performative exhibition

Bik Van der Pol

Far Too Many Stories to Fit into so Small a Box

This is the first time that Ujazdowski Castle invites con­temporary artists to curate and work with the collection, to en­able new perspectives on the collection as well as on the insti­tution itself. Large parts of the collection have been hidden in storage for years: the last cata­logue was published more than ten years ago. The collection was created in close relation to the program, and reflects the political and social situation in Poland since the early nineties. In the beginning the collection formed a permanent context for temporary exhibitions, pre­senting attitudes and trends. Since then, artistic and cura­torial strategies have been re-evaluated and the format of the institution has changed. The Centre wants to bring dif­ferent approaches to working with the collection to introduce a critical, external point of view through the approach of an ar­tistic practice, which could in turn become collection as an artwork.

Relevant questions are: What is the current status of the col­lection within the institution? How does the collection speak to the current political situation in Poland, in the context of the EU, and with the consequences of accelerated global dynam­ics? Can an institution speak and build relationships with its public through its collection? And finally: Should a collec­tion rather be conceived as an archive? All these ques­tions can be asked.


  • Method­ology of Work

The myth about Ujazdowski Cas­tles collection is that artists established it, but it is in fact largely built on gifts (new works that were made specifically for an exhibition and stayed with­out being acquired), deposits (forms of lending without being administered as such), works with copyright issues (works that were remade, or stayed without the direct permission of the artist), and works that just stayed (and nobody knew or was informed about this). In some ways, one could per­ceive the collection as more or less clandestine, with an unclear and ambiguous status.

The title of the show refers to Lawrence Weiners work Far Too Many Things to Fit into So Small a Box, once visible on the facade of the building, which has become the institutions un-official motto. These words were painted on the north and west sides of the Castles facade in 1996and it was agreed that the work could stay in place un­til the planned renovation of the facade later that year. However, the renovation did not happen until 2013, and the work stayed in place for sixteen years. The Centre didnt get permis­sion from the artist to restore the work after the renovations, so the motto of the institution is now gone, painted over. This work of Lawrence Weiner may be read as a reference to the idea of presenting and collect­ing works of art, and to the as­piration of an art institution to create a collection that is pre­senting everything that is or was happening in contempo­rary arta reflection on what may happen after everything has been collected, put in or­der, and closed in a box, not necessarily a material one. It can also be read as a criticism of the materiality of artworks; Lawrence Weiner was one of the pioneers of Conceptual Art, an art form for which the concept of the work is far more impor­tant than the finished art object.

Far Too Many Stories to Fit into So Small a Box speaks about what is elusive and transitory and how such qualities relate to the complex mechanisms of remembering and forgetting. Myths, subjective experienc­es, reports, and hearsay, many of which remained unwritten, constitute the narrative part of the exhibition as performance and sound work. As a recol­lection of facts may be based on the subjective memory of witnesses, so will the scenar­io of the performance be open to modifications, according to what will be remembered by the spectators, for example. The commonality of the archive unfolds through including those stories that have been passed on by word-of-mouth.

The concept of movement and process is part of the founda­tion myth of the first twenty years of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre of Contemporary Art. From the beginning of what is called the heroic years referring to the years after 1989 when everything was possiblethe art center has been associated with theater. The first director after 1989, Wojciech Krukowski, was also the director of Akademia Ru­chu (Academy of Movement), a well-known theater group founded in 1972 by Krukowski together with Janusz Bałdyga, Jolanta Krukowska, Zbigniew Olkiewicz, Jarosław Żwirblis, Cezary Marczak, Jan Pieniążek, and Krzysztof Żwirblis. Howev­er, while Krukowski referred to Akademia Ruchus activity as theater, the groups work is performative with a strong reference to language, codes, and signs embedded in every­day life. The body was used to convey a specific non-verbal message that could be legible to others and synthetically cap­tured a collection of gestures as building blocks of a given per­formative situation. The early concept of the centers program was largely based on the meth­odology of Akademia Ruchu, in particular their activity at Coras Factory workers club and Kino Tęcza (Rainbow Cinema). Kru­kowski created a multidisci­plinary program at the inter­section of theater, art, cinema, publishing, and education, embracing a critical depiction of the 90s and early 2000s in post-communist Poland. This performative tradition, com­bining different disciplines with critical thought, finds its conti-nuation in the current program of the Ujazdowski Castle.

What do exhibitions do? How is work, information, material, dis­played, written about, labeled, mediated? Far Too Many Sto­ries to Fit into So Small a Box is a site-specific choreography of exhibiting, exposing, and mak­ing public. It is a project that responds to, inhabits, and uses the collection as a tool and the questions above as points of departure: topics that are both catalyst and actor in a dynam­ics that is big and global as well as extremely local.

Dialogues with many different individuals, who have togeth­er built the complex history of the castle, form the basis for the exhibition. The scriptthe whispered word-of-mouth his­tory of the placeis address­ing the archive as absence, si­lence, and presence. Personal accounts and myths, subjective experiences and never quite spelt-out allusions are the cas­tles spine. Through the col­lection the Centre as (a) per­forming (an) institution can be re-imagined.


  • Choreo­graphing The Space: Script, Square, Posters, and Markers

Artworks, documents, films, and performances, and the walls, windows, and floors of the cas­tle itself are props, markers, and ignition for movements through space. By exposing those markers a capturing of the shared experience of the Centre influenced by and through its impact on the visual and political languages of (ar­tistic) life through time is ex­posed. The archive and collec­tion are excavated, inhabited, embodied: a poetics of spatiality through set, language, actors, script, rhythm, and space.

The script unfolds in different modes. Transformed into sound activated by static speakers, and as soundscape created by composer Wojtek Blecharz, it will move through space on mo­bile speakers carried by the audience. The script will also be activated by performers, at specific moments, in col­laboration with choreographer and performer Ania Nowak and a group of performers, who are employing artworks as props. The plotline is based on person­al accounts, speculations, and subjective experiences that are part of the whispered history of the place. The audience plays an active role in the perform-ance. Sometimes the memory  of the eyewitnesses fails, so viewers have the opportuni­ty to modify the play script to reflect what they themselves can remember.

Bringing in the square is a reference to Akademia Ru­chu, and an important marker and performative sculptural choreographical devise to fold, unfold, expose, guide, or direct. It is also directive, and archi­tectural devise that organizes, limits, and challenges the space and the actions taking place.

The square is incorporated in the exhibition design created in collaboration with the Ma­tosek Niezgoda studio. The large square provides ground for the public program Other Lessons, as well as other elements in rest or to be activated.

In the words of Wojciech Kru­kowski, posters are the theatri­cal space where the production, distribution, and consumption of knowledge are synthesized as performative sculpture. Graphic designers Fontarte cre­ated a series of large posters with quotes, selected by the artists from the script. The post­ers function as visual markers and as moments in the spa­tial choreography. For Far Too Many Stories to Fit into So Small a Box Fontarte developed a new typeface called 2Square, in­spired by the archival prints of the Ujazdowski Castle and the performative character of the exhibition.

Far Too Many Stories to Fit into So Small a Box shows artworks, books, posters, and video doc­umentation, including Other Dances by Akademia Ruchu, a public talk by Barbara Kruger, an interview with Nan Goldin, fragments from the opening of Yoko Onos show, a film on Andrzej Dłużniewski, a concert by punk group Jude, and ex­cerpts of performances by An­toni Mikołajczyk.

A selection from the video ar­chive is made by Piotr Woźnia-kiewicz, and edited by Jakub Polakowski. This documentation material is organized around specific topics such as heroic times, public space, critical art, Conceptual and Post-conceptu­al Art, education, and perfor­mances, and curiosities.


  • Other Lessons

Other Lessons is a public pro­gram of guided tours and work­shops by different invited and engaged participants and guests. The program, devel­oped by Bik Van der Pol, Joanna Zielińska, and the education de­partment connects past, pres­ent, and future bodies through workshops that explore the ar­chival capacity of the body as a methodology to investigate the complexity of experience, language, and memory of this institution. A series of guid­ed tours emphasizes language in its written and oral form as communication through differ­ent cultures and generations and from specific individual per­spectives. As part of Other Les­sons, teens will explore the idea of the archive and create their own audio guides.

Joanna Zielińska

  • Exhibition opening and performance
    • 25/10/2019, 07:00 p.m.
Tuesday 11:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m.
Wednesday 11:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m.
Thursday 12:00—8:00 p.m.
Friday 12:00—8:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m.—7:00 p.m.
Sunday 11:00 a.m.—6:00 p.m.
Bik Van der Pol
Instituton financed by The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
Honorary Patronage
Additional funding
Media partners