”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej”
Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw has prepared the first-ever retrospective exhibition of Christian Jankowski's works in Poland. Christian Jankowski is a prominent German artist, famous for developing an original artistic technique: his innovative take on art concentrates on creating films, installations, photographs and objects by means of synthesized performative and participative strategies. He rises doubts about wide-spread patterns and presents a very refreshing take on omnipresent pop-cultural formats, applying them as triggers for reflection on the role of an artist and art in contemporary society.
The thorough retrospective of Christian Jankowski's works, currently on show at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, presents the most extraordinary works created by the artist between 1992 and 2012, as well as a project created specially for the exhibition at Ujazdowski Castle. The latter, titled ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej” is an original blend of sport, art and history. Jankowski invited several sportsmen to take part in the project. The Polish athletes put much effort into the project – literally. They used their muscles in an unusual way – lifting chosen monuments up, off the ground, for a moment... thus facing History. They succeeded in lifting the following monuments: The Monument of Ludwik Waryński, The Mermaid Statue in The Old Town and a figure of a soldier, from the Monument of Brotherhood in Arms (The Four Sleeping Ones). There were two more attempts made, but the monuments of Willy Brandt and Ronald Reagan were not lifted all in all. Photographs and footage documenting these actions will be presented at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle together with other works by Christian Jankowski. The show-pieces were created as a blend of a subversive spirit of actions rooted in the 1960s, such as performance, happening and artistic actions, with elements of sophisticated irony and mass media aesthetics (most of all, that known from popular TV shows and films). Christian Jankowski often collaborates with guests whom he invites from societies/groups not directly related with the world of art, and ones who do not deal with creative activity on a daily basis (e.g. children, magicians, psychotherapists, fortune-tellers, politicians, casting agencies and professionals of various specializations). By doing so, he researches the borderlines between fiction and reality, art and commercial products, art and its recipients or, finally, art and popular culture.
In his premièring project titled ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej”, Christian Jankowski touches on the issue of functioning of public space, with special emphasis on places marked with symbolical meanings connected with particular monuments and sculptures located in various spots within the tissue of a city. Such art-pieces usually refer to history; they commemorate important events and prominent people. Lifting up Warsaw monuments is very important both in metaphorical and literal aspect, and the very act of rising a monument by sheer power of human muscles may serve as a reminder of the fact that breakthroughs in history take place thanks to people and if we want to influence our shared reality, we should be active, make effort and take initiative.
Christian Jankowski's project titled ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej” aims at creating an artistic situation within which contemporary art, art of the present day, would enter into a dialogue with not-so-distant history, commemorated in monuments. This shall become a starting point for finding a contemporary perspective for this history. Having been showcased at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, the exhibition ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej” will be presented inter alia at Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn and at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv.
The exhibition will also include some of the already canonic works by Christiam Jankowski – ones which refer to the art market and mechanisms that rule it, starting with ”The Hunt” (”Polowanie”, 1992), which is a recording of Christian Jankowski's performance, presenting him while hunting with a bow and arrow in a supermarket, aiming at products of everyday use, and ending with ”Teleshopping” (”Kunstmarket TV”, 2008). The latter was created with participation of professionals who reach their potential customers via TV and info-mercials. This time, with the use of the exact same techniques which they apply when persuading their audiences, the invited co-creators of the project concentrate on encouraging viewers to by works of art by famous artists. Among other works relating to similar issues, the exhibition also includes an installation titled ”The China Painters” (”Chińscy Malarze”, 2007/2008), which is a selection of paintings by Chinese copyists from the city of Dafen. Dafen is where more than sixty percent all the cheap, oil copies of masterpieces by world painting masters available on the market come from. Another work to be seen within ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej” at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle is ”Strip The Auctioneer” (”Rozbierz licytatora”, 2009), which delivers a sort of an ironic commentary on the art trade market.
Another section of the exhibition ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej” at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw presents selected works by Christian Jankowski, revolving around the problem of the power of alteration, which is attributed to artistic creation. In a way that is characteristic for his works – not devoid of humour – the artist addresses the issue in a film titled ”In My Life as a Dove” (”Moje życie pod postacią gołębia”, 1996). The work it is a recording of a performance when, right in front the very eyes of the gathered guests, the artist was turned into a dove, by a magician doing his tricks. Christian Jankowski turned to supernatural powers also when working on other projects, such as ”Telemistica” (1999) and a video titled ”Flock” (”Stado”, 2002). Among all the numerous show-pieces included in the exhibition titled ”Heavy-weight History” // ”Historia wagi ciężkiej”, at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, there is also one more that deserves attention, namely ”Casting Jesus” (2011). The video documents a professional casting for the best actor to play the role of Jesus Christ. The project is the more noteworthy that there was a representative of the Vatican present at the casting.
Curator of the exhibition: Ewa Gorządek
Christian Jankowski (b.1968, Göttingen, Germany) lives and works in Berlin. His video projects, films and installations have been presented within numerous exhibitions all over the world, inter alia at Biennale di Venezia (Venice, 1999), The Whitney Biennale at Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, 2002), MIT List Visual Art Center (Massachusetts, 2005), Miami Art Museum (Miami, 2007), Kunstmuseum Stuttgart (Stuttgart, 2008), Nassauischer Kunstverein Wiesbaden (Wiesbaden, 2009), Taipei Biennale (2010), Sydney Biennale (2010), Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros (Mexico, 2012), MACRO (Rome, 2012).
Source: translation of the promotional material provided by the organizer of the exhibition: Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle