Anna Baumgart

Anna Baumgart

Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art

Anna Baumgart, Fresh Cherries (still), 2010. Video. Courtesy of the artist.

July 1, 2014

Anna Baumgart
Sing, Slaves

5 July–17 August 2014

Opening: 4 July, 6pm

Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
pl. Szczepański 3a

Curator: Tomasz Plata

Bunkier Sztuki Gallery is pleased to announce the upcoming Sing, Slaves exhibition by Anna Baumgart.

“Anna Baumgart likes playing games—with history, with cultural tradition, with schematic thinking patterns. She also likes the theatre. Onstage or performative setups frequently recur in her works where, almost constantly, someone is impersonating someone, taking on another’s role or trying to live up to a preconceived script. Sometimes, this results in exposing repression or violence which is part of a similar structure, and bringing it to the fore. Sometimes, this goes further: the repression is transgressed by a subversive gesture of breaking away from social norms. And it is just such games that the exhibition Sing, Slaves takes on board.

The title of the exhibition is derived from the opening words of the drama The Constant Prince, the Polish transcription by the Romantic poet Juliusz Słowacki of a 17th-century Spanish play by Pedro Calderόn. In Słowacki’s version, the drama has acquired a legendary aura in the history of the Polish theatre. The main contributory factor in creating this legend was the 1965 production staged by Jerzy Grotowski in his Laboratory Theatre, in which the director presented perfectly his chief theatrical theorem: the total act. Before the eyes of the audience, the actor Ryszard Cieślak made a sacrifice of himself, repeating the transgressive act, emulating the death of Christ. 

And what if this motif were to be juxtaposed with a play in which a male hero ceases to be the protagonist, and the main parts are taken by women? This is the confrontation that Sing, Slaves provokes. On the one hand, we can see a reconstructed stage set from The Constant Prince, albeit the hero has already gone. On the other hand, there are the videos, in which Baumgart’s female protagonists seek an escape from the trap in which they find themselves. The theme of self-sacrifice is also present in their predicament but with a different slant and interpreted differently.

Grotowski’s The Constant Prince became the lodestar event in the history of an influential theatrical trend, which the professor of theatrology Dariusz Kosiński some years ago dubbed the ‘Polish theatre of change.’ The movement aimed—paradoxically—to venture beyond the theatrical framework, to break away from stage illusion and deception and to probe for the primaeval, in the hope of discovering the elemental forces in the human being. This was a metaphysical theatre, a theatre of matters timeless. With Baumgart, it is quite different; here, we are dealing with political theatre that functions between ideological enforcements and the bodies that obey or sabotage the diktat. Yet, to put it contrarily, this is also a theatre of change. A change of political discourse and ideological mandates. Or, more simply than that: this is a theatre of a time of change, that is to say, a time of political transformation: Baumgart carefully takes the pulse of the social and intellectual transformations in Poland of the last decade or so.

Sing, Slaves is a compilation of Baumgart’s works from all the stages of her creativity—from the early videos that reveal female strategies to internalise repressive patterns of acting and thinking, through figurative sculptures and a reconstruction of the stage set of the production Death and a Girl, that alludes to the layout of Josef Fritzl’s cellar, to the new film §1000, not yet shown in public. Baumgart’s works are accompanied by interventions with a theatrical slant, prepared by the director Weronika Szczawińska and choreographer Cezary Tomaszewski.”

–Tomasz Plata

Financed by Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

Anna Baumgart—among the best-known Polish visual artists. She creates video art, sculptures, installations. Her work is considered critical and feminist and was exhibited in the most important institutions in Poland and abroad. Her works are in numerous prestigious art collections.  

Anna Baumgart at Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
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Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art
July 1, 2014

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