Józefina Chętko (Lou Cantor / Alfabet) & Piotrowska/Szczęśniak atelier
moderation: Romuald Demidenko
The lockdown in spring has frozen the institutions for some time, but didn’t slow the pace of work for artists – for many of them it meant even more work. The discussion we have planned between Józefina Chętko (Lou Cantor/Alfabet) and Piotrowska/Szczęśniak atelier was supposed to be about artist-run spaces which fill the void left by local artistic institutions, appearing in the gaps in the system and proposing new formats of activities. What did the pandemic change for those places and how do they answer to overlapping crises?
This event is organized during KRAKERS, which made many local initiatives emerge, i.e. CSW Wiewiórka, Elementarz dla mieszkańców miast, Potencja, Jak zapomnieć (they’ve all been presented on the ‘Entire Poland’ exhibition in BWA Wrocław 2019/2020). You can add many others to that list – Monika Drożyńska’s Embroidery school for ladies and gentlemen ‘Handymen’, the legendary Open Studio on Dietla street or Piotrowska/Szczęśniak atelier. ‘We work during the day, in postal hours, preferably between 8am and 6pm. We are not night owls, we do not fulfill the romantic vision of an artist in a nocturnal creative craze. There are exceptions, but in our case artistic work is a day job’ said the members of the duo in a conversation with Martyna Nowicka.
Many of those DIY microinstitutions appeared, or are scheduled to appear, in other cities, like in Łódź, which has its own tradition of independent art – W Y gallery, known for its exhibitions and musical and publishing activities might be a good example, as well as the Portrait Studio exhibiting young artists representing not only local, but also international contexts, or Czynna Gallery filling city’s empty spaces. ALFABET, a virus, changing and open for experiments and a tool using the semi-formal space inhabited since 1993 by the Museum of Artistic Books in the villa of an industrialist and a patron of the arts Henryk Grohmann. Here you can find one of the most unique examples of printed ephemeris from yesteryear and printing machines which will be used again. According to what its creators are saying, ALFABET ‘might have a ballroom, but its immune to vacuum (…), might be entangled in history, but is restless’. The name of this virus-collective microinstitution is related to the process of creating something from the ground up, the possibility of making a mistake and to the very beginnings of one of the most important corporations converting data into resources – Google, which called its mother company Alphabet.
The SARS-CoV-2 outbreak became an excuse to reflect on the abundance of exhibitions, projects while at the same time the fact that our contact with exhibitions and artist got limited to screens grew to be an issue. What did the pandemic change for those artists and how are they coping with these new, difficult conditions?
Józefina Chętko is an artist, curator and a lecturer of the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź and a guest lecturer of Camberwell College of Arts in London and University of California in Los Angeles. She is a member of Lou Cantor collective, called by its creators ‘a collective entity’. The main interest of the artist is studying intersubjective spaces, undermining authorship and the sovereignty of the work of art. They also contemplate the ways units interact, their incarnations, perception and areas in which, sometimes unconsciously, relation sets emerge. Lou Cantor draws from modern theory of communication in which the medium, the message and the meaning cross traditional boundaries, creating a new language. Their artistic search and research resulted in a series of theoretical publications made with Sternberg Press: ‘Turning Inward’, ‘Intersubjectivity Vol. 1’ and ‘Intersubjectivity Vol. 2’. The works of Lou Cantor were presented in the Museum of Modern Art and Leto gallery in Warsaw and also on Berlin Biennale and Baltic Triennial.
Sara Piotrowska (1989) and Maciej Szczęśniak (1989), visual artists, supposed cousins, live and work in Cracow and Warsaw. Academics with a passion for methodological guerillas, they mostly work site-specific, conducting long term case studies.They use objects, installations, performances, text and process. They cooperate since 2016, when they discovered the commonality of blood and of ideas. They were co founders of the L14 artistic group, with which they realized such projects as Myths and Harlots or There were ten of us. Sara Piotrowska graduated from the faculty of International Culture Studies of the Jagiellonian University, Maciej Szczęśniak from the faculty of Intermedia of the Academy of Fine Arts. They also both graduated from the Faculty of Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where they submitted their diploma as a duo. Nowadays they are making their PhDs at the Faculty of Art of the Pedagogical University in Cracow. They successfully participated in many competitions, i.e. Biennale of Young Art Fish Eye 9 (2017), The Artists organized by The National Art Gallery Zachęta in Warsaw. Their individual exhibitions were presented in many places in Poland and in other countries.
Since 2019 they own a place born from an exhibition project made for Cracow Gallery Weekend KRAKERS and in which they decided to stay for a longer time to initiate new activities. The pandemic accelerated the process of demolishing the building in which the artist-run space, used as a workspace and a laboratory, was located. As a result in 2020 they have become just a method to implement in any place and context., Chorus OS 2.0.
The meeting will be moderated by Romuald Demidenko
Lecture will be available online.