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Reports and Interviews From: Poland

Katarzyna Kozyra with Dorota Jarecka

Katarzyna Kozyra: What was your perception of art at the beginning of the 1990s, when you first started as an art critic, and what is your perception of art now? How would you define your aesthetic criteria then versus now?

Mu Szum (Buzz) magazine, cover, winter 2013 – spring 2014. courtesy Szum Magazine, Warsaw, layout Moonmadness Studio.

Dorota jarecka: To put it briefly, I wouldn’t have even begun to involve myself in art criticism had I not met you and the other artists of my generation. I just realized that now, when you asked me this question. We met more than 20 years ago at the student’s workshop of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts. I remember that your idea was to momentarily cover part of a landscape with a large piece of cloth. I understood it as a provocation. You wanted to cover and to disclose at the same time. There was a hole in the cloth, and you made us look at the sky through it. And I remember you advocating a realism of sorts and a closer connection between art and society. I fully agreed with this attitude then, and I still agree with it today. Maybe that’s why I was so critical of Polish art in the 1990s.

Kozyra: Have you ever needed anyone as a guru or an authority, and if so, why?

Jarecka: I have never sought a guru or a master, but I admired the older generation of Polish art critics; people such as Janusz Bogucki, Mieczysław Porębski, Barbara Majewska, Aleksander Wojciechowski, and Stefan Morawski. They were like Clement Greenberg was for the New York art scene; involved in politics, but also convinced about the autonomy of art, however outdated this conflict may seem.

Kozyra: Recently you started working as a curator. How do you reconcile the roles of an art critic and a curator? In your opinion, does it happen that critics and curators abuse their positions?

Jarecka: To be an art critic is to assume an authoritarian position. The whole idea of making judgments is based on power, which is typical for modernity. And I think that the role of an art critic is dying down simply because modernity is dying down. Can a critic’s use of power verge on abuse? Yes, when the media is oppressed by governments, political parties, or other factions. I don’t think that curators abuse their power that often, since the responsibilities are divided. Massimiliano Gioni, staging the exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace at the recent Venice Biennial, simply used his power. It is a clear message. But the recreation of the show When Attitudes Become Form at Fondazione Prada in Venice, that was a kind of an abuse, since it positioned itself as pure reconstruction, which it wasn’t. So how about a new slogan: “I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art Exhibitions?”


Dorota Jarecka

DOROTA JARECKA is an art critic and art historian based in Warsaw. From 1996 to 2012 she was a full-time journalist at the Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. Since 2012 she has been a freelance writer. She organized the “Critics and Critics” program and the art writing workshop, both at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2011-12. The following year she ran the series “Marxism and Art,” also at the Museum of Modern Art, in cooperation with Warsaw University. She was co-curator of the show Erna Rosenstein. I Can Repeat Only Unconsiously at the Foksal Gallery Foundation in Warsaw in 2011, which will be followed by the book of the same title to be published this year. She is co-editor, with Wanda Siedlecka, of the publication Krystiana Robb-Narbutt. Drawings, Objects, Studio (Warsaw 2012) and the author of the book Let it be. Dorota Jarecka talks to Anda Rottenberg (Warsaw 2013). She is a member of Obywatelskie Forum Sztuki Współczesnej (Citizens Forum for Contemporary Art) and the International Association of Art Critics. In 2012 she received the Jerzy Stajuda Prize for Art Criticism.

Katarzyna Kozyra

KATARZYNA KOZYRA is a video and performance artist, she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 1993. She is an author of groundbreaking works, of sculpture like “Animal Pyramid” (1993), and the video installations “Bathhouse” (1997), “Men’s Bathhouse” (1999), “Rite of Spring” (1999 - 2002), “Punishment and Crime” (2002). She is currently working on a movie, “Looking for Jesus,” and on a feature film based on her life. She exhibits in Europe and in the United States. She is based in Warsaw, Berlin, and Trento.


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