The presented exhibition somehow physically approaches the boundaries of reality and what lies behind the term Il y a created by the 20th century philosopher Emmanuel Lévinas. As a mental experiment, Il y a is also an experiment of forgetting [repressing], drawn by a sort of excess, a personal drama – reaction to the absurd of power and violence. Given its immeasurability and an-archic notion the term is explained with the use of the phenomena of night and insomnia. Lévinas is one of the very few who with his thought brings us closer to the core of un/reality, to a concept of imaginary deletion of objects and persons. If we do this, he wrote, it is not “nichts” that remains, but “l’exister” – anonymous being. One cannot escape the “il y a”, even the sleepless one cannot break free from one’s existence.


There are pieces in this exhibition which have been created within last few years. Some of them demonstrate a dissent towards all the violence that took place during the political transformation of countries in Western Europe. Other pieces are to unveil people who deserve recognition, who passed away, though, what remained as a trace had been drawn by excess. For instance, the piece Narrenschiff which was made to oppose against forgetting Andrzej Bugajski, Bolesław Hutyra, Marian Moćko who died on September 15, 2000 in a car accident while travelling to an appointed meeting with the Minster of the Treasury in order to discuss the 15% shares that the Gdańsk Shipyard workers were supposed to be given. Whilst a piece – a specific meeting-welcoming act made in 2001 – was a step outside all the conventional limitations set by the government. By reacting to a drawing of “a ship to perform euthanasia” floating on water in their common – public space people of Gdańsk became “co-authors” in the sphere of agitation – an awakening.


Other presented pieces show the inversion of particular places into non-places – as a consequence of utopias having been put into practice. Stemming from the modernist conception of outopos (a non-existent place) as well as the eutopia (a good place) non/places are to me one of the most characteristic kinds of cruelty to the body. As a way to abreact violence, utopias lead to its iteration. In such spaces the Other, as Lévinas wrote, becomes one of things-objects and his face that reveals absolute defenselessness urges even more its own destruction. Observing what remains of ideologies one can pose a question if the new “placement” is possible in the image of the “evaporating world” – and how to remember at the same time avoiding the sadistic substitute memory, the memory which is appropriated (not in its place) – not allowing one to die one’s own death. Two pieces made in 2012 may serve as an example: “Non/places. The Museum” and “Sports Field“. They are both negative images of travel photography, taken in a museum in Vilnius (Tolerancijos Centras) and a sports field from the ‘70 which had been built on a Jewish cemetery in Wiżajny. The inversion used leads towards the transposition of “experiencing the light” as well as “the point of view” – the perspective of institutions which prevent us from reconstructing the (touch of) history of an individual fate.


Since the end of the ’80, as a reaction to the previous heroic “culture of silence”, the post-traumatic culture has been developing. “The commonness of postmemory with its polyphony seems to have a shifting character: it takes place in an alternative, symbolic space and time – and with a significant latency regarding the event that is actually concerned – “in some other place”. Those “other places” are also heterotopias – archives, museums filled with a variety of materials on human subject research. In the “Geometry of Nature” project – by applying a pornographic video onto a piece by a New Zealand artist Len Lye from 1958, introducing repetitions, cropping cadres, looping, re-cutting the film, re-editing – I am trying to reclaim the space as well as the individualism, and to recognize the time taken to reproduce several experiments on body endurance.

Sławomir Lipnicki
[translated by Katarzyna Podpora]

Agnieszka Zgirska