On WRO Résumé. Curatorial

Historically linked to the era of the rapid development of image recording technologies and skills, “test exposure” connotes optimization of practice and pursuit of technical and aesthetic quality of the recorded image. In the media tradition, “test exposure” designates endeavors to choose proper exposure parameters – including the timing and the selection of information conveyed by a focalized light beam – so as to achieve perfect, intelligible or, at least, adequate effects. Originally borrowed from photography and film-making, the notion gestures also at “exposure” as revealment, display, and exhibition. This rich polyvalence resonates with undertones of uncertainty and non-ultimacy, of unfinishedness and non-acceptance of the test outcome as a final effect. It suggests a way leading to this effect, but not yet arriving at the destination; it is an intermediary stage suspended between the choice of the object and the climactic presentation of the work in its definitive form, not there yet. This thread meanders forever in media art and lingers in its mutating and contested paradigms.

Résumé is not and cannot be a definitive form, either. Whatever selection is made from the works presented by 250 artists, it may inevitably only hint at the complexity of the exhibition and, in itself, become but a part of the unfinished process in which artworks are tested together with the ways in which they inhabit spaces of interaction with the audience, the process addressed by the Biennale as such.

Each of the many spaces in which the art projects of this year’s Biennale were displayed tested the arbitrary nature of encounters of artworks with each other and with the audience vis-à-vis the conventional models of culture.

The WRO Art Center’s gallery – an exhibition venue par excellence and, hence, a place most emphatically dedicated to exposition – was transformed into a laboratory, a different, though equally function-defined, spatial organization. The laboratory focused on the life biology of non-human actors, therein ants, which co-create the planet’s symbiotic being. As Jarosław Czarnecki points out, his project is inspired by Lynn Margulis’s concepts and draws on the post-structuralist framework of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) developed by Michel Callon and Bruno Latour.

The Cultivating Cultures exhibition, in itself offering a unique research enclave, spotlighted an array of issues intensely explored in media art, probing, in particular, the art/science convergences and interpenetrations, where science seeks not only attractive visualizations of data, and art seeks not only to test the possible threats and limitations posed by science, which by itself might be too one-sided in addressing them. What goes beyond that “not only” in the art/science intercourse is art striving to become science’s equal in using and imposing epistemological precision.

The artworks displayed in the National Museum present another model of art’s locatedness in a shared space. Gilewicz’s video, which ironically comments on the image/representation/creative act, Dani Ploeger’s tablets, which, encased in sheet metal, keep charging incessantly, other exhibits and the museum space produce a referential system of their own. The museum implicitly ties in with what Charging explicitly thematizes – storing, caching, enclosed space, genuine or apparent connection with humanity’s heritage, potential contact with the whole world – with a prominent role invested in curiosity: anything that may feature as a curiosity and, simultaneously, satisfy curiosity, being at the same time consigned to the confines of a showcase – whether museum walls or a hand-forged, air-tight metal shell.
For a change, a temporary interception (activity as object) was cast in the role of a regular museum of contemporary art. An exhibition staged for a few weeks in the new building of the University Library – a space palpably real yet still unused because of the system seizures – produced an illusion of a static, experiential, but not experimental, place, a place that in all its aspects – location, momentous spaciousness, wall-size windows letting in ample light, and even finishing materials – assumes the likeness of an ideal being, of a model super-institution embodying all the assumptions of the new museum as a powerful organization of social communication in which diverse functions of “being-in-culture” coalesce. A museum space was thus produced by hosting artworks and viewers, and a new, temporary museum of contemporary art emerged in Wrocław, having all the appearances of reality, but illusory nonetheless. Résumé includes one of its exhibits – Smigla-Bobinski’s elusive, illusive and yet vivid Simulacra.

Another interception was performed by seizing a flat in a run-down downtown tenement together with its substandard whereabouts and inhabitants, who, usually vacated from artistic mediation practice, this time came to experience it throughout the few days of GG, an edition of Self-Supporting Universal Exhibitions, Kamila Wolszczak’s curatorial project.

Test exposure showcases the capacity to generate super-illusion in any space an artwork enters. With Michael Candy’s fully autonomous, fully non-site-specific installation, whose visuality nevertheless ties in with  alluring lights, the work and its surroundings become something more – only all too much. In the epiphany of Renoma’s commodityness, the artwork is just the same thing, but more so, shiftingly parenthesizing the aesthetic enticements and endearment efforts of the advertised brands.

Space and perception, as well as the mediation between the two, were put to a test also in curatorial guided tours, through Art Guides and in the accretion of data and non-material communication at all exhibition and performance locations. Each of them was a venue of testing the reception of signals from data streams, circulating and received sound and radio waves, measurable and analyzed frequencies transposed onto the screen lines or pixels, onto movements or growth of live organisms in symbiosis with technical devices, onto tone, image and sound.

Indices from near-Earth space and atmospheric measurements were re-processed into music-making (Kasper T. Toepliz’s INFRA_Exposure); real-time information on the changing tidal waves and Moon phases affected the motions of objects (Gilbertto Prado’s Encontros); Skype transmissions from overseas unblocked a tenement’s walls (Aleksandra Wałaszek’s Live); a broad spectrum of electromagnetic waves emissions from airplanes, satellites and the Wi-Fi detected by an antenna, and radio signals and unidentified interferences picked up in the process transformed images projected on the screen (Cécile Beau and Nicolas Montgermont’s Radiographie); a transmitter-receiver system teleporting images, first scanned, then transcribed into sound and, finally, emitted in a new form, traced possible disturbances in memory transmission (Bertrand Planes and  Arnauld Colcomb’s Modulator-Demodulator); water transmitted Morse-encoded sentences  (Cecile Babiole and  Jean-Marie Boyer’s Stream of Conversation); the neural network controlled the physical modalities of plant growth (Natalia Balska’s B-612); culture growth parameters generated the complexity of a music quartet (Maciej Markowski’s Tomato Quartet); and the electric oscillations of revolving stroboscopic cylinders affected alpha brain waves (Joachim Montesuiss’ Le vray remėde d’amour).

Résumé brings together selected projections, documentations and original projects transferred from their original locations in an attempt to offer a condensed experience of the multifaceted and polyvalent Biennale.

July 2015

Viola Kutlubasis-Krajewska
Piotr Krajewski