From “Artificial reality” to a selfie.

A self-portrait of the art of contemporary Polish artists.

Natalia LL, Selfie-portrait, 1977

From “Artificial reality” to a selfie.
A self-portrait of the art of contemporary Polish artists.

opening: Friday, 6.10.2017, 7 p.m.

Awangarda gallery BWA Wrocław
Wita Stwosza 32

This exhibition presents the identity of Polish contemporary artists of different generations. It is a reference to the traditional convention of artistic self-portrait. The starting point for the exhibition was the art by one of the most important representatives of the Polish neo-avant-garde Natalia LL. It is an attempt to present a cross-section of the strategies of representative artists of the last few decades, their attitude towards tradition, the avant-garde’s power to redefine reality through art, the ability to rebel against economic violence and the liberating sense of humor.

Self-portrait in the era of digital reproduction

The way we picture things is related to the technical means by which the images were preserved. How we see the world and ourselves in it, explicitly changes depending on the possibilities which expand our “natural observation” through the senses. What we learn about ourselves from images directly shapes our aspirations and ideas about what “is” and what “should be.”

The sequence of technical revolutions have changed the tools of representation (and art) not only directly by introducing “new media” but also indirectly, by offering each time period images which were unimaginable before. Economic and political changes are only a reflection of those transformations.

The mirror, camera obscura, photography (multiple exposures, negative, photographs that make use of a mirror’s reflection – so called multiple portraits), film, recording and digital editing of pictures, networking, and finally, the banal selfie stick are a series of inventions which have been bringing us closer to our own image. At the same time, the further we go into these state-of-the-art inventions (in an epoch obsessed with individuality), the more and more they destabilize our identity. We don’t need canvas, clay or any special skills to do them. A finger is enough. All the tools we need to produce a self-portrait and to publish it are in our pocket. Simultaneously, we pay less and less attention to showing the truth of that image and to truth in general.

The “Reliving of burdens,” an expression by German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk, is related to the technical and administrative accessibility of creative tools and performing one’s own image. Publishing your own pictures is related to the awareness of the rules of performing. For the followers of the classic left-wing criticism, it evokes instinctive mistrust. If anyone can make a performance out of himself or herself, why should we treat them seriously? It is only what makes the wheel of profit of social portal corporations turn.

The way selfies are circulated is steered and programmed by the IT industry, it is driven by our attention and profits from them ruthlessly. Let’s not be fooled! Meanwhile, under the eye of this argumentation, a point of view was produced which puts the problem entirely differently: If anyone can present himself/herself as anybody, why can’t we be who we want to be?! Somebody influential, desired, funny and uber-attractive. Why shouldn’t we please our own needs and fulfill our dreams, not worrying about the undeniable profits which are being made at our expense anyway? Trolling is the new punk! For example, the feminism of the youngest generations is based on that discovery; so-called “selfie-feminism.” The hyper-conformist strategies of the artist who debuted at the beginning of the 21st century were based on similar assumptions – those artists left behind the transformational contestation and political criticism of post-transformation art.

In the art of Wrocław’s neo-avant-garde, the recording, manipulation and tautological redefining of one’s own image were one of the main means of demonstrating one’s own concepts, both in relation to the art and non-art sphere. That is why the works by Natalia LL, the first lady of Wrocław’s neo-avant-garde art, are the basic starting point for the exhibition’s structure, but at the same time they are an inspiration which lays out the initial “event horizon” of the exhibit. The original and exceptional art by this artist is currently once more being profusely interpreted. The new interpretation evaluates the art’s intuitive, emancipatory and sensual elements – which shift the hierarchy of cognitive acts in a visionary way.

The author of “Artificial reality” opens up a perspective in which we have to try to grasp the self-defining acts by various generations of artists recorded by different media – from the classics of the “lost generation” of the 80s art, through the period of axiological transformation chaos, up to the new Internet-based reality of the 21st century. That is why the exhibition will present works by various generations of artists, starting from the classics of avant-garde and trans-avant-garde art and ending with some new promising artists.

Marshall McLuhan, who became famous for his “medium is the message” died in 1980. Apparently, even up until his death, he was not into computers. The things we are not interested in may be a source of embarrassment for us but it also might be an area in which our suspicions and prognoses come true the most. Let us take a closer look at the transformations of our own image and images of the artists who draw attention to themselves.

curators: Anna Mitu¶, Paweł Jarodzki
organized by: BWA Wrocław (director: Marek Puchała)

exhibition design: Karolina Balcer
collateral event - exhibition by: Tomasz Tyndyk: 6.10-3.11.2017, MpM Gallery.


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