Updated: Sep 13
A Foundation Liverpool
67 Greenland Street
Liverpool L1 OBY
Polish artist Artur Żmijewski spent some of last Winter and Spring in Liverpool, seeing the city resembled the sketch offered by those who had invited him to work there and who were keen to see how his process of production would translate to Britain in the first major UK commission.
The central tenet of Artur Żmijewski’s project was an exploration of social stratification of art and after initially holding a set of meetings with the various groups that make up the city's art community. Setting up a 'pop-up art school' that attempted to explore and reconfigure art's relationship to wider society.
Hosted by the existing School Of Art And Design at Liverpool John Moores University, the pop.up school was modeled on the Bauhaus established in Weimar by Walter Gropius in 1919. At the beginning of the project the artist started "Ninety years ago the Bauhaus school invented a new visual reality - I would like to re-attempt this today. It is probably an impossible task, but that is why it is so interesting."
Arthur Żmijewski's practice has, on occasion, registered as extreme. For example, the works '80064', in which he persuaded a 92 year old an Auschwitz survivor, Josef Tarnawa, to have prison camp tattoo re-inked. Another, 'Them', brought together member of different political and religious groups active in Poland to make visual representations of their beliefs. Both contain scenes that provoke outrage and abhorrence, but this artist steady production since the mid 1990s also includes films made with the deaf, amputees, or the chronically sick in an ongoing series of portraits around the world.
The artworks form a practice that insists that artists must operate in the real world and address real problems. Arthur Żmijewski has said that by achieving a connection with reality art can again learn how to be socially useful - with the implication it has lost that function. Individuals whose daily existence has been sidelined by contemporary media who prefer their 'ordinary people' to be in the thrall of celebrity rather than show the reality of everyday.
These works stretch and tests the idea of art as a tool of engagement, not to distract people from the issues affecting their lives instead gives people a space in which to voice their opinions whether banal, insightful or extreme. As a consequence, Arthur Żmijewski is always prepared that the result of these projects may be unpalatable or messy.
Locating an area for exploration, the analysis of a problem and a resulting signpost to a possible solution generated by those involved. The artist sincerely believing that what some may describe as a risky strategy is the way to create new realities for the good of society, not prejudging or second guessing the conclusion but responds to each scenario encountered, while building upon experiments that have gone gone before. - Lesley Young