July 22 until August 1, 2004
Festival: Parallel Action
Taking place during the 4th Era New Horizons Film Festival in Cieszyn.
The “action” that FGF will present this year comprises loosely connected episodes and motifs, devoid of epic flourish while closely related to architecture and the art of the socially involved documentary. We attach a lot of attention to the seemingly secondary elements of “movie” production, i.e. soundtrack, the extras, the setting, and so on. Robert Musil, from whose “Man Without Qualities” we have borrowed the project’s title, wrote about the flight from the “horrifying violence of repetition.” We are therefore abandoning the exhibition medium and proposing to turn towards other ways of presentation and artistic activity. In Musil’s novel, “parallel action” was a mega-plan, a synthesis of knowledge and skill, that comes apart because of a lack of an underlying idea and ends in a completely unexpected way. For us, the reference to the decadent fin de siécle is an expression of an attitude quite characteristic for today’s socially involved artists: the relinquishment of positivistic control of perception, desires, and thoughts. Artists’ actions join accidental courses of events, comment on, or build the awareness of, various developments, rarely changing their course. During this year’s festival, we have decided to test such varied strategies directly on the town’s living tissue. The methods employed by the artists, we have invited to take part often refer to “post-production,” which is a technical term from the film and TV production vocabulary. It describes the production phase during which the material previously shot is edited and assembled into a final movie. Post-production is a series of small, usually unspectacular procedures: editing, adding the final credits, voice dubbing, and so on. Post-production is usually done by a team of professionals who have not participated in the shooting of the movie itself: their job is to create extra value on the basis of what they have received. This is a moment when the registered picture can be transformed to convey meanings not necessarily identical with those originally intended.
In the late 90s, post-production became a metaphor of cultural activity as a whole, and artistic production in particular. Artists have been increasingly involved in recycling existing ideas or works, editing found or, not always legally, borrowed material. This attitude has given rise to a wide array of artistic strategies that are no longer focused on producing objects or creating exhibitions, but rather on shifting meanings in existing areas such as the economy, design, or architecture. As a result, artists have become increasingly interested in, for instance, local communities, economic conditions, or the specificity of places. At the same time, the line between production and consumption, as well as between creation and copying, has become blurred. Projects assume unspectacular form, and no longer follow the logic of a spectacle with its focus on the climax point. Instead, artists have been focusing on the long-term “side effect.” One of the main consequences of such an attitude is usually a revealing or strengthening of social ties and relationships. Post-production artists go towards today’s typical need for filling gaps in life’s mechanical organization with meaning. Their activities are devoid of the “compulsion” of efficiency. “Even if these projects were not continued, and thus failed as ‘social service,’ that’d still probably be an artistic success.”
ACTIONS AND PROJECTS REALIZED WITHIN THE FRAME OF “PARALLEL ACTION”
PEDESTRAIN BRIDGE IN CIESZYN
Since last year, Foksal Gallery Foundation has been working together with the Polish and Czech authorities of the town of Cieszyn on a project of a pedestrian bridge on the Olza river that would link the town’s two parts in the place of a historical bridge that had spanned the town since the Middle Ages before it was pulled down in the 1980s. FGF as proposed that the pedestrian bridge be designed by French architect Francois Roche. Roche took a special approach to the task: the development of the pedestrian bridge is to become part of a process of integrating the town’s two communities, by actively involving the inhabitants, using local materials, or local manufacturers. Roche does not perceive architecture as an object (a piece of furniture placed in a given location), but as an extension of the town’s historical, social, and economic functions. Design and development is to be a natural process, and the footbridge itself – an extension of its surroundings. From Roche’s point of view, building fiction, be it architectural or social, seems to be as effective as trying to rebuild reality. As Roche himself says: “Identifying a place’s nature interprets it and at the same time makes it easier to work on it. A relation with the ecosystem is the only way to save the relation between the body and architecture.”
The pedestrian bridge – a complex logistics, engineering, and financial undertaking, is a long-term project that will at best be completed in a few years’ time. To promote the idea among the town’s inhabitants, mountaineering experts will stretch a rope between the two river banks in the place where the pedestrian bridge is to be located, and will offer free rides to and fro to the public.
SCREENING OF PHILLIPE PARRENO FILM “BOYS FROM MARS”
In a building at Śrutarska Street 39, which in the 1930s housed a cinema called the Electric Theatre, we will show a film by Phillipe Parreno called “Boys From Mars.” It is a poetic document on the realization of Francois Roche’s Thailand project, where for the local village he designed a prototype house, community hall, or school which uses the ox to generate electricity. Parreno’s film made it possible to finance the development of the prototype, and thus funds from the art world, visualized ideas, gave rise to architecture. The project’s main challenge was to design a building that would be functional in a non-electrified village in the midst of a tropical rainforest.
FREE SHOPS BY SUPERFLEX
The Danish group Superflex (Rasmus Nielsen, Jakob Fenger i Bjornstjerne Christiansen) intends to study the microeconomic processes in which border communities are entangled. Superflex’s projects have all the attributes of “social work,” though the group has managed to avoid the sentimental shallowness that too-strong a shift towards pro-social intervention could cause. “Tools” are a key word for the group’s artistic strategy, as they are used to manipulate existing economic relationships in a process often involving specialists from other areas, such as engineers or musicians. Superflex is involved in a specific form of guerrilla warfare – penetrating the fringes, focusing on small social models, and, in the process, shifting our attention to the global and local deficits. This was the case with, for instance, their Superchannel project of online TV studios spread across the world, aimed at energising and empowering the local communities, or their famous Guarana Power project that aimed at empowering the South American guarana growers ruthlessly exploited by local cartels and multinational corporations. Along these lines, Superflex plans for Cieszyn a project called “Free Shop” (a number of stores that, at irregular intervals, for a couple of hours, “sell” products for free while observing the shopping/paying/consuming rituals) which tests small social groups’ ability of self-organisation and information sharing. The project was previously realised in Bremen and Tokyo.
MURAL BY MONIKA SOSNOWSKA
Monika Sosnowska has chosen a front wall of a building at Chrobrego Street 3 for her illusionistic painting. The mural will probably remain there for the next couple of years. The wall, well visible for accidental passers-by, once featured a full-size advertisement for the area’s largest employer, the Celma electric motor manufacturing plant. Sosnowska, inspired by a workshop signboard she found at one of Warsaw’s bleak apartment blocks, will paint a pseudo-advertisement that will advertise nothing but itself. Sosnowska uses a “modern” aesthetic, giving it attractive form and restoring the lost connection between painting and architecture. Her painting is illusionistic, uses tricks to pull the viewer into optical traps. In a reality where people are being constantly attacked with ad messages, Sosnowska’s commercially useless image may become a strange intervention in the town’s visual sphere and cause it to be reformulated.
Wojtek Kucharczyk operates an experimental music label called mik musik, translating the experiences of contemporary visual artists into experiments with sound. His participation in “Parallel Action” will assume the shape of acoustic installations scattered across the town space. Existing acoustic situations will be modified and subjected to subtle changes that will give them new, puzzling meanings. The project is a result of “shrewd reconnaissance” in the border town. Sound, says Kucharczyk, becomes a material that is abstract form and at the same time conveys very precise meanings.
RELAX, JUST DO IT!
In July, Cieszyn becomes host to a major film festival. In a reference to the event (which features high-profile international guests and presents high-brow movie hits, such as Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster” series), Michał Woliński, editor in chief of the “Fluid” magazine, has prepared a project called “Relax, Just Do It!” which explores issues such as bootlegging, creative stealing of others’ ideas, or illegal copying and distribution of ideas. Sampling material written by others has become the order of the day in music, and an accepted practice in visual arts and film. Producers and distributors have been pressing for more restrictive copyright laws, while a question has arisen: how to stop the free flow of ideas, group actions, spontaneous borrowings, and venomous remakes? How, and why, to stop youth culture’s dominant style? The series of events which will take place on the former premises of a police station will try to answer some of these questions. Critics interested in post-production art have long pointed to a similarity between the “twin figures” of the DJ, the computer programmer, and the visual artist, who are all involved in selecting cultural objects and placing them in new contexts. These discoveries have currently culminated in phenomena such as plunderphonics or bastard-pop. Authorship is put into question, while post-productive artists persistently program the existing forms (be it the world of audible or inaudible sounds, existing architecture, museums filled with art, whether popular at a given time or not, or mass TV production) – reaching for the archives and digital memory resources, juggling with the various cultural codes. Artists taking part: Maurycy Gomulicki & Ilian Gonzalez, Cyprien Gaillard, Tomek Kozak, and Igor Omulecki. Musical performances: Matt Wand, V/vm Jacek Sienkiewicz and others.
The bootleg debate will be supported by the Dusseldorf-London group Hobbypopmuseum, which, using paraphernalia that bring quasi-terrorist activity to mind, explores the issues of artistic celebrity, vernissage pomp, or art world gossip. Hobbypopmuseum’s approach is aptly described by the following question: “What would Ulrike Meinhof and Andreas Baader, the founders of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof terrorist group, be doing today had they not committed suicide in a German prison in 1977? They’d probably set up the organisation’s London branch, paint large-size naïve paintings, cultivate artistic freedom and randomness, and count on the support of the Goethe Institute.” In Cieszyn, Hobbypopmuseum will produce a bootleg of a film by Jack Smith - cult artist in certain circles whose art is made obscure and little known mainly by the fact that Smith uses a 16 m camera. The production will be screened at the former police station at Plac Wolności 3 from 5 pm to 2 am.
An aerial map of Cieszyn that has been used as a poster for “Parallel Action” may also refer to another concept used in the post-production debate: navigation. Travelling within a dense network of images, sounds, social structures, economic relations, signs, and so on, artists continuously deform, recycle, redefine them. The number of choices and possibilities is infinite. At the same time, the aerial photograph of Cieszyn (which brings to mind Piotr Uklański’s photographic action shown during last year’s festival) resembles a playing board, which the town in fact becomes by lending its territory to a special game played by the artists. All this happens at a time when artists’ works/projects are not, as it used to be in the past, the end of the game, but only a transient element in a long chain of repetitions and reinterpretations. “Parallel Action” can therefore, something we secretly hope for, produce some long-term side effects.
Participants of “Parallel Action”: Superflex, Hobbypopmuseum, Francois Roche, Phillipe Parreno, Michal Budny, Monika Sosnowska, Wojt3k Kucharczyk & Felix Kubin, “Relax just do it!”: Maurycy Gomulicki & Ilian Gonzalez, Tomasz Kozak, Jacek Staniszewski, Jacek Sienkiewicz, Maciek Sienkiewicz, Cyprien Gaillard, Tomek Kozak, Igor Omulecki, Matt Wand, V/vm , Kevin Blackdom and others.