THE EXCHANGE GALLERY. Organica (Mechanical and Biological Records), 1958-2020

14 August 2020 - 20 September 2020

THE EXCHANGE GALLERY. Organica (Mechanical and Biological Records), 1958-2020 / GALERIA WYMIANY. Organica (zapisy mechaniczno-biologiczne), 1958-2020

Place ms1, ul. Więckowskiego 36, 90-734 Łódź, POLAND
Organizer Muzeum Sztuki w Łodzi / Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz
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From Friday, August 14th, New Culture and Education Association and Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź invite to ms¹ to visit an exhibition focused on the Józef Robakowski’s original project of a contemporary art gallery which he has been running since 1978.

The Exchange Gallery (Galeria Wymiany) founded by Robakowski in co-operation with Małgorzata Potocka, has been collecting paintings, drawings, graphic works, photographs, films, video works, visual poetry, musical recordings, as well as ephemera, documents, and books for many years. This unique private collection of contemporary art has come into being principally as a result of exchanges with Polish and foreign artists.

Apart from collecting, the Gallery has been dealing with publishing, documenting performance, and producing programmes and documentaries dedicated to contemporary art. Throughout the martial law period this exceptionally active institution organised many exhibitions, art congresses, symposia, and film festivals. Today, it is a platform for the exchange of ideas on art taking place during private meetings and an archive and a library holding publications on multimedia art.

At the exhibition at Muzeum Sztuki the visitors will see selected graphic and audio-visual works of Józef Robakowski, e.g.: films “Rynek” [Market] (1970), “Prostokąt dynamiczny” [Dynamic Rectangle](1971), “Moje wideo-masochizmy II” [My Videomasochisms 2] (1989), “Koncert na głowę” [Concerto for the Head] (2009) but also paintings, photo-paintings, thermograms, and photo-installations (e.g.: “Ćwiczenia na dwie kamery”[Two-Hand Exercise], “Niebo czasu domyślnego” [The Skies of Assumptive Time], “Biologiony” [Biologions]), as well as objects and installations.

On the opening day of the exhibition, the audience was invited to a series of accompanying performative activities, i.e., performances by artists selected in an OPEN CALL procedure. The jury composed of: Romuald Demidenko, Galeria W Y [W Y Gallery], Magda Milewska, Anna Mituś, Anna Orlikowska, Katarzyna Słoboda, and Konrad Smoleński chose the most interesting performative activities from among submitted proposals.

Józef Robakowski about Biological and Mechanical Records, 1958-2020:

For many years I have been systematically engaged in investigating into the relationship between myself as a psychophysical organism and mechanical devices which I use in the process of expanding my own imagination, such as a photo camera, a movie camera, a tape recorder, video equipment, or a computer. Technical capabilities offered by these devices and their specificity help in discovering the hidden world unavailable to our senses. My goal is to transgress the limits of human imagination. Many exercises have demonstrated that by using these amazing devices I can reveal more than I know (see, hear, and feel).

Currently, my interest focuses on a preposterous idea of depriving these high precision devices of their utility function that they have been designed for. For instance, by mechanically “removing the camera from the cameraman’s eye” one can record human expression in a way totally uncontrolled by the sense of sight. However, in order to assess, examine, and rate this ‘fancy record’ a moment later we have to refer to the sense that we have cynically disactivated while recording because this is a purely visual record.

Following a number of practical tests, the idea of an in-depth exploration of the creative relationship between what is biological and what is mechanical appears especially attractive.

Józef Robakowski – exhibition curator and the founder of the EXCHANGE GALLERY [GALERIA WYMIANY]. Born in 1939 in Poznań, Józef Robakowski is an artist, art historian, and a university professor. He earned a degree in museum studies and art history at Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and majored in direction of photography at the Film School in Łódź where he also lectured between 1970 and 2018 and ran, inter alia, the Multimedia Laboratory. His artistic practices develop around film, photography, and other visual media. Since the late 1950s he has practiced photography, experimenting with the technologies of the medium, creating objects and photo installations.

Robakowski’s preoccupation with the context effect of perception and with the potential of photographic representation is reflected in a series of analytical and conceptual works from the 1970s. In the 1980s he produced photographic series by taking pictures of TV images. In recent years he has been creating monumental compositions of his own images available on the Internet collectively referred to as ‘Fotomania’ and mental multimedia archives titled ‘The Pulse of Facebook’. Since the early 1960s Józef Robakowski has been engaged in making experimental films. His seminal analyses of film structures of the 1970s belong to the classics of structural cinema. In the 1980s, using, inter alia, video technique he developed the concept of “his own cinema” based on original, often autobiographical recordings, and registered performative practices. At the same time, he was pursuing a critical thread connected with media politics and the mechanisms of ideologically motivated viewer manipulation on mass media. Video and film documentation material focused on contemporary art and its avant-garde traditions is an important part of his artistic practice. Robakowski co-founded artistic collectives engaged in experimental practices, such as, e.g., Oko [Eye] (1960), STKF Pętla [Loop] (1960-1966), Zero-61 (1961-1969), and Krąg [Circle] (1965-1967). He was also the co-founder of Warsztat Formy Filmowej [Workshop of the Film Form] (1970-1977) and Telewizyjna Grupa Twórcza Stacja Ł [TV Creative Group Station Ł] (1991-1992). Since1978 he has been running Galeria Wymiany [Exchange Gallery] (established together with Małgorzata Potocka) in Łódź. J. Robakowski is an initiator of a number of artistic events, a publisher, and author of texts and publications. He lives and works in Łódź.