Krzysztof Wodiczko: Zacheta National Gallery of Art

By Bartelik, Marek | Artforum International, May 2006 | Go to article overview

Krzysztof Wodiczko: Zacheta National Gallery of Art


Bartelik, Marek, Artforum International


As Krzysztof Wodiczko well knows, Poland's history abounds in traumatic events. One such occurred on December 16, 1922, when Eligiusz Niewiadomski, a conservative artist and critic, assassinated Gabriel Narutowicz, the first democratically elected president of Poland, in the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw. Wodiczko considers this event a significant moment not only for the history of the gallery--a national monument and the host to this exhibition--but also for that of the nation. "The history of memorials," Wodiczko argues, "is the history of the machines that only help bad things happen again," and he uses such monuments against themselves as screens on to which he can project his warning images.

This exhibition, "Pomnikoterapia" (Monument Therapy), had two parts: a site-specific projection on the main facade of the Zacheta and selected documentation of other projects from around the world, along with a presentation of this most important Polish artist's well-known "instruments"--for example, The Mouthpiece, 1994, or Dis-armor, 2000, high-tech contraptions equipped with sensitive cameras and monitors, which enable those carrying them to observe while being observed, and thus reverse the dynamics of the Panopticon.

Warsaw Projection, 2005, addressed the abuse of women in Poland, which is usually kept hidden as a "private matter" rather than dealt with as a serious problem. Thus, what normally remains in darkness was brought into the light; the secret was made public. Yet the message was delivered with a certain ambiguity (including humor)--a mode of presentation that could be seen as a form of Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt, or an effect of deliberate estrangement. Revealing his sensitivity in dealing with the pain of others by giving compelling visual form to their deep emotions, Wodiczko nevertheless avoided providing a consistent and continuous account of human suffering, leaving room for individual stories to be told in all their complexity by the Polish women themselves. …

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