TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT Summer 2007

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Paulina Olowska

This past winter, Polish-born, Berlin-based artist Paulina Olowska had a solo exhibition at Metro Pictures Gallery in New York. She currently has a show at the Portikus in Frankfurt, which will close in July, and a joint exhibition with Lucy McKenzie at Sammlung Goetz in Munich through August.

  1. OLD NEONS, WARSAW In the 1960s the Polish government approved a plan to make the country’s gray industrial cities more enchanting by commissioning colorful neon art. At that time, everything in Poland was done with a grand gesture, so Warsaw alone by the mid-’70s had as many as three thousand neon signs—from small designs on kiosk storefronts to monumental works covering immense new architecture. Unlike the day’s advertising-driven designs in Western Europe and the United States, these Polish neons seem to have been steeped in Stepanova-like abstraction and the shapes, zigzags, and swirls of Op art. Most of them are gone now, but those remaining stand proud.

  2. VOLKER SCHLÖNDORFF, STRAJK–DIE HELDIN VON DANZIG (2007) The director of my favorite films, The Tin Drum (1979) and Swann in Love (1984), returns to Gdansk to take on events surrounding the Lenin Shipyard workers’ demonstrations of the early 1980s. The protagonist is loosely based on Anna Walentynowicz, a crane operator and union leader (less celebrated than Lech Walesa but equally important) who protested against the management’s corruption and mistreatment of employees by editing and distributing an antiestablishmentarian zine. Her subsequent dismissal from the shipyard inspired the avalanche of workers’ strikes that ultimately led to the founding of Solidarity. The film is a haunting exposé of the poverty of 1970s and ’80s Poland.

  3. EDWARD KRASINSKI Best known for his blue-tape installations, Krasinski is one of the main figures of Conceptual art in Poland—a position made clear with his retrospective at the Generali Foundation in Vienna last year, which comprised a theatrical arrangement of performative objects, along with photographs of the artist staging himself in front of his work. Those who seek the clearest sense of this neo-avant-garde sculptor, painter, and performer must, however, visit Krasinski’s studio in Warsaw. Both a meeting place for artists and critics and a performance and exhibition space, the studio opens this October as a museum and research center, courtesy of the Foksal Gallery Foundation.

    Interior of Edward Krasinski’s studio, Warsaw, 2004. Photo: Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga. Interior of Edward Krasinski’s studio, Warsaw, 2004. Photo: Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga.
  4. NO BRA Based in London, No Bra makes true avant-garde, soulful, hard-edged electronic music, with lyrics and melodies composed, produced, and performed primarily by chanteuse Susanne Oberbeck. Topless and statuesque, with her lemon-yellow stilettos and hair past her waist, Oberbeck sings in a deep, melancholy voice. Lyrics include “Tissue in the road, knickers on your doorstep”; “Don’t tell me that I’m beautiful, I’m gonna kill you for it”; and “You make me feel like a woman, you make me feel dead.”

    Suzanne Oberbeck performing, Macbeth, London, 2006. Photo: Rebecca Thomas. Suzanne Oberbeck performing, Macbeth, London, 2006. Photo: Rebecca Thomas.
  5. PAULINE BOTY Boty was a 1960s British artist who was in love with pop and had no problem with her femininity. Many of her paintings and collages have a dreamlike quality and depict her darlings Jean-Paul Belmondo, Monica Vitti, and Marilyn Monroe. Others strongly critique the male-dominated establishment. Indeed, Boty never received the same attention as her male colleagues, including Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, mostly because of her playful way of handling images and the provocative manner in which she represented herself.

    Pauline Boty, The Only Blonde in the World, 1963, oil on canvas, 48 1/6 x 60 14". © Estate of Pauline Boty. Pauline Boty, The Only Blonde in the World, 1963, oil on canvas, 48 1/6 x 60 14". © Estate of Pauline Boty.
  6. MUSICA GENERA Founded in 2001 by musicians Robert Piotrowicz and Anna Zaradny, this laboratory of sound, based in Szczecin, Poland, is dedicated to presenting contemporary experimental and improvised music. In addition to releasing hard-on-the-ear but immensely gratifying sounds, the duo organizes an annual festival that has featured such renowned musicians as Christian Fennesz, Jazzkammer, Tony Buck, and Daniel Menche. Equally stellar talent will be performing this year.

  7. PROJECT ROUTE W-Z This month, after a long period of censorship, the first of thirty-five albums of material from Jarocin, the legendary independent-music festival in Poland, will finally be available. Jarocin was organized by a small group of new-wave and punk enthusiasts and brought together some four hundred fans in its first edition in 1980. By 1985 the crowd had reached twenty thousand, making Jarocin the biggest festival of its kind in Central Europe. Released by Polish label In My Eyes, the Project Route W-Z albums, with original cover designs by contemporary artists like Zbigniew Libera and Wilhelm Sasnal, will bring the festival’s forgotten gems to the public.

  8. BONNIE CAMPLIN, SPECIAL AFFLICTIONS BY ROY HARRYHOZEN, 2006 This 35-mm short film is based on the 1974 British horror film The Mutations and constitutes a brilliantly deadpan meditation on the damaging effects of suppressing emotion. An homage to Ray Harryhausen, a creator of animated special effects, the film features four characters, each of whom carries a special affliction—the heroine, Lady Silba, is a crudely animated silver statue who periodically and unwillingly gets stuck in melancholy poses; John Prolong is too slow; Fox is immobile and contains his anima in a bell jar; Scratch the Hat is as jittery as an ’80s “scratch” record. I love the whole look of the film—Victorian artifice meets science fiction.

    Bonnie Camplin, Special Afflictions by Roy Harryhozen, 2006, still from a color film in 35 mm, 5 minutes. Bonnie Camplin, Special Afflictions by Roy Harryhozen, 2006, still from a color film in 35 mm, 5 minutes.
  9. MUSEUM OF TECHNOLOGY Located in Warsaw’s infamous Palace of Culture (originally the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science) and filled with beautiful handpainted signs and faded modernist posters, this institution remains frozen in the year it opened: 1955. Among the museum’s dusty rooms—which are devoted to absurd themes like forestry, metallurgy, and ensorcelled sounds (whatever that means)—are two oddities I especially enjoy: the Technology of Electronic Computation section, which features midcentury Russian and Polish computers and devices that look like props from Solaris, and a tableau vivant of mining uniforms that is reminiscent of a cheap Kraftwerk set.

    Interior of the Museum of Technology, Warsaw, 2007. Photo: Paulina Olowska. Interior of the Museum of Technology, Warsaw, 2007. Photo: Paulina Olowska.
  10. VOGUE MENTHOL SUPERSLIMS British-American tobacco, lightly perfumed. The first cigarette I ever smoked was a Vogue, and they still keep me company in my studio and aid in social situations. Their elegant, slim look and sublime taste do not help one entertain the thought of quitting. (They do, however, help one entertain the thought of owning a fur coat.) They’ve recently become available in a pink orchid–emblazoned special-edition pack. But don’t try to call them a ladies’ cigarette—plenty of blokes smoke ’em too.