We are living in a restless world, torn by a refugee crisis, in a world where the dialogue is being constantly interrupted and which – perhaps more than ever – urgently needs consensus and the reactivation (of/and) connection. The Connect Project is an outcome of year-long international cooperation between two academic centres – the Chelsea College of Arts in London and the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice. The project’s curators Oxana Smirnova and Pawel Mendrek facilitated the creation of 14 unique Polish-British collectives within their home universities and posed to them the challenge to look for cultural ties, media links and social connections.
The artists involved in the project – most of them students, also PhD students and graduates – were supposed to realy on their competence and intuition in order to create aesthetical and anthropological communication within the domain of art. Not an easy task, given that artists today should use tools not necessarily associated with traditional techniques and in the broader sense have to – as Aleksandra Kunce once observed – be aware that they belong to a game, are played and also play in accordance with the rules defined by themselves and not-themselves. It is worth mentioning that the condition of player is one of the distinctive features of the post-modern mentality. According to Zygmunt Bauman other such traits include the models of vagabond, tourist and stroller.
To a great extend, the Connect Project relies on this existential repository, which should not be looked upon with surprise as the contemporary artist, both naturally and accordingly to the selected medium, uses language games and, at the same time, draws on such qualities as transit, processuality and ephemerality. The intercultural communication present in contemporary art is certainly a trend that does not completely follow the direction determined by geographical factors and Euclidean geometry, but penetrates the symbolic sphere of history and genealogy.
Not surprisingly, the project participants often explored their links with the past – sometimes archaic or archetypical (e.g. Betwixt and between by Sybilla Skaluba and Angelina Kornecka or Motherland by Kelise Franclemont and Marcin Czarnopys), sometimes the recent and still influencing the present (Cave by Agata Lezuch and Joseph Lichy and The Fox Files by Sarah Faulkner and Agata Szymanek).
It is symptomatic that in many cases both the Polish and British participants happened to find their entanglements in the common European history the most illuminating. Undoubtedly, such issues were also responsible for stimulating analyses focused strictly on identity matters. The young artists have become intrigued by the task of defining their own subjectivities against cultural interfaces and symbolic mirrors, which renders the works able to be perceived as cases of particular psychoanalysis of the “mask”, a phenomenon exemplified by Discovering your indentity through analysing the world of puppets by Dagmara Jemiola–Hryniewicka, Louise Wheeler, Ewa Kozera and Magdalena Sierpinska. Paradoxically, equally intriguing, especially in the Silesian context, were genealogy and locality transposed to another imagery area. This attitude is represented by the work by Alex Roberts, Karina Kaluza and Monika Mysiak, authors of the Maze of Fabrics which combined various iconographic and urban motifs typical of the Nikiszowiec district and the area of central Katowice. An analogical intervention, this time of site-specific character, was an installation by Wojtek Kazimierczak and Jonathan Slaughter (Change in the space structure) with references to two structures – The Rondo Sztuki Gallery and the Möbious strip.
The penetration of the habitat, with specific significance attached to natural environment, perceived both locally and as an element of the universe was the subject of Marylin Collins’ and Wojtek Kazimierczak’s activities (Fugitive). The work is also partly devoted to perception and reception as well as to the interpenetration of the virtual and real worlds, a subject matter of many other attempts (e.g. Nothing by force by Aga Piotrowska-Jaworek and Joanna Zdzienicka). The realisations – en globe – revolve around the themes of creation, process, “errors” (the so-called glitch art) or compulsiveness, which can be seen in the project created by the collective consisting of Izabella Leska, Sybilla Skaluba and Adam Zoltowski (If art is supposed to happen, it will happen).
All the works presented in London and Katowice testify to the fact that one of the most fundamental modes present in young art is the idea of relation and the establishment of linking mechanisms. Although sometimes this dialogism is constituted by hardly distinguishable traces and concepts, it is still an important element of young artists’ expression. Despite the changeability of the social determinants that influence their lives and the standardisation imposed by the media, the artists keep trying to make important and often strategic choices. The Connect Project seems to have become an important facilitator of further artistic experiments and self-expression in the multimedia polyphony of the world and provided an illuminative contribution to international, institutional cooperation.
Paul Abbott, Marilyn Collins, Marcin Czarnopys, Sarah Faulkner, Kelise Franclemont, Dagmara Jemiola-Hryniewicka, Karina Kałuza, Wojtek Kazimierczak, Ewa Kozera, Angelina Kornecka, Monika Krason, Izabela Leska, Agata Lezuch, Joseph Lichy, Shadi Mahsa, Mariusz Maslanka, Monika Mysiak, Regan O’Callaghan, Aga Piotrowska-Jaworek, Alex Roberts, Magda Sierpinska, Sybilla Skaluba, Jonathan Slaughter, Agata Szymanek, Louise Wheeler, Joanna Zdzienicka, Adam Zoltowski
Oxana Smirnowa and Pawel Mendrek
PLY Gallery, London
Rondo Gallery, Katowice