October 30, 2008 - Open Art Projects - Two Men and a Wardrobe
October 30, 2008

Two Men and a Wardrobe

Photo: Michał Szlaga

Two Men and a Wardrobe
Paweł Althamer, Jacek Adamas 2008

Permanent installation, Sopot/Poland

www.openartprojects.org

“Two Men and a Wardrobe” is the most recent project by Pawel Althamer, whose works, from the very beginning of his artistic career, oscillate with different amplitude between the poles of figurative sculpture and collective activities introducing other people into the creative process. By inviting random people from the street, inhabitants of a Warsaw block of flats, prisoners from a German penal institution or difficult youth the artist poses questions about the position and status of the author, which is a characteristic phenomenon in the art of the last decade. However, the means by which Althamer explores the notion of participation seems to be closely related to the social potential that his works carry. Instead of granting them complete freedom, the artist creates a specific framework, a proposition, in which those invited define their identity.

This practice is closely related to the figure of Grzegorz Kowalski, professor at the sculpture department of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts from which Althamer graduated. The original course ran by Kowalski meant to create non-verbal means of communication within the class, where the students react to the activities of others by changing or commenting upon the given situation, shaped Althamer’s attitude towards the creative process.

Jacek Adamas is a sculptor and, like Althamer, Kowalski’s former student. After the graduation, in the times of economic transformation of the early 1990s, the two artists parted and headed in seemingly different directions. In 1996, when Althamer opened his solo show in Warsaw’s Foksal Gallery, Adamas, who worked with minimal sculptures at the time, lived with his family in a small town near Olsztyn. However, the confrontation with the new reality soon forced Adamas to abandon contemplative objects and move towards political activism which he combined with radical artistic activities. As a result he protested against a number of regulations and local authorities’ initiatives which he found harmful.

Althamer’s decision to invite Adamas to participate in the project “Two Men and a Wardrobe” stems partially from the specific context in which the latter operates. A wooden wardrobe abandoned near the Sopot pier is a quotation from the famous 1958 school film study by Roman Polanski featuring two individuals from the margins of society. The sole reason for their alienation seems to be the fact that in their journey through the world they are forced (or want to) carry a grotesque burden. In this sense, the authors of the actual wardrobe can be read as a figure of the other, just like Polanski’s film.

However, the cooperation between Althamer and Adamas is not only a self-conscious commentary which revives the truth of the film, but is also a question about the role of sculpture as an object in space – a question which keeps returning in a number of works by Althamer. By treating objects of everyday use, such as bus seats or accessories from a playground as self-sufficient sculptures, Althamer is eager to exchange the material object for a real experience, as it was during last year’s edition of Skulptur Projekte Münster, where the audience was confronted with a trodden path which ran across a field. In this context, “Two Men and a Wardrobe” can be understood as an example of “social sculpture” – an object meant for a particular space, whose very definition implies a process of a slow, yet inevitable, change, also in its most literal, physical sense.

Realised by Open Art Project
In the collection of the State Art Gallery in Sopot.

Open Art Project is a non – profit organisation based in Warsaw, Poland. It is dedicated to producing public art projects, reaching new audiences and expanding awareness trough contemporary art. By bringing art works outside the traditional context of museums and galleries Open Art project provides a unique platform for an unparalleled public encounter with the art of our time.

The State Art Gallery in Sopot has been functioning continually since 1952. Adding the work of Althamer and Adamas to its collection initiates a new direction in the gallery’s activity. Two men and a wardrobe brings the audience closer to contemporary art reception within the domain of not only public space but also the newly-built premises of the State Art Gallery, located in close proximity to the Sopot Pier.

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