Paweł Althamer Wants
You to Stay Home: Bródno’s
‘Venice Biennale’

Park Rzeźby. Rozdział X. Weneckie Biennale na Bródnie
Bródno, Warsaw
23.06.18 – 01.07.18

There is a sticky notion that persists in art, claiming that it is, or at least should be, ‘universal’ – a force that unites people in any language, anywhere. ‘International’ is the more utilitarian version if we want to forgo the idealistic baggage. It’s a concept that Paweł Althamer has spent a large part of his career stretching and challenging, often with the help of his own international standing. His Sculpture Park in Warsaw is no exception. This year, on the occasion of its tenth anniversary, the park expanded beyond its well-curated boundaries to include the entire neighbourhood. In a gesture that can be traced back to HAPPSOC I, the 1965 artistic ‘annexation’ of Bratislava, Althamer, along with his London-based collaborator Goshka Macuga, presented the working-class district of Bródno as a work of art. They called their tongue-in-cheek appropriation Bródno’s ‘Venice Biennale’. Despite its claim to cosmopolitanism, the event made no qualms about who its audience was, a fact made immediately clear on the walking tour. For lack of neatly labelled objects, the tour-turned-scavenger-hunt eventually resigned itself to being a stroll through a neighbourhood known for its monotonously repeated communist-era apartment blocks. Bródno is a district most cultural tourists would never visit – save for the Sculpture Park, of course. And that was exactly the point. This ‘Venice Biennale’ was meant for the people of Bródno, maybe the people of Warsaw, but it wasn’t meant for you.

In early spring 2018 Macuga and Althamer publicised a call for objects and places in Bródno through the Warsaw papers. The results, numbering 85 in all, were gathered onto a map that started with ‘Vent Grill’, and weaved through a range of curiosities to end on ‘Nest’. The list’s sheer banality might be enough of a claim to its universality, although it’s certainly not the type that Venice represents. Bródno’s ‘Venice Biennale’ – note that it’s not the ‘Bródno Biennale’ – was by no means meant to be international, or even accessible for that matter. The English advertisement came out on Facebook quietly, surreptitiously, a bare two weeks before the opening. As for the map itself, its objects were rarely marked in reality, leading one to search in vain for the ‘Hula-Hoop’ or the ‘Green Roof’, which were supposedly just a few streets away from one another. It soon became apparent that the dots signified discrete points of intimacy that only develop from seeing the same trees, curbs and intersections every day. Only a native of Bródno could recognise theirself in the listed idiosyncrasies, or perhaps they could trace the path of their neighbour and discover something rendered invisible through daily routine. Rather than looking outwards, like the Venice Biennale in all its splendour, Bródno gazed quietly inwards, revealing what only close familiarity can bring to light.

Of course, the event was not without reward for the engaged visitor. One can see parallels to the parts of Macuga’s practice for which she became known: historical odds and ends, elegantly arranged into installations that propose a non-linear reading of the past. In the case of Bródno, the curation was done by the locals themselves, but instead of reordering the past, the project invited a reordering of space, from the utilitarian to the purely experiential. The proposition is that the visitor return home or, given the recent critiques of the ‘enrichment economy’, just stay there and explore their own Bródno, which could be Marzahn in Berlin or was it the East End in London? The hope is that one strips back the layers of blind familiarity to look at one’s own city, as one would look at a work of art – with careful, considered attentiveness.

Enrichissement: Une critique de la marchandise is a critique of post-industrial capitalism by French sociologists Luc Boltanski ( yes, the brother of the artist Christian Boltanski ) and Arnaud Esquerre, in which they describe an economy based on selling already existing goods. Rather than mass-producing new, saleable objects, people produce by marketing quaint places or rare one-of-a-kind artefacts, as cultural treasures whose worth rises through exchange or tourism. The downside of this economy includes the highly educated individuals precariously employed to weave new cultural narratives for the very rich. While Bródno’s Sculpture Park could be a target of this critique, it also subverts it in important ways. On the one hand, many illustrious names, such as Olafur Eliasson, Susan Philipsz and Rirkrit Tiravanija, are like unrecognised jewels for the district’s inhabitants, but they serve to pull in an international art elite and market Bródno as a distinct cultural experience. On the other hand, the local artists appearing in the park, some of whom have not achieved international fame, nurture a tangible connection to the region. The Sculpture Park and its concomitant events are primarily advertised to the residents of Warsaw. Bródno’s ‘Venice Biennale’ was barely promoted outside the city, making it all but inaccessible to non-Polish speakers. The lack of advertising thus inverses the equation. Rather than marketing Bródno to create international value, Althamer uses the art world as a source of local value for himself and his neighbours. The presence of famous names, many of whom are Althamer’s personal friends, serves to create the capital necessary to renew a previously neglected part of the neighbourhood. Thanks to the art, the park is pristinely landscaped and meticulously maintained. Althamer also takes care that the selected works are site-specific, rather than tokens dropped in for tourist enjoyment. Monika Sosnowska’s Grating, although based on the ornamental grilles installed over Warsaw windows, becomes a refuge for the city’s birds. Jens Haaning’s monolithic spelling out of ‘BRÓDNO’ on top of a hill delivers a dose of irony and self-deprecating humour that echoes the absurdity of the Bródno ‘Venice Biennale’ itself. Vaguely evoking the glamour of the iconic Hollywood sign, BRÓDNO is instead made of brick, giving the word a decidedly workaday aesthetic.

It’s not only well-known artists who are invited to produce a sculpture for the park. Althamer has produced various collaborative pieces with local residents, such as Grupa Nowolipie, a project started in 1995, in which he works with people suffering from multiple sclerosis, as well as artists outside the mainstream art world. Toguna, for example, is an international collaboration that doesn’t find its way onto ‘the international scene’. It is a joint project by Althamer and Mali artist Youssouf Dara, in which a Dogon meeting place is recreated by a bus stop on the edge of the park. The low-ceiling wooden structure would traditionally be supported by eight carved pillars handmade by local craftsmen. In the Polish iteration, a group of women have carved a vagina into one of the pillars as a protest against female genital mutilation. Dara himself was fascinated by Warsaw’s coat of arms – a mermaid wielding a sword and shield – which he melded with African iconography. On one of his walking tours, Althamer notes that the graffiti marking the wood have become a part of the structure, and the abandoned bottles nestling in the grass are evidence of a form of exchange. The works are intersections between different positions – high and low art, local and visitor, art and vandalism. Rather than being a means of educating the public or building the status of a district, they integrate into the community, just as much as they plant points of interest on the map of the art world.

Over the past ten years the art world has been steadily bringing more and more local and marginalised practices to its so-called ‘international’ audience. 2010 saw a worldwide spike in interest in Eastern Europe, while the past two years have witnessed an increased focus on postcolonialism, as exemplified in the most recent Documenta and this summer’s Berlin Biennale. The rationale for this internationalising trend is multifaceted and runs deeper than the twentieth century, but the various modernisms of the time have been instrumental in laying its groundwork. Modernism systematically sought to extract art’s ‘essence’, to create something pure and transcendent. This purity was Form, which art everywhere, and from every time, has in common. Postmodernism ruptured the hope of universal laws, but far from enacting a Tower of Babel scenario, it substituted formal cohesion with radical accessibility. The dark side of this coin is globalisation, whose effects can be seen in the international market and the biennale circuit, not to mention the de facto role of English as the Esperanto of the present day – an ironic positioning in the light of postcolonial debate. Rather than smoothing away difference with an underlying structure, postmodernist ethos rebranded difference as novelty. The catapulting of artists of colour into the international market might be empowering and proof of art’s universality. It may also be cynically viewed as part of the enrichment economy, where as yet untapped sources of cultural wealth are stripped of undesirable difference, then bought and sold. If the wealth generated from such enrichment could be used to create sustainable communities in which inhabitants play a determining rather than an exhibitory role, there could be a positive side to the equation.

Bródno may be such a positive example. Its ironic ‘Venice Biennale’ lent a sense of dignity to the daily creative practices of the neighbourhood itself. It also positioned the district’s inhabitants as entirely self-sufficient rather than on display for someone else. Ironically, this approach seems more promising in universalising art than an English-speaking scene that has created multinational islands of sameness. So do yourself a favour and stay at home. Buy a bus ticket! Travel to your own Bródno, and challenge yourself to discover the area beyond your familiarity, boredom or preconceptions! You’ll find it as difficult – and potentially as rewarding – as a work of art.

布鲁德诺雕塑公园“威尼斯双年展” 展评

布鲁德诺雕塑公园,Rozdzial X Weneckie Biennale na Bródnie
2018 年6 月23 日—7 月1 日

译 / 顾虔凡

艺术界流传着一个烦闷的说法,人们认为艺术是,或者至少应该是:普遍的—它是一种可以让任何地方的任何人联结在一起的力量。如果我们打算抛弃如此理想主义的包袱,那“国际化” 是一个相对实用的表达。这正是艺术家帕维尔·阿瑟曼在他大部分创作中探索和挑战的概念,当然这也得益于他自己已有的国际地位。他在华沙雕塑公园的艺术项目也不例外。今年,在其成立10 周年之际,雕塑公园将其精心的策展拓宽到了公园之外的整个街区。这一举动可以追溯回1965 年布拉提斯拉瓦的HAPPSOCI 活动,当时阿瑟曼与伦敦的合作者高什卡·马库加将整个工人阶级的布鲁德诺街区作为一件艺术作品进行呈现。他们半开玩笑地挪用威尼斯双年展的名字来命名布鲁德诺。尽管这项活动以“世界主义”的立场自居,但并没有思考观众是谁的问题,而这一点只要在这个街区步行环游一下就变得非常明显。由于物件缺少认真的标记,在街区环游变成了一场寻宝之旅,并且最终会造成自我消解,变成一场在单调重复的共产主义时期的公寓楼之间的漫步。除了雕塑公园之外,布鲁德诺是一个大多数文化类旅行者都不会到访的地区。而这正是重点所在。在这里举办的“威尼斯双年展”是为布鲁德诺的民众设立的,还包括了华沙的市民,但它并不适合你。

2018 年初春,马库加与阿瑟曼在华沙的新闻报纸上刊登了公开征集布鲁德诺地区物件及地点的广告。其结果是一张细致的地图,罗列了总共85 个场所,从“通风格栅”到“巢”。这份清单看起来普普通通,它的不足为奇或许恰好说明了项目的“普遍性”,但这绝对不是威尼斯所呈现的艺术特质。布鲁德诺的“威尼斯双年展”—请注意它的名字可不是“布鲁德诺双年展”— 完全没有将其宗旨指向国际性,甚至都不曾在这方面费力。活动开始两周前,相关的英语宣传在社交网站Facebook 上发布,但这些广告显得悄无声息。至于地图,许多物件在真实场景中并未被标注出来,人们只能徒劳地去搜索本该近在咫尺的“呼啦圈”或是“绿色屋顶”。然后很快就会发现,这些标注的点对应到现实中让人看到的只是相同的树木、人行道边缘和交叉路口。只有布鲁德诺本地人可以从中辨识出特别之处,或许可以循着社区的小路发现一些日常之外的事物。威尼斯双年展以各种方式进行外向的延展,与之不同,布鲁德诺安静地向内凝视,展露出那些只对本地人才有可能显现出来的东西。

当然,这并不意味着参与者会感到一无所获。我们能从中看到与马库加最为知名实践的相似之处:零零星星的历史被优雅地放进她的装置创作中,呈现出一种对于过往的非线性的解读。在布鲁德诺,策展部分其实是由当地人自行完成的,但这个项目并没有对过往进行重新排序,而只是对空间进行了重置:从实效式转向纯然经验性的秩序。它所提出的命题是让人们返回布鲁德诺, 或者按照现在“浓缩经济”的观点来看,是让人们继续留在原地并拜访自己的布鲁德诺社区,这就像是柏林的马灿区和伦敦的东区那样。项目希望人们能够像观看一件艺术作品那样重新看待自己的城市,撇开那些习以为常的观点,带着细致、周到的关注重新审视自己熟悉的事物。

这指向了所谓的“丰富性”。“对商品的批判”,是法国社会学家吕克·波尔坦斯基(他和艺术家克里斯蒂安·波尔坦斯基是兄弟)和阿诺·埃斯克雷提出的一种后工业资本主义的观点, 用以描述一种建立在兜售已经存在的商品之上的经济形式。这种经济并不大批量生产新的、有销售价值的物品,相反的,为了营销精巧奇趣的地点或是独具一格的文化产品,许多故事会被创造出来,因而商品的价值主要地来自于交换价值或是旅游业。这种经济的消极面在于,许多受到良好教育的人的工作是要为富有阶层编织新的文化叙事。布鲁德诺雕塑公园可能正是这种批判性观点的矛头所指,但同时它也以重要的方式进行了颠覆。一方面, 许多艺术界如数家珍的名字,像是奥拉维尔·埃利亚松、苏珊·菲利普斯和里克力·提拉瓦尼加等人,对于当地居民而言像是不知名的宝藏,但他们有助于吸引国际范围内的有识之士从而让前往布鲁德诺成为一次独特的文化体验。另一方面,出现在公园中的艺术家里有相当一部分并没有产生国际性的影响,但他们与这个地区达成了有力的联结。雕塑公园及一系列活动仍然主要地为华沙的市民而设立。布鲁德诺的“威尼斯双年展”几乎没有在城市之外进行推广,这使得非波兰语的观众很难到访。这种缺乏宣传反过来形成了一种平衡。阿瑟曼并没有对布鲁德诺进行营销推广而使之产生国际性的价值,相反,他将艺术界作为一种资源来创造服务于本地的价值。在活动中出现的艺术名人们大多是阿瑟曼自己私下的友人,他们为重振这片被忽视的社群创造了必要的资本。因为艺术的缘故,公园得以维持原景并精心呵护。阿瑟曼还确保了所挑选的艺术作品都具有各自的场域特定性,而非单纯出于旅游业的考虑进行随意的安放。莫妮卡·索斯诺夫斯卡的《栅栏》以华沙市许多窗户上安装的装饰条为基础,而且作品成为了这座城市中鸟群们的避难所。延斯·哈宁在一处山顶拼出巨大的布鲁德诺这个单词“BRÓDNO”的字样,传达出一种讽刺和自嘲,与活动名称“威尼斯双年展”相呼应。作品会让人依稀联想到著名的好莱坞地标,而这件作品中的布鲁德诺这个单词是由砖块堆砌而成的,使其更具一种简明的劳动阶层的美学。

并不只有声明赫然的艺术家才会受邀到公园创作雕塑。阿瑟曼还与当地的居民进行了各种合作项目,像是始于1995 年的“Grupa Nowolipie”项目,他与多发性硬化症患者以及主流艺术界之外的艺术家们进行共同创作。还有Toguna,一项尚未进入所谓“国际舞台”的艺术合作,它由阿瑟曼及马里的艺术家尤瑟夫·达拉共同合作,两人在公园旁的一个公交车站重建了马里多贡民族的集会点。它是一个天花板低矮的木质结构,由八根雕花立柱支撑而起,均出自当地工匠之手。在波兰的这座集会点结构中,一群女性工匠们在一根立柱上雕刻了阴道的图案,以此抗议针对女性生殖器官的割礼传统。达拉本人对华沙的各种纹章感兴趣,他把挥舞着剑与盾的美人鱼形象与非洲的肖像画融为一体。在一次展览的导览中,阿瑟曼还注意到木质结构上有些涂鸦已经成为了作品的一部分,还有废弃在草地上的瓶瓶罐罐,像是见证了某种交换。这些作品是各种事物的交汇—高雅艺术与低俗文化,本地居民与外来游客,还有精心创作的艺术及蓄意捣乱的破坏。它们并不意欲教育公众或是树立起地区性的面貌,而是想要融入这个社区,就像那份艺术地图上标注的点一样。

过去十年间,艺术界将越来越多本土的、边缘化的实践带给了所谓的国际观众。2010 年全球对东欧的兴趣飙升,而近两年来则是与日俱增的对于后殖民主义的关注,像是最近一次的文献展以及今年夏天的柏林双年展。较之20 世纪来说,这种国际性趋势的塑成有更多方面的原因也更为深入,但当时的各种现代主义有助于为这种趋势奠定基础。现代主义系统性地搜寻艺术的“本质”以创造出更纯粹超然的事物。这种纯粹化身为“形式”,它无时无刻、无所不在地显现。后现代主义破坏了有关普遍规律的希望,但又远未起到巴别塔的作用,它激进地用易于获取的特性取代了形式上的和谐统一。这枚硬币的暗面是全球化,其影响在国际化的艺术市场以及各种双年展中已经有所体现,更不用说英语已经是今天世界通用语言的现实了—这对后殖民的各种论争而言是非常讽刺的。后现代主义的社会思潮并不是用一种统一而潜藏的架构来抚平各种差异,而是要对差异进行再度的品牌包装, 使之成为“新颖”的事物。将有色人种艺术家们推向国际市场也许可以增强并证明艺术的普遍性。它也可能被犬儒地视作“浓缩经济”的一部分,其中尚未开发的文化财富被剥离了其差异性, 随后被买卖销售。如果从这种“浓缩”中生成的财富可以用来创造可持续的社区,这种社区中的居民可以起到决定性的作用,而 不是仅供展示的角色,那么前面提及的这种平衡就会带来积极的反馈。