The 10th "Castle of Imagination" will have come into the history of the Polish performance as the first festival at which the super-delicate barrier of aloofness of the (yes! Polish) performance towards group actions, the incorporation of the public and other artists (including an art critic even) into unbelievably intense and expressive performances was broken. Certainly, cases like that have (on a small scale) happened before; however, it is only since that time that we can speak about "the performance as experience", about experiencing the performance and the obliteration of the border between the artist and the viewer. We can now assert that we do not know who precisely the viewer is and who the performer is. The festival has became a stage generating this change without resort to the revolutionary principle which crosses out or questions the traditional relationship between "I - the artist", "I - the viewer", "and the world".
The key to the "otherness" of the festival was the appearance of the underground scene, which introduced extreme oppositions and attacked everything and everyone, changing the reception of art, thus provoking an acute moral scandal. The contents of other appearances were such questions as: a reflection on the pauperisation of culture, the invasion of pop and commerciality, a reflection on one's own existence and the existence of the world, irony on the theme of commerce, the presentation of one's personal game with visual, sound and moral forms, an absurd realisation of one's own dreams, the approach to the art of performance as to a daily issue or, even, an absolute identification with daily life, to one's actual abandoning of the terrain of art. The underground eroticism and rhetoric found their place among all of this and dominated, at least in its media version, the entire festival.
The towns of Ustka and Slupsk hosted artists from Spain (Angel Pastor), Austria (Eva Ursprung), USA (Marilyn Arsem, Jed Speare & Alice Cox, Jamie McMurry), Great Britain (Brian Connolly, Kenny McBride) and Poland (Malgorzata Kubiak, Aleksandra Kubiak, Beata Rzeznikiewicz, Wojciech Kowalczyk, Jakub Bielawski, Artur Grabowski, Lukasz Guzek, Pawel Kwasniewski, Dariusz Fodczuk, Antoni Szoska, Ewa Rybska & Wladyslaw Kazmierczak).
The 10th International Performance Art Festival "Castle of Imagination" 30th Aug. - 4th Sept. 2002, Curator: Wladyslaw Kazmierczak
Ewa Rybska & Wladyslaw Kazmierczak
"To be or not to be a Cosmopolitan"/ "Byc albo nie byc Kosmopolita"
This performance concentrates around the issue of one's being the citizen of the world in the context of the recent post-communist past, a limited contact with the world and the new, contemporary anti-globalist context, which want to see the world as a multi-ethnic commonwealth. Right after the 2nd World War, Stalin introduced an obligatory notion of the world and ideological "internationalism", however - never personal. Common people were forced to actualise the slogan "Proletarians of All Countries Unite", which was always ridiculous and void. It served propaganda and politics. It helped to organise the manifestations of solidarity with the Cuban nation or the Koreans and the other way round: the manifestations against the policy of the Americans, Germans and Israel. People who actively participated in "supports" or "protests" were dubbed "the internationals" (a Communist with wide-world aspirations) or "the internationales" (the international sympathising with Moscow). People who mocked notions conceived in this way were dubbed "the cosmopolitans", i.e. the ones who supported American imperialism. Even now, at this moment, my computer proposes such awesome synonyms of the notion "cosmopolitan" as stranger, alien, foreigner, outlander, alochthon, incomer, and a stateless person. In one word - this is someone bad. The "cosmopolitanism" is described as a stance based on the premise that the whole world is a man's homeland. This man's stance is passive towards tradition, culture and the interests of the nation from which he originates. Today, this notion is used in its negative sense by the people of an ultra-right stance, who resist any links with Europe and the world and who want to preserve far-reaching ethnic and religious separateness. Anti-globalists also see a negative sense of the notion of "cosmopolitan". However, we know very well that there is always politics behind the linguistic layer; the politics takes care of the realisation of its own and someone else's aims and interests.
It turns out that the world without borders, visas, the world of similar products, universal culture and common currency is a bad world, destroying what is individual, traditional and national. Similarly, the notion of "the worldly man" sounds bad in the time of general crisis, unemployment, wars and .... the Internet. Political correctness wants to eliminate our open links with the world. Political correctness, imposed by those who most often need not clamour to have their existence in the world ensured and by those who would want to separate themselves from the world at any expense. Fortunately, there is still an individual choice, notwithstanding divagations like those above, which does not have to fit into any of the enumerated frames or notions. And this was the topic of the performance "To be or not to be a Cosmopolitan"/ "Byc albo nie byc Kosmopolita".
The performers, as usual elegantly dressed in suits, white shirts, bow-ties and white gloves, started their performance by contacting tables (objects present in every culture) to which they seemed to turn special attention. The tables were stroked, walked around and, finally, pushed next to each other. Then, a series of quotations from the latest history of art occurred: the artists knelt at the ends of the tables, put chairs on them and, later, - bicycles, they climbed the tables and, accompanied by a genuine Kurt Schwitters sonata, they sat on chairs and were automatically taking down in notebooks the letters pronounced by the German dadaist. Next, they walked along the stage with one shoe on their heads and started to take out an increasing number of plastic gadgets and plastic bags, which they put on their heads. They showed various variations of the gadgets to the public. The sequence of images with masks, inflatable toys, white umbrellas and the reading of the "Cosmopolitan" magazine (with a plastic bag on one's had) introduced us into the world of consumerism, banality and pop culture. The final moment occurred when the artists climbed the tables, put on their heads large paper bags with the brand name MAXI written on them and set the bags on fire.
"Waste Management"/ "Zagospodarowanie odpadow"
The artist began his performance in a previously prepared installation of metal fuel barrels. The barrels were arranged in a pyramid and fastened together. One of them stood separate. The artist set on fire bunches of grass and sticks placed on the barrels. He cut the barrels with an electric metal saw and drank water from glasses placed around, breaking each glass after emptying it first. He let the dirty water in the barrels spill, he tore his T-shirt and splashed mud on himself. In the final stage, he knocked the entire barrel pyramid over so the remaining water and mud in the barrels spilt. To everybody's astonishment, the pyramid now revealed the image of a soldier with a gun, dying on the battlefield.
We can analyse McMurry's performance from several points because we can see several senses in it. However, we will each time touch on pacifist issues here. The issue of the participation of - mostly American - soldiers in wars and conflicts, and resulting consequences. In Poland we "feel" this issue very weakly because, luckily, the Polish army rests peacefully in its barracks and watches real wars only on television. However, from the universal point, the death of American soldiers, their participation in wars is an equally grave issue for us as for the Americans. Here appears the question: How can artists react to war today? In the time of "stealth" operations and selective information. How should one react to wars and their victims, which raise emotions nowhere else but at the site of a concrete operation? The victims themselves and the traumatic experience of living soldiers have circumspectly been hidden somewhere.
"Zrob to sam" / "Do it yourself"
Artur Grabowski started his performance with a somewhat surreal scene. In a gardener's overalls, with a golden spade in his hand, he placed a slice of bread on the tip of the spade and shoved the slice into his mouth by kicking the spade. Then, he "found" golden stones under successive chairs standing on grass, then a greater golden stone and, next, two golden stones, which looked like lumps of gold, and he put all of them in the pocket of his trousers. Finally, he found a large round loaf of bread under the last chair. Digging out the breadcrumbs, he began to eat it greedily and put the thus hollowed loaf on his head.
Malgorzata Kubiak divided her performance into two parts. In utter darkness, in the position of a tense panther before the jump or a porn model, dressed like a cabaret dancer, she was kneeling on a platform on wheels, two burning candles placed in her mouth and her rear part (a special construction?). An art critic, Lukasz Guzek, kneeling himself, pushed her slowly along the entire stage. This banal image was brilliantly contrasted with the funny squeak of the platform wheels and a totally astounded, simpering face of the art critic who was positive he remained invisible.
The second part of the performance was a full-light show; extraordinarily expressive. It practically attacked everything and everyone; in underground-like manner.
"W sztuce, najbardziej podoba mi sie "laba" postkonceptualistow", "About art, I like the post-conceptualists "spree" most.
The artist arranged a large cross from A3 sheets of paper in the gallery. This cross bore the inscription "About art, I like the post-conceptualists 'spree' most". (Wojciech Kowalczyk). In the centre, the artist placed a pillow. This was a starting point. Next, the artist undressed, remaining only in his underpants, and took a bottle of red wine in one hand and a playing portable radio in the other. He spread his hands in a crucifixion-like gesture, repeatedly sipping wine from the bottle and singing a weird hymn of his own authorship. Next, he began exercising with genuine dumbbells. After that, he pulled carnations through his underpants and then smelled the flowers. The whole was an extraordinary utterance of the artist who made an important observation about art, namely, "The conceptualists' doing nothing was meaningful". Kowalczyk suggested to us the potential of one's self-concentration and one's own absurd and untamed freaks which, perhaps, have become a "theoretical" beginning of the performance.
"Some dreams come true" / "Niektore sny sie spelniaja"
This artist of a remarkably charming personality presented his dreams to the public, claiming that those which he would speak about had the chance to come true.
"It is harder in the morning because the sun pains the beach" / "Rano jest trudniej, bo Rano Slonce w plaze boli"
Pawel Kwasniewski's story was one of his absurd histories related to a certain place. This time it was the beach or blankness in Ustka. The main heroes of the story were Rodrigues Montova Ochoya, mist like milk, a sea-gull, sun, beach and a paper goldfish. Making increasingly larger circles in his absurd story and using the roundabout technique, the artists consecutively presented his characters while milk, spilt over the table from a cardboard box, was the fog, dripping slowly on the floor; there was no beach or sun. The point of the performance - the unrealised wish of the goldfish - was paid for by the presentation of pain: the artist made a series of dangerous blows on the wall with his head.
"Step Lightly; Take Care" / "Stapaj lekko; dzialaj ostroznie"
This instruction, or rather wise message, how one can exist in the world, was explicitly articulated in the gallery space. The artist spilled 150 kilos of flour all over the space. Some of us, entering the whiteness, took our shoes off and had a direct contact with the warm and soft matter of flour. The artist began her performance in complete silence. She had small halogen lamps at her wrists and ankles, which emitted a strange cool light. She held in her hand some kind of a spherical object, which she tossed from one hand to the other. Moving very slowly, she gave the ball to a viewer, who was also supposed to toss the ball. Further instructions from the artists said that the performance would last as long as long this little ball would be tossed up and passed over with the same instruction to a next person. The ball was the miniature globe.
After each of the viewers had entered the gallery, the artists meticulously covered his footprints with flower; this, however, was not completely feasible. There were too many footprints and they were too densely marked. Finally, the public could not stand the seriousness and gravity necessary for concentration. The participants began to create their own variety of the performance, spilling the flour onto themselves and sliding on the floor. At a certain moment the viewers' emotions turned trivial, so one of them, Wojciech Kowalczyk, who was just holding "the miniature world" in his hand and sensed that the improper behaviour of the public was impossible to control any longer, dropped the ball on the floor, thus finishing the performance.
"Market value" / "Wartosc rynkowa"
Brian Connolly avoids both performing and presenting his art within galleries. He prizes activities in public places. He finds venues where any type of trading is going on and joins the people who trade usual goods. However, Brian Connolly has his own assortment which he offers to consumers. One can purchase a used tooth from him, or buy a state for money, or a few centimetres of measure. One can also purchase fame. Everything for money.
Malgorzata Kubiak / Brian Connolly, Lukasz Guzek, Jamie McMurry, Pawel Kwasniewski, Artur Grabowski, Angel Pastor, Malgorzata Stach, Marcin Rudzinski, Pawel Buksakowski / Buksi, Kuba / Jakub Waluchowski.
Performance: "Pink jupe" / "Rozowa sukienka".
The performance took place in a culture pub "Underground 2". The "Pink Jupe" was in a place which seemingly was tantamount to the presented art. The photographs of the London underground mounted on the walls of the pub made allusions rather to the underground railway than to controversial art from New York. However, the interior itself turned out to be a friendly and suitable place. All of the participants of the performance were dressed up in frocks and extravagant stage lingerie; their faces were made up in an aggressive female-like fashion. This change somehow suggested that we were in a gay club under a friendly direction of "Malga" Kubiak; yet, it quickly turned out that the "heterosexual" urge was in full swing. Aggressive, heavy-metal music without respect to any principles and a rhythmical beat which Jamie McMurry produced using a metal rod and an empty beer barrel, enhanced by three mikes exploited mostly by Kwasniewski, Guzek and Malga who received support from a choir of the remaining part of the participants, resulted in the mix of expression which had to involve everybody. Both the performers and viewers. The viewers enjoyed also an additional attraction on the monitor where they could watch a quite sharply made film, featuring all possible images used by the underground. This almost hour-long show was a paralysing catharsis, smashing all bad instincts, weaknesses and transitory stages of spiritual numbness.
It seemed that some of the participants of the performance had been waiting for this performance for their whole lives. Lukasz Guzek behaved like crazy, dressed in a tight red dress with a scarf of the same fabric and one black, elbow-long glove. Shouting a text to the microphone, he was more himself than usual. Unfortunately, the illegibility of the text was the weakest point of the performance, the construction of which allowed for all forms of expression, so any "misunderstanding" of the text or its sense did not matter much. The performance ended with the complete exhaustion of its participants who were gradually leaving the stage of this collective performance.
Jed Speare & Alice Cox.
"A Scythe-Man" / "Kosynier"
Before coming to Poland, Jed Speare & Alice Cox read the history of Poland and other geographical and tourist information very carefully. This might be astonishing but they discovered a Polish peculiarity in the figure of a " Scythe-Man" [kosynier], who did not appear in the history of any other country. For those who do not know the topic of a scythe-man: the scythe-men were regular peasants who wanted to fight, having been promised the ownership of land from patriotically disposed gentry who organised a national uprising. The peasants did not have the fighting skills of soldiers but they could use scythes, so they placed their scythes vertically to the handles to make weapons of them. Additionally, we know that the history of Polish uprisings and the scythe-men's fight for independence is linked to Tadeusz Kosciuszko and the history of the United States. Therefore, the most important object in the performance was a simple scythe. Jed Speare featured a scythe-man and showed the mowing of grass using the scythe on a small monitor, the motion and sound of a working scythe. Later, during the performance - he also presented mown grass and the scythe itself. The performance began when Alice Cox covered herself with starch jelly and 'glued' grass to herself; later Jed did the same. While Alice was writing down Polish words she remembered Jed was "playing" on the scythe, connected to sound sensors. At a certain moment Alice began to play on a bugle used for attack signals. From that time on, we did not know whether the following part or, rather, the finale, was the remembering of the scythe-men's history or a mere appeal for regular work, the ecology of life and respect for nature. Actually, this ambiguity was a logical consequence of the function of a simple tool which the scythe was and is in our history.
Jakub Bielawski, a performer of the young generation, made his performance with an exceptional passion, somehow referring to the very beginning of performance art, to pure actionism (action art), when each utterance was saturated with exceptional intensity. Bielawski only signalled the borderline between the technical and the natural and wild. A naked artist got off a car, the lamps and registration plates had been covered with grass, and began to throw cones from the boot energetically.
Then, the action continued in the vicinity of the car, in the car and on it. "Wild" cries, squeaks, pouring out paint, constructed music (?) or, practically, a soundtrack generated strong tension and the state of unpredicted reactions. At a certain moment, when the public was still waiting for the development of action, the artist said: Go away now! The performance finished long ago.
"Game" / "Gra".
For two years Dariusz Fodczuk has continued a genuine game with the public in many places. He divides space into two parts. In one of them people play, in the other - not. The artist approached the people in the play part and made a series of simple gestures: he greeted them and hugged them, gradually undressing both himself and the people. The public had an absolutely free choice of joining the game or leaving the play area. The "game" ends with a collective photograph of naked people. Fodczuk's performance is a manifestation of freedom and love and the defeat of the taboo of nakedness.
"Najbardziej zwiariowane pomysly w moich performance" / "The Craziest Ideas in My Performances"
Antoni Szoska made another performance in the series of his outlandish and crazy performances. This time again, although the title of the performance suggested auto-thematic issues and the focus on weird ideas, the artist's presentation did not differ from other "normal" performances. Having been watching Antoni Szoska's performances since the beginning of 1990s, we have the impression that we are continually watching the same performance because the artist almost always uses the same set of elements. The same stories, the same thoughts enclosed in jars, the same photographs, the same quotations from famous philosophers, the same musical quotations, and the same recordings of his own thoughts with a whistling kettle on a magnetic tape. Sometimes, he astonishes us with some crazy element or contexts (dressed in a green apron with an apple + high Dr Marten's shoes + panties + a handkerchief with four corners on his head). Sometimes, he can hold a deer with Duchamp's photograph horn during the entire performance; the photograph being rolled to the inside - thus remaining invisible + a brilliant lecture with graphs on the development of contemporary art with one common denominator for all its stages = "too late". Another time, it can be only one surprising sentence "Antoni Szoska fell off his bike today" (a quotation from the diagnosis given by a medical emergency station); however, it has always been his personal story on art, culture, philosophy, his own creation and his own existence on this world. The artist proposes infantile intellectualism, showing respect for or, rather, analysing, questioning and reducing the most famous masterpieces to the level of remote memories, already so unimportant that they are the peers of folk songs which the artist sings or plays on the harmonica.
There is a glass jar in almost every Szoska performance. It is the jar which holds some thoughts of Nietzsche or a photograph of Marcel Duchamp's work. Very often the artist says or reads out these thoughts into the jar. Words falling inside the jar and falling out of it again are no longer understandable. This time, the artist broke the jar into pieces during his performance. Yet, we are convinced that this is not the gesture of the final farewell to making preserves, to thought preservatives because the entire sense of Szoska's art as a performer has been encapsulated to the construction of opposites: adoration and negation. The artist is equally enraptured by the thoughts of great philosophers and by his own thoughts, sentences, and even his brackets, commas, full stops, and small and capital letters. All together, he is able to express this rapture of his being dressed in pyjamas, which seems to take his authority and convincing power away.
A Scottish artist, Kenny McBride, began his performance with the presentation of a book on the history of laughter. Supposedly, there were strict rules of using laughter in the Middle Ages. Laughter was incorporated in the religious system. It belonged to the Church. One could not laugh for any reason whatsoever, in any situation and every day. The Renaissance radically changed our approach to laughter. Laughter was restored to man. However, the evolution of the freedom to use laughter has reached its terminal point where we can laugh unrestrained even at the photograph of homicidal totalitarian leaders who slaughtered thousands of beings. The artist "artificially" made the public laugh showing them the photographs of mass-murderers. Later, Kenny McBride read aloud the information on a tea bag (which he had just made) that this brand had unchangeably been drunk at five o'clock for 300 or 400 years, notwithstanding any national or religious divisions. This tea is advertised as the phenomenon overcoming religious, habitual and time limitations; although, we know perfectly well that this brand of tea is a part of the British colonial history - the cruel and aggressive history which made thousands of lives in the subdued countries extinct.
Kenny McBride's performance spoke about laughter and tea -two seemingly distant and unimportant things. However, their common layer spoke about hypocrisy and totalitarian systems. At the end, he produced something wet (maybe a tea bag) from his pocket, put a red scarf across his eyes and tightened his hands for a longer while, squeezing some liquid from this wet object.
This young female performer turned our attention to the interdependence of the English word "Polish" which means both that of Poland and polishing, cleaning, making smooth and shiny by rubbing. Therefore she swept and washed the floor, polished shoes and was a Polishwoman. She also read out some outlandish forecast that on entering the European Union the Poles will be hired only to sweep the common Europe. Perhaps, given some specific coincidence, the artist's performance may turn out prophetic.
This performance, which involved many participants, was extremely intense, expressive and even caused a press scandal. As a matter of fact, however, it did not exceed the typical limits of the underground rebellion. Although the female artist made the performance "about herself", we learnt little about her. Pretentious megalomania, saturation with banality, precipitous spiritual void, and provocation with sex composed a series of images which perfectly cloaked Malga Kubiak, not showing her "self".
"Zaleznosci" / "Relations"
The artist presented a video film repeatedly showing the image of her own, charming grandmother who was a little abashed by the presence of the camera. At the same time, the naked performer, shaved her head and, also, pubic area. Later she made herself up in a mirror, somehow returning to the embryo form. The symmetry of co-existence, the inevitable character of ageing, youth versus old age, the eternal processes of transition - this was the topic of the artist's message.
"Chance of destiny" / "Przypadek przeznaczenia"
Marylin Arsem's performance was the last but one in the gallery. The artist in a way summed up the whole festival, its short history, and said several important senentces on particular performances and on the art of performance as a form of expression and one's stance towards the world.
In the dark of the gallery, she hung some objects which had been used in other performances before. A mechanical metal saw, a new passport (a thief stole it and a photo camera from Jed Speare while he was mowing grass) a small glove, and a personal notebook. Thus, these were concrete traces which remained also in our memory. Certainly, what is more important is the ideas expressed by gestures, objects, sounds and images. We do not know what will happen to them, we do not know what influence they will have over our lives. The point of the performance was the opening of two windows through which blazing light came into the gallery.
Pawel Jaworski & Ludomir Franczak
"Jaki jestem kazdy widzi". / "What I Look Like Everybody Can See".
The last performance took place in the "Underground 2" pub. Two debuting young performers arranged space for their performance with a certain kind of installations where they presented hundreds of various slogans, dozens of small works on consumerism, patriotism and pop-culture. In the centre of a rather tight space a transparent foil was hanging; it delimited the borders of some artificial aquarium or a boxing ring. Both of the artists with bands across their mouths and eyes, dressed in boxing gloves, had a fight. The fight was exceptionally chaotic and, frankly speaking, senseless. At the same time, the video monitor informed us about a couple of genuine, yet unimportant, details from both artists' lives. The entire performance was very condensed, as if one of the first of their performances was to tell the whole lives of the two artists.
Trans. © Marzena B. Guzowska
Proof-read by Tadeusz Z. Wolanski