Exercises in Freedom. Polish Conceptualism 1968–1981
An exhibition by the Kupferstich-Kabinett in cooperation with the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA)
It has been 50 years since the epoch-making year of 1968, when social protests erupted in Poland as they did in other places, and 100 years since the founding of the Second Polish Republic. This anniversary offers a special opportunity for the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) to contribute to their self-assigned task of bringing attention to artistic positions in Eastern Europe.
The exhibition Exercises in Freedom. Polish Conceptualism 1968–1981, which runs from 29 June to 23 September 2018 at the Kupferstich-Kabinett, presents the stages and protagonists of Polish conceptual art. The main focus is on the time from the late 1960s to 1981, when martial law was imposed with the goal of suppressing the democratic movement emerging from the Solidarność labour union. The approximately 150 works on show, including works on paper, drawings, photographs, films and documents, present a range of positions from social and institutional criticism to analyses of images and language. The presentation comprises works by Włodzimierz Borowski, Andrzej Dłużniewski, Stanisław Dróżdż, Zdzisław Jurkiewicz, Barbara Kozłowska, Jarosław Kozłowski, Edward Krasiński, KwieKulik, Natalia LL, Roman Opałka, Ewa Partum, Józef Robakowski, Jerzy Rosołowicz, Ryszard Waśko, Krzysztof Wodiczko and Agnieszka Polska.
All sixteen artists in the exhibition shared the attitude that the innovative spirit of the artistic and social departure which could be felt in the West and East after 1960 could be put in the service of a fundamental extension of the conception of art. These artistic actors were given a relatively great degree of freedom by the state as long as they did not openly agitate against the communist system. For this reason, it was possible to build a largely independent network of galleries, art festivals, groups and international initiatives between Warszawa, Łódź, Poznań, Wrocław and other urban areas. The works and activities of the artists can be understood as anti-authoritarian resistance and exercises in freedom.
Since the Archiv der Avantgarden (AdA) was donated to the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden by art collector Egidio Marzona in 2017, the public has been invited to several of its presentations, workshops and forums at the Japanisches Palais. At the Kupferstich-Kabinett it now forms an integral part of an exhibition for the first time, revealing its immense potential: It not only underpins the artistic works with historical documents, letters, manifestos and photographs, it also, in one of the sections of the exhibition, further develops the principle of interconnectedness that was so central in the Polish art scene. The cooperation between the Kupferstich-Kabinett and the AdA in itself is an expression of the idea of a creating interconnections between Egidio Marzona’s one-of-a-kind collection and all the museums of the SKD complex.
At the occasion of the exhibition, a catalogue is being published in German and English by the Kerber Verlag. Editors: Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Kupferstich-Kabinett, Björn Egging, texts by Björn Egging, Katrin Kruppa, Marcelo Rezende, Constance Krüger und Paweł Polit, 128 pages, € 28, Museum edition € 15, ISBN: 978-3-7356-0494-1.