Sights and Sounds: Poland

October 31 - November 25, 2014

Sights and Sounds: Poland features new work by the Bouillon Group, Marion von Osten, Anna Baumgart, and Karolina Breguła, selected by Joanna Warsza.

Installation view of Sights and Sounds: Global Film and Video in the Goodkind Media Center. Photo by David Heald.

On a curatorial speed visit to Umeå, in northern Sweden, I sat in a room and received local artists, one by one, twenty minutes each, for a full day. I no longer remember most of their faces or names. What linger are the weird tales I was told: a story of reclaiming a Sami identity; four police officers near the Arctic Circle, daily patrolling an area bigger than Holland; dust as sculpture; an illegal porn cinema on the ferries to Latvia. All of that odd testimony was mediated into photographs, performances, or films. Listening to the artists, I felt like a kind of curatorial shrink, a therapist receiving a variety of peculiar patients whose unique cases and problems were sublimated into art. 

Artists are our nomadic storytellers, repositories of ideological or historical dilemmas, investigators of social inequities. Artists are detectives, researchers, but also social advocates and activists, questioning the gray zones of the status quo.

This selection of films from Poland, Georgia, Germany, and Hungary offers stories with historical and political layers, subtexts, or backgrounds: the mystery of the October Revolution train, the rise of religious fundamentalism in the Caucasus, a Hungarian town driven by feelings of offence and sorrow, and a landscape of maritime entropy with a Chinese shipwreck.

Joanna Warsza

Joanna Warsza (b. Warsaw, 1976) is a curator of visual and performing arts and architecture in Berlin and Warsaw. She works mostly in the public sphere, examining social and political agendas. She was curator of the Public Program at Manifesta 10 in St. Petersburg (2014), curator of the Georgian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013), associate curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale (2012), and co-curator of the 2013 Göteborg [Gothenburg] Biennial. She edited Stadium X – A Place that Never Was (2009), Forget Fear (2012), and Ministry of Highways: A Guide to the Performative Architecture of Tbilisi (2013).


Bouillon Group, Religious Aerobics, 2010 – 13, video, sound 9 min., 20 sec. Artwork © Bouillon Group. Religious Aerobics is a response to the rise of religious fundamentalism in the Caucasus after the collapse of the Soviet system. The artists incorporate the movements of people at prayer in the three major religions in Georgia—Christianity (Orthodox and Catholic), Islam, and Judaism—into a low-budget aerobic exercise video. The premise grew out of Bouillon’s observation that new believers often seem able to repeat traditional religious gestures automatically, like athletes training for a competition. The film was created for Kamikaze Loggia, the Georgian Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). Bouillon Group is a Tbilisi-based collective with six members: Natalia Vatsadze (b. Tbilisi, 1978), Teimuraz Kartlelishvili (b. Tbilisi, 1982), Vladimer Khartishvili (b. Tbilisi, 1985), Konstantine Kitiashvili (b. Tbilisi, 1985), Ekaterina Ketsbaia (b. Sukhumi, 1980), Zurab Kikvadze (b. Tbilisi, 1985).

Marion von Osten, No Voyage on the North Sea, 2013, video, sound, 6 min. Artwork © Marion von Osten. The dangers of the sea have long attracted artists as a metaphor for the disasters of capitalism and colonialism. In this work, Marion von Osten focuses on a shipwreck in the harbor at Gothenburg, in Sweden. The resulting video is an homage to Marcel Broodthaers’s Voyage on the North Sea (1974), a book and film that combine images of a late nineteenth-century amateur maritime painting and a contemporary photograph of a sailboat. Von Osten’s video speaks to European attempts to redesign its former industrial harbors into entertainment and real estate speculation zones.

Karolina Breguła, Offence, 2013, video, sound, 20 min., 30 sec. Artwork © Karolina Breguła. Offence is an enigmatic tale of a town stuck between lethargic and deviant behavior. Some citizens can grow clover on their bodies. A town official imposes a series of harsh restrictions on this practice, hoping the ban will incite local resistance and political awakening. The fi lm echoes the current political situation in Hungary.

Anna Baumgart, The Conquerors of the Sun, 2012, video, sound, 27 min., 20 sec. Artwork © Anna Baumgart.  After the October Revolution in 1917, agitprop trains were sent across Central Europe to spread revolutionary ideas quickly to the masses. Designed by Constructivist and Suprematist artists, the Russian trains carried exhibitions of modern art and Communist propaganda on board. This film is a mock documentary about one such train, which was destined for Berlin but mysteriously disappeared outside a station in Poland in 1920.

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