Karolina Breguła

11 Apr - 30 May 2015

I Don’t Cry over Sculptures
11 April - 30 May 2015

Karolina Breguła has pursued a reflection on art for many years, focusing on its status, social reception, communicativeness. The artist explains that her practice consists in a constant search for senses. The question about sense relates both to the works themselves and to the sense of creative practice, artistic production and potential excess.

Breguła comments on her work “66 Conversations about Contemporary Art” from 2007: “A record of my 66 interviews with people who are not professionally connected with art, devoted to the way they perceive works by contemporary artists. This work is to help artists to recognise the tastes of their audiences.” Is it sarcasm or an attempt to locate the sense of an activity? Is it a guide to creative work that can be easily understood, or rather a euphemistic form of expressing something that everybody knows about but is afraid to say it out loud? A seeming support is offered by the online “Art Translating Agency”, initiated in 2010. It is one of the boldest projects by Breguła, who opens an agency that explains the meaning of existing works instead of creating works of her own. The artist invites a group of representatives of different professions to collaborate – these people respond to requests that relate to the meaning of various works. All “translations” have a common denominator – they depart from official interpretations that can be found in exhibition catalogues and institutional brochures.

This project appears to bring us closer to the essence of Breguła’s art – none of her works, especially those that embrace text and interaction, nor video works, “conveys” any message. Paradoxically, in her attempts to explain art, Breguła follows the path of ambiguity, as remarked by Prof Maria Poprzęcka in her interpretation of the mockumentary “Fire-Followers” from 2013: “The calm and serious narration of the film can lead us astray, for a long time we can stay under the impression that it is a sociological record, a peculiar one, but still a record. In reality, we are getting closer and closer to the borders of absurdity, like in a dog-training centre where dogs are trained to “sense” art by the smell of turpentine, glue, paint (all highly flammable materials). All doubts disappear in the shocking scene in a marine aquarium – an eloquent guide shows predatory moray eels ..., among which, plunged in water, we can see the leading works of the Russian avant-garde.” Breguła does not feel sorry about the destroyed works. On the contrary, she is fascinated by the moment of destruction, which is a promise of a change – not necessarily a reconstruction but a confrontation with the situation “after.”

“I don’t cry over sculptures” – she declares. Much by way of coincidence, her reflection on the essence of the work of art brings to mind the events in the Nineveh Museum in Mosul, where a group of ISIS militants devastated ancient statues. Is it worth crying over something that represents the past? Do objects make it easier or more difficult to tell history? Does the physical apsect of the work determine its value?

The photograph Street is a staged story of “The More the Better”, Nam June Paik’s work from the Museum of Modern Art in Seoul, which keeps on breaking down and is probably due to be destroyed by the institution. Breguła believes that by disassembling the installation and depositing it in its storage space the museum will release the work from the burden of former meanings and allow it to find its place in the modern-day reality. The question of a new perspective on historical works return in the photographs from the cycle Histories of Art. The stories of damaged works offer a pretext to recount the new life of dead objects. The artist refers to “Fettecke” by Joseph Beuys from 1982 – a block of butter located in a corner of a room at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf and disposed of accidentally by a museum employee, the meteorite from Maurizio Cattelan’s “La nona ora”, removed from the sculpture by Polish MP Witold Tomczak, who wanted to protest against the meaning of the work, or stains – forming an integral part of the work – wiped by a member of the cleaning staff off Martin Kippenberger’s “When It Starts Dripping from the Ceiling”. Breguła considers the act of devastating art as a kind of interaction, a performative activity, which should be allowed in a modern-day museum.

Breguła’s approach can sometimes get really perverse – in one of the newest works, a performance for camera, the artist delights with a wicked smile in every single moment of slowly destroying an old sugar-bowl, an object that might exist but might as well not be there at all. Grandma would not be happy about this, so many memories were attached to that object!

Tags: Joseph Beuys, Karolina Breguła, Maurizio Cattelan, Martin Kippenberger, Nam June Paik