Maciej Kurak and Mariusz Libel | Dimensions of Utopia

‘[…] one must be the enfant terrible, make the so-called utopian projects so that they awake and develop social consciousness here and now, so that tomorrow they may become reality.’
Oskar Hansen talking to Czesław Bielecki, Pragmatyzm utopii, in: Architektura, no. 3/4 (1977), Warsaw

Was Joseph Beuys the last artist to allow utopian thinking in art; was Oskar Hansen the last architect of the new social reality? What has become of the revolutionary stance towards an actual change of the status quoDimensions of Utopia is our idea for identifying the sources of the reluctance to think in an emancipated way as well as for trying to find a contemporary enfant terrible, who would liberate our need for change.

This three-year project (2012–2014) is a retrospective of exhibitions, actions and events, which aim to examine the revolutionary and de-constructive potential of contemporary visual artists. It is an attempt to discover the reason for the failure of modern utopias and to analyse the sources of the reluctance of contemporary societies to operate on the slippery ground of impermeable theories and political thought.

Maciej Kurak and Mariusz Libel are participants in this year’s edition of Dimensions of Utopia. The artists have taken on board two aspects of the concept of ‘utopia’. Kurak proposes reflection on the utopia of a space – the concept of a ‘white cube’, popular space in the context of modernist art and the consumerist comfort of collectors. Juxtaposing two realities – the one a theoretically neutral ideal, unblemished and free of disorder with one flawed, tarnished and casual, susceptible to constant transformation taking place with the passing of time and human activities – he poses the question which of these two spaces we need more; which of them will make art more vital, and thus more effective? Thus, is it a utopia – a gallery without financial problems but implementing  a high quality programme, while at the same time triggering distinct social change via pronounced revolutionary activity, which is at odds with leading political and social programmes? Can you have your cake and eat it?

Libel will be presenting a rich spectrum of messages, embroiled in daily life and stemming from it, which at the same time become dystopian, demonstrating a pessimist vision without any chance of improvement. Like Kurak, Libel is not favourably disposed towards cultural institutions, treating them as places that stifle and muffle down the impact of art and the vitality of the artist, institutions that unduly sanctify the message of art while making it inaccessible to a casual viewer.  The brutality of the street matters to him. That’s why at Bunkier Sztuki we will see mainly large-scale murals, which after the end of the exhibition will be destroyed. Nothing will remain that could become an object of cult.

Mariusz Libel | A Higher Good [more]

Maciej Kurak | Now! [more]

Apart from the two exhibitions organised as part of the project, contextual events will also take place at the Gallery. Jakub Woynarowski has prepared for us the virtual diagram Outopos, scaling down our utopias and tracing the evolution of the concept. Early in September, Michał Frydrych will present to Bunkier audiences his latest language sculpture, which will only nominally appear in the Gallery’s foyer. Marcin Doktor Polak and Marcin Szafrański will conduct a speed construction revolution, culminating in a symbolic destruction of a postmodern bastion. Additionally, in our Open Space, especially for the occasion put out of shape by the collective Palce Lizać (Dominika Wilczyńska and Barbara Nawrocka), viewers will have an opportunity to assess their own attitude to utopian reality. Performing a series of exercises, creating our own alphabet or taking part in urban or situational games, we will be able to find out whether we are immune to utopia or whether it is in our nature to become a revolutionary. Also children, by performing a series of manual tasks, will be able to find out what utopia is, ‘when it’s at home’.

Additional materials