Maciej Kurak | Now!

One of the most interesting contemporary Polish contextual artists. He favours a simple message that faithfully replicates the found reality in trompe l’oeil fashion. In most of his works, he battles with space and matter, which he incorporates in his actions and installations. Frequently, his works can be easily overlooked, mistaken for shoddy or faulty examples of Polish cowboy building. With one of his first works, Kurak managed to take aback even the director of the institution that had invited him to produce his art project, when, in 2001, in Tarnowskie Góry, he dug cables out of the ground, in this way simulating our underground riches, of which we are not ordinarily aware (Globalizacja, 2001). In Majstersztyk (a 2012 work created in Lublin as part of the Art Festival in Public Space Open City), a romantic workman went with the flow while laying pipes and crowned them with a charming bow tied at the top. Kurak himself states that the work ‘illustrates the postulate of a non-radical social change’, formulated in some political movements. This is a metaphor, one that does not require any special input of force, for the improvement of the lot of the poor in society. In this way, it is as utopian as it is unfunctional.’ Thus, the artist postulates taking on things superficial, banal, temporary and makeshift as well as searching for ways of improving the functioning of contemporary reality.

Kurak’s proposal created as part of the project Dimensions of Utopia is a site specific installation. Although it might not look like this, the artist has annexed an entire floor of the Gallery, thereby highlighting the importance of the site in relation to the work. His work offers a pretext for observing motion, happening and the conditions which enable art to come into being within an institution. To quote the artist, the work is a ‘fragment of ideal, pure space (white cube), accompanied by large cylinders – one on the floor, two on the walls and one on the ceiling – that imitate space folding and unfolding, creating an illusion of progressive movement. The installation will take up a small space in one of the corners, whilst the rest of the Gallery (floor) will remain unaffected.’ The Gallery is a construct that compels the separation of art from life. Viewing the mechanisms which steer these processes and the effects of selecting the most convenient space will be a testing ground for our attitudes to what is embarrassing and avant-garde as well as enabling the continuing dialogue of conflicting parties.

What will the outcome be of such a juxtaposition? Which of the spaces will turn out to be ideal? Where does utopia lurk? Look around and decide for yourself. Now, it’s over to you.

Maciej Kurak (b. 1972). A member of the art group Wunderteam. Together with Max Skorwidr he has created the Galeria Niewielka. Deputy Dean of the Graphics Department of the University of Fine Arts in Poznań. Received the Grand Prix in the Views competition of the Deutsche Bank Foundation and the Paszport Polityki award (2009). In 2010, he was the Ambassador of Poznań the City Host of EUFA EURO 2012. Co-ordinator of the project Poznań Galeria EURO, directed at young artists with ideas for using urban space.

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 quo? Dimensions 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.