Critics’ Picks

View of “From East to West, Through the Globe, Towards the Moon,” 2022. Photo: Gunnar Meyer.

View of “From East to West, Through the Globe, Towards the Moon,” 2022. Photo: Gunnar Meyer.


Barbara Kozłowska

Pieter Baststraat 35H
September 30–December 17, 2022

A line is a line, even if it’s drawn in the sand. The exhibition “From East to West, Through the Globe, Towards the Moon” launches with selected documentation of Borderline, an epic, nine-part work by Barbara Kozłowska (1940–2008): Between 1967 and 1990, the artist drew lines across the world, designating places where land and water meet with small handmade sculptural forms. Challenging the fragile and arbitrary bounds of political self-positioning, the action reaches into the very heart of Conceptualism by enacting a temporary gesture with permanent consequences. On an adjacent wall, Nivegatywy fikcji (Negatives of Fiction), 1976, compiles daily drawings that chart the hours of daylight and darkness. The tabulations are broken up by empty spaces, marking the days around the death of the artist’s father. This deeply personal absence does away with the Conceptual formality that can characterize autocartography.

Focusing primarily on archival materials, this concise survey at the Kunstverein encapsulates the pioneering oeuvre of a complex, flawed, and compelling figure in the Polish neo-avant-garde. Kozłowska’s multidimensional, microhistorical practice operated amid the confluence of Conceptual art and ecology in 1970s and ’80s, against a backdrop of moral minefields and strict government restrictions. The artist did not want to be called a feminist. She was anti-abortion, and anti-establishment. She never had children. She was contradictory, exposing the paradoxes of the regime itself. Her work is political, radical in its plural, telescopic approach to history.