“Poland lacks conscious patronage from private individuals who’d be willing to lend their support without trying to become popular in this way, although there are some exceptions”.
Alek Hudzik: What is the perspective of a young artist on making a career in Poland? We had a gallery boom several years ago, with many new private ones opening. Today, however, young artists don’t seem to seek them anymore. What is your view on this matter?
Gregor Różański: Some seek and some don’t, while others wouldn’t admit it even if they did look for such opportunities. You can manage without them, though it’s great to have support when it comes down to business and organisation. Perhaps the future belongs to independent artists working as one-man start-ups. Still, when you start making a career it becomes increasingly difficult to retain control over everything yourself. As a result, you might want to cooperate with others. It’s still not easy to make a living from art in Poland, but I guess it’s getting better.
AH: What would be the difference between studying in Poland and abroad? What are the benefits of learning outside Poland? Is it possible to educate a young artist here?
GR: I began studying visual arts in Berlin in 2009. Neither the programme, nor the opinions of students encouraged me to take up studies in Poland. However, it’s quite likely that now I’d choose to study here. I wanted to live abroad for a bit anyway, which weighed in as a factor. Studying in the West is different from what the Polish model involves, mainly in terms of the approach towards students, the openness to their own ideas, and the emphasis on self-development. Honestly, formal academic education isn’t necessary to become a good artist. It’s useful as far as contacts are concerned. Moreover, you can learn a lot about both theory and practice from experienced professors, but everything ultimately depends on your own unhindered intellectual and professional aspirations.
AH: Do you think it’s possible to make an art career outside Poland? Is it easier now? Is it important at all?
GR: It all depends on the individual situation. It might certainly be difficult to make a breakthrough on the so-called oversaturated markets, where there are thousands of galleries, institutions, and artists. On the other hand, it’s also difficult to take off in places where the markets are only just starting to develop.
AH: What do you young artists think about the Polish gallery market?
GR: Everyone dreams of being represented by a prestigious gallery, but many are actually able to function well without this kind of support. It’s a question of what such cooperation brings. The number of Polish galleries is still small, though this keeps changing. Many artists are probably afraid of commercialisation and the market, thus accepting to work only with public institutions. Finally, Poland lacks conscious patronage from private individuals who’d be willing to lend their support without trying to become popular in this way, although there are some exceptions.
AH: You often explore subjects related to new artistic or philosophical trends, the post-internet phenomena for example. What are you currently working on? How come new ideas take on so slowly in Poland?
GR: As is usually the case, I am working on many things at the same time, with different projects piling up and transforming all the time. Everything that I’m currently interested in refers somehow to the experience of living in a world that is intensely suffused with meanings and contexts. Such oversaturation, or overproduction, is rooted in the acceleration of technology, theory and science. It all works together like a crazy complex machine. I’m also considering alternatives to this, in the form of self-conscious anarchistic laziness or idleness, which was conceptualised already by Duchamp, as well as all kinds of utopian or hedonistic forms of escapism. I’m also fascinated by how rebellion could be made possible, or how it’s actually impossible, as well as by the workings of the system, which can adapt opposition against it as its driving force. The term “post-internet” is quite broad. It’s been widely debated abroad, but has only emerged in Poland on the occasion of several exhibitions attempting to embrace works by people who grew up with the internet.
As to your second question, I’d say that all trends somehow surface in Poland, but simply not as vigorously as in other countries. It may be that we all have equal access to novelty and information, but not everyone’s really interested in contemporary issues. Referring to current matters and aesthetics is one of my main fields of interest. I’m not really put off by an initial lack of understanding, because eventually it’s always possible to find a common language and work out a way to communicate with the public.
AH: Besides art, you co-author a music project. Are such explorations of new fields an important element of your work?
GR: It’s really a parallel activity to what I do in art, though sometimes the two come into contact and influence each other. In all areas I’m interested in similar issues: aesthetic extremes, audiovisual stimulation, as well as contemporary humanity and the question of the body moving between work and pleasure. In my individual activities I’ve always taken inspiration from music and club culture, tracing the impact of music and lifestyle on art, society, and everyday life.
AH: What places would you recommend in Warsaw?
GR: Apart from classic venues like Zachęta, CSW, and MSN, or galleries presenting “young Polish art” like Leto, Starter, and Stereo, there are some interesting activities on the edge of culture and urban activism, organised by art-oriented NGOs like the thriving Bęc Zmiana Foundation. One interesting place I’d recommend visiting is the Avant-Garde Institute, the former studio of Edward Krasiński, an old-school Polish Conceptual artist, in his old flat on the top floor of a typical tower block from the communist era.
- Portrait: Agata Wrońska for I-D Polska, exhibition “Made by” 2015