VIEWS 2019
Deutsche Bank Award Exhibition at Zachęta

To mystical music, Dominika Olszowy has a skeleton dance through the blue expanse of space. The grinning bone man moves as agilely as a circus acrobat. This cosmic memento mori can be seen on a wall-filling canvas in front of which the artist installed a group of round tables. On them are the fossilized-looking remains of a festive meal. This contemporary version of a vanitas still life is titled The Wake. One notices the precise staging, as Olszowy also works as a stage designer. But not only that. She is also the cofounder of the feminist hip hop band Cipedrapskuad and the motorbike club Horsefuckers M.C. The Wake is currently on view at Warsaw's Zachęta, in the exhibition of the nominees for the most important prize for Polish contemporary art: the “VIEWS 2019 – Deutsche Bank Award”, which is presented every two years. The cooperation project between Zachęta and Deutsche Bank strengthens the country’s artistic infrastructure and gives audiences an overview of current tendencies.

This year, Dominika Olszowy won the prestigious award for her groundbreaking work, which can also be read as a morbid parable of the state of society. But it is not only this work that makes its mark in the exhibition VIEWS 2019. This time, the selection was not made by curators and museum people, but exclusively by artists, the eight previous winners of the “VIEWS – Deutsche Bank Award.” The spectrum of genres on exhibit ranges from painting and sculpture, to film, installation, and performance. The trend towards decidedly political works that could be observed in 2017 continues this year, which is no surprise given the political situation in Poland. Since the victory of the national-conservative PiS party in the 2015 election, the mood has become increasingly tense due to polarization and division. This is also reflected by the results of the European elections in Poland. The somewhat stronger conservative governing party and the more progressive opposition were almost even. One of the main areas of dispute is what is called “ideologia gender” in Poland – the turn away from the traditional, Catholic-influence family image, in which women are mainly responsible for giving birth to and raising children, and homosexuality is massively rejected.

Liliana Piskorska and the collective KEM oppose Polish society’s shift to the right with a queer, feminist attitude espousing freedom and tolerance. Piskorska’s new video work Strong Sisters Told Their Brothers deals with visibility – or better, with the invisibility of lesbian women in public spaces, where they, like many other minorities, feel increasingly insecure.

Performance, choreographies, and events are the preferred media of KEM, a collective whose core consists of four people and which in its actions cooperates with a network of artist and activist friends. As with many of the groups that deal with identity policy, with KEM the boundaries between artistic, curatorial, educational, and political work have become blurred. Their Dragana Bar at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art electrified the Warsaw scene in the summer of 2018. The collective viewed the temporary club as a “safe space for non-heteronormative amusement” – in other words, as a free space for the LGBTQ community. At the opening of VIEWS, KEM organized a performance that investigated the topic of violence and ostracism through language. In a series of meetings, these issues will be discussed further in the course of the exhibition.

But in the current VIEWS show painting and sculpture also have a place. Tomasz Kowalski is one of the country’s most distinguished young painters and has been represented in many international exhibitions. In his paintings, he creates an enigmatic world in which the laws of time, space, and gravity are suspended. Its residents look like mannequins rather than real people. Kowalski likes to make use of art history. Reminiscences of Brueghel and Bosch, the still lifes of the Flemish masters, German Expressionism, and the American outsider artist Henry Darger meld in his work into surreal-looking landscapes and interiors.

In contrast, Gizela Mickiewicz finds the material for her sculptures in the here and now. She created her contribution The Loneliness of Sightlines, a group of eight sculptures, out of modern plastics. The sculptress favors materials that are still in the research and test phase. They do not serve a defined purpose yet, have no specific form, and do not convey specific meanings. This enables Mickiewicz to discover the artistic potential of these materials in completely new ways and to use them for her work.

At the same time, with The Loneliness of Sightlines she activates the space and the viewer. Each of these freestanding sculptures is transparent or openwork, or forms a kind of frame. When you move between the objects, ever-new perspectives open up on the gallery space and the other parts of the sculpture group, but it is not possible to view the ensemble as a whole.
An international jury will decide which of the five finalists will receive the “VIEWS 2019 - Deutsche Bank Award” worth 15,000 euros. The winner will be announced at Zachęta on June 6. The winner of the audience prize will be announced when the exhibition comes to an end.  

VIEWS 2019
Deutsche Bank Award

Until June 30, 2019
Zachęta, Warsaw