The exhibition promises to showcase “a polyphony of voices in poetry and visual arts whose common mode of expression is a first-person narrative and a confessional character of statements, while self-representation in language becomes a discursive practice of reflection and questioning and struggle for the artist’s subjectivity.”
The devotional image of an icon, be that of a religious, pop or historical figure, is representative of a particular moment in history. Iconography is a long-established art form in various faiths across the globe, particularly Christianity and the figure of Jesus as the embodiment of God. The institution could be said to be the first and arguably most successful promotional machine in Western history.
With the advent of broadcast media 20th-century pop icons such as Elvis and Marilyn Monroe were constructed and sold to the masses through movies, records and advertising. Madonna and Michael Jackson catapulted into fame via MTV. Nowadays many contemporary public figures, some of which are soon-to-be marketed ‘icons of their generation’, begin life and are mediated through networked online environments such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. In this casual setting, centred on the performance of authentic individuals, the line between the public persona and private thought becomes blurred. All are cast out into the web to be liked, shared and commented on.
In this arena, Karczmarczyk has been presenting her work through a dedicated YouTube channel since 2011. Audiences can follow her path from a crisis of identity and search for meaning that leads to a spiritual awakening and reconnection with the Catholic faith of her Polish upbringing. Watching it as a body of work, you can also see a consistent awareness and experimentation with the role of a performer, the use of humour, physical comedy and a ‘pop colourful’ aesthetic. As a child of a post-Soviet society, her videos are an overload of glittering and attractive consumptive objects, once adored by Karczmarczyk and now employed for the purpose of the Christian mission.
Karczmarczyk’s work is often received by predominantly agnostic or atheist art audiences as an ironic statement on Christianity rather than the closely held belief of the artist. As a viewer, her mission or will to convert you is made plain—follow your spiritual leader Adu to the meaningful (Christian) existence. However, these two lines of irony and honesty are forever blurred when presented in such a context as YouTube with all its many layers of meaning. This can be confusing, even shocking, but at all times entertaining. Perhaps, the central question of her work is less ‘Do you believe?’ and more about the nuances in the language of online representation.
This video is part 6 in the series Money Makes the World Go ‘Round – exploring art and artists in a global market in collaboration with Video in Common—to publish at the start of every second week from the last day of March to June, 2015. It features six artists from cities around the networked world. **
For a minute I’m confused. Looking through the images for Warsaw’s Private Settings, Art after the Internet group survey, curated by Natalia Sielewicz, it’s a disorienting trip through a recent and familiar past for any fan of this kind of contemporary art. It features everything from the droll and deeply troubling leftist philosopher-as-popular-icon-and-fashionable-brand video commission and “sportswear range” ‘Thinkspiration’ (2014) by DIS, to Cuss Group‘s more aspirational attempt at redefining post-Apartheid South Africa into a “rainbow nation” in their ‘Live Distillation’ (2013) video and digital print installation. To try to attempt to explain what this kind of art is, where any attempt at a broadstroke compartmentalisation of a creative cluster of artists dispersed along an incongrously digitised world would forever fall short, is impossible. So let it be a generation born at the genesis of the internet and raised in the squall of its exponentially expanding reach; their immediate environment, politics, identity playing a central role in shaping a collective output fed by and filtered through the network.
Pooling together the work of 27 international artists and collectives born in the 80s and 90s, the exhibition – running in Poland’s Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (MOMAW) and naturally spilling out onto the web as well as a live events programme – supports a deftly constructed insight into some of the most dynamic and influential practitioners working today. Whether its Korakrit Arunanondchai‘s ‘2556’ (2013) – “painting with history in a room filled with men with funny names” – video or Loretta Fahrenholz‘s dystopian Ditch Plains (2013) film – made in collaboration with members of Ringmasters dance crew and Hurricane Sandy – theirs is an experience that is shared in all its difference.
With a capacity for self-mediating at unprecented velocity, images, ideas and popular cultural tropes are consumed and regurgitated in infinite mutations, while remaining static in a state of endless motion. Jesse Darling‘s materialisation of software’s influence as owner and objectifier in Photoshop 1 (Healing Brush, Clone Stamp, Paint Bucket) (2013) confuses the point where the body ends and the image begins, while Harm van den Dorpel‘s ‘Untitled assemblage (selfie)’ (2013) mimics the cyclical nature of identity creation and curation within its sphere of digital prints on perspex while still dangling within, and being dwarfed by the concrete structures surrounding it.
These works, which also include those of Ryan Trecartin, Jennifer Chan, Metahaven and more, are collated, curated and recalibrated into the Private Settings website, where images and information are dispersed across artists pages, then themes: ‘Body in the Web’, ‘Affect and Presence’, ‘Corporate Aesthetics’, ‘Surveillance and Biopolitics’ and ‘Copies in Motion’. Less an index of art and more a web of associations, the exhibition becomes an experiment in form over content; contemporary culture as shaped by “today’s imperative for creative participation in public life”.