Poznań Art Week 2020

Remedy

Remedy

Remedy – the idiom of Poznań Art Week 2020 – is an ambiguous word that today can be found in almost all media in the world. It is used with high expectations and with hope. People turn their eyes toward laboratories where scientists are doing their utmost to find a cure for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus raging all over the globe – a virus that has radically changed our reality over just a couple of months.  

We chose the word remedy as the idiom for the 4th edition of Poznań Art Week in October 2019. Back then, nothing suggested the events that were about to unfold. The theme of our art show was originally supposed to refer to the ambiguity of the title that oscillates between art being the synonym for a medicament and the artistic practice based on reusing existing objects and meanings (the Polish version of the title – Remedium – bears semblance to the phrase that means to reuse a medium). The outbreak of the global epidemic has unexpectedly created a new way for interpreting our event. The word remedy has gained new meanings.

To begin with, the society is growing impatient for a “response” to current events coming from the world of art. Artists are regarded as social barometers. They are expected to act ahead of events – to predict them in their works and to suggest constructive solutions. Has it been the case this time? There is probably no area of human activity artists omit in their works. What is/ what will be their reaction this time? The initiative undertaken by a number of cultural institutions to make content (films, concerts, works of art) available for free is the first, basic, and highly needed response. Experiencing art online brings comfort to millions of people around the world that are forced to isolate in their homes. As one online commentator phrased it: “If you think that art and culture are meaningless, try going through the quarantine without films, music and art”.

Secondly, the concept behind the title of the event has gained a situational context. Our  decision to hold the festival online has become an attempt to find the Remedy for the institutional crisis that has affected the broadly defined culture.  Suddenly, all traditional channels of distribution have been shut down. Museums and galleries are closed. Exhibitions, screenings and festivals have been cancelled. Numerous events will not take place. Artists have not only been forced to look for new ways of distributing their works, but even new ways of creating them. The crisis we are dealing with is not a crisis of ideas. It is rather the collapse of the system of exchanging ideas as we knew it. Causes of this crisis were not rooted in art, however, as time goes by, they may become strong incentives leading to a far-reaching redefinition and reevaluation of the whole sector of culture.

While the whole world is trying to find the Remedy for the coronavirus, the world of art and culture is trying to find a different Remedy. If art and culture still want to actively shape the public debate on important matters, they must set a new framework for action. They must define their new functions and find new ways of communicating with the recipients. If art still expects to be considered the answer to the most burning social issues, the  time has come to prove it.

Poznań Art Week 2020 on-line deals with the abovementioned problems in a few different ways. First of all, it creates an interactive platform that allows the cultural exchange of ideas. It will feature virtual exhibitions and individual artistic projects. It will also serve as a place for discussions about the condition of art and culture in the time of institutional recession caused by the epidemic. In this way, PAW will try to break the mandatory separation and to create a feeling of unification by a common cause.  Moreover, the themes explored by the participants of the festival will be – directly or indirectly – an attempt to face the current global situation. 

The aim of works of art and texts featured in the festival will be finding a Remedy for mandatory isolation and limited activity.  Works and texts may also become a Remedy themselves. Acting is a clear proof of renouncing pessimism. One other aim of the Poznań-based Art Week will be supporting artists that have no permanent jobs and that have fully or partially lost sources of income. They will be invited to shape the cultural programme alongside other artist.

Current restrictions in public life may provoke a number of questions important for all who work in the sector of culture.  First of all, they require us to reflect on how art can help people adjust to this new reality. After all, just a week ago we considered important a totally different set of things. Banners all over the internet would inform us in capital letters about ‘’top” events with million-strong budgets. In a flash, the situation changed. New questions were addressed. The epidemic ruthlessly verifies the criteria of valuation formed in the period of prosperity. As we ask ourselves if art can play the role of the Remedy we so desperately need, we must also ask – for the first time in a while – what do we really expect of it? What is art supposed to give us? The new context art came to exist in may prove that narrations created by ‘’pompous” festivals, biennales and art fairs are now completely redundant. Maybe we don’t really need to go so commercial to talk about important matters that concern all of us? Maybe major cultural institutions don’t really need to flex their muscles and fight for popularity, but should instead build their cultural programmes using new tools and a completely new logic? Maybe…

The fact is that the reality we used to know does not exist anymore. It fell apart before our very eyes. It collapsed like a house of cards. Big cultural institutions try to remain active by organizing online exhibitions ad curatorial tours online, with the use of social media. They are still trying t develop new programmes. However, for reasons that are easy to understand, their activity has weakened significantly. Some of them, like The National Gallery in London, have announced that for the next few months they would suspend any activity. Meanwhile, closed museums attract criminals encouraged by the prospect of an easy catch. Can we consider the stealing of a Van Gogh painting from the Singer Laren museum that took place  on 30 March 2020 a symbolic sign of the approaching cultural impoverishment? This cannot be accepted.

Poznań Art Week 2020 on-line will once again ensure the visibility and continuity of cultural exchange between Poznań-based partner institutions. At the same time, it will maintain its international character and test new forms of action. Against international trends, the event is going to change its format. It will transform from an intense week filled with art into a permanent platform that is set to launch in May 2020 and intended to operate until further notice. We will use this additional time to collectively reflect on what the future might bring. Is it going to be a reset? A catharsis? A new concept of artistic mission? Will art rise out of ashes just like the mythical phoneix? Or, maybe we will nostalgically turn to the past is search of solid points of reference? We transform weakness into strength hoping that, in a long run, the current situation will become a chance to ‘’refresh” the way of thinking about art, artistic creation and art-related activities and that art itself will confirm its status as the universal Remedy!

Mateusz M. Bieczyński
Curator of Poznań Art Week 2020 on-line

Curators

Sławomir Brzoska (PL), Szymon Dolata (PL), Iris Elhanani (ISR), Anka Gregorczyk (PL), Piotr Grzywacz (PL), Maciej Kurak (PL), Aniela Perszko (PL), Doron Polak (ISR), Dawid Szafrański (PL), Agata Tratwal (PL), Yipei Lee (TW)

Texts

Mateusz Bieczyński (PL), Piotr Grzywacz (PL), Izabela Kowalczyk (PL), Maciej Kurak (PL), Yipei Lee (TW), Mariko Mikami (JP), Justyna Ryczek (PL), Marek Wasilweski (PL), Eric Zhu (ChRL)

Coordination

Mateusz Bieczyński, Piotr Grzywacz, Agata Tratwal, Adrianna Gruszecka

Interns

Julia Dziewit, Karolina Sikora

Fastival’s Visual identity

Zuzanna Kamińska

Event’s Visual identity

Grzegorz Myćka, Eugeniusz Skorwider, Szymon Szymankiewicz, Radosław Włodarski, Zuzanna Kamińska

Organizers

Municipal Galleries of the UAP

Partners

Poznań Art Week 2020 is subsidised by the National Centre for Culture under the programme Kultura w sieci.

Poznań Art Week 2020 is supported by Urząd Miasta Poznania.