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MORAL HAZARD: THE ART OF ARTUR ZMIJEWSKI

Between 1993 and 2004, Artur Zmijewski interviewed a number of Polish artists—including Paweł Althamer, Grzegorz Kowalski, Katarzyna Kozyra, and Zbigniew Libera—as a means of taking stock of the transformation of art, politics, and society after the end of the cold war. These conversations were eventually published in Drzace ciała: Rozmowy z artystami (Trembling Bodies: Interviews with Artists [Warsaw: Krytyka Polityczna, 2006/2008]), along with a longer version of the following discussion between Zmijewski and critic, curator, and sociologist SEBASTIAN CICHOCKI, which appears here in English for the first time. To read Norman L. Kleeblatt on the art of Zmijewski, pick up the April issue of Artforum.

Artur Zmijewski, Oko za oko (An Eye for an Eye), 1998, still from a color video, 10 minutes.

SEBASTIAN CICHOCKI: For some ten years, you have interviewed artists making “critical” work. How do you think we should understand their various practices?

ARTUR ZMIJEWSKI: Society often takes the artist for a shaman, demiurge, or painted bird—a bit of a madman, someone consumed by an incurable ailment. Obviously, this is just a fabricated phantasm that protects society from real encounters with art, at the same time that it protects the artist from any real responsibility for his or her actions. Many artists today do not want to be cloaked in that myth, however. They do not want such status or immunity, because these are tools of alienation.

SC: Tearing down veils is always fraught with risk. It creates fear in those who want the myth to live on.

AZ: Seeing the true picture involves some loss. What are artists, really, without this phantasm? They are just like other people,

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