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Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski <i>CHANGES.</i><sup>1</sup><br/> Art or Documentation?

Peter Grzybowski CHANGES.1
Art or Documentation?

Malgorzata Kazmierczak, 2011-12-23

Peggy Phelan once wrote: Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance. To the degree that performance attempts to enter the economy of reproduction it betrays and lessens the promise of its own ontology…. The document of a performance then is only a spur to memory, an encouragement of memory to become present.2

Performance artists of the 70s and beginning of the 80s generally did not care about the documentation of their work and the performances were to take place only once. Grzybowski, however, was already a performance artist, whilst still a student of painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. His diploma work was a “painterly documentation” of paintings based on photographs taken during his performances. The photos to be re-created as paintings were of a technically low quality, usually out of focus, but they had an aesthetic sense. The preparation of performance art “documentation” in the form of painting is surprising even today. As Lukasz Guzek wrote: […] making art based on documentation causes a situation, in which the starting point of creating art refers to a form, not “making meaning”, and this means that the vector of artistic searches which began in Kosuth’s conceptualism and postmodern practices has been reversed.3

The paintings by Peter Grzybowski shown during the exhibition Changes in Piotrkow Trybunalski (curator: Paulina Olszewska) are based on performances which are known to a very narrow audience. These performances have never been repeated, so an exhibition of their painterly “documentation” provides the first opportunity to view the beginnings of Grzybowski’s art, including performance. The paintings exhibited come from three series, and include Painting from 1981 (Pod Reka Students’ Club, Krakow), Cummulation from 1982 (from an event organised during martial law in his own studio in Krakow) and Red Lights from 1984 (performance for camera, without audience). Among them only the last series was exhibited in the 80s, in Buffalo, NY and the paintings look very fresh even today.

In 2000 Grzybowski took part in the Castle of Imagination Performance Art Festival in Poland and resumed making performance art. He then started to devise a series of performances whose structure was based on the same idea as his previous art actions from the 80s, however, they were done differently, mainly using so called new media (computer, video projection etc.). The closest to the original 80s art action was a performance Line (NOW Gallery, New York 1988) in which only the sound was different. The accompanying installation was site-specific, so in each interior (Entropia Gallery in Wroclaw, Poland, TIXE Chashama, New York 2003) it was different. Performance Making Money 2000 (Castle of Imagination, Sopot, Fort Sztuki, Krakow, Entropia Gallery Wroclaw, Contemporary Little-Pest, Budapest, Transart Communication, Nove Zamky 2000) was based on the same structural concept as Status (Jaszczury Club, Krakow 1982), Made in Germany (Art Now Gallery, Mannheim, 1983) or a performance presented at the Zaklad nad Fosa Gallery in Wroclaw (1984).4 The artist slowly walked towards a stand on which a piece of glass was placed, in order to drip some blood from his veins. In the 80s the signals to make a subsequent action (a step) were given to him by another person, however in 2000 the signals were sent by a computer, and the performance‘s content was a video projection consisting of TV commercials advertising get rich quick schemes. The same structure was re-created in the performance News (Judson Memorial Church, New York, Espace Blancs Manteaux, Paris 2003; Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw 2004) – here the projection consisted of fragments of American news broadcasts, on which the news readers laugh and joke. In between the video clips there were photos edited in with shocking images of the ‘war on terror’.

In Flags, first time performed in 1986 in an old swimming pool in C.U.A.N.D.O. in New York two actors read Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut and Diaries by Witold Gombrowicz. Throughout the performance Grzybowski was painting two circles using the colors of the Polish and the American flags. During a performance of the same title in the XXI Gallery in Warsaw (2004), the Diaries were also read by an actor (Tomasz Miedzik), but the sound had been pre-recorded and this audio was played during the performance. Slaughterhouse 5 was a recording read by Kurt Vonnegut himself and the action was accompanied by a slide projection.

In Remote Control (Piekny Pies Club, Krakow 2003, “Kesher 2”, Fusion Arts Museum, New York 2005; Post Festival, Valparaiso 2005; “Interakcje” – Kraków; Viva! Festival, Montreal; Galeri Nasional, Jakarta, 2006) Grzybowski used an idea from his performance Awacs devised with Maciej Toporowicz (Pod Reka Club, Krakow, May 23th, 1981).5 In 1981 Toporowicz was directed by Grzybowski using a simple homemade device. Standing with his eyes covered Toporowicz was instructed to walk towards bulbs and then get a signal to jump onto one of them. In 21st century the “remote control” was computer based and operated by another person who was directing Grzybowski. He also decided not to install high voltage wires around the action space.

In the performance Hier made in July 1983 in the Q16 Gallery, Goldenen Anker in Pforzheim6 Grzybowski was shattering bottles filled with fluorescent paint. A similar action (although as he stated, in an unintentionally similar way) with shattering beer bottles made in Berlin (performance Berlin 2002, International Congress for Performance, Garbaty Zigarettenfabrik, Berlin 2002) and Bielsko-Biala, Poland (performance Beskiden Stück, ToTamTo Farbiarnia, 2002). Today it would be impossible to re-create the idea from his performance Death in the Strych Gallery during the Lodz Kaliska event in 1983, during which Grzybowski chopped the head off a pigeon caught in Krakow. The artist says, that each time a performance is re-created based on an old idea it is better. This is certainly associated with emerging technical possibilities, but also with bigger and better awareness and artistic maturity. A performance based on re-creating an idea can be indefinitely changed, filling it with different content. Also, the context of each place imposes new meanings onto each performance. During the exhibition Changes one may see photographs and videos from the same performances performed in different spaces.

Grzybowski edits the photos and videos himself. The photos are not manipulated, but they are prepared for print, each video is just a few minutes and is edited in such a way that through the media transfer it becomes an independent work of art. Performance art photo and video documentation has always provoked the question as to what is more important – to create a new, independent work of art or to be a faithful performance art documentation. The example of Grzybowski’s works shows that these two strategies can be connected. It is interesting, however, that professional photographers sometimes use a performance only an inspiration and then make their own photographic compositions loosely associated with the performance. At the exhibition Changes the photos by Maciej Toporowicz and Lukasz Jogalla are an example of this technique. On the other hand there is “transparent” documentation where the camera operator (photographer) does not interfere in the picture narration and shows the performance’s true content. By choosing the specific frames and editing techniques, the artist Peter Grzybowski has created out of them independent works of art.




1 The exhibition title comes from the title of a performance at Franklin Furnace in New York on September 25th 1987 r. See: Franklin Furnace Archive, database.franklinfurnace.org.
2 Peggy Phelan, "The Ontology of Performance: Representation without Reproduction", in Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (New York: Routledge, 1993), 146.
3 Łukasz Guzek, "Funkcja dokumentacji w sztuce współczesnej", / “The function of documentation in contemporary art,” Sztuka i Dokumentacja 3, (2010): 10.
4 Jerzy Ryba, "Tydzien. Zakład nad Fosą 2", Sigma. Magazyn Problemowo-Informacyjny Politechniki Wrocławskiej 1, nr 132 (1984-85): 20.
5 Maciej Toporowicz, “AWACS Performance Kraków", High Performance 17/18, nr Spring / Summer (1982): 57.
6 Pforzheimer Zeitung 12.07.1983



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