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A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

A new performance art festival on performers’ world map: OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities (April 11-13th, 2013) in Czestochowa, Poland.

Malgorzata Kazmierczak, 2013-05-21

Until very recently when we thought of “Czestochowa”, the concept of ‘contemporary art’ would be our very last association. Not without reason. Perhaps it would be better to forget about the artwork of Jerzy Duda-Gracz from Czestochowa and the Museum of Zdzislaw Beksinski is better avoided by each contemporary art lover who cares anything at all about art.

As we look through the program of the Municipal Gallery in Czestochowa we can see what we have there: an exhibition entitled Contemporary landscape, an exhibition of the Drawing and Graphics Biennale from Kalisz, an exhibition entitled Landscape by Artur Śpiewak (painting) and an exhibition by two allegedly exceptionally talented but unknown artists produced in co-operation with the International Graphics Triennial Association in Krakow. The artists and their art are non-threatening, non-controversial, academic, aesthetic and even decorative. The exhibits do not conflict with the Holy Mary Sanctuary in Jasna Gora, which is close to the gallery. Neither do they conflict (unfortunately) with the giant figure of the former Pope which now stands in the park of sacral miniatures. At times we could say there are some similarities. What else is happening in contemporary art in Czestochowa? Well, the Art Department of the Jan Dlugosz Academy published a beautiful album about marine painters.

The last time that cutting edge performance artists performed in the Municipal Gallery was in 1997 (Jan Świdziński, Marek Chołoniewski, Władysław Kaźmierczak, Piotr Wyrzykowski, Dariusz Fodczuk and Wojciech Kowalczyk). Does this mean that the only presence of performance art in Czestochowa should be the memory of that event and the fact that the artist Arti Grabowski studied here for a while? Does this mean that when the public would like to see contemporary art they must always have to buy a bus ticket to Warsaw, Krakow or at least nearby Bytom? No.

In 2011 at the Czestochowa Museum there emerged so called Youth Promotion Center, where Anka Fugazi Biernacka started to work. In 2012 she organised the first OFFSCENICZNY Festival of Performative Activities. The Festival was discussed throughout Poland in a curious manner and during the largest performance art festival in Poland one well known performance artists laughed out loud: “I’ve heard that there was some performance art festival in Czestochowa. Czestochowa art? Good luck!” Unfortunately, his words were prophetic. The 2012 festival featured 15 artists and enjoyed both the support of the City and the interest of the public which was of similar size than it would have been in Krakow or Poznan. This year the City decided to award the festival with a grant equal to 1/5th of the sum applied for, a sum that did not enable the festival director to repeat last year’s formula. The festival however took place, but featured only two artists: Anna Fugazi Biernacka and Dominik Złotkowski.

The actions of both of them are quasi-theatrical. One may even say that at times dangerously narrative like the performance entitled Adam i Ewa in which they performed together. It was a story of a man and a woman, who are burning with love passion. After a while, “Ewa” started to pick women from the audience, who were then symbolically ‘deflowered’ and showered with rose petals by Adam. Adam, however, like all men, has never grown up and this fact was symbolised by the nappy that he was dressed in. The action had a clear story and clear critical content aimed at men who never mature and women who accept this immaturity. If not for the strong interaction with the audience – young women who were sniffed and then kissed and licked by Zlotkowski – it would have been theatre. This balancing on the edge of theatrical narrative has something attractive to it as the action became a question about the definition of performance art and its borders.

Another performance that both artists did together was He, She and They. They divided the audience into men and women, and then Anna told women to follow her and the men followed Dominik. They both tied red wool that they had wrapped around their hands to the street barriers and started to crawl leaving red lines behind them. The action which used – one must admit – quite often over-used image of crawling was portraying here the essence of “meeting a man / woman half-way” and that as a matter of fact the road itself is more important than the final meeting. The interesting division of the public into genders did not include any alternative, third gender, which in this case was not a problem, but in another situation, during a different festival , this dilemma could have emerged.

Anna Fugazi performed three other actions on her own: Magazines, Calling and I am a limited figure. In the first one, was an obvious criticism at the rubbish that the media sell to women, as from colourful women’s magazines she tore off images of women that she then stuck to her own body. She also cut off slogans advertising various cosmetics that are supposed to ensure eternal youth. The last slogan was: “Body – true work of art.”.

In the performance Calling Fugazi also used her own body. She stuck into her skin rose heads attached to vaccine needles. Then she unwrapped the threads in which the flowers were wrapped and she gave them to members of the audience, who were faced with the dilemma, as to how they should react to the artist’s pain. Fugazi was slowly stepping back away from the public who held the flowers, more and more risking her own suffering. The action resembled a little the performances by Krzysztof Jung, but here – in a female version, through the interaction with the audience, it brought to mind being involved in human relationships and the compulsion of conventionally perceived beauty. Biernacka kept stepping back, until all needles slipped from her skin, then she stuck them into apples, bit one of the apples and finished the performance.

The performance I am a limited figure was a simple action in which Fugazi slid along the walls, performing various figure shapes with her body, as if she wanted to seize the space by using her own physicality. After she had walked around the entire space this way, she tried to somehow break free from the limitation and ran across diagonally, bumping into walls. This last element brought to mind the performance by Abramović and Ulay and was maybe a bit too literal in its action which was interesting when it came to possible interpretation. It may be about, as the artist herself suggests, the symbol of social, ideological, financial and other type of limitations, but it may be as well simply about pure physicality and its limitations.

During the OFFSCENICZNY festival Anna Biernacka and Dominik Zlotkowski also performed an action which talked about the situation in which she found herself as an organiser and her dilemma, as to what she should do with the minimal grant that she received for the festival. On a TV placed in the gallery we saw the artist herself, standing in the basement of the building, and next to the TV stood Dominik who then left the room. From the speakers we heard Anna’s monologue in which she talked about last year’s festival and her ideas as to what to do with the grant after she found out the results of the competition. Meanwhile Dominik joined Anna who was dressed in a white shirt and black skirt like a schoolgirl and he started to molest her. He walked around her, first blowing, then pushing and in the end – kicking her laying on the floor. After the recorded text was played twice, Dominik came back to the audience and stood next to the TV. This interesting effect of the ‘TV action’ and Zlotkowski as an official bureaucrat kicking Anna do not require further comment. We can only believe that next year Anna and Dominik will not have to repeat this performance and that at least once a year the audience in Czestochowa, which judging by the numerous members of the public want to experience contemporary art and will be able to meet it their own town.

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