Artistic Controversy and Redirection: Poland’s Presence at Venice Biennale 2024

    The original exhibit, titled “Polish Exercises in the Tragic Nature of the World: Between Germany and Russia,” was abruptly vetoed by Minister of Culture Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz, causing an uproar among the community.

    The initial project by curators Piotr Bernatowicz and Dariusz Karłowicz, featuring the artist Ignacy Czwartos, drew swift criticism. Publications like the social-democratic “Guardian” labelled it an “Anti-European Manifesto,” highlighting its portrayal of a burning swastika amalgamating Angela Merkel and Vladimir Putin. This depiction drew ire not only from international circles but also faced opposition within Poland’s left-leaning artistic communities.

    ‘Repeat After Me’ Takes Center Stage at Venice Biennale 2024

    Minister Sienkiewicz, assuming the role of Polish Pavilion Commissioner, after thorough consideration of contest procedures for the 60th International Art Exhibition in Venice in 2024 and evaluating diverse opinions, opted against the original project. Instead, the reserve exhibit titled “Repeat After Me” was greenlit, spearheaded by curator Marta Czyż in collaboration with Open Group (Yuriy Biley, Pavlo Kovach, Anton Varga), in compliance with the regulations, as confirmed by the Ministry of Culture.

    The statement clarified that the Zachęta Gallery remains responsible for organizing and executing the exhibition while overseeing the Polish Pavilion in Venice.

    The theme of the 60th International Art Exhibition — La Biennale di Venezia, slated from April 20 to November 24, 2024, is “Foreigners Everywhere,” under the guidance of General Curator Adriano Pedrosa.

    Ignacy Czwartos’ Vision for Venice Biennale

    Former Culture Minister Piotr Gliński had previously approved the original exhibition proposed by Bernatowicz, Karłowicz, and Czwartos, selected among 24 entries by a jury comprising esteemed personalities in the field.

    “The exhibition we want propose to present in Venice is the fruit of profound reflection by Polish artist on the tragic history of the 20th century,” stated the project’s curators. ” The tragic nature the artist tells us from the depths of Polish experience is its inalienable feature. The world is not arranged in any simple pattern, it is full of irremovable contradictions, conflicts of interests and ideas, dilemmas that have no simple solutions,” they added.

    From ‘Polish Exercises’ to ‘Repeat After Me’

    Substituting the original display, “Polish Exercises in the Tragic Nature of the World: Between Germany and Russia,” the showcased exhibition will now be “Repeat After Me.” The latter aims to depict the cruelty of war without resorting to drastic visual means, utilizing video recordings of civilians temporarily relocated from various regions of Ukraine to a war refugee camp in Lviv. These individuals share their memories and insights on the sounds of war. Through a form of karaoke instruction, imitating various types of weapons, they attempt to convey an experience that remains intangible, a price paid for their acquired knowledge.

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