The Declaration during the “Challenge III” Manifestation (1994)
(The declaration during the “Challenge III” manifestation held at the “Labyrinth – 20 years of the artistic program” exhibition, October 1994, BWA Gallery, Lublin. Taken down from a video ; [print in:] Galeria Labirynt 1974-1994, BWA Gallery, Lublin 1994)
Initially, my idea concerning the jubilee was to present a manifestation entitled “A Toast”, but when I started pondering how to construct this “Toast” it turned out that, unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to be so tip-top and… I would probably ruin the celebration.
Since in my opinion it is high time the choice between trash and a work of art was made. Since it seems to me that there is a growing problem of putting aside the issue of making the right choice, which I suggested many times in my dialogues and later in the disputes with Marcel Duchamp, Ignacy Witkiewicz and Tadeusz Kantor. Further postponing and suspending the final judgement concerning the issue is in my opinion dangerous at the moment because the trash conquers and becomes permanently present in our life, both in the visual and sonic sphere of life. The moment you go out downtown you are attacked by advertisements which are actually trash. But without advertising, there is a situation in which a new norm of constant presence of the phenomenon of advertising is created. Certainly, the advertisement is changing, it can be different each day, but it exists all the time, exactly in the place where there used to be works of art. The same situation refers to our hearing: you enter a café and you are practically attacked by some musical trash.
And this becomes a norm, the only one.
Such examples refer to life itself, yet it seems to me that the situation in art is far more dramatic, as the museums turn into collections of fetishes, and not of works of art. The fetishes of various isms. Yesterday there was a lecture, exactly here, a kind of a eulogy of constructivism, even though it is the constructivism that littered the world to gigantic extent. Our quarters of blocks of flats are a “realisation” of the very idea. But at this point the head is buried in the sand and no judgement is expressed in this matter.
In Vienna two big exhibitions of the fascist art have been opened now. Thus also this obvious trash has obtained the rank of art. In Poland a museum of the soc-realist art is being created. And this apparent junk is also being given the rank of art.
Yet to be entitled to judge, the artists must estimate themselves first. Such is my opinion referring to the most dramatic and difficult problem because in the course of the twentieth century the artist, or artists, have won freedom which has led as a result to creating a defensive situation, an internal, untouchable mystery.
The subjective cannot be submitted to any judgement. This is the result of the artistic emancipation. And to me, the most serious drama lies exactly at this place because whatever there is among those atomised types of subjectivism is now lost. And we face a desperate situation. This is why the action, the manifestation I am trying to touch in a sense, has the character of a certain disaster. I am trying to appeal to you to provide such judgement, because I have got entangled into this intersubjective zone; because each of you has got his own “I” whereas a Beret enters the zone in which each of you present here has got his own particle, and he imposes his work of art on you. Yet this is only a potential work of art, since it is a potential piece of trash at the same time. And it is up to you at the moment what it is going to be judged like: is it a piece of art or trash? And only time will tell, as we used to say in the past. But the “time will tell” is not something external. It is just so that the next generations will decide whether this is a piece of art or trash. Either they will be trying to preserve it or they will throw it away. And the threat I mentioned at the beginning lies in the fact that, similarly, there is a constant fight between nature and civilisation because the civilisation is trash to the nature and vice versa – in the situation of civilising the nature litters. Yesterday there was ground frost and some leaves fell down; it was beautiful but some people came with brooms and swept away… the litter. In this fight the nature is fighting a losing battle with the civilisation. It is obvious that the latter will litter the nature, and not the other way round. However, in the case of that respected trash I mentioned, whether it is an advertisement or sound, which is being changed but constantly present and we cannot do without it, when a norm is created it is so powerful that the work which can be called art will be thrown away as junk because it will ruin the order that should exist in a town labelled all over with the obvious trash of bills. Or we will search only for what is imposed by the norm and turn down any appearance of a work of art, with an unpleasant sensation.
Nevertheless, I will stick to my point and at this very moment I am finishing my discussion with Marcel Duchamp on what trash and a piece of art are because, still, I persist in my opinion.
Translated by Małgorzata Sady