With Jacek Taszakowski

With Paulina Antoniewicz and Kacek Taszakowski
Mixed media. 2010

Photo. 1994
Pawel Althamer is represented with three independent pieces, which, as one can easily notice, share some common dramatic elements. The earliest of them is an animated film "Mezalia". Althamer created it in collaboration with his friend, cinematographer Jacek Taszakowski. The film takes the plot of a short story by the writer Marek Sieprawski as its basis with Althamer's memories of his childhood being incorporated into it. The scenic backdrop created for the film reconstructs the landscape of the countryside where the artist spent his childhood, his former apartment and three standard new-construction houses in Socialist Warsaw. Later, this model was exhibited at the Foksal Gallery as an independent piece under the same title. The third work, "Self-Portrait in a Suitcase", as you might have guessed, portrays the artist, but in this case the arrow of time is pointed not towards the past, the artist's childhood, but towards the future, his old age. The artist's self-portrait depicts him in his twilight years.

These three works represent a perfect in its compactness account of different lines of the artist's work. Althamer, trained as a sculptor, took an interest in creating illusionistic portraits as early as at the beginning of his career as an artist, i.e. his graduation thesis. Throughout this early period, he and his wife Monica would make rag dolls and sell them in souvenir shops — that constituted an important source of revenue for a young family. However, the artist's penchant for creating truthful models of reality is more profound in nature. For Althamer the boundary between art and reality is blurred. Many of his projects, in essence, can be regarded as a form of social activism or social sculpture. For many years, Althamer in collaboration with the Nowolipie Group has been teaching a ceramic class for people with multiple sclerosis. In addition, his numerous participatory projects have encouraged his neighbors from the Brodno district to form a community.

It is symptomatic that in the early works presented in the exhibition, Althamer directs his attention to the memories of his not-too-distant childhood and at the same time imagines himself in his old age, far distant yet. The artist, still a young man, portrayed his life as if he had completed it. The relativity of time is another important line of Althamer's work. His first solo exhibition was held in 1991 in Galeria a.r.t., which shortly before that moved in an apartment and renovated it to transform it into an exhibition space. Althamer's project consisted simply in restoring the place's original appearance.

The ability to see different layers of time in the present, as for example to see oneself as a child or in the distant future as an aged person, requires special effort. Here we come to another line of Althamer's work, i.e. his experiments with "altering state of consciousness." Once, during a hypnotic session he saw himself as a little boy named Abram wandering with his dog Burek through the ruins of a Jewish ghetto in 1944. In 2007, Althamer erected a bronze monument to his imagined "self" on one of Warsaw's streets. Time is not linear for the artist — the past and the future, childhood and old age are all encapsulated in the present; at the same time his personality is not bounded by his self but includes other people both real and imagined.

artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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