PRINT May 2017

Artur Żmijewski


Poland is the future: The nationalist, extreme-right-wing Law and Justice Party swept to power there in October 2015, giving the rest of the world a glimpse of what happens when contemporary populism engulfs a nation and takes hold. This shift announced a crack in the postwar liberal European order, and the results have been as swift as they are terrifying: authoritarian efforts to rewrite the constitution, a draconian attempt to curtail reproductive rights, and the radical defunding of the arts. In this way, Poland can be seen as both a case study and a warning—portending the dire conditions of culture in the age of ultranationalism.

In the pages that follow, Artforum invited a group of distinguished contributors to reflect on art in Warsaw in this political climate. Joanna Mytkowska, director of the city’s Museum of Modern Art, examines the state of the capital’s cultural institutions; curator Natalia Sielewicz writes about advertising, propaganda, and spectacle in Warsaw’s urban spaces; and critic Anna Kats weighs in on architecture and the built environment under siege. Finally, artists Agnieszka Kurant, Monika Sosnowska, Piotr Uklański, and Artur Żmijewski discuss the ways in which the city’s changed circumstances affect their ideas now.

Artur Żmijewski, Collection (detail), 2016, 16 mm transferred to ten-channel digital video projection, black-and-white, silent, indefinite duration. Jaroslaw, 4 minutes 57 seconds.

I FILM PHYSICALLY disabled people as they are walking. The images are black-and-white, rather than in color, and attempt to portray the movement of a body. Though the sequence of motions appears to be a sequence of errors, these people move quickly. We see them ascending a flight of stairs or walking along a street against the sun. Their cinematic advance has no geographic destination.

Artur Żmijewski is a Warsaw-based artist.