we rather look back to futures past

13 June – 7 August 2014

Anna Ostoya, Agnieszka Polska, Karol Radziszewski, Janek Simon, Rafał Wilk


Curated by Patrycja Ryłko


Opening Reception: Thursday 12 June 2014, 5pm – 9pm


There is a recent inclination to look back to the past, treating it as a multi-faceted construct of limitless scope and possibility. Still there remain the questions: when do the happenings of the timeless and suspended past start to become fragmented into particular arrangements recorded and remembered? And who will define them? How do we in actuality experience the past and history – is it through a continual need for memory creation? When does the past begin to become history? 

This exhibition presents five contemporary artists whose works relate to these questions in differing ways. These artworks do not refer to the past as something static, but are rather based on the artist’s subjective or collective affiliations, desires, fears, and influences, shaped by images and stories which come to mind in the present. Thus they seem to refer to the history made out of the past, a history which is not fixed, but operates as a very present active subject, that at any time here and now can be re-explored, revisited and newly reviewed. The artists are actively retelling, redefining, and re-negotiating meanings, within an ever-changing context of the present. They look for the verges, where points of reference and diverse narrations proliferate, where dynamics has no specific and single direction, and where stories overlap. They focus on nuance.


By using diverse forms of artistic utterance, the artists create subjective differences of history. They present readings of artistic narratives that have come down to us – the way they were created and shaped, as well as the ways they came to be distributed. The artists look back to how particular histories have been constructed, and by which means they are preserved, focussing not on the reconstruction of particular narratives, but rather, offering alternate readings of them, while opening up an active space in which these narratives live among us.

About the artists:

Anna Ostoya (b. 1978 in Cracow, lives and works in New York) refers in her practice to avant-garde and Polish Modernism (including references to Kazimir Malevich, Donald Judd, Katarzyna Kobro and Władysław Strzemiński among others). Ostoya confronts art historical narratives and their socio-political dimensions from East European and Western perspectives, while also paying attention to the resemblances and differences in materials and forms used. Her method is one of re-appropriation from different art works, creating collages, patchworks, sets, and installations. She places them, however, in the actual context and time in which they appear, creating textural coherence between past and present. ‘Untitled (Scroll)’ 2011, is an elaborate multi-thread photomontage of reproductions of works from her ‘Autopis’ series. The series has been shown, among other places, at Foksal Gallery in Warsaw (1966 - present), which had a strong theoretical basis and tradition of showing avant-garde contemporary artists. In these works she re-construes the avant-garde discourse, relating it for example to the situation of women in the art world by positioning Foksal’s earlier masculinised structure.


Agnieszka Polska (b. 1985 in Lublin, lives and works in Warsaw and Amsterdam) treats the present almost as a failure, situating her films often in the past. She works with the process of archiving and its particular ways of structuring the past – she looks behind the curtain to real remnants and what has been forgotten, skillfully blending archival materials with her own fabricated ones. She is almost reconstructing particular histories, chosen by her; but the works are constructions of her own imagination and interpretation, rather than reconstructions. In her films there is an oniric colourless nostalgia, perhaps driven by a Freudian sense of the utopia of the past. In the film ‘Sensitization to Colour’ 2009, she recreates the performance of the almost forgotten avant-garde Polish figure, Włodzimierz Borowski (1930-2008), and his event that took place in Od Nowa Gallery, Poznań, in 1968. Based on photographs and notes she makes her own interpretation of this event.


Karol Radziszewski (b. 1980 in Białystok, lives and work in Warsaw) in his film, ‘America Is Not Ready For This’ 2012, he seems to say, after CS Lewis, that we cannot understand ourselves by ourselves. In the project, based on a research trip, Radziszewski follows Natalia LL’s – a representative of the then neo-avant-garde – trip to New York that she made in the 70s, considered almost the grand journey from East to West. He makes the same route that she had made, and meets the same people she had encountered. He retraces this journey creating multiple perspectives through documentary footage, based on his interviews with a number of people. Radziszewski not only points to how much it has changed, but also to how Natalia LL was perceived differently from East European perspectives of that time, in her own perspective, and from Western ones. He also presently relates himself to the same issues she was tackling then – gender, sexuality, consumerism, a certain clash of expectations between herself as an artist and the art world. He not only examines different positions from which history is created, but also how history is told and propelled, and he explores extremely current and differing perspectives of how it is experienced by individuals.


In a way Janek Simon (b. 1977 in Cracow, lives and works in Warsaw) explores history using relational artistic geography as one of his working methods. Simon is a constant researcher, being in a state of continual journey, from Madagascar to India, from China to Nigeria. He changes his positions so often that he is in a constant flux, which luckily enables him to escape from postcolonial-tourist exploitation, over-enthusiasm, or even abuse. He uses this to produce a spacious socio-political practice, that can embrace and articulate his artistic thoughts, and is focused on a constant negotiation between meanings. In his project ‘Sculptures from the Museum of Man in Paris Made Based on Oskar Hansen’s and Lech Kunka’s Drawings’ 2014, he recreates the sculptures after Oskar Hansen (1922-2005) an architect, and Lech Kunka (1920-1978) a painter, who visited the Museum of Man in the 40s. He makes his own interpretations of their impressions and memories after visiting one of the most impressive ethnological collections of the time in Europe.


Rafał Wilk (b. 1979 in Lubań, lives and works in Warsaw and Zielona Góra) uses various artistic forms which span from paintings and video to computer animation. In his practice he deals with either forgotten or hidden histories of Europe – which he treats as a complex concept. He often situates himself within a fabricated story – based on historical facts and figures – playing the role of an overriding narrator. In his film ‘Szpak’ 2008, the artist refers to Marian Szpakowski (1926-1983), an artist who in the early 50s moved to live in the small city of Zielona Góra, and somehow managed to create a vibrant art community there. Wilk, according to private archives, and conversations with Leszek Kania, imagines Szpakowski’s past, or rather invents an ideal picture of it, creating hypothetical events, preserved in an Arcadian atmosphere. He shows how artists might have spent their free time, time we almost never think of, which is usually left out of the official version of art history.


- Patrycja Ryłko


Works in the exhibition:


Anna Ostoya, ‘Untitled (Scroll)’, photomontage of reproductions of works from the ‘Autopis’ series, archival pigment print on paper, 61 x 216 cm, 2011.


Agnieszka Polska, ‘Sensitization to Colour’, from the series ‘Three Videos with Narrator’, HD video, 5:02 min, 2009, © Agnieszka Polska, courtesy ŻAK | BRANICKA.


Karol Radziszewski, ‘America Is Not Ready For This’, HD/BluRay, 67 min, 2012.


Janek Simon, ‘Sculptures from the Museum of Man in Paris Made Based on Oskar Hansen’s and Lech Kunka’s Drawings’, printed on a homemade 3D printer, 2014.


Rafał Wilk, ‘Szpak’, DVD video, stereo sound, 7:51 min, 2008; ‘Limit of control’, HD video, stereo sound, 10:51 min, 2010.


All works courtesy the artists and their galleries.


The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication which details the work of the selected artists and the artists of the Polish avant-garde to whom they refer. The texts are authored by Patrycja Ryłko, Karolina Majewska, Piotr Stasiowski and Konrad Schiller, edited by Zasha Colah. The Keshav Bhikaji Dhawale Book Publishing House was established in 1900 in Girgaum Bombay.


Patrycja Ryłko and Mumbai Art Room would like to thank the artists, Anna Tryc-Bromley, Aneta Święcicka and Gauri Sharma from the Polish Institute, New Delhi, Raster Gallery, Warsaw, and Leszek Kania from Museum Ziemi Lubuskiej in Zielona Góra, in the making of this exhibition.


The publication has been graciously made possible through the support received by  the Polish Institute, New Delhi especially the efforts of the director Anna Tryc-Bromley, and Aanjaneya Dhawale, Keshav Bhikaji Dhawale Publishing House Bombay.


About the curator:


Patrycja Ryłko (b. 1980, lives and works in Gdańsk) is the curator of the present exhibition at the Mumbai Art Room. She holds an MA in Art History from the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan and in Curating Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art, London. Since 2011 she has been working at the Gdańsk City Gallery, where she has curated: ‘Friendship of Nations’ (Slavs and Tatars); ‘Objects and Disintegrations’ (Cristina David, Maria Loboda, Cinthia Marcelle, Falke Pisano, Agnieszka Polska, Kama Sokolnicka); ‘Tropicalisms’ (Chelpa Ferro, Jonathas de Andrade); ‘of perishable materials’ (Wojciech Bąkowski, Tamar Guimarães, Eva Kotátková, Katarzyna Krakowiak); and ‘Yinka Shonibare/selected works’ (Yinka Shonibare), ‘Drunkard’s Dog’ (Oskar Dawicki, Rafał Bujnowski) among others.


About The Polish Institute:


The Polish Institute is a part of the Polish diplomatic mission in India with the aim of promoting and fostering an understanding of Poland’s culture. Established in New Delhi in June 2012, the Polish Institute for culture expresses itself through contemporary projects, which are built in collaboration with India’s leading talents and institutions, in order to contribute relevant programming within the cultural sector. Through shared professional exchanges, cultural understanding is nurtured in order to build a strong platform for ongoing cooperation and dialogue. The Institute works primarily in the disciplines of visual art, design, literature, music, theatre, film, architecture and academic research. Anna Tryc-Bromley is the director, and counsellor.