Observe, Analyze, Realize
A conversation with Maciej
Kurak, Winner of the Prize for Young Polish Art
Maciej Kurak, Preis für junge
polnische Kunst 2005
"Parergon," meaning decoration or embellishment, is the
Maciej Kurak’s interactive installation for the exhibition
"Views 2005" at the Zacheta
Gallery in Warsaw. Visitors to the show of works by the artists
nominated for the Prize for Young Polish Art passed through an old picture
frame and entered what at first sight seemed to be an average apartment in
a post-war building. The furniture, however, had been partially sawn apart
by the 33 year-old artist. Surprising interventions into existing rooms
characterize Kurak’s works, which convinced the prize jury. Ariane
Grigoteit, Director of
Deutsche Bank Art, spoke with the winner of the award, which is
endowed with 10,000 Euros.
Ariane Grigoteit und Maciej Kurak,
Zacheta Galerie, November 2005
Ariane Grigoteit: Are you happy with the
Maciej Kurak: Of course I am.
The nomination alone was a pleasant surprise for me.
you first start creating your spatial works referring to architecture, and
what works came out of this?
The first of my spacial works was
Praktiker . This work was shown in the Inner Space Gallery on February 29
2000 and presented in two rooms. In the first room, a life-sized (12cm/
7cm/ 6cm) Lipton tea box was set up
together with furniture, a table and chairs, scaled down to its size. The
second room contained a tea box enlarged to match life-sized furniture.
This was a production which, in a certain way, combined earlier graphic
investigations into questions of space. I graduated from the Academy of
Fine Arts in Poznan with a degree in graphic design, which is why the
graphic issues raised, for instance, copy, scale, print run, are deeply
familiar to me. I made the large replica of the box by hand, using
silkscreen. Following that piece, I came to realize fully that when
executing any kind of action, it’s important to select the right medium
for what you want to express and not the other way around.
Maciej Kurak, Praktiker, 2000
That’s why the
works that followed were spatial pieces, albeit in the broad sense of the
term. Some of my productions can be regarded as performance art or
artistic action, such as a work I executed at the Passe-partout art
fair. This work included, among other things, an actor I hired, a mime. It
was the same with the realization of Pojedynek (Duel), in which a
crowd of older ladies blocking the entrance to the gallery constituted the
Undoubtedly, in the standard threesome artist, work,
viewer, it’s the last element – that is, the interpreter – that is the
most important for me. That’s also why I take care to ensure that every
work allows for multiple layers of interpretation.
Although the formal changes you undertake are very
delicate and subtle, the meaning of the object you work on becomes
significantly altered – as a result, in terms of the meaning, nothing is
left as it was. Does the viewer immediately notice the change?
Yes, the intent behind my works is reminiscent of
simulacra. These actions are not only copies of reality, but modified
repeat versions. My works fit their surroundings so that it’s sometimes
hard to notice which element of the work has been added by me. In this
way, I enable viewers to participate and discover the reality I’m
suggesting. The viewer becomes the important person. It seems to me that
this is a very important element that should be taken into consideration
in the working process. After all, everyone wants to feel that he or she
is a creator, a discoverer. If nothing else, this is testified to by the
enormous number of artists today. I always try to make changes in a
fragment of reality so that, on the one hand, it seems that almost nothing
has changed, but on the other hand, the changes highlight problems
concerning the world we live in. This is another reason why my works often
take place outside the gallery space, in an urban environment, and remain
Maciej Kurak, Parergon, 2005; Foto
(c) Sebastian Madejski
By imparting a new shape to architecture and space, you
also change their meaning. How important is this in today’s art production
These are, of course,
important creative elements. It seems to me that many artists, not only in
Poland, exploit this issue – the shaping of architecture and space.
Currently, changes are often made in the organization of urban space. It’s
often forgotten how this process exerts a great influence not only on each
person’s manner of functioning, but also on their perception of the
reality surrounding them. In November 2000, I realized the work
Przestrzen (Space). In Garbary 48, a municipal gallery in Poznan, I
set up a department store whose styling referred to the 1980s,
communist-era aesthetic. An important element of this work was the brief
time of its realization and its brief duration. The creation of various
spatial arrangements in the same place in a short time might well induce
viewers to ask themselves a number of questions relating to their
perception of the world and ways of remembering it.
Maciej Kurak, Przestrzen, 2000,
Galeria Garbary 48
reaction of those viewing the work was important. For the residents of
Garbary street and chance passers-by, the fact that the gallery had
changed into a store, and then changed back into a gallery again, caused a
certain kind of consternation. Some thought, for instance, that they had
imagined the changes. People invited to the exhibit reacted differently.
They sought the image they had of the gallery prior to its change. Many of
these people tried to locate the place by means of the color of the
gallery’s facade they remembered. Which explains why these persons
gravitated to the place that had remained that color, the gate next door.
The place where this artistic event was held was also very important. In
the first place, the character of the gallery had changed diametrically
over the course of 10 years, from a place where works on a high artistic
level were displayed to a store selling fancy art products. Added to which
was the fact that a department store had occupied the site before a
gallery became established there. By presenting my work at the Garbary 48
Gallery, the history of the place came full circle. That work was an ideal
match for a reality in which rapid changes are taking place. Many things
are disappearing quickly and are being replaced by new things; at the same
time, they can appear through a mere click on a computer keyboard or the
return of a new wave of fashion.