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For many in Poland, the strategies of contemporary art such as irony, ambiguity and alienation still take some getting used to. While the hybrid beings that Janek Simon constructed from bread and metal for Views may have a Dadaist charm for most visitors, the feminist performance duo Sedzia Glówny provides something less easily digested. Whether Aleksandra Kubiak and Karolina Wiktor, clad in a giant hamburger costume, offer themselves as living goods or storm a performance of a popular play, their uncompromising actions radically question the role of women, sexual oppression and repressive social structures.


Sedzia Glówny, performance 2005, BWA Zielona Gora,
Photo Anna Smarzynska


Their performances pick up on positions by Polish feminist artists of the 1970s. Their work seems especially provocative in a country whose conservative view of women is strongly influenced by the Catholic Church. At the Zacheta, Sedzia Glówny uses video projections to release the Furies, the vengeful goddesses of Greek mythology.



Karol Radziszewski, Pomoc/Help, 2007, video still,
courtesy Karol Radziszewski


Poland's right-wing politicians would probably also disapprove of Karol Radziszewski's work. In 2005, he mounted a show called Fags in a private Warsaw apartment. It was Poland's first exhibition by gay artists, no small matter in a country where marchers in gay pride parades are beaten up. Radziszewski places great importance on having his family and sometimes his neighbors and their children participate in his public performances. He thus appropriates territory usually claimed by homophobic parties such as the arch-Catholic League of Polish Families.


Karol Radziszewski, Pomoc/Help, 2007, video still


Family also plays a major role in his contribution to Views: his relatives helped him build a reading room in the Zacheta where visitors can find out more about the artist's activities. Radziszewski is not just a painter, photographer, performer and blogger; as one of the co-founders of the Flying Gallery szu szu, he has organized more than 30 exhibitions and actions in Poland and abroad. He also publishes a gay art magazine, DIK Fagazine.



Olga Lewicka, all-over, 2005, from the series Showdown
© Olga Lewicka


Olga Lewicka seems typical of the young Polish art scene: not limited to one medium, with international connections, and very active. She organized a German-Polish exhibition called Aurora, which was supported by Deutsche Bank. With Lewicka's work, the viewer can get lost in references to art history, philosophy and sociology. The artist wants her work – full of allusions and often seemingly unfinished – to challenge the viewer and encourage thought processes.



Olga Lewicka, Tableau vivant (Suede Peek-a-Boo-Toe Pump With
Swarovski-Crystal-Encrusted Heel) 2005, Installation,
Photo Olga Lewicka, © Olga Lewicka


For Force & Grace, her contribution to Views, she has combined abstract paintings with a text about Samson. This ambivalent figure from the Old Testament contains two fundamental contradictions: Samson is considered a hero on the one hand, but on the other raging avenger, who takes thousands of others with him when he dies – for Lewicka, a "Biblical suicide terrorist".



Galeria Rusz, Opór, Plakat, 2007,
Courtesy Galeria Rusz


The Galeria Rusz duo – made up of Joanna Górska and Rafal Góralski – is interested in directly confronting the public with its work. They paste posters featuring colorful, almost naïve pictures or socially critical statements such as, "I know that free will exists but there is only ever one option." Their contribution deals with the topic of defiance – from historical resistance movements to individual civil disobedience. On one poster are electronic parts – resistors – accompanied by the text, "Once a symbol of active resistance, now one of disobedient thought." Visitors to the exhibition are given resistors they can pin to their lapels to show their support for subversive thought. In light of the works assembled in Views, it's an appropriate gesture.

Views 2007
September 15 – November 11, 2007
Zacheta National Gallery
Warsaw

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