November 25, 2012 - Laznia Centre For Contemporary Art - Anna Baumgart
November 25, 2012

Anna Baumgart

Anna Baumgart, Fresh Cherries (original title: Świeże wiśnie), 2010. Film still from HD video, 19 minutes. Courtesy of lokal_30.

Anna Baumgart

16 November 2012–13 January 2013

Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art
Ul. Jaskolcza 1
80-767 Gdansk, Poland
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 12–6pm, Thursday 12–8pm
Wednesdays free admission

T + 48 58 305 40 50

The exhibition at Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdańsk presents Anna Baumgart’s video works created in recent years as well as earlier ones from the 1990s’ cycles Lullaby for Anna and Love Movies. However, rather than a retrospective, it is an attempt at showing two important moments and elements in the artist’s film oeuvre.

Anna Baumgart works with video, installation and sculpture. She criticises the imaging strategies, analysing how media shape visual memory and manipulate our image of history. In this vein, she executed a cycle of figurative sculptures inspired by press photography and a linguistic sculpture—which expressed exclusion from discourse, omission, a missing piece—in the place which used to join two parts of the Warsaw ghetto. On the other hand, her video Fresh Cherries reveals the cultural construct of shame.

Synecdoche, an ancient rhetorical figure, refers to the impossibility of describing the whole. Thus, even the title of Anna Baumgart’s exhibition suggest entering reality with the pars pro toto attitude. What is incredibly interesting in Synecdoche is precisely the attempt at showing this “description” from two different perspectives. The first refers to intimate micro-narrations: Baumgart seems to blast the world through stories, confessions, images and memories belonging to private microcosmoses. She alternately intrigues the viewers and skilfully exploits the sensation of boredom, penetrates the detail leading us to the whole. 

The first part of the exhibition refers to memory and remembrance processes understood individually. In the second part of Synecdoche, Anna Baumgart touches upon the problem of collective memory, referring to the main current of history. The artist builds dramatic tension between her three most recent video works: Synecdoche Warsaw, The Conquerors of the Sun and Fresh Cherries. These three works are united by the artist’s investigations into history, memory and oblivion. This “historical triad” of Anna Baumgart makes us aware of the complexity of our relation to the future—a complexity we cannot reduce since it stems from the human condition itself. Despite the lack of historical objectivism and the possibility to manipulate memory, the past constantly forces us to take position and ponder over our own historicity. As the artist herself stresses: ‘In this exhibition, I build historical contexts, whereas dreams, facts, symbols and meanings intertwine to create the air which we breathe “here”‘.

In this part of the exhibition, we will also see the artist’s earlier films, in which she recalls the great historical narrations. All these works have been created using the subversive found-footage strategy.
Jörg Heiser describes these films thus:

‘Anna Baumgart has appropriated existing media productions, “perverting” them to her own artistic ends. In the video series “True?,” Anna Baumgart inserted her own image into classical films of the socialist era, such as the Russian war movie The Cranes Are Flying (1957) by Michail Kalatozov, which tells the tragic story of a woman whose fiancé dies in WWII without her knowing, while at home she is forced into an unhappy marriage thinking her loved one is still alive. […] Baumgart literally enters these fictional scenarios to confront the factual realities and truth claims they enwrap—for example their claims about female behaviour, as impersonated by the female lead roles—charging the ideological role models of cultural production with personal, feminist investment. In her video Fresh Cherries of 2010, it seems as if it is exactly the other way round: a factual reality and the historical truths it has produced are entered from the vantage point of a fictional scenario. A young actress tries to enter the roles of women forced into prostitution in Auschwitz, while a director, standing in the actual concentration camp’s crematorium, says: “The most important thing for me is that it should look good” (he is impersonated by the real-life director and screenwriter Marcin Koszałka); like Locomotive of History, the film includes historic footage, in this case for example of women being publicly stigmatized as whores, with signs around their neck and their heads shaved.

In Locomotive of History, similarly to Fresh Cherries, historic reality is confronted with the contradictory dream reality of artistic production, its aspirations, failures and traumatic kernels. […] Turowski and Baumgart offer us yet another, possibly more rewarding model: like in Postmodernism, they operate with the curiosity caused by inaccessible sources, but they remain inaccessible, for most of us, because they are either literally hard to access (some archive in Amsterdam or Warsaw)—or might in fact be invented. At the same time though, what they put forth is based on actual, thorough research into existing, confirmed sources—from the writings of Strzemiński to authentic historic film footage. Our curiosity is roused, not allayed, if we learn that some of these sources might in fact be invented. In other words, rather than numbing our awareness of history with mystical tabula rasa gestures à la Modernism, or the historical indifference of Postmodern eclecticism, Turowski/Baumgart provoke a reconsideration of actual history precisely by doctoring it. Maybe, again, the term “Metamodernism” might apply for this.’

The opening of the exhibition was accompanied by a panel discussion with Joerg Heiser (Frieze Magazine), Iwona Kurz (Instytut Kultury Polskiej UW), Kamila Wielebska (Laznia CCA) and Jakub Majmurek (Krytyka Polityczna). 

Curators: Agnieszka Rayzacher / Anna Szynwelska

Press Office: T  +48 58 305 40 50 / k.stenczyk [​at​]


Anna Baumgart at Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk
Laznia Centre For Contemporary Art
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