monopoly emerging before our very eyes: a group of avant-garde artists full of drive who were conceptually and medially biased were granted funds for a huge exhibition called “CDN Sztuka Młodych” (To Be Cont. – The Art of The Young)…
PK – In Poland, the formal “freedom” of art had been obligatory since 1965 and during Gierek’s era “super freedom” as well as that exhibition – as well as many others – were to confirm this fact.
ZK – We proposed our installation “May Universal Starvation Never Happen” for that exhibition writing in our letter to organisers that such an important and committed topic would be certainly accepted with gladness (despite a few humble conditions we had made), especially because the main line of cultural politics of the Party supported the topic. Simultaneously, we presented one of the organisers of the exhibition, i.e. a state enterprise “Pracownie Sztuk Plastycznych” (Visual Arts Ateliers) as an example of monopolistic deviations. The enterprise was the only and compulsory manager of artists and introduced them to state clients. There was no answer to our proposal and the “opening ceremony of the starving” took place in our PDDiU on 25 July 1977 at the same time as the opening of CDN. “The Starving”, a next step in “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) was “added” to the Lexicon – it was covered with translucent tracing paper and “the starving” appeared among the cutlery and crockery on the table covered with white cloth in the middle of the room.
PK – We should recall the table with “the unknown quantity x”. We presented a set of all possible models of placing “something” in space: at the National Museum in Wroclaw. The models lay on white cloth. This “something” was symbolised by a sign “x” – the unknown quantity, but no longer a baby – an unknown quantity. The attached instruction suggested the viewers substitute something for “x” in three, say, “happenings”…
ZK – Something that might really happen: a yolk “in” an egg, a mouse “under” a broom; something that might happen but is unusual: a cat “on” a frying pan, a baby “in” a toilet (this was done with Dobromierz) a drop of mercury “under” a hoof. Then, something that cannot happen physically but one can imagine it: Willy Brandt “in” a glass, a hanged man hanging “over” his own head.
PK – A year later, at the Malmö exhibition we showed another table with models where the unknown quantities were displayed in relation to objects in spatial situations, e.g. x1 “on” x2; x “in front of” “under”; x in fur “in front of”; x “under” “next to” the Polish flag “on” a tower. In “the starving” we put the photographs of people ruined by starvation in place of x. Plates constituted the spatial equivalent. On the table covered with white cloth, with cutlery laid out. The same year, we added another exhibition to this collection: “Using Own Child in Own Art.” It broadened that peculiar “collage of contents” with defencelessness and the dawn of ruling – by means of crayons and paints over a sheet of paper and oneself… ha ha!
ZK – He means the exhibition of Maksio’s drawings where he does not appear as an object, like in “Dzialania with Dobromierz”, but as a creating subject. Coming back to “the starving”, in our “sending” accompanying the invitation for the opening, which Oseka described in “Kultura” – you can find absolutely everything. There is little to add, one can only attempt some interpretations.
PK – Yes. I, personally, consider this the apogee of the period. For me those exhibitions at PDDiU were very valuable. Indeed, it was a crowning of that time in our style that noone did not bettered. In other words: those things worked according to our intentions and that was our great success. However, doing things like that was tiring. You had to have constant drive. It required a lot of investment. Yes, to do a thing like that you have to be in a certain process of life – you have to be in it and honestly participate in it. Why am I saying all this? To raise a question: is it possible to continue such a kind of activity? That’s it – no-one knows.
ZK – Without those tensions that touched us then, it is rather not possible.
PK – No-one knows. Perhaps … perhaps not. Let others do it. They can. From our part those were just practical examples: something was done and – it turns out – it can be continued. I simply find it a proof justifying the theory: something was done according to the theory, it was successful, there were viewers, there was interest in it, discussion, etc. The theory transformed into positive aspects of collective life. Misquoting Macbeth who said: “Things bad begun make strong themselves by ill.” One can say ” a thing feeding on good could have been started only with good”, that is a good theory and good practice.
* * *
MS – I wonder what dominated in the second period: life or art? Ewa Kuryluk speaks about you as of a common case among pairs or artistic groups who identified life with art and the other way round.
PK – That is an academic problem. In our case “dexterity” – a non-artistic term – was the basic mode of behaviour in art, namely – “Activity” (“Dzialanie”). In the domain of “the institution of art” – using the Cieslars’ term, – we created PDDiU and at PDDiU – the works related to external conditioning. I do not want to use the word “contextual” we, instead of using this term introduced by Owidzinski, used the expression “external conditions” from the very beginning. We revealed complaints and linked them with the realisation of always important and always “justified” themes. However, we did it in a “different” form – we linked art with its (thus also ours) conditions in life. “It was to refresh the themes spoiled by propaganda and clichés, to comment on and brighten reality”. It was a kind of separate “bloc”. We wrote about it in 1978, I quote from “Kalejdoskop” issue 7-8/1979 – this was a text “Nasza Dzialalnosc; cele, zasady, praktyki i korzysci”. (“Our Activities; aims, rules, practice and benefits”) – a small digression here – the original of the text was presented to the public at the VII Festival of Fine Arts at Mazowiecka Street in September 1978. ZPAP presented among the routine collective exhibition the “action” section! … I remember Bereś received a gold medal in this section and 10.000 zloties prize for his strip-tease – like “manifestation”. And we quarrelled with Marek Konieczny who was the head of that section. The argument was about the use of the term “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) in that event and the selection of artists under that label. We started to feel we had a copyright to the term and its proper connotations – the section, bore an unfortunate label “Dzialania plastyczne” (“Visual Activities”) which we considered an abuse. Moreover, did our installation: a table with a text and “Sztuka w biegu” (“Art on the Run”) suit the label?
ZK – Behind the table with the text there was a screen, 1m x 1m. The image from the projector was an enlarged print of a rubber stamp: from the waist up we were leaning over tables and working, below the waist we were running. In the background were waving socialist banners. The caption: “KwieKulik – Art on the Run”. The stamp was designed owing to an invitation from Aart van Barneveld from Stempelplaatz in Amsterdam.
PK – Finally, the quotation:
, Apart from audio-visual shows we mount exhibitions and manifestations as a separate “block” that emerged as a result of our decision to acknowledge the society’s desire all over the world to let its members called ‘artists’ realise certain defined and ascribed to them modes of behaviour. In that sense this “block” can be called “applied art”. Our activity called ‘art’ without the word ‘applied’ is not crucially different from our activity labelled ‘applied art’. The only difference is the lack of an announcement-signal for the society: ‘Attention, we are going to make art now’ and the “expositional” consequences emerging from this lack.
We work in the following way: we take a basis that stems from our experiments with materials, space, activities, documentation, audience and our constant penetration of the latest achievements of various sciences. On this basis we put up-to-date themes – political and social, we can also link the basis inextricably with the present political and social context. Then – if the basis is a formal discovery, new, in a constant movement forward, when it illuminates with its non-thematic layer we say: A. – the whole including ‘the theme” will be original, moving, capable of penetrating the viewer’s indifference to the theme – a result of propaganda abuse and neutralisation of the “theme” by a hitherto applied formal commonplace which has always been its context. B. the whole, even if it does not aim at ‘refreshing’ a particular theme will be suitable ( and should be) for use by the viewer a piece of information that “elucidates”, comments and evaluates present relations and questions of reality.”®.End of quote.
In one sentence – what was the point of it. Art can be announced or unexpected. Announced art is a result of the artist’s consent to act a socially accepted role – the role of an artist. It is the result of acknowledging this as a necessity; therefore, it is applied. Thanks to its linking to the context it realises point B and this guarantees the status of art. Novelty and avant-garde character are a necessary “pusher” of themes which otherwise would be a banal, a bore or a kitsch.
MS – What would you classify as belonging to this applied “block”, and what as “unexpected” art?
PK – Applied art: political show at the Boguckis’ Współczesna Gallery, PDDiU exhibitions, “May the Ball Firing Not Happen” at Zacheta. Later, in the following period: “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) upon the Head” in Labirynt and Plan K in Brussels, “How are you…”, “Heavy Complaints …”, “Activity” (“Dzialanie”) upon the Artificial Head”, “Polish Duo”, “Semantic Monster”, “Arcadia”.
And with the unexpected art it is simply like that: ” you just sit down and wait for art to happen” and the rest is not public. The issues of this sphere were further broadened by the theory of Artistic Money. “Grey Paper” was a curious case – an announced unexpected art. You invite viewers, create the “field” only and wait for art together with them. “The Poetisation of Pragmaticality” from Dziekanka demonstrated, in turn, the possible consequences of an abrupt change from announced art in progress into unexpected art.
MS – For me your third period is marked mostly by the “eagle scandal”.
ZK – This was the third thing which we have not mentioned before. Anyway, let’s start from the beginning since the scandal itself was the effect not the cause. Apart from “Activities with Dobromierz”, our work with “the unknown quantity x” and exhibitions at PDDiU there was something else which we did not realise during the years of the second period in any … communicative way. That is, we did not create an exhibit that could exist without our “live” authors’ commentary. I am thinking of our work “Having Your Cake and Eating It” (“Everyone is Satisfied”, Polish “I wilk syty i owca cala”) – an activity on a slab of stone in 1974.
What was it about? Besides carving in sandstone an inscription commemorating AK soldiers murdered by the Germans – it was a commissioned work, for money, so called potboiling at PSP – we were dealing with our own art called Activities. The first letter, next a word, then we combined bigger and bigger fragments of text that appeared during carving with various elements and also with our own text written on strips of paper. This work has never been shown as a whole. And I do not even know whether there would be any sense in showing it in its present version. However, it is an important piece because this is where the eagle scandal begins. Well, we published a fragment of this work, one photograph, in a foreign catalogue for the exhibition “7 Young Poles” at Malmö Konsthall.
PK – There was a photograph in the foreground…
ZK – Maybe, we’d better not describe it?
PK – Why? For some people the only contact with art is through description, ha ha ha! So.. there was a rectangular slab of sandstone with a carved inscription “here…” under the inscription there were two blocks of clay, on one of them there was a sign “x”. The unknown “quantity x”. You stand behind the slab looking sadly at the quantity and on the left, in the background, there is somebody’s, not ours, big plaster eagle – Poland’s national emblem.
ZK – That was on the left side of the folder-catalogue, and on the right was – a horrible thing: a photograph of Przemek’s sculpture, in clay. It was a sitting man whose trunk, together with the head and hands was one, oblong form, say, pretty unambiguous. A big caption on the photo was “Man-Dick”.
PK – A Molotov cocktail.
ZK – We published it without any commissions here, any censorship, half consciously, half unconsciously. We remained isolated and so much on the margin of any artistic and social life that…. In one word: we published it and suddenly a reaction to our deed came from the outside, this means our work was interpreted. We should add that we enclosed a particular written commentary and in this sense this work belongs to “Commentary Art” (“Sztuka komentarza”).
PK – Which art had a subtitle “Activity on the Documentation from Activities” (“Działanie na dokumentacji z działań”). Selected pictures from our documentation were commented with subtitles, material and operations on or with photographs. The works from “Commentary Art” could be hung on the walls as an exhibition, contrary to earlier Activities on slides that were a filmed action.
ZK – Yes. The exhibition at “Znak” Gallery in Bialystok in May 1974 was devoted to “Commentary Art”. Anyway, coming back to our topic, these pictures with the eagle and our commentary corresponded well to our moods and our feelings. “A Bird from Plaster to Bronze in the Barracks of Fine Arts”. And the photo itself was actually a fragment of a … workshop work. The reaction of the administration to this work was a shock for us. And here started our feedback reaction.
PK – Feedback, however, no longer in the academic milieu.
ZK – No, not in academic, not in art circles, only…
PK -… only in the environment of our Polish reality in general.
ZK – Yes. And we generally started to look – I won’t hesitate to say in a more mature way – at ourselves not as artists (PK adds with a stress: Polish artists), but as citizens whose rights were violated and who demand these rights of theirs. How is that possible?
– we thought. We were so shocked, so terrified. I remember when in the February of 1976 we were summoned to the Ministry of Culture and Art by a weird telegram. Certainly we both could not sleep. It was a sort of nightmare.
This happened exactly in the period of our total isolation from the milieu and current affairs of artistic life. I remember we got up, washed, ate breakfast… OK, we were going to that ministry and thought, oh, boy, will they arrest us or not? Some thoughts of that sort. As a matter of fact we did not know whether we should, whether that was a kind of a joke, or was that serious…? At the Ministry director Węgrzyn told us that we could not “represent Polish art abroad” for a few years. We were flabbergasted. Then we wandered through various offices starting with KC finishing with MSW to explain that obvious misunderstanding, that the photo had been taken in Poland and shows a room of PSP not a Gallery in Sweden where we allegedly performed “political excesses on the Polish national emblem”. No result. We did not manage to convince anyone. The only thing we did was learning that the order to withdraw our passports came from the Council of the Cabinet of Ministers.
And one more interesting detail: just before the eagle scandal we had presented our declarations to join PZPR. It was about two years later that we became candidates and remained so until 1981- I and Kwiek until 1984 when we returned our candidate’s ID – not party ID to make the thing once and for all clear. Really, no-one can understand why we were only candidates for so many years. The whole affair and everything that accompanied it was, as I see it now, a kind of groping for reality. Groping for real reality. Then, in 1975, practically nobody had any proofs what that reality was really like. There was no evidence. There were suppositions that there is a regime, that – this and that; however, nobody from our close environment, from their own, private, individual experience could give any example. Not yet at that time, I think.
PK – Well, let me mention here the fact that in 1970, when I went with my diploma “Hag” [Old Hag] to the Unknown Soldier’s Grave during a military parade, I was arrested with my brother who was filming my action with an 8 mm camera. I was behind bars for 48 hours. The prosecutor read the indictment for me: for the attempt to offend the banner of the Polish Army and The Unknown Soldier’s Grave by placing against their background an effigy of an atrocious appearance. At that time, yes… I could feel what this sphere was, the sphere of the full-time guardians of rightmindedness. Yet, this passed away, because had my period of optimism, didn’t I? I should also mention a phenomenon of about the mid seventies. In some artistic circles there was a kind of euphoria connected with petty tricks played on the administration to realise a thing or two despite everything. That was the period of the Wspolczesna Gallery of Zdzislaw Sosnowski, then CDN… The period or becoming European. Suddenly, as if that was a result of the Gallery’s publications – we Poles found ourselves an equal partner for the West in the field of contemporary art. Well, the matter was even more complicated. I realised all this – that possibility of a game with the administration which Sosnowski and friends tried to play. Later it turned out that Mr. Ryszard Stanislawski – poor thing – was also forced to play secretly in order to save the precious values of Polish Constructivism… However, when I recall it now, I had to go every week for half a year from Zoliborz to Brodno to call at the Militia station. That was the verdict of the court: the Militia supervision…
Coming back to our topic, was I a parasite? I presented my first individual application to the Ministry of Culture and Art as far back as in 1971. The first serious one was in 1974 – for PDDiU; nevertheless, I presented a few even before then. The first application was individual. I wrote about my diploma then and about all those inventions, postulates that they were worthwhile, and so on, and so forth. I had already taken soundings of to achieve a response. This means the whole issue had already started then.
ZK – If I were to sum up the second period, I would say the following: the table with the “unknown quantity x” is one thing, the second – PDDiU, and the third – A Separate Whole. In the Separate Whole we can include, among other things, the eagle scandal, plus Arnhem, plus performances with that motif in 1978.
We hardly appeared outside at all. That’s the point: why did we remain secluded in our house? After that eagle scandal some people tried to invite us at first, that is our friends tried to invite us to various events. The event – after all for this kind of art that was the only form of participation! So we were invited and our names were crossed out by someone, nobody knew who. From a certain moment it was also our friends who crossed out our names. There were such big events; however, without us: in Koszalin at the turn of July and August 1977, the events organised by Zdzislaw Sosnowski at the Wspolczesna Gallery, a symposium and an exhibition of Owidzinski in Sweden, finally the above-mentioned CDN… And it was only by the end of 1977 that the milieu’s boycott of us was broken. It was when Andrzej Mroczek invited us to “The Offer 77” (“Oferta 77”) and asked us for to appear at the Labirynt Gallery in Lublin later, in 1978.
I would characterise this period between 1974-1978 also in other words. The reasons for our isolation make a certain chain:
1. the baby
2. the necessity of potboiling and practical contact with PSP
3. our regarding the conditions as an important element of the art of Activities
4. treating art as a reaction to the bad conditions which surrounded us, that was the source of the idea of The Separate Whole – Przemek has already enumerated the examples. The Theory of The Separate Whole makes a generalisation of all of this.
5. Our fight against PSP was an inciting force for us to make a work with an eagle. “The eagle scandal” was in turn the reason that we were on the state’ “black list”. The fact that our name was being crossed out on various occasions and the refusal to give us passports were the cause of our greater development and the enrichment of our “off”, in other words we made our privacy institutionalised.br /> Concluding, it was the situation that forced us to undertake alternative activities (e.g. PDDiU). And it should be emphasised that we have never wanted to be on the margin, in any “alternative” whatever. Life pushed us into it. During those years our main contact with the outside world was through various letters, complaints, explanations, proposals, criticism and “sendings”. While at home, “for ourselves” we made art: Activities with Dobromierz (Działania z Dobromierzem), with “the unknown quantity x”, “Logical Window” (“Okno logiczne”), “AK Kinga” (A Separate Whole), “Tuba” (“Tuba”), (A Separate Whole) and PDDiU – its programme and exhibitions.
PART II – AT HOME
5. 3rd PERIOD (1978-1987)
MS – The third period is dated 1978 -1987 and is different from the previous one because then you appeared in public at various events, festivals and symposia.
PK – Yes, but I will mention two facts that break up our chronology a little. The first was on 5 March 1976 at the “Mospan” Gallery and is an important element in the “eagle issue”. It is the performance entitled “How are you Mr. Kwiek? How are you Mrs. Kulik? You are Polish artists, aren’t you?” Our response was immediate, reading our most recent letters: the explanation of “the eagle issue”, the analysis of the unpleasant conditions for a young artist sent to the President of The Association of Polish Artists and Designers and our application to participate in the academic session “Praxiology – the application and perspectives of development” organised on the 90th birthday of Tadeusz Kotarbinski. Having read those letters we played “a work on a tape” called “The Idiot” (“Idiota”) and opened a little exhibition of hard-core Swedish pornography. The second fact was “The Offer 77” at Mroczek’s where I appeared alone with “poses”.
MS – Perhaps a few words more about it?
PK – A few words more? Well… We documented on slides particular steps of a non-public activity of Jacek Malicki on an expressive portrait of Paweł Freisler, which as a work of art, and with an inscription “I was given some chocolate…” was published in the October 1976 “Linia” (“Line”). Jacek had brought us the script earlier. Not wanting to be mere mechanical document-makers we simultaneously did “something” for ourselves, about which Jacek did not know. It happened like this quite often. In 1972, the situation was the same when we documented Kalina’s “The Eve” (“Wigilia”). I placed plasters of onions used in the action, they contrasted with the surrounding chaos. Next year a naked Dobromierz lay in the circle of onions; Dobromierz in a ZMS27 uniform in the circle of onions; a naked Dobromierz stood in the circle of onions; a baby’s bottle on a black background in the circle of onions, next to it are many other circles, etc. After a few years the circle of onions was replaced by a circle of tomatoes with a great white tuba inside and three persons saluted that composition. Our writing of March 1973 sent to Argentina described it as follows: “Zofia Kulik and Przemyslaw Kwiek have been trying to document all activities that they organise themselves, in which they co-participate or which they only observe. However, they do not want only to document. After all, they are the directors of the events, or even interfere with the events occurring before the camera, microphone, a movie or a tv camera to make the plots, associations and the materials of this activity related and be a logical and thematic continuation of the plots, associations, and materials of the previous activities – already documented.”
ZK – The slides documenting Jacek’s activities were made by Przemek who, while taking the pictures, exaggerated the poses and gestures usually made by a photographer. I, in turn, made black and white photos of the poses of Przemek making pictures.
PK – Then, in October 1977 I re-enacted these poses while looking at Zosia’s negatives in front of freshly painted propaganda panels for the exhibition “The October Revolution and Poland” (“Rewolucja Pazdziernikowa a Polska”) which we did as a commission for the Lenin. I visited the “Oferta 77” in December of the same year alone – which was exceptional, moreover I did not take any camera or projector. I “documented” the works by the participants noting with words the content of hypothetical slides. In the evening I stood in front of the public. I told them I was going to make the show of documentation, however, I myself would be a projector and they, the public, – a screen. I read “the movement” of Malicki’s activity from his script, e.g. “almost on Freisler’s beard I pin up a red raspberry and green leaves with a pin with a blue head.” Then I described “a shot” from “The Offer”, e.g. “the photograph presents two halls in the Lublin House of Culture. There are big photographs on the floor that present woman’s legs in recently fashionable shoes on platforms, a ball footballer’s legs.” – The work in question was “Goalkeeper” by Zdzislaw Sosnowski. Next, looking at a slide from “Revolution” against the light, I was describing a panel. ” A banner with the inscription “Vsa vlast sovetom'” (All power in the hands of the Soviets) and, finally, I re-acted a pose in front of the panel. And so on, a next sequence. The reaction was amazing… Laughter. A guy is saying something, he describes somebody’s aesthetic compositions and mostly conceptual-medial works by the present participants. Simultaneously, from time to time, he does a sort of a contortion and adds to it all the descriptions of soviet visual clichés. Ha ha ha!
ZK – Red ones…
PK – Yes, the panels were in red. In the second part, I re-enacted the appearance from Mospan – and the atmosphere became quite “merry”.
ZK – The finale was in March 1979 at Dziekanka at Sikorski’s “Documentation and auto-documentation”. There were four slide projectors and four screens and four things were projected simultaneously: Malicki’s compositions on Freisler’s portrait, photographer’s “poses” shot at Malicki’s, poses in front of the October Revolution panels and “contortions” from Lublin.
PK – When I returned from the “Offer 77”, to which I had so reluctantly gone alone, I looked and what did I see? Zosia had repainted the walls white. It was beautiful.
MS – Let us come back to your common appearances in your third period, that is in the years 1978-1987.
PK – We had our first common meeting in 1978 at the “Labirynt” Gallery, at Mroczek’s invitation – “Art as They Wish It To Be” (“Sztuka jaka chcą aby była”) based on the Activities on the head. The next two stages, that were our reactions to being refused passports to go to Arnhem – one at the Biennial of Young Art in Sopot, the second during “Body-Performance” in Lublin, were connected with the “eagle issue” although not as directly as in Mospan in 1976. Those were important appearances, that might be considered the apogee of the application of all our formalism, process, documentation and activities – already serving our utterance and reaction to a concrete social phenomenon.
ZK – Eee, we simply started to construct works. And whether they had such form or another…
PK – I agree. This work – if someone were to reject its context, reason, etc. – could have been perceived as an independent thing. It was our utterance concerning more general issues: lack of freedom, deadening expression, degradation…
ZK -… entanglement, bondage… Grzegorz Kowalski called these works “the works of dignity” in general.
PK – Yes, that is a good name.
MS – Can we call this period your “performance period”?
PK – Not only. Let us call it “the period of everything”. (He laughs) A merry creation by eclectics, about which people say that they have not invented anything new but have summed up everything, all their achievement hitherto.
ZK – You can say that since 1978 we have been presenting each work in the form of a performance, but not exclusively, there is also object and installation. The work is a certain “image” of our reaction to events (“especially bad ones”) which happened in the external world and which influence our life. Frankly speaking, we do not even call what we do art… Yet thanks to this we function as artists in the artistic channels. And in this sense it is art, but…
PK – Yes, yes. This says nothing about the value of the work as such.
ZK – Certainly, we make use of the previous stages.
PK – That means – I do not know whether the generalisation is good – that in the previous period there were wonderful topics and wonderful problems with which we dealt, yet there was no work. However, in the third period, one thing that is sure: there is a work of art (certainly, it had nothing to do with a closed form or a classical work-object) but it is very controversial exactly because of its topic, its content and our psychological disposition during thinking about it, during its creating, presenting, etc. Here we could make comparisons. No-one knows which period would look better in this respect.
ZK – A fight has been going on between me and Przemek for a long time. What we did in the third period, what we showed in galleries and at various events is the result of this fight: who and how much was yielding to whom. I mean, Przemek is not able to face the public completely hidden under a mask, say the mask of form. The preparation of a work is usually done well in advance, in some isolation, at home. Later it serves as a sort of a mask behind which the artist can hide, a man can. This third period was mostly about this – that we were preparing ourselves anyway. Those presentations of ours, the performances – they were ready-made things. And I felt OK, I simply felt OK in such prepared things which could be called works. While the previous activity was just a verbal convincing of someone that what we do is right, that is valuable, good and so on, and also – it was a constant telling about something that had happened but no longer was. The word became flesh – that is the Great Mystery of the Art of Activities.
MS – Is this one of your slogans?
PK – Hum, and of politicians as well. Let bygones be put in the register. The register is important – but idle talking… After all, what the hell are we doing now?!
ZK – By the end of the third period we achieved multi-performance. We were searching for solutions: how and what things should be combined to make any sense, to avoid gibberish, to make a certain whole after all – a great, complex whole. Apparatus.
PK – This is one thing, and the other – to make it congruent with our earlier theories. For example, to make a thing not a hundred per cent repetition but a step forward. And, certainly, one can say that the experience of the 70’s, well, even our diplomas, had their influence.
ZK – For example our work presented at Banff Centre in Canada in the Summer of 1985. That was a performance, for the first time labelled as “multi-performance”, composed of three parts. Each part had previously been realised in Poland – in a different time, different places, separately. Each part existed as a separate work. And we composed our multi-performance in such a way that the order of the parts gave a new sense to the whole.
The first part was a repetition of our Dziekanka piece of March 1985 “A Hammer, a Hand, Ice, a Sickle, a Hook, a Shadow.” We were sitting on bricks, a hand raised, holding a piece of ice shaped as a hammer with a hook protruding from it which was to create an image of a sickle together with its shadow on the ice. We were sitting against the background of a drawing: little clouds and sun drawn in pastel on a paper. An electric bulb was hanging in the place where the sun was and it cast light on us and some shadow on the drawing – in this sense that the light hurt our eyes and made it difficult to see the drawing. This was the centre. On either side of this scene created by us there were objects hanging “Art in Panties” : frames for paintings 30×40 cm sheeted with canvas and dressed in women’s underwear. This was the first situation after which the public is asked to leave (which had previously been announced) and the next one comes.
The second part was a repetition of a work from the cycle of “Activities upon the Head” that we had presented in November 1981 during “Krakow Meetings” (“Spotkania Krakowskie”). We included a meticulous and also very essential description of the piece in the catalogue “Activities upon the Head” (“Dzialania na glowe”) issued by BWA28 in Lublin in 1985: “Two persons with heads of clay sit 5 m away from each other. Not getting up they make long, ambling steps now and then, dragging the chairs with them. They move towards the mirror on the opposite wall of a big room. In the middle of their way they meet a row of standing people. Already within the reach of a hand, the people start to model their heads. Then the persons start to move symmetrically and rhythmically towards the mirror and get closer to themselves. In front of the mirror each person starts to sculpt his or her own head. After a longer time they turn their backs to the mirror and start to push their way back in jerky movements. Now they sculpt each other’s heads and their own heads too. They force their way though the people still standing in the same place with dirty hands who interfere with the already shaped and still being shaped heads. After leaving the zone of battle the persons get even closer to each other. They stick their heads together. Sealing the joining lines they push away the chairs, kneel down, lie on the floor and become still.” This description had – if I am not wrong – 12 versions. It took a week, this is also a Great Mystery of the Art of Activities…. So, the middle part ends with us lying still.
And the third part: we are again lying, but in the repetition of the work “Semantic Monster” (“Poczwara Semantyczna”) shown at “Nurt intelektualny w sztuce polskiej” (“The Intellectual Trend in Polish Art”) in December 1984. Tied with a rope we lie holding the Polish flag with the staff broken at 90 and stuck in a kind of landscape – a painting spread on the floor. To us, in turn, was tied a staff of a huge white and grey flag, also spread on the floor, at the back, behind us, like a tail. A ventilator blows from above onto the Polish white and red flag hanging vertically from the horizontal part of the staff, so this flag is the only mobile element in the static situation.
PK – And we continue lying until the viewers realise the message of the work and go away, he he!
ZK – Yes, we lie till the very end. That is why I say how each situation began and ended to show the relation between them that occurred: we sit, sit – lie, lie. The reception, strangely enough, was very good. “Strangely” because – what can be seen even in the description – we tackled Polish issues.
PK – Except for the middle part which was universal.
ZK – And the best received was the last part, the most Polish one. We heard opinions like that, and they were not said only out of kindness. After many days (we were there for a longer time, it was a workshop) people approached us, artists of various disciplines, some ceramic artists, not hostile – God forbid – towards these new forms and said that it was very … they did not say “shocking”, but… moving, yes!
MS – Will you continue this method of creation?
PK – Perhaps, yes. The way, or method – almost certainly. The synthesis of several works occurs very often in our work. These overlapping exhibitions at PDDiU, collages, compositions, allusions… In other words, combinations of elements and processes that happened as bigger or independent creative entities, or – manipulating with components (like with the onions, Dobromierz, red rag and other things from the handy “bank” of materials in the first period.) Remembering, however, that these were not elements combined according to the rule “each one with everyone” like in Markov’s model or Turing’s machine, which sometimes happened in our first period. Such a procedure can be called our method of creation. Similarly to the language of Post-modernism that incorporated styles, expressions, quotations, our works did the same; however, with the reservation that the whole lexical material is only ours, even in each following presentation there is some kind of, let’s call it, “premiere”. Our own vocabulary of new words and “modes of application” in consecutively uttered sentences which simultaneously is the history of their existence recalled here by our will, that – in turn – has its conditions, as well… it gets swollen with time, the number of presentations or constructions and the number or “premieres”. Here are some examples:
1. Poses taken during documenting Malicki’s activities on Freisler’s face (March 1977) juxtaposed with the panels of our potboiling work “October Revolution and Poland” (October 1977) became the framework of my appearance at the “Offer 77” in Lublin (December 1977). A repeat of “How are you..” from Mospan in March 1976 was added to it.
2. In the bag from “Complaints” (June 1978) a “golden head” from “The Thingy” (“Cóś”) (March 1979) was hung.
3. At the event in De Appel “Works and Words” (September 1979) the premiere “The Light of the Dead Star” (“Światło zgasłej gwiazdy”) faced the head from “The Thingy” (March 1979), under the caption “Art As They Want It To Be” from Labyrinth (March 1978). The viewer’s heads were attacked by the “media”, also from “Labyrinth”. And we had the following things on our heads: Zosia: a bullet directed her temple, I: a drawing of a camera on a band covering my eye – elements from the opening of “Postavanguardia” at Mospan (December 1977) – and additionally, on our noses -little diamonds from “The Thingy”. These elements were covered and uncovered with Zosia’s yellow cones, that go back as far as her diploma (1970 – 1971).
4. n the Brussels Plan K (May 1981) Activities upon “the head” (protruding from a cube) from Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street (May 1979) which was presented to the general public for the first time, were combined with Activity “to the head” (“Dzialanie “do glowy””). It was a projection on two screens (for the first time red and white) presented to “the head”. “The head” was shown two series of slides that had been presented at the Bogucki’s Gallery (May 1972): “Alterations of Redness” (“Odmiany czerwieni”) – onto the white screen – and – “The Way of Edward G.” (onto the red). Besides we showed “the head” our premiere performance “The Monument of Coexistence in the Situation of Shortage” (“Pomnik koegzystencji w sytuacji niedoboru”), next the media from Labyrinth (March 1978) attacked the head. Finally there was the opening ceremony for two works from “Postavanguardia” at Mospan (December 1977) – without previously described elements on our heads.
5. Our appearance in Stuttgart (October 1981) had the following parts: “How are you…” from Mospan (March 1976), Activities “to the head”: a projection, as above, the second version of “The Monument of Coexistence” from Plan K, the premiere of “clay heads” and the second version of “artificial head from the exhibition “The Garden of Cognition” (“Ogród poznania”) at the MDM Gallery (June 1981).
6. A show “Marx today – elegant, up-to-date colours of fashion in Cologne – you and us, only us with clay heads here and there” (“Marx dzisiaj – eleganckie, aktualne kolory mody w Kolonii – my i wy, i tylko my z glinanymi glowami tam i z powrotem”) at the Cologne’s Moltkerei (September 1983). In the show there was a proper version of “clay heads” from Krakow Meetings (October 1981) combined with the presentation of consecutive steps of making a mail-art piece “Marx now” (“Marx now” – February 1983) and, for the ending, the premiere use of a white and grey flag. (ZK adds: the grey in the Polish flag came from the current fashion. We were surprised by the new fashionable colours in Cologne, which had not yet reached Poland. Black, ash, grey.)
7. “Semantic Monster” (“Poczwara semantyczna”) at the exhibition “Intellectual Trend in Polish Art” in Lublin (December 1984) was composed of a painting from “A Whistling Spit” shown previously at Dziekanka (March 1984) and a white and grey flag too, its third variation. The second variation was used during a 4-part “Polish Duo I” (“Polski Duet I”) (March 1984). In the finale the persons (us) were joined above their heads with a white and red flag. When the persons started to bend slowly to the back two small white and grey flags slipped from it and a white and red cocoon fell onto the ground.
8. “Polish Duo II”, also from “The Intellectual Trend…” had a knot from a mail art piece “Yellow” (“Yellow” – 1981).
9. “”The Poetisation of pragmaticalily” from New York’s Franklin Furnace (March 1987) was composed of the premiere ,,Activities “to the head” of a representative of the viewers” – this time the head did not protrude from a cube. There were also bars with the inscription “The Festival of Intelligentsia” (“Festiwal Inteligencji”) from Dziekanka (March 1985) and the entire “Arcadia” (“Arkadia”), also from Dziekanka (November 1986). I will add that the head was that of Alison Knowles who volunteered. She was not a representative only of the audience, she was also from Fluxus. I felt more at home than at my own home, ha ha ha!
10. wo weeks later, in Chicago (March 1987) “red heads”, the premiere element from Franklin Furnace, were combined with “clay heads” from Krakow Meetings (November 1981) and the whole “Arcadia” (“Arkadia”)… Uff… We plan to have a static combination of many works which could be called “an apparatus”. Apparatus… In the invitation for “The Starving”, that overlapped “Meyers’ Lexicon”, we also used the word “heap” – slightly ironically. The full expression was “a heap of committed works”.
ZK – The apparatus is a total conglomerate of assorted works – their fragments as well as whole pieces.
PK – There is a problem of another kind that we have always had: hanging like the sward of Damocles is the problem of how this art is to function and how our life is going to function with it as well as from it. When you do art like that, there must appear the concepts of its functioning, all embracing concepts. We had such ideas. Obviously, they have turned out impossible to realise.
ZK – For example: the work which was at the exhibition of the ASP Museum “In the circle of Jarnuszkiewicz’s Studio” (“W kregu pracowni Jarnuszkiewicza”) in December 1985. We were told that Stanislawski had considered buying it for the Museum of Art, but he would rather not buy it, because its form was such that no-one knew how to present the work. They would have had to hang out the banners each time, fasten them, and so on. If we had it enclosed in a glass case, it would have been the best, he would have bought it then. OK, but the merit of the matter was that we made the work in that particular way. And that construction, all those papers, racks, etc. – were an aesthetic element of the work. Similarly the fact that we could have packed the work in a suitcase and carried it here and there. That was a crucial element of our work! However, no-one said, that we would not yield and finally, it would turn out you can put it in a glass case…
PK – The customer is always right… Therefore we postulated, already in the first period, that the artist should not live on his works but have some steady employment. It was a really paradoxical statement in that milieu! The artist should obtain a regular salary (he speaks ironically). Then he is a free man. If he is permanently employed, he can do whatever he wishes!
ZK – Yet, who would employ an artist? And who would determine the tasks within the scope of his responsibilities! There is also another case, the problem of some – I would call it – philosophy of making art. Namely, there are some manifestations of art , as we said – that was not foreshadowed. There is a kind of artist who complies with the time and place, in other words – who is a disciplined person, taught at a certain moment to open his soul. This is particularly significant in the case of the performance-type presentations. Moreover, there are artists who do not do it at an appointed time and they do it without any programme, yet they appear to be artists or do something which is art’ although, they often do it outside the gallery and without the public.
PK – For instance?
ZK – For instance, I am thinking about numerous activities by Tomasz Osinski about whom you cannot say he is not an artist and cannot say he is a bad artist. He manifested his artistic abilities many times exactly in “non-artistic” places in coincidental situations. There are many others. And that is where comments like: “What a pity we did not have a camera, a tape recorder, etc.” come from.
PK – Yes, but in that case you have to be prepared for the consequences, as with Socrates. Fortunately he had disciples who wrote his teachings down. What if he hadn’t had?
K – Yes, but is this the fault of Osinski or other artists like him that they do not have pupils? You can ask why they do not have them.
PK – At any rate, a permanent employment, or something similar, is a solution to the problem for such an artist who does not want to make works-objects. This is a certain proposition how he can function in the society.
ZK – But, who will acknowledge the artist as an artist?! The commission of experts, perhaps Mr. Chmielewski?! Thank you!
PK – Oh, let’s not talk about this.
ZK – And you will sculpt shoe laces to his monument!
PK – The other thing is that no artist will agree to it because they want to see their works in the museum. An any rate the problem has not been solved to date and we are still, I think, under its influence. We still hesitate whether we should yield and start to earn our living from art, after all our names are a bit famous now, and so on, and so forth, Which is the usual course of things. Shouldn’t we simply make some objects. Zosia has recently been eager to do some. (ironically:) I do not protest!
ZK – There is also a problem of an energetic-psychological nature: how one can make everything function. For example when somebody comes to us to see things, to talk, as we are doing at the moment – it is a problem for us to communicate it somehow. It isn’t here, is it? We can say that it is not here. It is in a file, in a negative, it is locked, and so on. It exists in some story, in an attempt to reconstruct the atmosphere… Yes – that’s it – each time we have to re-construct it. I would not tackle it. I would not tackle the task because to recreate something means to create it. And I find the repetition of this creation, the re-creation of the same thing an unnecessary thing, a boring thing, a waste of time. Simply – a thing negative in its very essence.
PK – And the preacher who repeats more or less the same topic every year, and a teacher, actor? There are many professions based exactly on this kind of working.
ZK – Sure, but let’s take an actor for instance… In the theatre performance it is so, however, in film – not. A certain amount of energy, of work was invested and this man is free. Alienation, that is putting the work itself into the distance, is a condition … of freedom, simply. It creates an opportunity of doing something more, something new instead of gripping the bygone things tightly so as not to forget because it cannot be found anywhere, because you are the only carrier of it. This is simply impossible. Impossible.
PK – I agree. Well, I think this problem was solved in world art.
ZK – Well?
PK – It was! I’m thinking of thousands of examples of the final stages of this kind of activities – they appear, they are numerous, people buy them. This is becoming a normal thing in art.
ZK – Anyway for me it is still a problem.
PK – It is a problem which has already been solved – now, there is only the question whether we should do it or not. Therefore doing these “enclosures”, again, becomes an energetic problem that for me is not different from making a sculpture or painting a picture. In the energetic sense, of course. Well, sculpting or painting is even better because you create a work at the same time, moreover, what you create is a documentation of itself.
ZK – What does it mean to make a ready-made thing? Kotarbinski comes to my mind. He used to say that it means creating something in such a form that if someone else – the so-called receiver, reader, viewer – reads the work, unties it, looks at it, receives – he is not tired with the process. Because, you know, if a work, say a text, is not finished, not polished, it contains gaps, mistakes, etc., the reader has to make guesses “what did the author want…” – he starts to make an unnecessary work, simply.
PK – Yes, I do agree.
ZK – And here, in these new forms, new aesthetics, are many works that stop at certain points of the lack of polishing and force the receiver to make an effort which he should not have to make.
PK – Yes, a kind of bad metaphysics. Or just metaphysics.
ZK – And that is why the programme you propose is very dangerous. Because it leaves a wide field for frauds. (She laughs.) For the unfinished things to function. An unfinished thing is art?
PK – At any rate, we both agree that we are at the stage when we will have to do something with it. We will have to encapsulate everything in such a form which could exist without us. And this we will call a work of art in our case.
MS – Will the work be a synthesis or a compilation?
ZK – Well… That’s just it, no-one knows.
PK – No-one knows because whenever we prepare various materials for “sendings” (mailings), exhibitions, etc. – we realise that any re-construction of this work is always something new. Each time something new appears. A new commentary added again, a slight change to the set and .. In other words: this kind of activity we have done so far generates an infinite number of possibilities to construct such a work-encapsulation. Yeah! This is a consolation because it is, let’s say, another creative stage, ha ha – that means: a more interesting one.
PART III – OFF
1. THE PUBLIC
MS – An important question: Who do you do it for?
ZK – (after a long pause). Oh, my standpoint is so changeable… I think that in this respect my viewpoint changes most often and is dependent on my mood; that means I sometimes want to do something for someone, then, for a change, I do not care about anyone, only my own matters are important, full stop.
MS – Perhaps it is related to the periods of your creative work?
ZK – No. However, it is so strongly determined by my moods that I find it difficult to define it. The public…. Perhaps I will try to say what it looks like now. So, we do things for other artists; moreover, for a very narrow circle of them. I have recently noticed that this narrow circle of friends and artists does not grow. On top of that, I feel that our art, what we do, does not have any influence at all, over anybody. Przemek claims the situation is different, that we have followers who, maybe, do not admit it; however, thanks to the very fact that they have been observing us for many years and all the time, and on their own free will, they have to be influenced by us in their work. Anyway, they are still artists only! As a matter of fact, the only non-professional public we have, i.e. not the artists, not the critics, not the people dealing with art, were the people from the circle of the El Gallery at the beginning of the seventies. It was our first contact – I do not want to dig in my memory to see if it was also the last – with the …. normal public, let us say.
PK – Additionally, there were festivals at Nowa Ruda and the public at Mroczek’s in Lublin.
ZK – Yes, Nowa Ruda; yet, those festivals attracted mostly art students and mostly they were the viewers at all presentations, so – strictly speaking – it was also a professional milieu. However, in Elblag we made presentations for the grammar school pupils and – I do not want to say young workers but it is a fact that they were young working people. We presented them our works which, at that time, did not manage to reach the circles of official art. Actually these works do not reach them today either! It was the film “Open Form”, the slides – everything with background music and all these, as some people called them, “bits of fun” that we presented to school pupils in an organised way, e.g. during their Polish lessons. We got their reaction in the form of questionaires and essays in which, as far as I remember, there were only a few original interpretations, yet, they were the free and spontaneous observations of those young non-professionals. So, the pupils noticed apparently unimportant things, some details totally beyond the “serious” field of interpretation.
MS – Do you remember Antczak’s final speech at “Czyszczenie sztuki” (“The Cleaning of Art”)? There, you could also find such statements – that you cannot walk around a square – as a “review” of Juka-Kowarski’s work; the “review”, after all, hit the bull’s-eye. (We laugh.)
ZK – Yes, yes. These kinds of things. To the question whether it would be worthwhile organising similar shows in the future, the majority answered “yes” because those were “…unusual things. We do not deal with them everyday as with, e.g. big-beat music” and also “if you want a synthesis, it should be a real synthesis, strong visual effects should make a harmonious whole with no less strong acoustic effects.” I remind you that these are the opinions from October 1971 and we had almost an explicit foreshadowing of the demand for video clips in them. Someone else wrote that it was worthwhile “because it is abstract…” One of the pupils asked “will the public constitute the object of interest of the organisers”. These are quotations from questionnaires. And here is a short except from an essay: “The point of the artists’ interest is a … cucumber. It seems that the cucumber cannot be used in creative work in any case; however, Przemyslaw Kwiek and his group decisively abandoned this convention. They prove that the cucumber, a mere cucumber can be a priceless creative material.”
MS – And what was it like in the period of PDDiU exhibitions? After all you had complete control over who you receive at your home.
ZK – The activity of the PDDiU, precisely its informative part, created the opportunity for personal contact with the person whom we informed thanks to the fact that it was in our house, in a private situations. Our guests were the people whom we managed to catch – this pertains to artists or foreign critics. As for Poles- they appeared only for the openings of further exhibitions. Generally, we did not make such informative shows with slides for Polish people. Well, yes – for a few people – among them were Bozenna Stoklosa, the last editorial team of “Sztuka”30 in 1981: Wojciech Cesarski and Marta Leoniakowska… Before that was professor Starzynski and his people at the Arts Institute of PAN.
MS – Was generating social interest one of the aims of PDDiU?
PK – Of course, of course! Including scandal.
ZK – Yes, but if we were to talk about casual visitors to our exhibitions, the so-called man in the street…?
PK – Then … phi… Considering the number of invitations we had sent, the attendance was normal, you can say. What was it? For 300 invitations, 50 people – that is normal, unfortunately.
ZK – Sometimes, it happened that people from outside Warsaw came especially for the opening. At the opening of “Meyers’ Lexicon”, when also Prof. Morawski came, there were about a few dozen people. But the attendance was the greatest then. In other cases, certainly, in a narrow circle… After all, public places, e.g. students, galleries, which, nota bene were not acknowledged as professional by the Ministry, well – in those places it was similar – more than a dozen or a few dozen people never appeared. So, it was satisfactory in our case. Perhaps, it was not so important…?
MS – And the neighbours, local people?
PK – No. Even though we sent invitations for each exhibition according to the so called “mailing list” – traditional, I could call it “Zacheta – like”. It was modified – for each exhibition we used to choose a different set of names. For example, we sent invitations to the entire list of The Youth Circle at Zacheta. And a few people from the list came wondering how we had heard about them and why they had been invited. I should add that the invitations were made in such a way that they became an independent representation of the exhibition. Even if someone did not come they had to, willing or not, read about it. So we can speak about a certain forced influence, which is a general characteristic of mail art – if you receive a letter it may sometimes come against your will. But you receive it.
ZK – I am reminded here of Oseka’s article about the letter by Anastazy Wisniewski. It was, I think, the first article on mail art. Oseka complained in it that he was forced to receive, touch, read “such things”…
PK – Certainly, we realised what the mechanism was and used it on purpose. That is – even if you won’t do in of your own accord, then you will have to anyway.
ZK – Coming back to the receivers of our art, whom we hosted in our studio, they were, as I said, mostly Poles. Foreigners, since they usually visited us while being in Warsaw and did not make any appointments, received a pre-prepared slide show, usually three hours long, with our commentary. Yet, there were also other situations. We had to manage the presentation of the three-hours material in half an hour and then quickly take our guest to the station. And what was in such presentations? ….
PK – Everything we had done so far – obviously in fragments.
ZK – Usually, we showed our diplomas, then “Alterations of Redness”, very often “games” the exhibitions at PDDiU, everything. Almost always we showed Wisniewski, Przyjemski, Dwurnik – those people with whom we were closely bound. In our creation. Later, in the eighties, “Kultura Zrzuty” (“The Culture of the Whipround”), Strych (The Attic), Sikorski, Libera. At Moltkerei in Cologne, or at Banff, our show of “the others” comprised a few hundred slides of about 30 artists and many, many more events.
PK – The aim of such a show was firstly to demonstrate the consistency in our activity from its very beginning. We did not do it as much because of our want to show what we had done and what concrete examples were like, but because each was a logical consequence of its antecedent. We did so, because this was the only indispensable value in the situation where you could not make comparisons with others in the normal galleries in the form of competition of works. If somebody had learnt and acknowledged this consistency then he could not question it. It was just valuable as such. And that was the aim of our presentations.
ZK – Yes. That is how we explained to ourselves and others the fact that we functioned as a supplement to this information which they certainly received from other sources, private or official – since very often they were the artists who had exhibitions at e.g. the Studio Gallery like Gudmundsson from Holland, the whole team from Künstlerhaus in Stuttgart, Alison Knowles and many, many others. However, in our third period, we were more dependent on how the places in which we appeared would handle the public. And the public of a given gallery were also our public.
MS – What were your contacts with the art world like? What were your main sources of information on it? And a wider question – are such contacts and information necessary?
PK – Yes, definitely. We have always realised that. Even though we were very isolated in our search. At the beginning, in the seventies, the way of getting information was like through a fog – through magazines, the most important were accessible in the library of ASP, and through lectures on art history. The lectures ended with the world’s classical avant garde, with the aces of Modernism. Yet, what followed it? What has been done in the world since that time? There were no lectures on it. All the movements of the sixties and the beginning of the seventies. Porebski did not lecture on that. He finished his course exactly at the point where those movements started in the West. And they started parallel to our activity which was the same as the Western!
ZK – It is very important what you say about this information coming through a fog in our initial period. It was only after 1973 – I have Glusber in mind -that we started to meet the artists from the world directly and in person.
PK – This was the result of our policy of self-sufficiency and independence. One of the points of this policy was to contact artists abroad, which we considered very important. From the start of PDDiU one of our leading rules was to contact every foreign artist within reach. Almost always it was a blind choice. Certainly, from among those who made contact with us or who we contacted. I mean those who had exhibitions and appearances here, who were invited by others having similar possibilities – the Wspolczesna (Contemporary) Gallery, the Remont, Dziekanka, etc. We always made contact with an artist on private grounds and invited him or her to our studio. We showed our materials, everything from the very beginning, we explained in detail what and why – also because there was a certain difficulty, namely the absence of a final work – and that was the way in which our guest got acquainted with our creative work and its context. Incidentally, we learnt a lot ourselves. I would also include in these contacts all our presentations outside the country, e.g. for Beuys, Felix, Jappe, in New York – for Linda Novak, a correspondent of “High Performance” and Cynthia Carr, a reviewer at “Village Voice”. I think that thanks to those complex presentations their writings on us in the magazines could present more than if the writers had only seen our appearances. Generally, it was based on confirming, mostly to ourselves, the right choice of our way in relation to what was happening in the world. That was the point of those contacts.
ZK – Some myths crumbled. It was pleasant to meet a man, an artist or a critic who was not so much better armed than we were. Sometimes, maybe, he was weaker. There were also such “discoveries” as the private gallery of Jürgen Schweinbraden in East Berlin, an absolute curiosity in communist Germany, which we visited in 1976, nota bene while our passports were withheld. Fortunately, it was enough to have a stamp in your ID-card to go there and we could see the artist and the place directly, threatened by police invigilation.
PK -I will return to the counter culture movements of the end of the sixties. What is usually emphasised in them? The fact that they appeared independently in different geographic locations and under different systems. The same happened in art, I think. That means, in the moment we finished our education, it turned out we started doing the same things that people somewhere in the world also started doing. And those meetings, working contacts – that was the confirmation. Certainly, it was also getting acquainted with some individual achievements; however, those were marginal things in the sense that it was like becoming familiar with the achievements of Polish artists.
ZK – There was another interesting aspect of those meetings and contacts. We suddenly discovered that foreign artists were seeking for a market or a field of influence of their own art and they were not satisfied with the field available in their own countries. And Poland looked attractive for them in this respect. This opened our eyes a little.
PK – Indeed, as we have already mentioned, we used the contact with the West to abolish myths of every kind. One such myth was, e.g. the situation of an artist in that world. Well, then, it turned out that they had similar problems, more or less the same bureaucracy and so on. However, later the situation looked different. When you are forty plus, at our age, then we, unfortunately, cannot continue the comparisons between us and our contemporaries. They started in the same way that we did – and we were not in any worse situation than they were, perhaps even better? – yet, later, the mechanisms there start to move and then the artist functions differently. And, solely thanks to it, he does not have to practise this “self-service” which we are forced to do if we want to retain our independence. Because they have the division of the labour there. Independence is somehow protected by the political system itself. We have now met people in America who, it turns out, in the mid-seventies, did exactly the same we did, had the same premises: the alternative movement against institutions, another form of art, and so on, and so forth. So the problems were the same, the situation almost the same, yet today, each of them earns money, fills in the calendar and does not have the problems that we still have.
MS – How do you think Polish art can be ranked among world art? Well, let’s limit it to the art of the seventies?
PK – It has no position. I mean the position that can be proved by some documentation. It is simply none!
MS – Does this mean that Polish art is unknown in the world?
PK – I wouldn’t say unknown. It simply does not exist!
ZK – To make art known, the works, artists and personalities only are not enough. You also need a so called “lift”. If there is no lift …
PK – Yes, yes. I do not mean such a situation when Mr X., who met us and visited PDDiU considers us geniuses, or fine fellows, or excellent artists, who might be luminaries (there were also such opinions) – I am not talking about the situation when I claim that the position of Polish art in the world is non-existent. Generally, however, from the available sources it appears that it is so. A proof – “Westkunst” or other events of this type. The diagnosis is as follows: they have got so much of their own art, so many trends and such a plethora of achievement, that it is absolutely sufficient for their social objectives, that is the objectives which would be achieved by art as those societies assumed.
ZK – I disagree with you here. Because it depends on what art you are talking about. In the alternative trend, to be more specific – among the artists under 35, when they have not yet become the interest of a museum so much – Dibbets began like that once, and Beuys, and all those “coryphées” – it is not as if Polish artists were unknown, as if there were no contacts, no exchange. On the one hand we have Stanislawski and his mania or complex which makes him notice nothing but the things that already were and died and which he now tries to resuscitate and advertise, namely Strzeminski and Kobro’s Constructivism (very good artists, by the way). Then it is Foksal on one hand and, on the other, the activity of Sikorski, Owidzinski, Mroczek, Gajewski and all those events that were organised at Remont, Dziekanka, in Lublin. Next, we can quote The Workshop of Film Forms (Warsztat Formy Filmowej) that had already found its place at “Documenta” in Kassel in 1977, you can quote even us at the present or particular artists like Bereo who was individually noticed. Let us quote all those presentations of Polish art, e.g. at De Appel in Amsterdam, at Plan K in Brussels, in Banff in Canada and others. It is not as you say that all this does not exist. However, what is there? There is a certain Polish complex and I consider Stanislawski just an example of this complex. We once observed him while he did his job at an international meeting, I mean Internationales Künstler Gremium in Mönchengladbach in September 1983. When he presented those slides of his… It was pathetic when he did it and he could have made it reach a far wider audience with just a few decisions, concerning, for example, the handling of things. But I digress. What I wanted to say first is that among the generation of artists of the seventies none of us had this complex that the older generation did. If we appear abroad, if we receive foreign artists here we do it as their peers. However, you must be very cautious here, you should not evaluate an artist only because he has appeared abroad. Very often, which usually turns out later, “abroad” means: an appearance in an empty hall in some unimportant place. Yet, the very fact counts here. Violetta Villas reaches the pages of “Express Wieczorny” daily via Las Vegas, ha ha ha…
PK – I agree. Czartoryska also spoke about it at the session of the Art Historians’ Association in the Palace of Culture in 1984. She said that the generation which was very active in the seventies was the first to enter in a wide surge the foreign scene without any complexes, just as peers. This is an undeniable fact. However, I do think … – so what? Foreign countries have not broadened their art history with our names which appeared there.
ZK – And will not do it on the basis of the euphoria of incidental contacts. Such a thing can only happen thanks to the development of some facts and material documents on our grounds, with our own means. Only then does it matter.
PK – If I were to postulate anything in this matter, I would compare Poland – paradoxically – to America. It also functioned as a province in relation to European art. Nothing interesting could have happened there because – how? – it was a country without culture. And how did they manage to find their position? Exactly in the way which Stanislawski and others should follow. They simply do not recognise anything from Europe – full stop. On the contrary, they only care about what happens in their own country./p>
ZK – Yes. The first rule – no kow-tow. And the “zero” rule is: have funds.
PK – Certainly! Let’s take Woody Allen – he tackles only internal American issues. The jokes about Mailer, Arthur Miller, Nixon – understood, only in their own, American circle. We perhaps do not even know exactly what it is about, yet the film is shown on our television. And the point is to behave in the same way in our case and have the similar kind of shows there.
MS – What could you say about the conclusions from your experience with the public? How can you gain a public? How can you reach them, attract them?
ZK – n our second period we primarily dealt with this issue. We did many practical things to complete our public.
For example, we had such an idea: to make a presentation with a specific viewer in mind who we knew would come. Well, this had its source already in the first period, in the afore-mentioned presentations at the Boguckis’ where we divided our public into secondary school pupils, critics and so on. And we composed the material which we brought in our suitcases, in our “bank”, accordingly and we added a commentary that would anticipate the interests of those people. Each time a different script of a presentation appeared with the invited guests as a guideline.
PK – I reckon that those assumptions worked. It is a tough job, but it works. If a viewer realises that you have a good orientation in his problems and conflicts, if he feels that the whole thing is to show him something, to enlighten the intricacies in which he lives, he, obviously, receives the whole thing with a positive attitude. You can provide examples from outside the domain of art.
MS – So, first of all, you should know your public and their problems, the scope of their interests, yes?
PK – Yes. It is an effective model of publicising. Let me throw in a word here: social psychology. Applying manipulation in order to come into being an artist in a given social group.
ZK – Well…I would have some doubts here.
PK – The activities of the first and second period allowed us to observe all problems connected with publicising current phenomena of art on a small scale, which also appear on a large scale. Certainly, the conclusions that we drew confirm our general theory. That is, if our procedure were applied on a mass scale, in an official social circulation, it would produce the same effects as it produced on our micro-scale a hundred percent. What were the results? Opening somebody’s eyes to contemporary phenomena, shocking with particular works of art, discussion, getting involved, continuation, resistance…
ZK – A discussion…. I recall a discussion in Elblag, with those young workers. The conversation dealt with life issues, yet, on the basis of what they had seen in our, apparently most weird, works whose form was closer to rock concerts than to what was presented by, e.g. “Pegaz”.
PK – That was the ground on which our thesis appeared: there is no avant garde art, which means – no “difficult” art that would be inaccessible for the society and there is no unqualified or unprepared receiver. They do not exist; it was all just a myth, some hyposthases that appeared because of other reasons. The next conclusion concerning current art which has nothing to do with traditional art, like that of Rembrandt, was that you can omit a receiver’s traditional education that usually links facts in teleological order. The view that still functions today as an indispensable fact. It is often claimed that a receiver is not able to understand avant garde art without any knowledge of previous stages in art. Rembrandt after Raphael, then Matejko, more difficult Impressionists, van Gogh, completely difficult Abstraction, then this and that, finally, perhaps, he will understand the latest phenomena. This has proved utterly false! We claim exactly the opposite: you can take brand new and as yet un-defined phenomena to the remotest village. The communication will happen on waves different from the established models. About this village – let us take our actions in, e.g. Lucim. The public who are absolutely unprepared can participate in artistic phenomena as just I can share in one’s life and problems without knowing their profession.
ZK – And in Conceptual Art, too? After all it is concerned with itself. It is something different when you show Anastazy and his works, his reaction to typically Polish situations and his artistic behaviour in a situation, for instance, when he is summoned to the party executive to explain why he had painted all the radiators in the House of Culture red. He did such a thing in 1971 when he was its director – I emphasise his post when he did it and when he had to explain his actions at the executive. If such a thing is presented with a commentary, it becomes artistic activity. If you show his leaflets, etc., it is an entirely different matter than showing, e.g. Dlubak’s work “Tautologies” (“Tautologie”) . And now, is this thesis that a viewer can jump over some stages of education, I mean, he does not have to know the previously active artists to understand the contemporary – is it also valid in this case?
PK – I am absolutely convinced that yes; however, with a minor modification of our view of the receiver. I mean the following situation: he will not be able to evaluate facts in the domain of art, assume the latest ones as such, yet he is able to contact a given phenomenon and describe it, say, “phenomenologically”. Let us take a specific example of a conceptual work by, for example, Opalka. Such an “unprepared” receiver does not know where Opalka comes from, what issues he tackles and that Opalka appears against a wider stream in art which proved something and broke certain limits and this fact is widely known in the elites. The receiver may not even know that art already looks different and that it does not have to be realism, and so on. Anyway, the receiver will start asking himself: why does this fellow write numbers? And such a context is absolutely possible, with Conceptualism and literally everything. Just a contact between two human beings. You made this and that, I am more or less able to describe what you did and ask questions “what for? why?? are you interested in it? do you find it amusing? did you make it for money?, etc. Such a contact between two people through art is possible outside of any education.
ZK – However, the answer to the question “why” does not contain a purely historical explanation. So, knowledge, education after all.
PK – All right, you should explain but only till you see people start yawning, then you stop. And so on. It is a commonplace to speak about the social role of art – because there is such a role. This is the extra-artistic issue. This is merely an issue of culture as such, a social issue. There are people, so called artists, who do something different from common people. Because they have a little more time, because they do not produce these screws, they do not participate in the production of material goods of civilisation, in all this mechanism of improving humanity? I think it is an interesting question for the other side: what are these people? why do they do it? what for?, etc.
ZK – Well! And they search for some sense in what they do. Extra-material.
PK – Certainly. The results of similar considerations of two groups like that, if they met, do not have to be positive for the artists. Nobody said that such people must work in this way. Yet, the very fact of meeting and discussion would be extremely precious. And would add colour to life.
ZK – We made a mistake from the very beginning, perhaps not a mistake – I do not know. At any rate, today, I know that we are not able to play on people’s snobbery; and I think that snobbishness is a very important instrument for attracting the public.
PK – Indeed!
ZK – And I suspect that the fact that we do not have any public is caused by our inability to spread such a snobbish atmosphere around ourselves. We are very practical, very concrete. We are down to earth and, because of this … boring, in fact. We are simply rejected, especially by those mystical-spiritual-religious trends that appeared in the eighties.
PK – I, personally, cannot be bothered with it. I started to write poetry myself. I do it when I feel inspiration and feel like thinking logically. And I cannot help quoting Jarnuszkiewicz warning those of us whose reaction to matter-of-fact comments was spilling out their spiritual guts: “sometimes hot hearts produce the smell of burning mattresses”. Was he also quoting someone? Well… yet, in my case the poetic inspiration in me shines with pearly light from the womb of anguish. And I do feel anguish when I experience something that I cannot bear.
ZK – We are always looking for practical, real and basic solutions.
PK – This is related to our general concept of an artist and art in our society. In our society, to be exact. I will give an example of another profession, say, philosophers. Why did we not try with this group of people? The application of our method of propagation, described above, we would have to – a mere trifle! – get some orientation in their field. This is a hard task. I will insert a little word here: entering a class using the method of the “Trojan horse”. What do we do it for? It is connected with a certain ethos of counterculture art: to provoke the destruction of routine patterns in some milieux. With the teenagers at school, this worked out ideally! In Elblag and with those kids from the “Open Form”. After our presentation, they became, if I may oversimplify, hippies and punks. They just saw for a moment in what routine they are submerged.
The same could happen among, say, philosophers. It is obvious that an artist would not be professionally better than a philosopher and is not able to find anything new in this field, as Witkacy tried to do. However, he can prove to them, what Witkacy himself was doing like a maniac, their fossilisation and stereotypes. Here, we can evoke Partum, an artist who could play such a role among philosophers. Or Jerzy Truszkowski, who uses philosophical phraseology and does crazy contortions with it in his art. Certainly, some philosophers may find it funny, yet, they could also verify their own stereotypes thanks to dealing with such art. Linguistic, notional and other stereotypes. And what about Owidzinski, Kozlowski, Bruszewski, Jan Stanislaw Wojciechowski, Jan Piekarczyk, Pawel Kwiek and many others; including us from the seventies who then had their basis in logic, philosophy, semiotics, cybernetics, praxeology, and so on. There are many such groups like philosophers; there are thousands of them. Therefore this model of propagating can be useful for a wide range of artists, again, almost an infinite number. Another conclusion appears: concerning the number of artists necessary for these tasks. We need a great number of them if we accept this breaking of stereotypes as a crucial postulate. I consider their role important as far as Popper’s “falsification” goes. And, finally, I should mention the fact of taking in a “meta” doze of Tarski on the level of transcendence, so as not to fall ill with Gödl incompleteness. In other words, an artist becomes a stereotype himself if he does not transgress the very stereotype which he becomes. This is mentioned in the text “Maladies” (“Bolaczki”).
PART III – OFF
2. THE CRITIC
MS – What is your evaluation of art criticism after, say, 1986?
PK – As far as criticism goes, the situation was particularly hopeless in the visual arts. It seems that there are no such problems in music, theatre, or film. Yet, the visual arts, you can say, have always been an absolute desert. There is constantly a lot of abuse, which is just permanent. Art criticism – nominally a service – manipulates instead of performing its duties in at least 80 percent.
MS – What are those duties?
PK – Firstly, making a work of art available to a wider circle of viewers or readers through the objective and accurate description of the work. Secondly – a formal analysis of the work with some attempts at reconstructing the philosophies and theories behind the work and, further, placing it within the context of similar works and theories. Thirdly (which is possible only after the fulfilment of the second condition), an attempt at evaluation, an objective ranking of the work against the outlined context. Finally, presenting its own fantasies, likes and dislikes. All this has not been done. And what now? It turns out that our whole written history of art is one great fraud, a complete falsehood. I mean, there are no false data which would tell you that somebody created a work which he or she actually did create. Nevertheless, it is like one great hazy cloud. It lacks any sense; that’s all… A waste of paper. Janina Kotarbinska writes about her husband that “he knew the difference between protective criticism and harassing criticism. One is a harassing critic when one first hunts for mistakes and weak points, ignoring positive elements. A protective critic, on the other hand, is a person who tries to point out just those things which are the most valuable. It is a person who feels the intentions of the author and presents them in a clearer and more precise way than the author himself.”. I cannot resist here the temptation of treating crap like a monumental thing by quoting, as the example of something below any criteria, which, has however really appeared in a review by a Mr. Jur (Jurczyk), in “Kurier Szczecinski” on 4 May 1983. BWA there started to present for the first time current Polish art. There were lots of people at the opening of our exhibition. Here is his text titled “Tfu!-rczość…” (“Cr(e)ap!-ation…”):
“The Royal’ Gate has changed its image and purpose. The times when there was a modest little cafe, so eagerly visited by school pupils, linked to a mini-gallery presenting the most interesting works, are gone forever. A so called “exhibition parlour” now resides in the Gate; although, the “art” presented there is far from having the manners of the parlour.
Anyone who does not believe may go and see the creative output of – as we can judge from the poster – Mrs. Kulik and Mr. Kwiek, because the exhibition is titled “Kwiek-Kulik”, or “The Age of The Sphere’ (in Polish – a pun “Wiek-Kuli”), or something of this sort. A viewer is meant to be intrigued by a dozen photo-montages depicting either cut-off human heads soaking in the toilet or the human embryo served on a plate.
To the left from the entrance, the viewer – according to the authors’ intention – is to be shocked: the photograph (drawing?) presents a cut cucumber and the subtitle informs us that it is a “man-dick”. (The moral censor is kindly asked not to interfere with this fragment because of the literal character of “the artistic”, after all, quotation.)
It is a consolation that there are no viewers at the exhibition. Yet, it is sad that someone paid for these awful things, hired a room for them and, additionally, encouraged us by a poster to watch them. (Jur.)”®
And this crap had a circulation of 100 000 copies. Obviously, this is not even “a harassing criticism” because there is no hunt for “mistakes and weaknesses”, it is no criticism at all, because it in itself is a hooliganism of “mistakes and weaknesses”.
MS – However, this is an extreme case.
PK – Well, I am sorry, but that was not all! Five years later – another curiosity again. In a column “That’s life” [Cos z zycia] in “Polityka” a newspaper that the whole of Poland reads, in the issue from 21 May 1988, you can find:
“At the ‘Grodzka’ gallery, supervised by Lublin BWA there is an exhibition titled “Installation” (“Instalacja”). It is an entangled set of chains, sheet metal and barbed wire; the only exception is a canvas stretcher with panties pulled onto it. “Kurier Szczecinski” entitled the work “A Big Object in Panties.” Artists with a small object are recommended to wear bracers and a belt as well.”®
The thing in question was our first Appearance. As I eventually learnt Jurczyk was a friend of Ireneusz Kaminski from Lublin, where the latter harassed Mroczek so much that he found himself in the Council of the Minister of Culture and Art. You do not need computers to talk about a network.
ZK – And what will you say about the art magazine “Sztuka” (“Art”) before martial law?
PK – About “Sztuka”, very shortly. Its first editor in chief, almost to the end of its publication, was Mr. Kostyrko, a Marxist working in the Institute of Culture at the Ministry of Culture and Art. He was running a Studio of Modern Art there, or something like that. Certainly, his work had nothing to do with the name. It was entirely bad work in this respect. And as for the model of the magazine “Sztuka” which Mr. Kostyrko promoted at that time, it was a Marxist model in the version of the Poznan milieu, with Kmita etc. I need not explain this any further. It can simply be conspicuously seen and it is a well-known thing. In that magazine the avant garde ended with Potworowski and similar artists. They did it themselves, according to their own theory – I gained nothing from it, I did not care about it, I was not interested. It had no connection with what happened in the seventies in the so called “off”. For me the “off” was no “off” at all, it was a regular artistic life, so I can say with utter conviction that that magazine performed no informative and promoting role in that respect. For me it was simply nothing. Obviously, that magazine replaced “Przeglad Artystyczny” (“Art Review”) run by the Krajewscy, so if one asked those questions to those who were presented in “Sztuka”, who were promoted and made known by it, as opposed to “Przeglad Artystyczny”, they could have prized the magazine. However, as I said, I have nothing to do with it. I know that both “Sztuka” and “Projekt” (“Project”) had been informed from the very beginning about all our initiatives and they hardly reacted to any of them.
MS – However, in “Notatnik” (“A Notebook”) – a column in “Sztuka” supervised by Bozena Kowalska one could find, e.g. mentions of the cycle “Dokumentacja galerii niezaleznych” (“A Documentation of Independent Galleries”) or “Repasaz Miejski” (A City Repassage”), they were even illustrated, although they were only reports.
ZK – Yet, Zdzislaw Sosnowski was mentioned in “Sztuka”.
PK – Only because he followed the state policy in the field of art. Therefore he got a place in the magazine. Summing up – that was a funny situation. Even if there was a bit of information, the ending always distorted the conclusions. The information was inaccurate because it was written without the observation of a phenomenon which it concerned – I am talking about all features by Oseka … Only his bigger review in “Kultura” (“Culture”) had a very good beginning. It dealt with our flyer accompanying the exhibition of “the starving” at PDDiU and CDN. It began with an impeccable description: he beautifully presented the values of that flyer, according to our feelings – really. Although it was a mere scrap of paper, it was a certain construct; while you were opening it, it revealed the overlapping messages, and so on.
So, he had understood its structure correctly and evaluated it positively, yet, he drew wretched conclusions from it. They were not even conclusions but denunciations. As if he wanted to harm us, not help – so he contradicted himself. Polish People’s Republic – see what art you gave birth to – even if they tried with all their might, they would achieve nothing, because we have a marshland here and – can anything grow on marshes? Thus, what is growing, is not actually growing. What is interesting here, a similar opinion concerning the countries of “socialist democracy” was later expressed by Rudi Fuchs, the author of “Documenta” in 1982. Enough? Aha, just a few words about press publications concerning what was happening in the world. As I have already said, we did not have access to Western information. The available information on Western phenomena by Polish critics were over-interpretations. I will quote as an example Oseka’s article about the Paris Biennial in 1971. I even made a work on this theme in “Sigma” in the beginning of 1972. Well, the important thing: all descriptions of the condition of foreign art always ended up with one conclusion: about Poles imitating the West, their being repetitive. Those phenomena of recent art in the West were not only superficially tackled – this was one thing, secondly, they were presented in the negative light and, thirdly, if anyone in Poland made similar things he or she earned a bad mark: it was a bad thing to imitate bad models.
ZK – As for me, I remember even from my secondary school years, and the same continued during my studies and later – a certain trait of those publications, a sort of …. venom. Venom that floated in the air and attacked a reader, including me, from those publications about contemporary art in the Polish press. I even find it difficult to judge whether those who wrote them felt threatened or wanted to attack, or to destroy – I do not know.
PK – They simply worked badly. Everybody had certain ambitions. What were these ambitions like? I will speak for myself: my impression is that all those critics fulfilled some extra-artistic mission. A political mission. Certainly, that was hidden in their concocted information, so it was difficult to prove it directly. However, I believe it was like that. After all, history later proved that this belief was true. It turned out that we were all cheated till August.34 You could observe this clearly after August, in the situation of some freedom of choice of political orientation. All those critics openly declared their political stance, which in itself is not wrong at all.
ZK – Only those critical innocents had been peacefully eating from the regime’s manger for over twenty years, they sucked that reluctant, hateful breast…
PK – OIt is obviously a pity that the post-August period did not last longer. Then we could have checked how those critics would function, already in that new, let’s call it – “freedom”, without any necessity for undercover work.
ZK – You mean whether they were professionals or not?
PK – Professionals, yes. Then it would have turned out whether Oseka, Gutowski, Hniedziewicz, Skrodzki, Majewska and others were able to serve artists, and – which artists. In the situation when they did not have to make political zigzags, did not have to manipulate, fight, without the necessity for all those rat-like politics, not having to let out this… How would you call it?
ZK – Hmm, … Stench, venom…. pestilence, ha ha ha….
PK – Exactly. We tried to criticise it totally in the seventies, take for example the conference in Jablonna in February 1974. Here we would need shorthand scripts.
ZK – I suspect that other domains look similar as far as representing facts and achievements is concerned. Perhaps, these are not important or unique observations, but – for example – let’s see how much video film was devoted to Gierek, and I feel a grave personal pity that Wladyslaw Tatarkiewicz was not documented – he himself, in his gesture, his talking… that the cycle of his lectures was not filmed, although, it was technically possible. Generally, art and culture as a part of human and social life have been completely neglected and pushed aside and not documented in Poland. Later, there remain only those thousands of metres of films from sports events and political hand-shaking – and that’s it. People pass away, things come to an end and there is nothing left! Counting percentage – why certain issues or changes that occur in a sports milieu or in the case of an individual sportsman (Witkacy was already writing about it) – why are they so much illuminated? I know that this is also needed; however, there is no such meticulous observation, no detective-like approach of the journalists in the case of, for instance – an artist, a scientist, a philosopher. After all – this is the most important! Do we really have to explain it, convince someone about it? I am not being self-conceited here, but I think there is something wrong with this matter. Primitives and barbarians!
PART III -OFF
3. NEO AVANT GARDE
MS – What is the ratio of participation of consecutive generations in post-war Polish art and with which generation do you identify yourselves?
PK (amused) – We identify ourselves with the generation of people who are younger than we are and who are under our influence. Ha ha ha! Why not?
ZK – Undoubtedly, there is a generation to which we also belong…
PK – That of a demographic peak!
ZK – However, it is a fact that we did not create our works and did not participate in some facts which would unify artists just as a generation. The cyclical influence of places was more important during those 10 – 15 years. Groups of people who produce a certain vortex tend to meet in a particular place and make use of the possibilities this place offers. We can talk here about Elblag, Wroclaw, which did not influence us but we know that there was a strong milieu there, next, we can talk about the open-air workshops of Anastazy Wisniewski at Osetnica, about Lodz, where such a moment occurred, about Lublin… Warsaw is probably least homogeneous in this respect. However, I do not consider here the criterion of generation the most important. (PK agrees). Aha, where can the reason be for this? Perhaps in the fact that those new forms so strongly opposed traditional ones, that making additionally a division into generations would be a nonsense. After all, that was a tiny group of people!
PK – That is why some voices appeared saying that it was not the age that counted but the artist’s stance; that meant that a sexagenarian can be equal to an eighteen year old man, and the other way round. Owidzinski and Bereo are examples of people who identified themselves with the young on the basis of some ideals. So, the division into generations here is utterly ungrounded.
ZK – Such a division is no longer valid in the art which we represent, that is the conclusion. It may also be so because of the fact that alternative artists of the seventies always considered themselves strongly as different and elite and there was no need to demonstrate it before, e.g. the whole mass of the visual-associated artists, twelve thousand colleagues. We also did not have to detoxicate” our own part in ourselves, as the so called “Generation 56” had to do. Maybe, it is also a question of people, non-artists who might be interested in our form of art. I am thinking about the people who would organise something, a great all-Polish event being an opportunity for meeting and polarisation of these varied personalities and programmes – in one place, one time, just as one event… Here, I mean “Arsenal 55” (“The Arsenal 55”) or “The Expression of the 80’s” by Ziarkiewicz.
MS – How do you place yourselves among your contemporaries and the artists who make similar art to yours? You entered artistic life in a very interesting period. Jan Wojciechowski, when I asked him about those times, emphasised the specific aura of mutual curiosity, the artists’ search for one another, the tendency to a certain integration…
ZK – Yes, co-existence, co-inspiration, and co-operation.
PK – Co-inspiration? I would not say so.
MS – Would you distinguish any particular events of that time?
ZK – First of all “Dreamers’ Meeting”. That meant for us leaving the walls of the Academy.
PK – And meeting a functioning avant garde for the first time. Well, a little older avant garde. There was Kajetan Sosnowski, Wlodzimierz Borowski and Andrzej Matuszewski. It was there that we first met Anastazy Wisniewski, Leszek Przyjemski, Gerard Kwiatkowski, Andrzej and Ewa Partum, Jaroslaw Kozlowski, Jerzy Ludwinski, Zbigniew Warpechowski, and Stanislaw Drozdz?. Some of them had just participated in the symposium “Wroclaw 70”. We saw this whole set of people for the first time.
ZK – However, it is interesting, that before meeting in Elblag we had already been to Nowa Ruda, to that melting pot.
PK – Yes, after Nowa Ruda, where we had seen – one can say – the current creation of our contemporaries from Lodz, Wroclaw, Krakow, Gdansk. However, “Dreamers’ Meeting” was an opportunity to see the achievements of our older colleagues who had been already active in the artistic life of the avant garde.
ZK – And this was in the same year – 1971, three months later.
PK – We saw the panorama – I think the whole one. After this, nothing special, nothing new has appeared. We saw, a year or two later, what e.g. Tarasin or somebody else was doing – that was entirely unimportant, like multicoloured serviettes. Yet, I should say that we were so strongly inoculated against influences, so encapsulated within ourselves, our own problems, that the question of any influence is absolutely out of the question. One could say that we were doctrinaire in our attitude towards everything we had met. How could this influence act in the opposite direction? I am not talking about this old avant garde, because this was definitely ruled out, but about our contemporaries who were as doctrinaire as we. I mean here Warsztat Formy Filmowej (The Workshop of Film Forms). Our influence over them was similar to that which they had over us, that means – none. (laughter). Although…. It was stirring to watch something which you knew was possible to do, and that someone else had done it, and which you would never do yourself.
ZK – Yet, some confrontation occurred, “noticing one another”.
PK – Yes, this should be emphasised first of all: similarly to us who saw that panorama for the first time, they saw something new in our achievements, too. This is the indispensable fact. That means – something new which happened entirely outside us. I mean Nowa Ruda where we presented the film “Open Form” as an interrupted projection combined with the presentation of Zosia’s slides on three screens. Because this film took up 3/4 of the programme. The question of our co-operation with visual artists, with form, matter, geometric three-dimensional figure, and colour, the whole visual aspect, the question of the process, documentation – they were writing about it, but had not done it. So in this case it is difficult to talk about influences. About complementation – yes.
MS – And if we looked at the issue of the generation from a larger perspective? After all, what distinguishes the generations? There is an event which shapes the life experience of people who are the most likely to absorb things – young people. In our days, in Poland, there were two such events. I think of March 68 and December 70. And just after “early Gierek”.
PK – I agree, however, what does this have to do with the question? What do artists…?
MS – Artists, or not, people of the similar age as you, were subjected to a similar kind of experience. Moreover, one after another, very quickly. For example – what was March like at the Academy? What it was like at the University everyone knows. After all these two institutions are just on opposite sides of the street.
ZK – No… What reached the Academy was some echoes only. The gate from Krakowskie Przedmiescie street was closed. (PK agrees). I, personally, spent 8 March in the forecourt of the University. For me the best artistic moment was when someone passed a signal asking all students to crouch. So we all crouched and many different gentlemen scattered among students remained standing.
PK – December was absolutely not…
ZK – Was there any reflection of the influence of that reality; the reflection that would be common artistic reactions, creation of some programmes, meetings of people with one another – was anything like that happening?
PK – No, no. Obviously, we were observing everything, we cared a lot but – that was all.
MS – The period of “early Gierek” was marked by a boom in creation in new media, or – in general – the entrance of conceptualism.
PK – I believe that it had nothing to do with that extra-artistic experience. It could have if – assume – Gierek had introduced some artistic doctrines, e.g. putting a ban on conceptualism. However, nothing like that happened. The Party had declared, from 56′, the freedom of the means of expression. They had their preferences, certainly, but noone interfered with the artist’s media and noone planned to. Even more! The Party had its own preferred type of avant garde, which was preferred because it did not poke in politics.
MS – Thus it solved the question of the freedom of art in Poland?
PK – Exactly. We also constantly repeat this. Conceptualism in its doctrinaire forms was, according to us, the continuation of the a-political avant garde. And it was not that conceptualism was supported, yet it was not opposed by the government. If there was anything opposed, definitely, they were not these trends.
MS – I am afraid we do not understand each other correctly. While asking this question I did not mean strictly artistic matters, I meant rather the general mood or the atmosphere then, that around 1975-76 was saturated with a certain optimism, some hope. Now we view these things differently, but at that time…
ZK – We can mention meetings with Zdzislaw Sosnowski and his group….
PK – Yes, They undertook the Gierek’s era game fully consciously. They made use of anything possible, and there were many things possible to use – and that’s all right! Anyway, can we speak about any hope here? If we were to soar so sigh to look at it with a bird’s eye, then we could say for sure, that there was a flourishing of hope – as an example, let’s take the Galeria Wspolczesna (Contemporary Art Gallery) of Sosnowski, CDN at cetera. I even heard such voices from among young state activists who visited the place, that Galeria Wspolczesna was treated almost as an experiment with that kind of art on the scale of socialist countries. At least they tried to achieve such a profile of the gallery. It was an experiment for the authorities to use those new forms in, say, advertising, propaganda etc. Well, as an example we can quote the exhibition “Aspekty nowoczesnej sztuki polskiej” (“Aspects of Modern Polish Art”) – it was also such an attempt to gather the most proper representation….
MS – And CDN?
PK – No, not CDN! It was a mere medley, made just … to be ready for presentation.
ZK – For me “Aspekty” (“Aspects”) and CDN mean the same.
PK – Absolutely not! In the “Aspects” participated such people as Berdyszak, Kajetan Sosnowski, Dlubak, Opalka, Winiarski. That was an attempt to pull young artistic people under those significant names, while CDN for the young was like a bone…
ZK – … without any meat on it. To us it was a period of “signals”. Please, note that we started doing so called “signals” then, in other words “sendings” or mailings. Whenever something that we did not like appeared in artistic life, (PK interrupts: Required a response.) or was a covert manifestation of some important ideas, a manipulation – we reacted to this with a leaflet. We duplicated the leaflet ourselves by means of photography – a darkroom and enlarger functioned as a photocopier or a printing machine – and we were sending the leaflets in various circulations to various people.
MS – A forerunner of such leaflets was your letter to Professor Wladyslawa Jaworska in 1975 during the AICA congress in Poland and parallel to the exhibition “Aspects of Modern Polish Art” (“Aspekty nowoczesnej sztuki polskiej”) at the “Wspolczesna” (Contemporary) Gallery. Already there we can find some statements against this avant garde which agrees to be manipulated in order to achieve any concession whatsoever.
ZK – That letter of yours, that terrible letter!
PK – It wasn’t terrible! Oh, yes, “Aspects”, the main event for the people abroad… We issued a leaflet on that occasion, too, because the event was a colossus on legs of clay…?
ZK – No, it pertained to Owidzinski and Wroclaw people from the “Palacyk” (“Palace”). Consequently, it was related to “Aspects”… “Eibisch – Sosnowisch”, that was the leaflet.
MS – There were many galleries that were active and many were appearing where new art was presented: Repassage, Remont, Mospan, Biuro Poezji (Poetry Bureau), Akumulatory, (Accumulators), Permafo, Palacyk, Znak (Sign), Arcus…
ZK – However, this whole group of the artists of new media – let call them so – was not homogeneous. As usual, when you give some freedom to a certain group of people, or more broadly – to society. A plurality of objectives, behaviour, etc. appears. After all there was still the Foksal Gallery working which was sick of not being able to retain its monopoly. I remember what Warpechowski said to us: he belonged to the Foksal group and suddenly he came to the “Dreamers’ Meeting”. Only after did he confess to us that Foksal had forbidden him to go to the “El” Gallery!
PK – The policy of Foksal is the same to date.
ZK – We knew very few facts, and many we still do not know today… In the seventies there was already a multiplicity of stances and everyone was slightly left to her – or himself. And thus – they did what they could.
PK – Moreover, coming back to Foksal, when you saw the other side of the medal: the “Foksal” Gallery financed by the most conservative, Stalinist in spirit and monopolist enterprise active in the field of so called “art”…
ZK – PSP, yes, that is Visual Arts Workshops (Pracownie Sztuk Plastycznych) where the worst potboiling occurred, where commissions “created” artistic and visual, trashy reality of PRL (Polish People’s Republic). That was why we and Marek Konieczny attacked such a phenomenon as Foksal. It made us furious that some percentage of our, constantly reduced, and only possible earnings at PSP was devoted to financing Foksal, and this Foksal in turn… and so on.
MS – What was the opinion of both of you about Wieslaw Borowski’s article “Pseudoawangarda” (“Pseudo Avant Garde”)?
ZK – Defending his own monopoly to represent the avant garde he included almost everything and everyone who were active in the seventies in the “pseudo avant garde”, certainly, except for his own stable and Kantor. This was a denunciation. According to the author, pseudo avant garde “became a major inhibitor of the development of art in Poland which “should be unmasked”; pseudo avant garde “spreads destruction in culture”. The article ends with a wink to the authorities, look out! – “from the point of view of our culture and the social situation of our country (underlined by ZK) it would be an ab-normal thing if Poland itself were to become the world centre of modern pseudo avant garde…”
PK – The reverberations of such writing about art reach life itself. Here is an example: when Marek Konieczny was summoned to the court against PSP (it dealt with deadlines and money), the lawyer of the institutions used this article to throw discredit on his adversary in the court.
PART III – OFF
4. AVANT GARDES
MS – Is the notion of avant garde meaningful to you?
PK – At the beginning a few things need to be made precise. Avant garde appears when someone cares about previous or present rules: what it is to be like and with what method one can achieve it – this finds its embodiment in his or her activity or is the driving force for this activity. If someone does not care about such paradigms, he or she can do the most weird things and, yet, avant garde is out of the question. Although, we can speak about novelty or originality.
Now – us. Yes, the notion of avant garde has been and still is very important for us. It was significant when one could easily discriminate to what that avant garde was juxtaposed. Certainly, to the traditional art about which we have spoken here, to that “enclosed form”. When those forms were strongly supported, had their representatives in institutions’ or associations’ life, then, obviously, the whole avant garde was avant garde. It functioned nicely and everybody knew what the whole thing was about. This is what has been still continued since Dadaism movement, futurism, the Russians, Duchamp, Bauhaus, Le Corbusier… As I said, it was just the beginning of the seventies when we ran across that avant garde that still wanted to burn down museums, that was burning its own works down – like the Wroclaw circle at a time, like Ludwinski, some participants of “The Dreamer’s Meeting”. Kantor, too.
ZK – It was not so much burning but negating….
PK – Yes. Even the negation of negation appeared, that is the contestation of the distortions in the avant garde, which originated from that avant garde itself. That was Anastazy. Unlike every-one else, he reacted to the elements of “animal farm” within that avant garde, which had an unrepeatable colour of allusions or reflections, as the thing was happening on a real, much bigger farm of PRL – communist Poland. However, later strange things started to happen to that avant garde. Those who had been the avant garde became, in a sense, the classics; they, suddenly, started to eliminate the notion of avant garde. After all, it was a very clever trick which allowed them to salvage the only avant garde – as there was this only one – namely, themselves. I was always against such a treatment of this issue and called myself avant garde, even though the former avant garde did not consider us as avant garde at all. Already for Kantor we were the crooks, the sediment, the pseudo avant garde.
MS – This was Wieslaw Borowski.
ZK – Yet, it is not the same.
PK – Ludwinski saw the end of the avant garde about 1971 in his few statements. He officially pronounced that it had ended, it had ceased to exist because that art had exceeded itself so much that it could not go any further -ha ha ha – simply: everything had already been negated and turned inside out. I do not know, what about Kostolowski? He made a few comments on it, too. Ehm… We should not forget about the general consciousness that appeared in the world of science, about the revolution and the changes in it. It was simply acknowledged that the tension between tradition and novelty is its immanent feature. I am thinking of Popper and his pupils, and Kuhn. There was a shift of paradigms, the falsifications of theories. So, the problem no longer exists. I think it influenced art there, in the West. I cannot recall any example of referring the notion of avant garde to current phenomena; each surge of new artistic production, based on good information about yesterday, was composed of – among others – references and novelty because, let me quote myself: “there is no truth in freedom.” If a thing like that is accepted by the elites, what can we say about the avant garde? This is a normal thing. A true avant garde does not speak about avant garde because it assumes itself to be the most usual thing in the world. This word becomes unnecessary, similarly to the word “suffragette”. Because of the tradition, I would leave the name as the word-key to define the artists about whom I spoke in the beginning. Moreover, I would negate in a conspicuous, contestant-like way this part of the public which, “being learned”, tends to label any novelty, any extraordinary thing as “avant garde” and, thus, grants itself absolution. On the other hand, the word avant garde is still “on duty” today as a souvenir of the former Soviet Union. In the skirmishes against “the decisive factors”, who clearly indicated what art they would support – a very well known fact: pre-Stalinist but post-revolutionary, the practice of the then avant garde, including its social ethos, was an argument when you wanted to “smuggle” in something modern. After all what was Soviet was Soviet.
Coming back to Poland – what interesting thing could you have observed by the end of the seventies when there appeared the movement that was a starting point for “Tango” and “The Culture of the Whipround ” (“Kultura Zrzuty”)? Well, completely unexpectedly, appeared a group of people who started to attack us openly, especially Robakowski. And truly, they can call themselves avant garde because they negate such old farts or classics as we are. This is utterly ridiculous and paradoxical.
MS – They do not say things like that.
PK – Perhaps they do not formulate their sentences like that but they act similarly to the former avant garde which opposed the traditional kinds of art. They break the performances, they laugh like Kryszkowski, they take the works from the walls…
ZK – You are mostly speaking about Kryszkowski, who is just beginning work.
PK – Well, and about Lodz Kaliska! But Kryszkowski enters any from, even anti-art, leading out everyone from the state protected beds of culture to the bars and pubs of spontaneous coexistence, if I may say so. He contests both the avant garde and “the wild” because they do not rebel against the fact that they constitute a part of culture, which is the apparatus or the practice of enslaving, grounding the society and themselves. The culture is understood here as the apparatus beyond any political system.
ZK – Yes, they treat us, e.g. their immediate forerunners, as “the society” against which they speak. Like in Dada. We are a kind of “the bourgeois middle class” for them, ha ha ha! Do you remember when Nowa Ruda, I think it was our first time there, we met the “Lodz Dadaists”? All this sees to be some speciality of Lodz. They broke everything in the name of neo-dada. The Workshop of Film Forms has also contributed to this breaking.
PK – It is funny but, maybe, they learnt at school how to be an avant garde! Otherwise, you cannot explain that. They do not accept any logical arguments. We used to tell them: we have already done the job for you, we criticised the exhibitions, we fought against painters and sculptors, nota bene – against ourselves, because such was our training or education. Why do you want to do it again, moreover, against us? It is simply boring. Although… Perhaps we find it difficult to imagine that we can also have our own Anastazys? As for the latest phenomena, let’s take Lublin as an example, it is difficult to speak about the avant garde. It is a pretty interesting story, because there start to appear people who want to exist entirely outside the current milieu. That means there are people who have already stopped to believe in any sense of development of the chain: the classic – the avant garde, then classic again with its own avant garde, and so on. This is the very nihilism of Truszkowski, libertinism of Libera or hermeticism of Rydecki. Which stems from the total abnegation, in a general social meaning! Can we speak about the avant garde then?
ZK – Do you know what the final result will be? An exhibition of paintings, I can bet, ha ha ha!
PK – Yes, ha ha… Well, they have already started painting in the “Stodola” (Barn) Gallery.
ZK – But this is not Lublin yet. Lublin is still something different. Let us take the list of participants of “Zapisy” at Mroczek’s at the end of March 1986 where you can find about 15, out of a total of 30, of those who debuted or nearly debuted at the event. And you cannot call them “Lublin nihilists”. Nor can you say this about Baginski or the Nawrot sisters. Pawlak, who belongs to “the wilds” also should not be put into this Lublin bag. Even more – you must not do it!
PK – Lublin is important as afar as it is the nest of this….
ZK – You can find a wonderful public there.
PK – But this is the nest of artists who are closely related to this public, and everything is related to metaphysics which has been propagated by The Catholic University of Lublin for some time already.
ZK – The source of the metaphysics of “Suki Sztuki” (“The Biches of Art”) is Partum!
PK – By no means, never!
MS – We started with avant garde and finished with metaphysics.
PK – Or with this new fetishism. It will be a crime to burn a painting-fetish, moreover, you will have to pray to it thanking it for its very existence – it’s all wanking. Well, summing up, I would cross out the problem of avant garde from historical discussions and fix the presence of avant garde in the field of art as constant, natural and necessary. And I would finish with adding or taking away the splendour from the artist because he belongs to an avant garde. Artistic criteria should be outside the avant garde, yet the members of this movement should occupy an equal position with the rest, they should not be diminished by their absence from a ranking list, the non-commercial character of their activities or their lack of interest in the market. And they should be helped.
PART III – OFF
MS – I would like to ask you about the alternative movement today, in February 1986, since your perspective is very wide, it goes back to about 1970. Has that movement changed, how has it changed as far as its “institutional” forms are concerned? Perhaps, it has not changed at all?
ZK – Generally, it has not changed. This means the artists of the neo avant garde, if they act supported by any institutions, these institutions are mostly student organisations, like Dziekanka or Remont. And it has always been so, from the very beginning, perhaps as far back as the end of the sixties that apart from those students’ galleries there were always two or three galleries of the BWA type or some others financed by the municipal authorities, by the ministry or by the state which also joined this movement when a director of a given institution was somewhat personally interested. And those places keep changing, we have spoken about that – once it was the El Gallery in Elblag, then something in Wroclaw, open air workshops in Osetnica, Miastko, Torun; now it is Lublin. Gorzów Wielkopolski has appeared for a moment; Zielona Góra. This works on the basis of “itinerant” places, the events that happen in them promote the artists of the neo avant garde.
PK – Here we should mention Kostolowski’s idea – the nomadic concept of the avant garde artist – that appeared in relation to the above. The artists travel from place to place. To the places in which they currently have a possibility of doing something.
ZK – So, nothing or hardly anything has changed in this respect. What has therefore changed? In the seventies there were people in the movement, of this very gallery-organised type, who tried to do something on a larger scale, even international events – and they were successful in it. As an example we can take the event “I am”, that is the conference on contextual art at Remont, “Oferta” and “Body-Performance” at Mroczek’s, etc. Such larger events occurred once every year or two. It seems to me that people had more drive then…
PK – This culminated in the finale of “The Construction in Process” (“Konstrukcja w procesie”), already during the “Solidarity” reign.
ZK – They had more drive – that is one thing, and the second – nobody cared that they were taking money from the state because they took the money with a positive purpose, to create such events; however, they showed unofficial art at them.
MS – Has there been any event of this type in Poland since the introduction of martial law?
ZK – Lublin “The Intellectual Trend in Polish Art” in 1984. However, this was not an international event, as the title itself indicates.
PK – Lublin is one thing, but what was new were private events of this type, for instance, the exhibitions at Wnuk’s studio in Warsaw, the “Pilgrimages” (“Pielgrzymki”) and meetings organised by the Lodz milieu, precisely the “Tango” movement and “The Culture of the Whipround”. Yet, generally, in the seventies the movement, knowing that it was alternative, seemed to constantly look towards the authorities, according to the rule: “when will you acknowledge what we do as right, after all it is right! Therefore, when will you join it in your working programme?” Which apparently was successful in the case of the Wspolczesna Gallery and, later, Sosnowski’s Studio. Thus, if the attitude was such in the seventies, now, despite the fact that generally the outline of the movement has not changed much, the attitude has changed, the ideology has changed. I think that the movement ceased to include in its programme constant looking towards the state and started to deal with itself. Simply the self-consciousness seems to be greater and… I cannot find a proper word for it… em..
MS – Feeling one’s dignity in relation with the state?
PK – No. The feeling of the absolute unimportance of the state.
MS – Aha. I meant something like that: you do not want to, so don’t, we aren’t going to plead for that.
ZK – What is interesting in today’s alternative movement, in its younger variations… I will allude to the report of Ms. Paszkiewicz in “Radar” from the painting in co-operation by several young painters and performers at Stodola. What is interesting is the fact that those artists refer not only to their own history. This was treating painting as an action – and they refer it to common painting; however, only in their own history, because that group, or part of it, was also painting together a year before. This is characteristic, such an encapsulation in the circle of one’s own issues. It is slightly reminiscent of family meetings where you speak only about what uncle and that cousin and in what year, and so on.
PK – This is logical: full self service and, consequently, full independence, also from “not-my-own” history.
ZK – Yet, by doing so, they push themselves into some field of unimportance. It seems so to me. Perhaps not? I do not know…
PK – TYes, I agree with this. It is giving in without a fight absolutely and yielding all that is guaranteed by social and human right to the members of society. After all, they pay taxes, don’t they? They do not demand any of the things which are rightefully theirs and to which they have rights.
ZK – I am reminded here of a fragment of our flyer, of which we have already talked – “Grabbing with all your might what is rightfully yours…” This newest group, they do not feel much at home.
PK – There is such a term, that suits our situation: anomy. (ZK nods her head.) It goes back to Stanislaw Brzozowski who noticed the phenomenon as a typical trait of certain circles of Polish intellectuals: a non-identification with the state as a part of them.
MS – It was justified in Brzozowski’s times.
PK – But it also functions nowadays.
MS – Well, yes, yes!
ZK – But he proved that it is harmful for a man, not the state. Such a man simply condemns himself to…
PK – He becomes worthless for a group within a society despite his high value as an individual.
ZK – OObviously, we are all the time talking about the newest group that has appeared in the alternative movement recently. Who can be included in the group – “wild” painters too, or not?
PK – Yes. However, it is a slightly different consciousness from that of those, let’s call them, quasi-professionals. I have observed an interesting thing pertaining to them. Because they completely ignore the state, it has lost its nimbus – even to such a degree that they make fun of it absolutely honestly – they do not care any longer and they do not analyse the issue whether they boycott or not, whether they accept the service of state institutions or not. They simply do not care! If Zacheta organised a great festival and did it in a way they wanted, they would participate in it.
MS – Really?
PK – Wait, wait, we must emphasise the difference between this alternative group and the people from the church opposition circles. It is an alternative today as well. It is not so indifferent to the state. Moreover, its status stems from something entirely the opposite: from realising exactly the gravity of the problem and the fight they carry on against the state. They treat such things seriously, I would like to believe.
MS – Let us come back to the issue of events that are happening in the alternative movement at present. Does the fact that there is no need to wait for the state’s protectorship make the events lose their verve?
ZK – No, they have not lost their verve, in this sense that they still attract quite a number of people.
PK – Nevertheless, the process in which new forms of art reach the consciousness of a “normal” viewer is still continuing, now neglecting any historical contexts. The objective process.
MS – But what I meant was the fact that in the seventies the events did not have any “contexts” as they do today.
ZK – Yes, then there were no meetings e.g. of the opposition and foreigners, they were strictly artistic meetings. Someone was better, someone was boring – that was what the people talked about. Indeed, in the seventies the contacts were so… pure. Because now, when we contact the West, it is now important who declared what – I meant those Solidarity scholarship funds, etc. And at that time you could see some purity in it. And this you can call verve – in contacts, programmes, in the outlook towards the future. Consequently, although there is a lot of verve in some respects, there is also, paradoxically, a certain restraint of this verve. Firstly because they, the young ones, do not refer to any history except their own one, you could say – private. Secondly – their programmes lack something, perhaps something naive, that was present in the earlier programmes: you wanted to change something, shape your own future, full of belief you would succeed. There is nothing of this. Yet, some different, interesting values appear, which were probably neglected in the seventies.
MS – Were you interested in those alternative forms of activity that appeared as a result of martial law, the so called “pilgrimages” to studios, but not those in Lodz – the ones in Warsaw? Was there at least an echo of those things in your exhibitions at PDDiU years ago? Did you participate in those exhibitions as viewers?
ZK – We did not go to such exhibitions of traditional art organised in studios, because – among other reasons – they were not interesting for us from the artistic point of view. Moreover, we could easily anticipate the petty atmosphere of those meetings – neither a conspiracy nor a fashion for a conspiracy. However, in the first half of 1972 we regularly attended the meetings initiated by Tomasz Sikorski at Daniel Wnuk’s studio. Precisely, the hostess was Dorota Wnuk because Daniel had managed to leave the country, she opened the studio which she was taking care of while its owner Magdalena Wiecek was away. Many people were coming there. The number of visitors reached even 50 persons, sometimes more.
PK – You can say that a certain Warsaw circle participated in it – the Dziekanka -Repassage milieu with Jacek Kryszkowski who had belonged to it before “the war”. And now, the comparison of this circle to the Lodz milieu which was also very active at that time. In the beginning only a little information reached us. We had not participated in anything except for the above-mentioned Wnuk’s studio until 1982. (And the exhibition in Studio, but that’s a different story.) In Lodz, the “Cleaning the Carpets” (“Czyszczenie dywanów”) gallery appeared first. Then the milieu organised “The First Artistic Pilgrimage” (“Pierwsza pielgrzymka artystyczna”). In both cases there was an active group whose origin went back before August 40 – I am talking about Lodz Kaliska and Robakowski’s circle. They all were somehow connected with “The Construction in the Process” (“Konstrukcja w procesie”) – a great international exhibition at the end of 1981. At the time which we are talking about, “Strych” (“Attic”) appeared, similarly “Tango” and “The Culture of the Whipround” which was the effect of all this. In “The Culture of the Whipround” occurred a fusion of a part of Warsaw milieu (mainly Kryszkowski), “tangoists” (partly from Lublin) and people from Lodz connected with the “Cleaning the Carpets” gallery. Yes, this was more or less so.
Now, coming back to our main topic, I am very much against the way which the Lodz circle has chosen. I have not objections to the Warsaw way – this from Wnuk’s studio, because they organised events devoted to strictly artistic issues. Certainly, they tackled current issues, but this did not play the predominant role. Yet, in Lodz, which turned out only 2 – 3 years later, everything was done according to a project accepted in advance, i.e. according to a certain ideological-artistic theory concerning the process itself in the then particular political time. I want to state this clearly: the ideological programme preceded practice. And the practice – developed according to the initiators’ presumptions – worked out. Here we should appreciate their political instinct.
ZK – And managerial skills.
PK – Because it worked out, everything was written in a booklet on “The Culture of the Whipround”, issued abroad by Robakowski. The result was that as soon as the booklet had appeared the afore-mentioned fusion split again into Lodz and Warsaw groups.
ZK – Here Kryszkowski, Janiak and Rzepecki would be the best source of information.
PK – Yes, because Kryszkowski was, one can say, the leader of the Warsaw group. At any rate, the whole thing raised a lot of objections to the merit and others – about the programme of “The Culture of the Whipround”, its tactics and, first of all, the way in which Robakowski created this thing from the beginning to the end: from the theory to the book, irrespective of what the participants of the movement do or think. This was particularly conspicuous at the “Intellectual Trend in Polish Art” in Lublin at the end of 1984. I will mention Bereo who asked Robakowski three questions after he had read excerpts from the book. The first was: why are you selling abroad martial law in Polish art; the second – I cannot remember, and the third: why do you speak on behalf of Janiak if Janiak does not want to speak. Janiak did not participate in the event consciously, and Robakowski presented Janiak’s works in his speech, so Janiak appeared at the event whether he liked it or not. We should say that publishing the resume by Robakowski was a great impulse for Janiak and for Kryszkowski, I do not know about the rest. Suddenly, they realised that someone had herded them together! Moreover, the herd which was politically right at a certain stage. And, another thing – they are guilty themselves because they entered it themselves. And they should have been wary. And, again, since we are talking about Robakowski’s book now, he stated that it was only after martial law that the alternative, independent movement appeared in Poland. Well, I will not even say that it is not true, but it is clear that such a thing was not fair towards the colleagues with whom Robakowski had been creating the entire period of the seventies. It is somehow similar to the trick of the “old” avant garde which tried to destroy the notion of the avant garde, about which we have already talked. Yes.. And against this background – us. And what do you have to say?
ZK – Unfortunately, I have no more to say but what Przyjemski told us during his visit at our place by the end of “Solidarity” in 1981. He presented his and our standpoint perfectly then. The point was that for us, the participants and witnesses of the alternative movement of the seventies, it was the pioneer stage compared to the later one, when the boom of independence and the alternative started and when all those who so far had been doing “indifferent art”, art without any character, cold or safe, as we call it, suddenly appeared to be the most fierce, rebellious and opposing, etc. artists. Artists, but not people with a certain social, citizen-like programme. They only made their opposition works, which, frankly speaking, as far as I remember them were mostly mediocre pieces of art. Why did I mention Przyjemski? Because he was filled with a great pretence, without any personal associations – rather generally … to the history, perhaps, that a surge of a collective, herd opposition came and yet, although the surge undertook his issues from the previous years, he remained alone. This lingers in my memory: the conflict between the active artist who lives and works by himself, independently, and the herd. The conflict which is a general characteristic of Polish artistic life. Thus, apart from the problem: the alternative or the official, institutionalised, there is a problem: an artistic individuality against the herd. This question was also signalled at “The Intellectual Trends”.
PK – No, it was not.
ZK – It was not, however, we were aware of it. This problem was presented in Bereo’s performance – that in some elaborations, evaluative reports summing up the periods and tendencies, it unexpectedly turns out that group manifestations are the most precious in art, while an individual creative way is neglected. And this happens not in traditional arts but in the alternative phenomena themselves. What counts is the surge of the leading pack and individuality disappears somewhere. In the reports like that by Robakowski on the occasion of “The Culture of the Whipround” there is no individuality. There is a team.
PK – The artists like Beres, Wisniewski, Przyjemski or us and a few more, suddenly, found themselves beyond the pale. This is dangerous to such a degree that abroad starts to perceive us through the materials that are available. Unfortunately, Robakowski’s book is one of the few, if not the only one piece of information about the latest phenomena. There are no other sources!
ZK – The herd instinct and dependence of the herd is a feature which harms creation as such. The worst thing for an artist is the escape from him or herself into a group. This is terrible!
PK – Additionally, the group which aims at independence.
ZK – Although, we represent an artistic duo here. Well, perhaps thanks to this fact that there are two of us we survive by supporting each other…? (laughter).
PART IV – OFF-OFF
MS – What possibilities did the period of “S” open up for art?
PK – I believe, that new opportunities have appeared, mostly thanks to acknowledging pluralism as something normal. Consequently much more became dependent on individual drive, that had been deadened by organisations. The chances of the appearance of active individuals were greater – both in Poland and abroad. As an example we can quote “New Art from Poland” (“Nowa Sztuka z Polski”) in Stuttgart organised by Zdzislaw Sosnowski, the then manager of the Studio Gallery. He could organise such a personal-choice exhibition on the basis of the state institution, although outside the ministry and its official programme of promotions. And there was nothing abnormal in it, on the contrary – this was just normal. Nota bene we participated in the exhibition.
MS – “The Construction in the Process” was a similar type of initiative.
PK – Yes. And we should assume that if that period had lasted longer, such practice would have become well-grounded. So, also in this respect – the sphere of social issues, that period was very good.
MS – “Solidarity” was an ally of alternatives?
PK – No…
MS – Was it an alternative itself?
PK – No.
ZK – It was the driving force of alternatives!
PK – No, no, no. “Solidarity” was simply a social force that guaranteed the introduction of new regulations in the sphere of administration and law. And it guarded their stability, it guaranteed them. However, I would not say that it was the driving force or that it introduced them. This is not true because many of those new regulations were also advocated by the people from the left or of communist or socialist orientation, if we are to be precise. Thus we should not confuse these notions. We imagine – this fact needs to be imagined today, so schizophrenic it is – that, e.g. in POP at ZPAP many people were also members of “Solidarity”. Summing up, “Solidarity” was a social drive for renovation. Generally speaking, we should value that period positively. Yet, the manifestations of it in concrete examples of artistic life of various groups, lobbies, etc. – that is an entirely different matter.
ZK – I am convinced that the period of pluralism was too short to make a proper evaluation of it. I remember, for instance, the press articles that appeared after the exhibition “The Art of Fact” (“Sztuka faktu”) in Bydgoszcz in 1981; they pinpointed the weak points of the event. Which ones? Mostly the fact that there simply were no interesting, good, moving works which would correspond to the topic of the exhibition.
PK – Even though, there was a huge number of paintings hanging that depicted tanks in streets – like those by Bieniasz about December ’70, Then, in “Kultura” Ms. Hniedziewicz was able to articulate, or rather – write, the words Kwiek and Kulik for the first time. She was asking why we were absent at “The Art of Fact”.
ZK – It was too short period to create something new on a larger scale, and nobody – which was an accusation also to the men of letters – had their drawers so fully filled. Was anything created in that period, any “symphony”?…
MS – Monuments?
PK – Phi, that’s not my branch. I am not interested in monuments. One should demolish monuments. Another example of the event in that new spirit – “Kraków Meetings” (“Spotkania Krakowskie”).
ZK – Yes, that was the only event, except for the static exhibition “The Garden of Cognition” (“Ogród poznania”) organised by Ewa Kuryluk, in which we participated at that time in Poland. This was towards the end of the “Solidarity” period in November 1981. Coming back to those “drawers” – what turned out? There was a competition for the scenario of that exhibition and nobody from the former management of BWA nor the artist’s association was able to propose anything sensible. If there were any projects, they were rejected. What won was the exhibition plan by Kostolowski, Pininska-Beres and Warpechowski – and it was realised. It was a fantastic international event – interesting works, interesting formula, good organisation, big attendance of the public. Summing up – a professional, good event. There was also an interesting project at the exhibition. The photographers of ZPAF46 contributed by making documentation of the artists’ appearances and their photographs were immediately presented as exhibits.
PK – For the first time a state-supported video documentation was made, by Kolodrubec. What happened to it?
ZK – Yes. And Dzieduszycki from “Pegaz” was present as well, although there were many non-traditional works – performances, video installations… Mary Kelly, Stuart Bristlay, Rasa Todosijevia, Albert van der Weiden….
PK – It was the event based on the alternative movement which had suddenly appeared to bear the burden of official appearance. Moreover, not as an exciting experimental novelty.
MS – And the fact that it managed to get through to the mass-media?
PK – “Pegaz”! “Pegaz” broke its leash on which it had so far been faithfully walking. That indicated that everything was on a good road, that finally we were going to have relations from interesting events.
ZK – Relations from life were so interesting then that life absolutely exceeded art, ha ha…
MS – And in your own creative work? Did you manage to cope with that period, in your own opinion, today?
ZK – We became mute…
PK – Yes, but it should not be understood that we were overwhelmed by the glory of social phenomena. I believe that we achieved a terrible success. But, a moral success. And that was plain. Simply, thanks to those social events and through them, all our activity done to that day found its own ending beyond us, but in our spirit and our style. However, problems of a different kind appeared, nota bene, observed not only by us. I mean the situation when all critical activity of the previous period had been made so popular and absorbed by the society that we just became, let me say, unemployed. The same paradox was noticed by a member of the “Wprost” (“Directly”) group Zbylut Grzywacz, with whom we by no means share the approach to art. He said that he had literally stopped painting because what he had previously shouted in his paintings, was then officially spoken about – the meat, the queues before shops which he used to tell about, the poverty of everyday life, etc. We, I think, were insured against such circumstances, that is “unemployment” in the sphere of social criticism with which we had dealt before. The insurance was our taking care of a certain channel of our artistic work, namely the formal issues connected with our technique, the quality in itself – harmony, composition, consistency, following one’s own theory. Here I could repeat a list of names and topics which contributed to that quality of ours: Hansen, Szwacz, Kotarbinski, cybernetics, semiology, formal logic, Department of Praxeology at the Institute of Organisation and Management of PAN, Grzegorczyk, Rasiowa, Piekarczyk…
ZK – Exactly at “Krakow Meetings” we made, I think for the first time, not a contextual work but a general one, although, it was based on our former Activities upon the head. It was the above-mentioned performance when we formed each other’s heads of clay moving in the room in a way which would allow us to pass without any “obstacles”.
PK – It was not for the first time in general; however, it was for the first time in the domain of performance that we made a work for the sake of the work itself. The work which was meant to influence with all its strata, both formal and contextual, that emerged from it. And what emerged was, let’s call them – universal, human, spiritual messages. This was symptomatic: while losing something, we gained something else – we left the contextual sphere for the universal.
ZK – And that situation, if it had lasted longer, would have created the opportunity for all artists, I believe – the opportunity to think about oneself in a more general way, think about the world… And many artists flounder in temporary issues. Obviously, you can also master this domain, like Hans Haacke or Wodiczko, but there are few such masters.
PK – Thus the society took over part of the duties, which it should have performed from the beginning anyway and which the artists had to perform so far. Stefan Morawski in the discussion published in a pulped47 issue 4/1981 of “Sztuka” accentuates that there was nothing in the sphere of visual arts which would give testimony to the artists’ playing the role of “foreshadowers” and critics, as one could have observed in the alternative circulation of poetry, in Baranczak’s or Zagajewski’s, or in film. Of course, I am talking about the seventies. Here, I must boast that he enumerated out names among the exceptions confirming the rule. It was very difficult for him, but he enumerated us, Dwurnik and Grzegorz Kowalski. However, his general evaluation of this sphere in visual arts was very negative. I, personally, do not agree with it, because I am convinced that this are simply missing points in his knowledge. He does not know anything about Elblag, the “Tak” Gallery, and things of that sort. Anyway, it is worthwhile explaining how the professor would envisage such a committed artistic stance. Being at Pawel Kwiek’s event “The Self-organising Band” (“Samoorganizujacy sie zespol”) at Dziekanka in January 1979 he was disgusted that such a large number of people, having the task to get organised somehow, divagates instead of starting the only proper activities… of the Kuron and Michnik type. Emm…
Summing up this period I shall repeat what I said at the beginning, because it is important. What was so characteril repeat what I said at the beginning, because it is important. What was so characteril repeat what I said at the beginning, because it is important. What was so characteristic and so conspicuous that it was hardly noticeable was the fact that all competent and active individuals were active. Which is something you cannot say about today. And in our field – before “Solidarity” it was the alternative movement, something “on the margin”, “private views”, and so on. Now we have a boycott. So, that was the only normal period. The period of total work, of everybody. I remember our feelings from that period as the feelings of something wonderful. Man, even expecting certain discomforts in life, the lack of money, which obviously could be occurring in a poor society for a long time, whatever the political system – he felt that… He simply felt excellent.
MS – He felt at home, didn’t he?
PK – Yes. He was at home, he could do whatever he wanted to.
PART IV – OFF-OFF
MS – Was the boycott understandable for you? I mean your first reaction, this impulse: it is a war, we are not going to exhibit? And we will not appear on TV, we do not give any interviews for the press, and so on. Because the unions came later.
ZK – Przemek was of a different opinion; however, I think (although I usually criticise the herd instinct strongly) that in that case the artist could choose this form of protest and simply do not participate in events. Yet, I identify also myself with the administrative of national rationale – that after all this is Poland, that this makes a break, e.g. a consecutive biennial will not be organised, that this does irreparable harm, the loss, that the state without active citizens cannot exist, and so on and so forth. I agree, rationally thinking I agree. This is all true. However, the artist as a public person has the right to react in such a way, to express by his activity, or its lack, the wider public reasons. And he can do it in a model way, that is omitting all those rational motivations which I have enumerated. Because it belongs to his role. It is his duty.
MS – That’s it!
ZK – However, I, as a person, am somehow torn apart. That means I am torn apart to such an extent to which I have always been, having the rational training – not even home upbringing – behind. Yet, I shaped myself in such a way that makes me a rational person, I was in a great conflict with myself. On the one hand I explained to myself that it is my right, on the other – when I looked at the state as at a certain structure, a kind of organism, I saw that harm is done to that organism. And my first reaction as a rational and practical person was that we could allow the situation when this organism would be terminally ill. Perhaps this is banal language, but it was like that. And I cannot make such a doctrinaire speech like Przemek and defend my individual conduct. As a matter of fact, I do not even know and would not be able to tell anyone how we should act. Nevertheless, as usual, I do not have objections to the boycott as such, but to certain circumstances that accompanied it. The pressure about which I heard… We were not pressed by anyone.
PK – How come not?!
ZK – Oh, I am sorry, we were, but a little bit later. However, we never have much to lose, so I think that, consequently, this pressure was not so strong. We have always acted at our own expense, as a counterpart to the state and individually accepting the full risk. We have never been in any channel…
PK – And we suffered such painful consequences of it, that they could not even be more painful.
ZK – The situation that appeared was such – and for us it was a thing not to be solved – that when the date of our appearance in the Studio Gallery came, arranged even before the Solidarity period, martial law was introduced.. What could we do? My individual reaction was – I won’t participate, I must not. We must not because as artists we just cannot participate in it. We must not participate in the realisation of someone else’s rationale, even if I understand it myself. So, where you have to do with the so called “artistic duo” then, the split can occur, ha ha ha…Two individuals split and one person participates, the other – does not.
MS – And such was the case?
ZK – Yes, it was so. However, what stupid things can emerge from this! When almost all works are done together, can we say that the other person, who boycotts, does not present her works? What does it mean for me “not to exhibit”? Does it mean take the works off the wall or even destroy them? No-one knows, do they? But this is not all. On top of that I helped Przemek with this exhibition, not participating in it. I crossed out my name from the already printed invitation, I actually helped him hang the things, drive the nails into walls, make documentation, etc.
MS – But was it not breaking the boycott? At which moment was it exactly? After all the Studio Gallery is not banned by boycott.
PK – Not now! Mr. Taranienko, by no means! Yet, then it was Andrzej Skoczylas…
ZK – Unfortunately, it was exactly at the beginning of the boycott, April 1982. The reaction of our milieu was very interesting. The first from our circle to break the boycott was Partum who had appeared just before us in the same Studio Gallery, strongly criticised precisely because Skoczylas reigned there. However, Partum’s appearance was not somehow noticed and Przemek’s exhibition was. The fact that he made the exhibition – I have this impression – became a pretext to make against us, or rather – him, certain accusations. These accusations have appeared for a long time. And each such action like his then is like cutting off the branch on which you are sitting, that means it becomes a pretext for ill-disposed people. I would define this so. Some people are even surprised that we act in this way. However, I must recall our text from “The Separate Whole” – there is the following point there: “And the others know from the others and advise me to do it myself to be in the better, and I am still doing it in order to find myself in the better, and the others and the other others from the others, thanks to what I have done, are in the better, and I am constantly in the worse – so the others from the others laugh at me or break relations with me.”
PK – On my part, while recalling this period, I do not have to say how lousy that time was in general – the martial law for us, people. Our feelings were probably like those of all Poles. Indeed, there was the feeling of some hopelessness, break down…. And that happened, I think, to both of us equally. Although, I tried to retain the image of a “strong man” under those circumstances. And a man who is simply mad. it was a mad move on my part. I did realise all this. But … picking out some minor facts from the period when my exhibition was organised, at the time of its hanging, Geno Malkowski also was busy organising his next exhibition in Studio. I even witnessed his conversation about it with Skoczylas. Later, probably after my exhibition, I learnt that Malkowski had given up the idea. I am saying this because I think that at that time the boycott was already appearing. I did not witness any proclamation of the boycott on paper nor any directive concerning the issue. On the basis of what I know, I can propose a thesis that the idea of the boycott was only taking shape.
ZK – There were so called “night calls”, but not to us.
PK – So at that time the idea was appearing. I know, for example, how hesitant Geno was. He did not know whether he should take part in it or not. He really wanted to participate! And everybody was waiting for the exhibition. To have an exhibition in the Studio Gallery was a kind of promotion. Crowds used to come there, the television visited it, it was a certain event. For us it was the first one-person show, in a sense, that means the first exhibition of hanging works. Organised with a lot of toil. After our participation in “Krakow Meetings”, after the acceptance and publication – unfortunately for a paper mill – of our materials in “Sztuka”, this exhibition could have been our public promotion after 10 years of activity. So it was a serious matter. At that time, I believe, the boycott was only appearing, and everything depended mostly on the individual’s moral judgement. Zosia had one, I had another. And you cannot say any more here. If someone is interested, I can present my arguments in two words. We had been beyond the pale for the previous decade; however, one should not interpret it, that we were outside the margin of social or political life. Not at all. We were rather occupying the position of the fighting, vindictive left in that system. However, we were outside the margin of official life which, to be precise, was handled by ZPAP and MKiS. And these were the institutions which prepared such a fate for us in the past decade. This was not so much the fault of the state government but the Union. And suddenly that Union called everyone to boycott! Unexpectedly, such people-icons appeared like Puciata and others, who had connections with the “Solidarity” movement. Well – this is not important, but those people had previously been destroying the alternative movement in conspiracy with the government!
ZK – Tell about Wisniewski and Przyjemski.
PK – Oh, yes. The President of the Union, Puciata, at the beginning of the seventies was the President of Bydgoszcz Branch where Wisniewski and Przyjemski were registered as members. Well, this man normally closed the exhibitions sending “denunciations” to the authorities! Wisniewski mentions it in his “The Contester’s Evidence”. So, on my part, taking part in such an exhibition was the boycott of the boycotting people. Certainly, this was a crazy thing to do, because it created the opportunity – which I had accounted on – to someone to make use of the situation, to make a mountain of a molehill, in the case of my activities, when necessary. On the other hand, in our circle – the circle of the alternative movement in which we were active, there were no active repressions against us for that exhibition. They realised a little that it was a part of the game which we were playing. I will give examples: we were invited for a meeting, one of the meetings of “The Culture of the Whipround”, at Kazimierz. Strictly speaking, by Partum who had organised the event. We could participate in the events outside the city, if we wanted to. Perhaps they would look ill at us, but, after all, every non-party member looked ill at us because we were still in the party at that time; nota bene, till the very end as candidates. Precisely speaking: Zosia returned her membership card after the introduction of martial law, I did it in 1984. And they immediately started to invite her – alone.
I think we should differentiate the following forces here: us in private, the alternative movement in which we had participated, i.e. our friends, and the boycott movement, which we identified with the Union of Artists – the most backward reaction for us, “the black Sotna”49, as we would call them. They were the reason for all the evil in the past ten or fifteen years.
So, that was the issue of the exhibition in the Studio Gallery. Now, as for the effects of that exhibition. Obviously there were some pathetic ones and some non-existent. I could feel that boycott on myself then because only 10 people came – this is one curiosity. The next curiosity is the fact that the censorship representatives were absent from the exhibition. And there were works which, e.g. today, could not appear in public. I repeated the performance “with the heads of clay”, described in detail above. Need I really emphasise how up-to-date it was at the time?
MS – And Zosia? You need two people for the performance
ZK – I was documenting…
PK – Certainly there was “Zosia” , I had to manage somehow. There was an effigy sitting on a chair, natural size, modelled from wrapping paper – a bow towards my diploma “Old Hag” in front of the Grave of the Unknown Soldier and our identical effigy from the work “Art As They Want It To Be”.
MS – From Lublin?…
ZK – Yes. March 1978, the Labyrinth Gallery. “Activity upon a Head”. Then, in the static part of the evening the effigy was sitting in a box surrounded by “media” in the form of traditional drawings hanging around its head on three walls.
PK – And in Studio, a person invited from the public was standing behind a chair with such a “Zosia” and moved it. But what an ending there was! As you remember, the figures’ heads get glued together, the people lay down and become still. In the heap of papers, just in front of the joined heads there was a TV set hidden. It became suddenly uncovered because of the movement of the figures. A moment of silence … and the signal of our beloved TV Daily could be heard and on the screen appeared a announcer of martial law in army uniform.
ZK – Everything was synchronised in time.
PK – As for the exhibition, representatives of the government were present, e.g. Mr. Chejarek who was managing artistic life then and the director of Zacheta Mr. Ptasnik. Why am I mentioning it? Because, if the exhibition had been liked by the government we would have had some profit from it. Unfortunately, we had none. Which, again, gives us a good mark. It also proves that our game was right. It was others who gained profits, those employed by the state who were painting guts in a traditional way. Another positive thing from that step: the polarisation of stances. After all – what does boycott mean? Mroczek himself had exhibitions during martial law and everybody who had been invited participated in those exhibitions. To make things funnier, the martial law season was started there by Przyjemski himself, who had already emigrated to West Germany and who presented the most “Solidarity” biased expression and themes. By the way, it is worthwhile mentioning that while we were assembling our retrospective at BWA in February 1993, it was already after the first exhibition of “Gruppa” at Dziekanka. We sent the news to Mroczek immediately – finally they are here! The wild, up-to-date, with their intellectual mockery. And their following exhibition was in Lublin. And who can speak about the boycott! Some paranoid discussions start because Mroczek was not from the government side and Studio was. These discussions are a worn out and closed subject.
ZK – At any rate, it is connected with people, not institutions.
PK – However, the main reason for some concrete steps against us and, moreover, within the alternative movement itself, was our initiative of funding the Union of the Artists of Different Arts. That was the reason for some unpleasant steps which we have mentioned, particularly on the part of the Lodz milieu which deserted under the banners of the prepared ideology about which we have talked before. In Wroclaw the situation was similar. To this you should add the issue of foreign funds for the opposition in Poland and artistic careers connected with it, and so on, and so forth.
ZK – What actually happened? It happened that I was still invited, for example to the first Lodz “Pilgrimage”, to various events…
PK – Without me. So it was an attempt to break our duo.
ZK – There is even a proof for it, the poster from “Pielgrzymka”, that one, with the red sticks, here is – I do not know – a monogram, perhaps it is your brother, perhaps you, anyway?
PK – No, no. The invitation came only for you.
ZK – Besides… I am not sure whether I should confess things like that, but some people really tried to convince me that the future is in private activity and that – God forbid! – nobody should do anything under the state or institution aegis. We were told such things!
PK – But you must say this precisely – who told you this – a person working for the Museum of Art in Lodz!
ZK – Yes, and I was very surprised. I even asked him: wait, why don’t you give up your state post then? And, besides, why aren’t you propagating the art you support in here, in the Museum?
PK – Yet, what is pretty significant, this happening occurred during the collecting of signatures of the members of our Union.
ZK – Yes. After a few hours of conversation with that man I was not convinced either of him or his programme of the boycott. I think that his argumentation comprised contradictions. I do not remember them exactly now. At any rate, as a result of such activities – I am not saying of this particular man – some people who had already signed our founding list, withdrew their membership. I think it was altogether half of them. And surely, this happened because of the activities of that Lodz faction. Some would-be members came to us or wrote letters and asked for their names to be crossed out giving various sorts of motivation. Some explained that they did not want to be activists at all, they did not have enough energy and drive, no time, they preferred doing everything privately, etc. Others, for a change, claimed that the future was somewhere else – e.g. Konart. How did he motivate it exactly?
PK – That artistic activity did not need any institutions.
ZK – Such was the boycott pressure in the alternative movement.
PK – After these happenings we stopped receiving invitations for further events. For example, we were not invited to the second “Pilgrimage”. Then certain facts occurred in the alternative movement. Certain instrumental facts that also had instrumental consequences. What does it mean if you do not invite someone who declares himself as a documentation maker or observer of the artistic movement? Moreover, if he makes this a part of his own activity? Then the professional consequences appear. The next was the fact which we noticed abroad during the meeting of Künstlergremium at Mönchengladbach in 1983. It was the annual meeting of the members. The Poles who belong to the gremium are: Potocka, Wasko, Bruszewski, Robakowski, Kozlowski, Stanislawski. At that particular meeting, apart from us, were: Bruszewski, Stanislawski, Kozlowski and Potocka. A letter from Robakowski was read in which he explained his situation and why he did not participate in the congress, that there were persecutions in Poland, that he was not allowed to leave the country, etc. etc.
ZK – Which made the Poles present at the conference feel silly – they had obtained their passports, so what – did they collaborate with the regime? One could have interpreted the situation in that way. A reaction of some people was just madness and several Germans observed that Robakowski himself had left the country during martial law.
PK – For example Ms. Jappe, the organiser of the movement, especially in the field of performance, a wife of a pretty well-known German critic. I quote her as an example of a conscious intellectual of those circles. So, she, after hearing this letter and knowing very well about the dilemma in the whole issue, certain inconsistencies in it, told about a sad thing about which she felt helpless, and not only she. Namely, she said that the climate of that letter and the climate of such a stance was, unfortunately, considered true by the majority of the intellectuals in the West. Again, looking at it from the other side, when a man doing a thing like that is conscious of it, then you can accuse him that he acts according to the Populist expectations of the public opinion in the West and makes use of this opinion. My interpretation is as follows: this populist opinion belongs to the political programme of Western governments. The artist who acts for the benefit of some political powers, in this case that of the West, let’s assume – conservative ones, does exactly the same thing which he boycotts in Poland. Whatever the moral qualification of such a deed and its rightness or not. Perhaps the other part is right, but – how can we speak about the independence and freedom of this particular artist? At any rate, it was martial law that caused for the first time or provoked – at least I met it for the first time then – instrumental manipulation in the body of the alternative movement. This had not occurred before. Well, I do not consider such cases when someone got offended by some one or someone compromises someone else on merit grounds. Those were normal things in the past decade. However, when instrumental phenomena appear which bring about financial consequences, consequences important for the artistic career, etc., then the situation is slightly different. Then people start pulling out their knives because the fight for survival begins. I have a concrete example: there was an auction in West Germany, organised by Rafal Jablonka – a sale of works of Western artists for the benefit of “Solidarity”. About 200 thousand German marks was gathered. And the money is available – it is waiting for Polish artists. Obviously those from “Solidarity” circles. We were proposed for this grant, however, after a closer look at our files, among other things, the fact that we joined The Union of Polish Sculptors, they – certainly with great regret, because they had reasons based on our works, which speak for themselves, to grant us the money – well, they spread their arms helplessly.
PART IV – OFF-OFF
MS – Do artists really need a trade union?
PK – We understand it in the following way: if other social groups organised themselves in trade unions, so our group should do it as well. However, this does not prove that is must be so in general.
MS – And what does such an organisation actually give
PK – It gives a certain group a chance and allows it to appear as the equal of other groups. It is not discriminated.
ZK – t gives a lot. it gives me the confirmation of my status. When I go to the county authorities to arrange a thing they ask me who I am…
PK – I take out my membership card.
ZK – Yes, I’ve got the confirmation of my status. This is not a question of profession. I am simply defined and do not have to explain or prove my activity, talk about details each time. I do not have to talk about anything.
MS – And what was your union to look like? Maybe, at the beginning a few words about the history of this initiative.
PK – This initiative was started in the mid seventies. In February 1974 in Jablonna, during the meeting of the ministry, party and ZPAP authorities with young artists, we signalled the need for the creation of a new section of ZPAP and a centre dealing with that type of art – PDDiU. A nothing! While summing up the meeting the president Janusz Kaczmarski admonished us: As for the creation of the Section of Different Ones, I would warn against it because it would be too early…” Next, in December 1978, a group concentrated in Dziekanka – us, Zygmunt Piotrowski, Lukasz Szajna, Janusz Baldyga, Jerzy Onuch, Andrzej Partum, Pawel Petasz, Tomasz Sikorski, Jan Piekarczyk – presented an application for creating the Warsaw Artistic Society in the form of a lower level association, that is an unregistered association, which was included in legislation. Yet, this was forbidden, despite many appeals, it was simply forbidden. Nonetheless, the Warsaw Artistic Society held its event despite the restrictions. It was organised by Marek Lawrynowicz at Sigma at the University on 17 January 1979. We had a presentation “To Everybody According to Their Needs” there.
Next I animated the creation of the Section “Other Media” (“Inne Media”) in the ZPAP. Well, the Black Sotna was wary there… yet, strangely enough The Section of Sculpture at the Central Headquarters of ZPAP under Wladyslaw Grycz supported my efforts and on 3rd April 1980 was our first meeting, the second one being on 12th April 1980, for the people included in the new section. At the first meeting the Organising committee was called up (Kwiek, Kulik, Zdzislaw Sosnowski, Jan Owidzinski, Jan Stanislaw Wojciechowski); at the second the text written with Owidzinski was read which explained the reasons for the new section in the ZPAP. We put forward a motion, dated 12th April 1980, to create a section called “Other Media” at the coming 16th General Assembly of ZPAP. The motion was not discussed at that assembly because “of the absence of the representatives of the bodies proposing the motion”. And we asked in our motion for two delegates’ seats to present the very motion. I interpreted the situation in my later letter of application of 25th June 1988 to create SASI 50″[…] the point was to preserve the existing structures in their unchanged form, both that of relations – between a ZPAP ready for directives and with a convenient pyramidal structure and the authorities, as well as a internal organisation of ZPAP – old fashioned, rather impossible to be changed because the appearance of a new section must be preceded by the change in the statute, which must be accepted by the majority. Through its delegates. And how can the artists who do not exist have their delegates at the assembly? Or the representatives of arts which are non-existent? Consequently, a humiliating and absurd situation will have to happen when a delegate who does not care presents a motion and the vote will be left to the delegates who are not interested in the proposal, especially in the appearance of something which is partially an antithesis of their notion of the artist, art and work.” And, after all, what for!
Nevertheless, when soon after this, the period of “Solidarity” occurred a chance of settling this matter appeared because they were bound in this sense that it was difficult to oppose any initiative for legal reasons when the new was particularly sensitive to any shenanigans in this matter. Thus, there was an opportunity and the whole matter was to be finalised at the renovative-to-be Krakow extraordinary assembly. In the renovative movement in the Union I was a member of the Statute Committee. Nota bene the composition of it was mixed so you cannot speak about any bias. It was an utterly honest initiative and among the members of the committee were both Andrzej Skoczylas and some ladies from, let’s call it, the opposition or other orientations of unions. The aim was simply to make reforms in the Union. I had prepared the final project of the Statute Commission dated 17th February 1981 which was later accepted by general meetings of particular sections in the Warsaw district. I find it an interesting document from the history of democracy: a proposal of de-centralisation of a union with the government in autonomous regional sections, with the representatives performing only representative and executive functions. Coming back to the Other Media Section – by the end of 1980 our justification of the motion for the creation of the Section appeared in “Informator Zarzadu Glownego ZPAP” (The Bulletin of the Main Headquarters) no. 11(89). It was the first public presentation of the question on the national forum. And on 20th December 1980 I presented the question at the Extraordinary General Meeting of Warsaw district and it, as a motion concerning the necessity for the existence of the section, was accepted. What caused me to be active in the field of ZPAP? Well, after August ’80 some people in our milieu, according to the new spirit, developed a preference for a separate union. Consequently, on 13th October 1980, there was a new meeting of about 25 people in Dziekanka, and another – at the end of that month in PDDiU where it was finally accepted that we should not open the Section of Other Media while the present statute of ZPAP was still valid. I disagreed knowing that the ground had been already prepared there. Thus, whether I liked it or not, I had to tackle the reform of ZPAP at the same time. However, what a hangover I had…. Finally, on 5th January 1981, we sent a letter of intent to 120 members of ZPAP informing them that we wanted to create a new section with membership declarations. It was signed by the temporary Organising Committee at Dziekanka: Kwiek, Kulik, Jacek Kryszkowski, Zygmunt Piotrowski, Waldemar Raniszewski, Tomasz Sikorski, Lukasz Szajna, Jan Owidzinski, Anastazy Wisniewski, Jan Stanislaw Wojciechowski, Krzysztof Zarebski. Here are some fragments of that letter:
“A New Section is an attempt at creating an autonomous, independent structure in the body of ZPAP to create the opportunity for its members’ activity, to inform themselves and society about the specific character and achievements of their art – different from generally known, classical disciplines of art, to create an opportunity for conceptual, experimental and research work, finally, to defend their professional and social interests and protect the right of the freedom of expression. We hope that the Section will begin to function legally no later than at the end of the Extraordinary Meeting of ZPAP[…] if not, certainly, our experience so far concerning the rules and aims of our co-operation will prove useful in the autonomous initiative[…] The New Section should, as we think, be only one, with its seat in Warsaw, its field of operation should not follow the regular district division, it should be represented by an elected Committee of the Section among whose members [should be] the representatives of local milieux and creative groups should find their place.”
We received 50 applications! With such a piece of information I presented the letter of 5th October 1981 to the Meeting asking for the creation of the Section of Other Media at the coming Extraordinary General Assembly of ZPAP. I remind you – that was the second official motion for a consecutive General Assembly. That time it was the martial law that hindered us. We had to start everything form the very beginning. I did.
I was convinced that – especially after the dismissal of ZPAP – it was possible to carry out the project. I was constantly watching through, among others, my party membership until I gave up the idea of creating the organisation. I remained a party member on purpose and on purpose I agreed to be a founding member of ZAR51 because I wanted to have a practical insight into the way of handling those issues.
I started the talks with everyone anew. In January and February 1984 I wrote a series of individual letters to every person. Altogether we wrote to 36 artists , 20 of whom wrote their names on the founders’ list. This time it was no utopia like the Section of Other Media, but the Society of Artists of Different Arts. I wrote the statute of SASI. The following agreed to become its members: Kwiek, Kulik, Jan Owidzinski, Andrzej Partum, Anastazy Wisniewski, Janusz Kolodrubiec, Tomasz Sikorski, Iwona Lemka, Tomasz Konrat, Janusz Baldyga, Ewa Zarzycka, Jerzy Onuch, Jacek Kryszkowski, Jacek Malicki, Teresa Gierzynska-Dwurnik, Edward Dwurnik, Pawel Petasz, Zbigniew Warpechowski, Anna Plotnicka, Jan Piekarczyk. Twenty people – sufficient to apply for a registration. Unfortunately, soon 6 people withdrew their names from the list and again there was only 15 of us, too few to apply… In the meantime other unions of artists started to appear, so slowly the situation came back to the starting point. That means, again, there was a situation of inconvenience and almost the lack of the need for such a union – on the part of the authorities, as well as colleagues. You could read sometimes: “we can consider the process of re-creating the structures of the former ZPAP completed.” After all, what does it mean new, different arts? There are no departments or institutes of different arts or new media at any academy. Each graduate can belong to the regular, branch union. So, why have a Society of the Artists of Different Arts? Moreover, if we looked at the statute formulas through a magnifying glass, we could find some tricks. For example: what does it mean: the artist of different arts? Does it mean there are some artists who are different form other artists? The word “artist” itself denotes someone different from a common man, and here additionally appears “different artist”! And so on, and so forth. It would have been something like the union of the avant garde. Certainly, the situation that appeared after ZPAP , with many branch unions is the reflection of the condition of art which has nothing to do with the actual condition because that condition ceased to be valid long ago. Even more, in the whole world there are departments of different arts at academies, for instance the department “Time Art” with a section, as we would call it, of performance at The School of Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. Which, considering the freedom of making organisations, opens new possibilities which have been lost here.
ZK – At least as far as SASI is concerned a certain opportunity was wasted. After the above mentioned people had withdrawn their names, firstly – we lacked a sufficient number of members for registration, secondly – our drive diminished.
PK – No, I think we still have it and that it was a precious initiative.
MS – Perhaps you started too early?
ZK – But that was the only period when there were any chances and conditions to make it appear – simply a certain void had appeared. Certainly, we can ponder whether we are entitled as artists to have a policy like that. Nevertheless, it is a fact that that was the only moment: there was nobody, everybody was boycotting or so it could have appeared. And now, when everything functions normally, classically and traditionally – there is no possibility to organise something similar.
PK – A year later I tried once again. Angry with “wypiska” 52- people’s resigning from organisation membership – and the “private” movement in our milieu, I wrote a letter in January 1985 concerning the continuation of the founding process of SASI and sent it to individuals with my evaluation of the situation. Again, I received over 15 applications, however, I did not see any sense in arranging it, because it would not be achieved, as simple as that. However, if the number of candidates reached 50 again, there would be no obstacles to have the union registered. And if, additionally, the people in authority would commit – no problem! If the society were not registered, even then, it would be a social fact of great importance for our group and not only. Namely, it would be a fact showing public opinion that there is a certain group – professional, artistic, that something is changing in art. If that society had appeared then, it would have been an extraordinary breaking point, even in the world.
ZK – Remember, however, that the alternative movement exists in the world.
PK – Yes, one that has suffered a total defeat and now exists only in legend.
ZK – But it is re-appearing, and there are greater possibilities of re-creation there. Similarly to the programme of the Green Party programme that was incorporated by other parties in the West, alternative art finds its own place in noble halls.
MS – What needs does the existing association satisfy compared to the former ZPAP? In your case it is ZAR. Are you both members of it?
ZK – Yes.
PK – Trying to feel like those sculptors do, I see only positive things. They are happy that at last they are in their own, they can rule at their own territory – and that is the end.
ZK – As for our personal experience or impressions, mine are as follows: the association has fewer members, the hierarchy is somehow flattened and simply the access to everything and everyone is easier.
PK – Obviously, people know one another… ZPAP was a horrendous thing because of its organisational pyramid which had its origins in the social-realist, Moscow model. All those main headquarters, district government, sections, well – even sections were divided into main, district, and municipal – nonsense, absurd! And at the top the president, a party member or not – this did not matter, who participated in secret councils of the KC53 and nothing reached the members. However, that was the model defended by grey members of the Union because they believed that such a Union had power. It was to have great power because everyone belonged. And attempts to flatten that tower-like structure, including any pluralist ones, were attacked by virtue of that argument. Well, if the “Solidarity” epoch had continued and the Union still existed, it might have changed its structure and statute.
MS – Was there any chance to retain ZPAP?
PK – I think that there was a chance to retain the Union, which was after all declared by the government. After all, during the debates of the government with the leaders of the Union that we carried on in the ministry, the situation was such that the authorities wanted to cross out only two points in the declaration of the Union which was to be presented at the 17th General Assembly in Krakow in April 1983. The government was afraid of that assembly because of some international reverberations, or I do not know what – the insurrection of the delegates, revolution or what? That was the concrete reason. However, everyone knew in advance that the leaders of the Union wanted ZPAP to be dissolved. It was so.
MS – Really?
PK – Of course.
MS – You mean a gesture?
ZK – Yes. Creating their own image as that of martyrs.
PK – Obviously so. That was very convenient for them. From the artistic point of view they are mediocre artists. The only merit in their lives or in history could be gestures like that. Well, it is not even merits that are the point, because nobody would remember it. Perhaps, it was just the 5 minutes for one’s name which might have echoed thanks to that after the storm, when people would discuss only art. Thus, either the government would have yielded and they could have won, or – the dismissal of the Union – that was the stake of that game. Obviously, the first possibility was out of the question, because if somebody managed with the whole “Solidarity”, he would certainly cope with a few people or some union of artists – that’s sure. Thus, there was the chance of the survival of ZPAP and I am convinced it should have been retained because some positive restoring tendencies had appeared in it. The situation of the unions which have not been dissolved confirms my point.
MS – Well! I do not know about the photographers, but as far as film people are concerned, the opinions vary.
PK – I am thinking of what Wajda did. He said “I’d rather resign to preserve the union than risk the union for my own victory.” The same situation was in ZPAP.
MS – Different in the respect that the government did not care about Puciata himself. Wajda is Wajda.
PK – I participated in that crucial meeting on 20th March 1983 when the decisions were made, namely the resolution of Warsaw District, which was the summing up of all regional resolutions. The resolution of the Head Administration was based on all such resolutions and then presented at the General Assembly in Krakow, which, as we know, did not happen. I witnessed the vote and acceptance of the resolution. The team with Janusz Kaczmarski revealed itself. They governed the Union for many years – compare the afore-mentioned meeting in Jablonna in 1974. Anyway, almost everybody voted for….
ZK – The motion stipulated that the statute was to be left unchanged and that was the only reason you voted against.
PK – Yes. If we are to talk about my personal motivation, I voted against the motion solely because of my moral feeling that the union which through its resolution rejected the creation of the Section of Other Media at the General Assembly was, in my eyes, finished. I did not vote with the majority because I would vote against myself then. And against the people whom I supported – this ground of poor, hungry artists of “other media”. What were the details? There was a point in the resolution which stipulated that because of the power of the Union no attempts to reform the statute of ZPAP would be made during the General Assembly. That would mean – since the clause about the existence of the section was registered in the statute – that no new section could have ever appeared. The matter was clear.
MS – It was clear for you, but was it so for others? You know that particularly in that period, when the memory of the issue of the statute of “Solidarity” was still fresh, any change in the statute, any amendment, etc. was understood as an attempt to limit the organisation by the government. Did you explain clearly to the voting gremium what the point was? Did they realise it?
PK – Certainly, they did not realise it, because nobody except me cared about it. I did not speak about it at the meeting because, I believe, there was not much sense in it. Everybody was in confusion, so I as one of the few, voted against and all the party members left in order not to vote. Well, I am sorry, except for three people. Gorol was one of those who left, everyone left to avoid troubles or because they secretly supported that decision? Moreover, there was another trick in it, which I as a professional could not simply stand. Half of the resolution concerned matters of merit and of the statute, among others the clause that one should not change the statute or propose any initiatives to reform the Union in order not to weaken it in the then political situation. I emphasise – the resolution forbade initiatives to reform the Union! That was one part of the resolution, the other half demanded freedom for political prisoners. Later, when Kalina walked around with a petition for the release of the prisoners I also signed it. However, such moral blackmail is unacceptable. You must not mix the issues of blood and sweat with the issues of the clauses in the statute. Simply because it is blackmail, especially if people do not vote for particular points in the resolution but the entire resolution at once. You are welcome if we are having a ballot for particular points, then I will vote for the release of political prisoners, for freedom, etc. And I will vote against the point forbidding amendments in the statute. Then it is OK! However, when someone prepares such a voting manipulation? How come a thing like that can happen, so what – does it mean there are dupes in the voting hall?
ZK – Again, you suffered for others.
PK – Consequently, the result of all that, that whole fuss was that the people who were indifferent but who always cared about their stomachs and cars won in that whole game. For example Mr Frycz who is not a political personality, does not interfere in these matters, but wants the sculptors earn a lot, and himself too, he wants them to have many commissions, to have their own galleries – and he has achieved all this; this is what he wanted. And very well! Yet, why be surprised? If Puciata’s concept had won, we would not have Mr Frycz and other people, only that same old company, now real luminaries.
MS – In the period of those events – in Spring 1983 – that whole game was just art for art’s sake, because everyone knew in advance that nothing would come of that, that ZPAP could only make a nice exit from the stage. Perhaps that was the reason that the game had such an …. aesthetic value?
PK – Oh, yes…ha ha.. In accordance with Nietzsche.
And as for our Association, it would be worthwhile quoting several points from the statute. For example, such interesting point which constitute an exotic trait of the alternative movement, that “SASI is a registered association and is a legal entity. SASI can be a member of national and foreign organisations of a similar character”. And, yes, the main points are “The character, the objectives and the means of acting: SASI is an autonomous, supra-regional, free association of artists whose practice does not fall within classical disciplines of visual arts and other arts (although it often stems from and alludes to them). Its expressions often are not classical, widely known means of communication; it often is an activity of: inter discipline, experimental, research-like and study-like character that occurs in time, is a process, a theory, a concept finding its expression in the new media.”
The next point is very important: “The activity of SASI is based on the individual actions of each member for which everybody is personally responsible”. Such a point, acknowledged in the statute, excluded any herd behaviour and observes the artist’s individuality, I believe. And it could have a tremendous significance in the activities of such an association. “Any individual or group activity in the bounds of the Association, undertaken as a realisation of any of the points in the statute, remains the author’s property.” This, I reckon, was also a novelty. That might have been a very valuable initiative, at least because of such clauses in the statute, if it had been validated. Further: “To instil the culture of originality, independence, mastership. To strengthen the role and position of the artist as a non-commercial artist – innovator, experimenter, researcher, discoverer. To notice and promote new phenomena in art. To propagate, develop and protect a common, non-conventional creation, creativity, and expression. The humanisation of the material and psychological environment of man. To elaborate and introduce new forms of education through art to the social practice. To propagate Polish “different” art in a partnership and dialogue with current art in the world as the latter’s integral and original part”. Well, what about such two points, which if they had been introduced into life, would have proved very precious: “SASI organises – I stress: it was a statutory duty – an international event concomitant to the General Assembly; the part of the event will be the presentation of the works and appearances of the members and candidates to the Association as well as invited guests, once in two years. SASI issues “SASI Annual” being a documentation of thoughts and achievements of its members and other people whose activity falls within the limits of SASI interests in Polish and English. SASI runs the SASI Centre, the place of presentations, meetings, an information and archives base, a place for resting, recreation, a place for guests.” And one more funny point: “The SASI artist can deal with traditional genres of art.” Those were basically the main points, the remaining clauses were merely routine. However, if those points were realised according to the statute, it is certain that, taking the example of other associations – not necessarily artistic, that ideals for which we are constantly fighting, namely introducing Polish art into life and into world circulation – they would become true. Certainly, those tasks would have to be financed by the state.
MS – Well… if it were additionally possible to create your own state… (we laugh)
PART V – ABOUT THEMSELVES
MS – So far you have presented a wide panorama of art phenomena and specific traits of artistic life of the seventies and eighties in Poland. I would like you now, as a summing up, to say a few words about your art, your problems, about yourselves without all those explanations and theoretical, historical or social digressions.
PK – I will emphasise important impulses in my work. There are two things: the first – practical examples of the theory and, the second, a social influence. I will add that, perhaps, this might pertain only to me; nevertheless it is a fact that we both strongly stressed the practical confirmation of what we have been talking about, the close correlation of these two things. It is likely the value we see in the documentation is related to this. The documentation is the evidence of what we have realised as a manifestation of our theory – we want to avoid empty words. And what is the origin of the theory? Generally, in my case, the theoretical inclinations came from the diagnosis of my world: its imperfectness. Certainly, I realised, I knew, that say thanks to my general education, all imperfect things can be overcome by incorporating certain facts into life. If the facts confirm themselves, they should be immediately propagated and introduced as mandatory. At the Academy I was concerned with the issues with which I dealt directly. If we established in a group that a given process had worked, thus it should be made obligatory everywhere, shouldn’t it? An object is no longer the only final form of a work of art, so why is the syllabus of the Academy not being reformed in this direction? And so on, and so forth. It was a state of permanent dissatisfaction and rebellion, that was then an indispensable part of and the drive for our activity. After all we had to have a certain drive, didn’t we? There was no financial motivation, rather – the other way round…. I was talking about the basis of general education. I had read, well after all who hadn’t, that such a kind of behaviour had always been appreciated by society – all those innovators whose achievements were introduced as a normal thing in the social functioning. And that was simply the way of social progress. That was an undeniable thing for me because it was reaching me from so many sources. I repeat – undeniable.
ZK – By the way, you somehow related that social progress to socialism, didn’t you?
PK – No, no. I did not know too well what socialism was. I did not even know what politics was. I learnt the definition of politics a few years ago: this is the art of reconciling opposite interests. To that date I had not know what it was. We are constantly talking about a little world, about the Academy. And – that is important, what we have said about the sources. I do not admit any influence on me from the outside before 1974, even though I saw something as if through a mist.
ZK – Let us not exaggerate. What about my letters from Italy in 1972? The description of Dibbets at the Biennial in Venice? My descriptions of the functioning of the artists I had met, of the galleries? And what about the earlier letters and tapes by Grzegorz Kowalski from the USA? And the library of ASP with current issues of magazines from all over the world? And Porebski’s lectures including Duchamp? Admit it – you did not know English!
PK – That was your fault because in the division of labour you worked as an interpreter. I started learning English intensively in 1987. Well, in the visual environment the language is not a great barrier. But, indeed, I am making a fool of myself. It is enough to look into our notebooks of that period – everything is in them and it was also in our heads, yet it belonged to the category of erudition and in that sense was dead for me; although exciting. Even today, when I read magazines devoted to current art I experience an irritating excitation. I would sum it up as, getting in a Syrena54 after studying the catalogues of Mercedes and Ford; having studied the prospectuses of Hasselblad and Nikon I take pictures with Smena55. However, I pretty soon started to understand what was happening to me at the Academy. Well… So, the stage of the permanent rebellion came and my attempt to realise the ideas of “the Gizycko report”. Certainly, that led to a total fiasco. That was that second period, we can say. It turned out that my concept, my “idealism”, which I am absolutely convinced to date was a rational concept and could have been rationally realised – it simply failed. It is only now that I am beginning to realise why. And only now can we talk about socialism, political systems, politics etc.
MS – Can we date that breaking point as 1975 and the “eagle scandal”?
ZK – Earlier. The eagle issue was already a result, after all coincidental.
PK – It was the result of an internal event which conspicuously confirmed our intuitions. However, the intuitions did not have to be verified by unpleasant facts. To that moment, it can be said, we had still been optimistic. Despite a very hard situation we were optimistic in the broad understanding of the word…
ZK -Grounded in the belief in the good effect of rational activities.
PK – But I am thinking about Poland. This was also related to political factors. We should realise what political period it was – the first years of the Gierek era. Indeed, measured in some numbers the rate of economic development was one of the quickest in the world. The workers said “we will help” and the so called common man could buy dollars and go abroad wherever he wished to.
ZK – Again, you are exaggerating.
PK – Anyway, for people like us, who have such a realistic ethos, optimism is a completely natural thing. If somebody proposes a positive programme, whether socialist or not, it is the programme which counts, not some ideological declarations. And so, it turned out that all this fizzled. I think that the reason was those practical realisations, not on the part of the artists but politicians. And simply – people. In that period we, similarly, did not think of the so called “national characteristic” of Poles. We did not think about such issues at all, did we?
ZK – Uhm…
PK – It was only later, in the following periods that we started to realise it strongly and think about it at all.
MS – Is the category of being Polish important, is this a problem for you at all – in your art?
ZK – I will mention here the emblematic trend – the application of Polish emblems long before “Solidarity”. What I mean is the beginning of the seventies and the things which Wisniewski, Przyjemski and we ourselves did. This is the topic for a separate exhibition. I have the major part of the material on slides. Namely, the Polish flag and various means of using it: white and red, the division of the field, this horizontal line….
PK – Yes, here we can speak about the Polish character of art in the strict sense. Sometimes, about the Polish character of the PRL type. In visual arts, any such applications of emblems, immediately reveals a certain facet or a separate value different from the meaning itself; it creates characteristic aesthetic time-results. However, for me, being Polish means yielding to our context first of all. In this respect I consider myself an utterly Polish artist. We even call ourselves the “Polish Duo”.
ZK – The Polish character is a problem but in this respect that it should not be a problem at all. In our “Skrotowce” (“Acronyms”), those pictures that we showed in the Dziekanka in 1984, we wrote in one of the acronyms: “NCBP”. This means – I must reveal the secret “I Do Not Want to Be a Polish Woman” (Nie Chce Być Polką). And that is the very problem.
MS – Is this a kind of a hunch-back?
ZK – A Polish hunch-back, a certain helplessness. It is not the lack of intelligence or talents, it is the lack of rational, efficient and proper functioning of everything and the lack of the normal attitude to everything, without cynicism, without all those ambiguities, without the pissed-off approach. This, obviously, has an impact on art, and also our behaviour and feelings when contacting foreigners.
PK – The lack of service, the lack of publications, bad equipment, a car which is a curiosity, the non-convertibility of the currency, etc. – All these are degrading factors.
ZK – We must always pretend that we did not remember about them. And we know that others, our friends, also pretend to be normal people. Consequently a paradox appears: those who emphasise this abnormality too often, that is who complain, become, by doing so, even more abnormal, provincial. This is some vicious circle.
PK – This is my observation concerning us and the circle of the people who left for abroad at their own expense and their own initiative in the seventies. Who knows, perhaps this hunch-back would not appear if everything had simply been done officially. If I had gone abroad as a rep, I could have stayed in the hotel on different conditions, you follow me? Modestly, just modestly because we are a poor country, however, backed by the state. And now – no state supports me, there is only me with my PDDiU, that is – I and my independence.
MS – Well, whether it is “only” – you can have a discussion on that.
PK – I know, that one day I shall get a medal for it, ha ha ha!
ZK – Posthumously. And would to God you got it posthumously, because if you got it while alive, you would be very poor among your fellow citizens.
MS – Some time ago we talked about the idea of artists employed as permanent workers.
PK – Oh, yes. Ha ha ha!
MS – I understand that this was connected with the first period – the period of your optimism and some attempts to get into the institutional network with the purpose of further revolutionising it – I think something like that was the basis of that idea?
PK – Yes, this is paradoxical: if the artist were employed permanently having his programme of breaking stereotypes and fighting against fossilisation, the state would – I am talking about our real-socialism state – have to finance the pikes in its own lake.
MS – That means guarantee their independence.
PK – Yes, and acknowledge their status as pikes. In other words, it would have to admit to providing finance to the opposition. The constructive opposition. If she wants – why not. I am not saying “no”. However, the artists do not necessarily have to deal with it. After all they can do various things. They can even do nothing. It is so called “social luxury”. My dear…hm… These are interesting issues.
MS – How do you both evaluate your contacts with so called “state patronage”. Patronage – I would call the name an euphemism. A patron is the a of art who supports the artist, creates working conditions for him, meets him, is his friend, and so on. In this case all the above things are out of the question, it is a mere administering of art, dividing funds.
ZK – And making lists – black and not.
MS – Oh, yes, so called “preferences”. But you have been active outside the state patronage, haven’t you?
PK – Well, we accepted a few grants. But, indeed, it is difficult to call it patronage, if the grants are given to people in bulk, on a social benefit basis. I believe that the Ministry committee is not able to approach the issue properly. The other thing is the amount of granted money, Even if it were multiplied several times, it would not even suffice for a living. I am not talking about making your life comfortable if the grant is awarded to an artist in his late twenties. If the artist wanted to treat this money as a kind of patronage and spend it on his working tools or the production of works of art, he would have to earn money somewhere anyway. Another situation which we have run across in the case of “patronage”, that is dividing state money, in the seventies, was that the money was granted to those who had a big income anyway and most often steady employment.
MS – Was there any “ministry milieu” group?
PK – No, that’s not the point. It was something different. I would label it high and low demand. It is a different thing when the money is granted to help to make a thing which is in demand, and another if it is granted to someone who does not make such things. In our “patronage” the former case is being realised. I leave the conclusions to you. The point is the general distortion of the idea of patronage. In our country it was rich artists who started to obtain money. Who was rich became richer – that was the basic rule of this patronage. And who was poor, a grant would not help him anyway. Well, it might help in a sense, but…
ZK -… it would shut his mouth.
PK – Yes, something like that. At least for a certain time. This is also a characteristic thing; in our case, too. When we were obtaining grant money, our anti-social aggressiveness, by this I certainly mean social malfunctioning, diminished. However, when we started to lack money, our anti-social aggressiveness increased. Well… Obviously, this is a sick situation.
MS – Oh, yes, what would your postulates be?
PK – I understand patronage in the following way: the everyday life of the artist is good – either he is permanently employed or sells his work – and at a certain time he is granted extra money, but not for living – for concrete realisations for which he should unconditionally present a detailed financial report. In our country the habit of making financial reports about state money does not simply exists. It is another example of the general distortion of the system. It is not only in the art domain that the money meant for investment is just used for living. Finally, there is neither investment nor its results, nothing. Or not finished or uncompleted investments, etc. Thus we can say that state patronage serves the state itself, its reporting habits rather; it does not function as it should. Why? Because being a patron requires professional skills and we lack professionals in this country.
ZK – In all spheres of life?
MS – Well, for example in the sphere of administration…
ZK – I am asking, yet, I do confirm it. This is the basic accusation from each Pole, I think.
PK – Yes, yes. We can say that for the time being the professional level is not possible here. As a hobby – why not, it is plausible. However, we want to be professional artists and people.
MS – Can we thus sum up as follows: the state patronage does not practically concern you; although, you are not programmed to find it totally repulsive. If the patronage were what it should be, you would join without hesitation and objections in such an ideal, say, state patronage?
ZK – Yes.
PK – Our appearance at the Dziekanka entitled “Buying an artist” (“Kupic artyste”), when we offered ourselves for sale, was also a certain proposition of another form of patronage – simply, the members of society would buy the artist directly. What will happen depends on the situation – whether the purchased artist does this or that. He can do nothing, can’t he? There is also another step, really paradoxical – if nobody from the outside wants to buy an artist, the artist can buy himself. Then he is free to do whatever he wishes. However, he has to find money to pay for himself. And here the games with the new type of money appear. The Artistic Money. Then the regular money is being transformed – when it is earned, it is normal money – into the Artistic Money; just as the bread and wine are transformed into our Lord’s Body and Blood. And the artist realises his art for this transformed money.
MS – Thus we have reached the question of independence.
PK – The question of independence was very strong in the second period of our activity and probably was the reason for creating PDDiU. We understood independence in an instrumental way: to be independent you must do by yourself all the things on which you depend. Unfortunately, this is true even today.
ZK – So, in our case the emphasis was put on organising and administering ourselves. On organising by ourselves the fields and places where our art was created and revealed.
MS – In one word, to be independent from co-relations in artistic life, you need to create your own private artistic life?
ZK – Yes, in this sense PDDiU was such a guarantee of independence for us.
MS – Can we thus treat the founding of PDDiU as the sign of resignation, yielding to the system of institutions which you previously wanted to reorganise in your own way?
PK – No. Not as a resignation and yielding! As an element of co-existence and even of fight. It has not been our ideal to do something like PDDiU and propagating its form. It is the very paradoxical thing itself.
ZK – There was a certain constraint because of the circumstances: the situation forced us to take the alternative position and create PDDiU. It is worthwhile emphasising that we have never wanted to be on the margin. Just life pushed us there.
PK – The constraint of the circumstances, yes. To attain independence, something like PDDiU, we had to earn it. So, indeed, we achieved independence. Nowhere else in Poland could one make such kinds of exhibitions as we did. It was not possible for one artist to occupy the gallery for half a year or more, to make several overlapping exhibitions, etc. Or, say, stay for a night in one of the rooms. We experienced at the Academy that they asked us out at 7 in the evening. We needed to create a place where we could carry out all these things in the way we wanted to. Certainly, that is an absurdity!
MS – I can see another absurdity here. Having created this place of yours, having achieved independence, meanwhile, you sent appeals and offers to the government asking them to make PDDiU a state-run institution.
PK – Yes, exactly, Ha ha ha!
MS – Is this still so?
both – Yes, absolutely so.
MS – And if they take the place and sack you? What then?
PK – No, that is not possible. (ZK has some doubts.) Because we can have some safeguards. We have talked about that and worked out a strategy for such circumstances.
ZK – Based on the rule: who will be stronger. We kept the negatives, you have got the copies.
MS – Aha. I love you but I will not give you my pistol, yes?
both – Yes, exactly, ha ha ha!
PK – Making PDDiU a state institution is nothing else but making the government and the state guarantee our independence. In this way you check the society in which you live. Speaking in an anecdotal manner, to be independent in socialism you must create capitalism and the other way round. You can find justification for that.
MS – Independence is costly. How have you lived and financed your independence?
ZK – We have had hardly any earnings in Poland (PK – inserts: not “hardly any” but “none at all”.) and as far as this most important type of our work is concerned – no earnings at all. We managed to sell two of our works, 40 thousand zloties each: in Lublin and in Szczecin. We also received a couple of grants.
PK – So, we have earned on our art 80 thousand minus tax since 1979. On our most excellent works. However, we have been abroad several times. In those cases we spent the saved pocket money and travel expenses on food. The rate of exchanging dollars into zloties was a crucial factor – it allowed us to convert those funny sums of money in a foreign currency into quite considerable sums. We called that money “dolarosze” 56, that is peanuts sums from dollars.
ZK – And our relatives helped.
PK – The relatives and family still help even today. Relatives, relatives! Shall I be more specific, or not?
ZK – I do not know…
PK – Our relatives help – this sounds both nice and formidable.
ZK – Yet, it is true that they help you. Yours or mine. Their help is significant. That means our relatives support us, ha ha ha. Meanwhile we participate is such situations abroad which are also organised by alternative places, which however are linked with their institutions. Thus, these are not some channels of commercial galleries or private donations, these are state-supported places that try to introduce a bit of novelty into their circuit; something like the house of culture, the centre for art, etc.
PK – To be precise: we have not sold any single work of ours abroad, either. Well, unless you consider as such a prelection with slides. I think, you’d rather not. There have been some performances but we did not obtain money for a performance as such, rather for a participation in the event in the form of the return of all expenses and a minimum flat fee. That is what it looks like. Well, there is also an important issue of the refurbishment. We have been living, one can say, constantly renovating for three years. That means we do all the work ourselves.
The renovation consumes large amounts of money and the money is, among others, the property of our relatives. Therefore, we simply function as contract workers because we do the renovation ourselves economising on the pay for would-be workers. We live by or from the renovation. From the labour of our hands in the renovation. Consequently, we have returned to the notion of Artistic Money. However, in my case a situation tragic for art happens because I try to follow the rules of logic, tend to treat the renovation and the rest after the work as … unexpected art. Ha ha ha! Paying money to myself I can do whatever I want to, can’t I?
ZK – Were it not for the renovation, we would be forced to produce some pot-boilers We came all this way through potboiling in the seventies – almost every kind of it. From large -scale decoration panels, architecture models, commemorative plaques, informative slabs made of plaster to bronze, writing diplomas, painting flags etc. etc.
PK – I mean we could have become rich thanks to potboiling – we were qualified and apt; however, to do so you need have the mentality of a pot-boiler which we have always lacked. Never, never have we been asked to do a piece of our work – a composition, a sculpture, etc. – which we could have created in an absolutely free and natural way. I considered what I did as the participation in violation of myself. The best potboiling was when we could create our own art simultaneously. Then we could be absolutely indifferent to the content, requirements, what you do, with and for whom. Otherwise you had to be committed – fu! Our definition of potboiling included in our complaint to Minister Wronski of 1973 is: “Potboiling is a work for money, however, only such work in which someone or something (regulations) determines the range of our competence.”
MS – Did you manage to live on those works?
both – No.
ZK – No, because we spent much of the earned money on photographic materials. Our relatives helped us at that time too, however in a different form. Simply – baskets of food.
MS – Should an artist follow a certain ethical code? I do not mean a Ten Commandments or a common moral code. I mean professional ethics and the citizen’s ethics – here and now. For example the boycott…
ZK – If an artist is to be independent, self-sufficient and decide about himself then it is not his own behaviour which is unethical, it is the behaviour of the group that pushes him in whatever way, in whatever name of right or false ideals, truths, programmes or whatever.
PK – Yes, including asking such questions.
MS – And the production of bad, worthless, revolting works which, additionally can have a bad influence over people, e.g. some monuments?
PK – I will tell an anecdote as an answer. Once, in some rage of anger I shouted that we should slaughter all the painters. To that Jarnuszkiewicz lamented: what are they guilty of, why do you want to murder innocent people? This calmed me down a little. Yet, again: someone had trained those artists, instilled this, not that, and so on.
ZK – It is a closed circle: The Academy or a professor who educates artists in a specific way, then they realise the commissions of PSP where the same professor sits in a Committee. So, it is as if…
PK -. they educated such people who would not cause trouble to the committee.
ZK – Do not cause trouble, speak in the same language, make works in the same style.
PK – Yes, of course. After all, it is an absolutely normal thing, it is like that everywhere. However, this has nothing to do with progress… And, what you have said: it is the system that is unethical, not an individual entangled within its works.
MS – Can we sum up as follows: an independent artist does not observe any codes. Getting involved in any kind of dependence, any kind of relations resulting from the system is the kind of artists’ behaviour which we can consider unethical.
both – Yes.
PK – I think we should explain; although, perhaps, we do not have to, why we propagate the independence of an artist and our own independence. After all, it is difficult get out of it by saying “because I like this way, I feel I am a unique individual – full stop.” I think that independence manifested in my activity is profitable for people, as simple as that. This was proved in the eighties. Our actions form the very beginning, all those efforts to guarantee ourselves independence – have now became a normal programme of acting to everybody. Everyone realises that it is impossible to act in a different way. That means our “mission” has been shared by everyone.
MS – You can be people of an exemplary stance?
PK – We must admit that we have played a twofold game. The faction of artists who opposed us – in the slogans and, needless to say, entirely wrongly called “independent” – did not acknowledge any links between artistic activity or art and the “here and now” reality. Noticing a gag from the height of their ivory tower and painting it in a metaphorical way – that is what their “commitment” ended with. However, the young avant garde in which we participated certainly could not negate the reality so unequivocally. That would contradict the assumptions of such trends us “ad-hoc-ism”, contextualism, and so on. We were constantly participating in that reality. And, it is worth emphasising here, we managed to built our authority anyway, drop by drop, despite the ostracism of the milieu. At any rate, this was conspicuous and we had known about it from the very beginning and followed that policy consciously – the policy of beating our heads against the wall or putting them into something to achieve a certain outcome. I repeat: on purpose. To show the bruises later. In 1974 in “The Enumeration of Activities” attached to our applications we wrote at the end of the description of the Activities with Dobromierz (Dzialania z Dobromierzem): “One of the basic rules in this work is the fact that we allow the parameters of our helpless situation to shape the aesthetic time-results, our problems with living, supply of materials, accommodation, information – the situation that emerged from our departure from the worn-out patterns of behaviour proposed by everyone in the field of art and so called “artistic life”. Our departure is the result of the realisation what the situation was bad and what it should be good!”. And we just called this hitting the wall with our heads, “the commitment”. But this behaviour does not say unequivocally that we belong to a certain side, on the contrary! We even allowed for such an extreme case where we both enrolled in PZPR – to make it conspicuous. Thanks to this e.g. the eagle issue, various letters or utterances have an official stamp and have to be preserved in the state archives – they are not merely cigarette smoke in a café. It was subconsciously received. I think that our artistic policy was right and proper. Which was confirmed both in verbal and other ways during the “Solidarity” period when we started to be noticed and set as an example. Our type of commitment was positively judged. By the way, I can see after many years that even that commitment was abused. I mean, when we were presented as an example of a proper artistic stance, on a justified ground, it was only as if we were an example of the other side. Now, even that period has passed and again we have become unnecessary, we did not get into society. Yet, I think that our impact was very strong, especially on the generation of Dziekanka. I am fully convinced about that. And the impact was a moral one, that is we gave them a moral feeling that there is someone who “keeps socialism to its word” and does not give in. That is a sufficient reason, I reckon, to speak about the influence.
ZK – Well, this is a complicated problem, because, on the one hand, we are rejected by our contemporaries and the younger generation just because of moral reasons, that is our viewpoint on the world, our behaviour, that entanglement into reality – this is utterly negated, rejected and there is not even the slightest will to understand this kind of stance. Which is the consequence of a doctrinaire stance of the other type of world view. On the other hand, however, certain visual and aesthetic effects as well as some method of self-administration have been adapted from us by others and put into practice. So, what kind of authority have we created? Some people have emphasised it many times – Owidzinski, Sikorski, Wodiczko – that we are consistent. Well, perhaps we unnecessarily get committed, are in the party, we do this, we do that; nevertheless in our artistic practice we are consistent and that is what counts. There is no unequivocal answer and unequivocal judgement. I would find the characteristic of those ambiguities very interesting, however, I am not able to do it myself. To do that you would need to interview the third persons about whom we can say that they were not or still are not indifferent to our influence. However, it would be good to hear such statements from the other side.
MS – CWhat else have you not said about yourselves?
PK – This is a mystery. If we revealed it we would have “Red and Black” instead of white and red.
ZK reading from a sheet of paper) – For about 17 years I have been working in a duo. I have participated in the realisation of common objectives. After many attempts I stopped believing in their sense and conflict-free group realisation. And simply have started to deal with myself. Now I am looking for something else, not a partnership in common initiatives. I am interested in those in whom I feel a big accumulation of psychological tensions, some cracks in their personality, in those who try to take certain “shortcuts” to express themselves. I am also searching for wider cultural plots. I do not want to limit myself to my own, individual context and conditioning. I do not want to be a laboratory guinea-pig any longer, I would like to be a missionary.
PK – Zosia! No!…