Po polsku



 3 decades of independent art in Gdansk


Jarek Bartołowicz, Mira Boczniowicz, Jarek Czarnecki, Martyna Jastrzębska, Ania Kalwajtys, Grzegorz Klaman, Robert Kuśmirowski, Konrad Kuzyszyn, Joanna Maltańska, Jacek Niegoda, Jadwiga Sawicka, Dominika Skutnik, Marek Sobczyk


The Persistent Performative exhibition is an attempt to illustrate the activity of the Wyspa Progress Foundation in over three decades (1985–2017). Such a perspective has allowed to construct a coherent and at the same time multilayered statement that introduces the audience to the atmosphere of the pioneering work of the artists connected with the foundation.

The 80s and the 90s were the time of the dynamic growth of Gdańsk’s independent circle, which was engaged in various initiatives: from art in public spaces to concerts, exhibitions, as well as poetic and activist projects. After the period of the martial law, the influence of the political context shaped the disposition to engaging in social issues and became the main mover of rebellious and critical attitudes. The adaptive practices were leading to the construction of a new sphere of art resistant to the pressures of ideology and the chaos of transformations. It was certainly the time of new opportunities. Today, these activities form a tight web of relations mapped onto the city: the ephemeral actions in the forts from the Napoleon era, the Granary Island, or the takeover of the old bathhouse in the downtown. “The political anatomy of power” – this is what I would, after Michel Foucault, call this type of constructing and positioning of the roles and attitudes in the interaction with the economic and political context. Searching and discovering novel spaces was the function of anxiety and nonconformity to the surrounding reality, but it was also motivated by the creation of a kind of community, the cooperation of the artists able to build an alternative society and an independent, free culture. The common space became the sphere of a conflict, a battle for position and presence, for equality of opinions and attitudes. It was a long and laborious process. When the architecture of the “new institutionalism” came to existence, we were at war at the very core of this machinery, and this work seemed to have no end. At one point we failed, crushed by the strength of the crazing mechanisms of Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art and Wyspa Institute of Art just to continue and transform it at another. The power and drama of these battles made quite an impact on Polish discourse on the freedom of speech and artistic expression. The closing of the Wyspa Gallery in 2002 and the case of defamation of religion against Dorota Nieznalska, started by the radical right-wing catholic groups became a constant in the canon of Polish art. The cases won were not synonymous with winning an ideological war, which is still being battled by Poland against Poland. In the last fifteen years, the Foundation was in the very frontline of this conflict. Legal cases, censorship, and layoffs of curators were at the base of the process of new critical attitudes coming to existence. 


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The exhibition and gallery environment in Poland became a corporate system with its typical symptoms and pathologies. The horizontal and local projects in Modelarnia (Mock-up Room) in the old Gdańsk Shipyard were a kind of an antidote against the emerging “cultural industries” as well as a catalyst for the next generation of young artists and students, their base and ideological post. The turbo-capitalist mechanisms have been enclosing more and more aspects of social and cultural life. What the Foundation is engaged in is defining the language for the analysis and the resistance to these mechanisms. It also actively operates in the sphere of revitalization, initiating discussions on the future of the grounds of former shipyards, and the empowering of the Shipyard as an area of cultural, architectural and social value. It realizes projects, refreshing the memories of the first Solidarity union. Its interests go beyond art itself, as it searches for means of interacting with new technologies, architecture, city planning, film, and contemporary theories of culture and social life. It cooperates with international art, academic and educational institutions. All these activities force the audiences of our projects and ideas – as well as ourselves, that is the interactors, participants, artists, and creators of art and galleries/collectives as the spheres of ideas and events production – to constantly redefine the conception of a spectator. Wyspa poses a question about the efficacy and accuracy of the strategies that have been specified during the last years and their outcomes in the broadly conceived field of art.

Translations: Marta Sibirska

© 2023 Wyspa Progress Foundation