My Performances (1997 or 1998)

(undated manuscript, probably 1997 or 1998. The text was published The text was published in the exhibition catalog: Maria Pinińska-Bereś. Ephemeral Works. 1967-1966, Monopol Gallery, Warsaw 2017)


In 1966, Tadeusz Kantor asked me to participate in Live of Division, a happening based on his scenario. I was the one who was “sitting” and was supposed to demonstrate it. The role was limiting though. Then, at Osieki, he suggested I participate in his Sea Concert [Panoramic Sea Happening]; the idea was for both me and Bereś to be performing in the background, doing our own things. I decided to confront the situation of beachside leisure (barbuage) with that of travel. The only props available in my room at Osieki were empty suitcases. And so, dressed in a light coat, with a scarf around my head and carrying a suitcase, I entered the sweltering beach, causing heads to turn. … After the happening, reports about my performance’s reception and alleged message made Kantor angry. He wanted his work to be very safe. I didn’t argue with such interpretations, my appearance having had a different, rather structural purpose. But the zeitgeist does its thing.

In those years I designed various performances, making notes and drawings. They were never realized. I think I was still too shy a person and more vigorous efforts were needed. And to solicit for myself was something I couldn’t do.

My first performance took place in 1976. In those years I usually staged pieces in the open air, using field stones, mown grass, or installations created on the spot. I used “fencing”, of the kind surrounding particularly valuable exhibits at museums. It both delineated the performance space and elevated the “work”, as museums do. My early performances took place in natural settings, close to land and water. Only from 1980 did I switch decisively to gallery spaces. It was the ZOMO [riot police] that was performing at the time in the city streets and squares. There was also the pink flag as a symbol of my art and feminist issues. I turned the rake or broom handle into a flag. I also performed ordinary activities, such as washing hands or doing laundry, to symbolize or develop a performance, as in Laundry. Washing, rinsing, hanging sheets of canvas out to dry, the word “FEMINISM” was revealed and meaning could be born.

The broom-as-flag was also a kind of discovery, where the act of sweeping the floor animated the flag, emphasizing its movement to the rhythm of the sweeping. Washing Hands was performed in 1986, after the “martial law” period, reflecting a desire to cleanse art and life of the “greaves” of the time. Then I also crossed out the word “performance” on a pink towel with the date of the piece. I was thinking of ending my adventure with the medium. There are various subtexts in art, with some themes dominating and others remaining in the background, sometimes subliminally. Together they produce wealth. I did several more performances though. I couldn’t bring myself to say no when asked. And those were very emotional experiences for me. I’m all nervous and can’t sleep in such cases. I keep thinking all night and it’s killing me. But they always held a certain allure that captivated me. There was a time when I was very much interested in performance art. It was me and not [Zbigniew] Warpechowski who suggested that the 9th Kraków Meetings should be devoted to performance art, with the participation also of a part of the permanent exhibition. Soap Bubbles, which I performed in Świeszyno near Słupsk in 1979, were such an emblem of ephemeral art. It was a performance that formulated a symbol of the genre.


Translated by Marcin Wawrzyńczak


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