Communicating Vessels


Communicating Vessels revolve around objects and installations constructed as either processes or events. They do not entirely belong to the non-material domain, nor do they fit the stereotypical image of a fixed piece of art. Life cycles of such works are dependent on properties of fragile and volatile substances as well as on external factors affecting them. Still, their passing and change do not mean loss, for depletion, decay and death are followed by growth, restoration and rebirth.

The exhibition’s title draws on the mechanisms of physics, which become a point of reference when depicting the characteristics of process-oriented artworks. These, making use of materials susceptible to transformations, act like liquids contained in communicating vessel systems: under certain circumstances their matter begins to circulate, takes forms different from the original ones, yet their essence remains unchanged. Shifts inside the system result from a bundle of factors, and relationships are established on many levels: both within one piece, with its specific physical qualities, and where the work interfaces with its environment, viewers, creators, or with other pieces.

Intensity of flows is most apparent in works made of impermanent substances, where change is due to their inherent features and outside influence. Such pieces fulfil various strategies of interaction with unstable matter, either being subjected to the laws of physicality or overcoming them. Some works fade, which is observable in the shorter or longer run. Several hundred blood-red Gerbera flowers constituting Anya Gallaccio’s Preserve ‘Beauty’ slowly wither and pale. The mythical Copenhagen’s founder’s likeness displayed by Matthew Buckingham burns out gradually (Image of Absalon to Be Projected Until It Vanishes). Dane Mitchell’s installation All Whatness Is Wetness, based on evaporation of water and on the rules of homoeopathy, affects caramel-made sculptures by Agata Ingarden: by plasticising them it entails the risk of their transformation. But to transition into another state is never an irretrievable loss; rather, it is just a stage in the works’ cycle of disappearance and return symbolically commented on by VALIE EXPORT’s Fragmente der Bilder einer Berührung, an installation looped in mechanically repetitive motion.

Central to designing the living rhythm of a work is the author’s figure. His or her decisions may come down to suspending a process in order to make us aware what power lies with an artistic gesture. It happens so in Semâ Bekirovic’s installation Unfixed Galaxies, presenting photographs of the universe, not fixed, in the dim red light of a darkroom. The opposite situation is possible too, as suggested by the piece Nature No. 367 – Genesis by Jacek Tylicki, where the author waives his right to control of the matter and instead puts it at nature’s mercy. Regardless of the extent to which results are controlled, artistic manipulations emerge—after all, someone must have pulled the strings for the show to go on.

Communicating Vessels also highlight the viewer’s part in developing the processes that take place in artworks. This concerns projects as dependent on human behaviour as an anecdote passed on incidentally (Matthijs Bosman, Anecdote), a tempting snack (Karolina Breguła, Kippenberger Cookies) or make-up put on as per pattern (Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčova, Memorial to Lida Clementisova #16). The unique bonds formed with such pieces are captured metaphorically in Beili Liu’s installation from the Lure series, invoking the ancient Chinese belief that people, when born, are joined with their soul mates by invisible red threads, and that it is these links which allow them to finally find each other despite any adversities.

Communicating Vessels let the audience explore a space where one work after another—each employing transfigurations of artistic means or producing situations that actively involve the viewer—sets off the carnal awareness of existence. It is an exhibition in process, one to be revisited in different moments so as to follow the trail marked by the passing of works and their rebirth in new shapes, states and locations.

The works Kippenberger Cookies by Karolina Breguła and Nature No. 367 – Genesis by Jacek Tylicki have been acquired for the collection of the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery as part of the project “Boundaries of Collection. Growth of the Bunkier Sztuki collection”, co-financed with funds of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

The exhibition is part of the project “Beyond the Zero Point. Contemporary Art and Its Appearances”, co-financed by the Mondriaan Fund.

projekt graficzny: Agata Biskup