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Cornerhouse to Present First Major UK Survey of Polish Artist Artur Zmijewski
Repetition, 2005, Courtesy of Foksal Gallery Foundation.

MANCHESTER.- Cornerhouse will present the first major UK survey of Polish artist Artur Zmijewski, one of the most consistently challenging, provocative and profoundly thoughtful artists in Europe at the moment. The exhibition will include the major installation work, Repetition (2005), in which Zmijewski revisits Professor Zimbardo's 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment.

Alongside Repetition (2005), expect a number of other works, including the critically acclaimed and tersely didactic video work, Them (2007), first shown at Documenta 12. Set in a non-descript warehouse in Warsaw, Them documents representatives from different factions that shape contemporary Poland and the ensuing exchanges between them. Devout Catholic women, a Gay and Lesbian group, members of the neo-nationalist Union of Polish Youths, Jewish teenagers and young left-wing activists were brought together and charged with the task of creating an emblematic image that symbolized Poland and their respective positions, while making changes, as they saw fit, to each other’s works. Forcing participants to interact: to negotiate, to fight, or to withdraw.

Zmijewski often takes the position of an observer of human behavior, provoking and studying unusual situations. His works today have evolved from a process that the artist has tested and refined over a number of years. He devises a situation and then invites protagonists to immerse themselves within it, recording how they react, behave, cope or quit. These situations deliberately generate antagonisms that the participants work through, sometimes finding unexpected common ground, sometimes revealing explosive tendencies, but always locating genuine tensions at the heart of conflicts that exist between individuals or communities. Zmijewski shoots footage of these orchestrated situations and then, through the editing process highlights key moments, reconstructing the participants’ discussions and arguments.

Aggressive yet beautiful, humorous yet compassionate, Zmijewski’s film and video works challenge our sense of what should be made visible and what should remain invisible. His intelligent and sensitive approach ensures that the encounter is ultimately a respectful one, where even the viewer cannot escape being subtly implicated.

Spanning his practice, from the early stages to the present day, this is an opportunity to experience the power and uncompromising work of an artist who examines many of the complex moral issues that few of his contemporaries ever address.

The exhibition is part of Polska! Year - a celebration of Polish Culture happening throughout the UK.

Artur Zmijewski (b.1966) is an artist based in Warsaw, Poland. His solo show If It Happened Only Once It’s As If It Never Happened was at Kunsthalle Basel in 2005, the same year in which he represented Poland at the 50th Venice Biennale. He has shown in Documenta 12 (2007), and Manifesta 4 (2002); Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco (2005); National Gallery of Art Zacheta, Warsaw (2005); Kunstwerke, Berlin (2004); CAC, Vilnius (2004); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1999). Earlier this year he presented Democracies at Foksal Gallery Foundation, Warsaw; and is making new work for The Museum of Modern Art (Moma) in New York as part of their Projects’ Series in September 2009.

Zmijewski has exhibited throughout the world and is a highly acclaimed artist. He represented Poland at the 2005 Venice Biennale and was the highlight of Documenta12 in 2007. He has never had a major solo exhibition in the UK, nor been commissioned to work in a British context.

Artur Zmijewski trained as a sculptor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw in the now famous studio of Grzegorz Kowalski, from which emerged several other well-known Polish artists, including Pawel Althamer and Kartarzyna Kozyra. The Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw holds Zmijewski’s degree show from 1995, entitled 40 Drawers, which is an archival structure housing photographic works concerned with sculpture as a “language, a productive and moving means of communication”.

Subsequently, Zmijewski wrote for his master's thesis “An art object is not a final product and, though working with art has an aim, it is not exclusively the production of an object, but a specific organization of the consciousness of viewer and artist through the creative process or through the work of art.” This statement signaled Zmijewski’s move from making discrete sculptures to working with video installation.

Artur Zmijewski received increasing recognition and interest since representing Poland at the 2005 Venice Biennale. Group shows in 2008 included: Double Agent at the ICA, London and The Impossible Prison at Nottingham Contemporary. Them (2007), was also shown at the Collective Gallery, Edinburgh in 2008. Zmijewski was part of Arrivals: Poland along with Pawel Althamer at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in 2005. The exhibition at Cornerhouse will be his first major solo show in England.

Cornerhouse | Artur Zmijewski | Polish Culture |

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