On the identity of an artist
Artists are never, artists are nowhere in exile, for they carry within themselves their own kingdom, or republic, or city or refuge, or whatever they carry within themselves. And at the same time, every artist, ever, everywhere is in exile, because he is squeezed out of its kingdom, or republic, or city, or whatever it is that squeezes itself dry.
Stefan Themerson, 1951
Art as an independent being transgresses categorization and divisions. Artist’s freedom is a prerequisite for being creative. When deprived of it, art becomes its own substitute. External limitations are always there and they are to be overcome. Our nationality defines us and language we speak determines our perception of the world.
We ask: what is the process in which artist’s identity is formed? What factors contribute to it? How essential and decisive is national identity? Has one’s nationality lost its significance or, just the opposite, become reinforced in the reality of European Union? Artists living and working abroad: what is the difference between artistic emigration and the political or economic one? Forced emigration and voluntary emigration. Inner emigration. What are advantages and disadvantages of working in a foreign country? In their realizations artists will discuss these issues. Audience will be confronted with acknowledgments, processes and conclusions. We open our debate and invite all participants and the audience to take part in it – in a form of discussion, actions nad reflections.
Festival CONTEXTS takes place in Sokolowsko, Lower Silesia. The aspect of „forced” emigration is featured significantly in the history of this place which until 1945 was German. After the war borders were moved and the original inhabitants were transferred to Germany and Poles was transferred there from eastern territories which became part of the Soviet Union. In this context, as well as in the context of recent political developments – refugees/ immigrants, assimilation of diverse cultures, terrorist attacks as an extreme form of confrontation the theme of the festival becomes even more significant.
Every year CONTEXTS pay tribute to an outstanding artist of unquestionable merits. In 2016 it is Richard Demarco, the extraordinary artist and curator, for decades responsible for visual arts at the Edinburgh Festival, creator of exceptional archive, Gesamtkunstwork, unique documentation of international art since 1960s. Demarco is a great ambassador of Polish art and culture, who has been coming to Poland since 1968 with an artistic mission, which brought about pioneering exhibitions of Polish contemporary art during the Cold War era. He is the person who introduced Tadeusz Kantor and Cricot 2 to the international audience behind the Iron Curtain, initiated meeting of Kantor and Beuys, considering that the way to heal the wounds of war, unresolved conflict between Poland and Germany, is to bring together great artists representing these two countries. He organized numerous artistic expeditions to Poland, bringing here artists, critics, art historians and art admirers, visiting art galleries, artists’ studios and art museums. Richard Demarco’s contribution to opening Europe to Polish art cannot be overestimated and compared with anything else.
In 2016 Wrocław is honoured with the title of European Capital of Culture and also in 2016 Edinburgh international art festival, founded a year after the end of WW2 to help Europe to overcome the trauma of Nazism and regain lost unity through culture, celebrates its 70th anniversary. These two events are linked and both feature the healing properties of art.
We present the exhibition Atelier 72 Revisted. It provides a new perspective on the groundbreaking exhibition of Polish contemporary art Richard Demarco curated at the Edinburgh Festival in 1972.
The choice of artists who have more than one country was determined by the theme of this edition- emigration and the issue of identity). Artists are asked to present works in which their experience of functioning in foreign culture is featured. How being ‘an emigrant’influenced their work, language, artistic message. Adaptation and alienation. Historical and political aspect: Europe divided, Europe united. External and internal determinants.
The festival will be proceed by student workshops run by Laura Bartolomei, Ewa Benesz and Alastair MacLennan. The programme of the festival features performances, sound pieces, installations, interventions in public space, projects involving local community, screenings, exhibitions, talks, discussions and workshops.