In his films and photographs, Artur Zmijewski (Polish, b. 1966) investigates social norms by observing unusual or invented situations. Seeing his role as “inducing the field,” the artist often adapts the strategies of political action in his work, creating scenarios that cause a stir among otherwise passive participants and documenting their actual reactions. His work frequently explores long-term trauma caused by historical and sociopolitical events. While his projects sometimes focus on marginalized or disenfranchised populations, Zmijewski is also interested in what he terms the “dominant state of mind,” widely held popular beliefs and attitudes that shape “common reality.” For Projects 91, Zmijewski presents a selection of recent work, including a new film project, in both the galleries and the theaters. His latest film, Sculpture Plein-air. Swiecie 2009, which premieres as part of Projects 91, records one of a series of staged workshops organized and documented by the artist in which the participants are invited to create art. Zmijewski asked seven artists from different parts of Poland to collaborate with steel workers in Swiecie, a small city disengaged from the contemporary art world. Using facilities, equipment, and materials provided by a sponsor company, the two groups meet and create and install public sculptures. The project was modeled after similar collaborations between artists and workers in Elblag, Poland, in the late 1960s, which were inspired by utopian goals of a classless society and the union of art making and industrial technology. In restaging this moment in Poland’s artistic and political history, Zmijewski highlights the social and political realities that separate people today and questions whether these realities can ever truly be overcome.
Organized by Connie Butler, The Robert Lehman Chief Curator of Drawings.
The Elaine Dannheisser Projects Series is made possible in part by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art and the JA Endowment Committee.
Additional support for this exhibition is provided by the Polish Cultural Institute in New York.