What Is Social?
Activity of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Public Space (1988–2014)
The artificial palm tree on the Charles de Gaulle Roundabout demonstrated the potential of artistic activities in public space, even to those who are not interested in contemporary art. Initially, it was a temporary artistic intervention that aroused surprise and controversy, and in the past few years, it has become a widely recognized object and a popular symbol of Warsaw. Its interpretations and assessments no longer solely depend on the statements of specialists in the field of art, but rather on the emotions, opinions, and attitudes of the people who see it. It became a social phenomenon because it managed to take root in the public’s imagination.
The project of Joanna Rajkowska, Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue, was seen by a different kind of audience – people who do not necessarily visit exhibitions, but still feel entitled to commenting on and evaluating the kind of art they come across in their everyday experience. They do not form a social group, but rather, consist of changing groups that are utilizing urban spaces. Art in public space is able to prompt the individuals creating these moving communities to communicate – not necessarily about art, but rather on things that became apparent because of art, things they attributed to it, which someone suggested them. Are social phenomena formed in this way, or rather individual experiences? Which is more significant for the arts? What is individual and what is social, since no one functions in isolation? To say that everything is social is like saying nothing at all. Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue, by Joanna Rajkowska, is one of the many projects implemented by the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in public space, which the exhibition What Is Social? presents. We propose to ask the question in the title to each of the nearly thirty selected projects.
In the entire history – spanning over 20 years – of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, implementations and actions in public spaces have constituted an important element of the institution’s program, and were often carried out beyond the castle’s walls. These projects were extremely diverse, often pioneering, and mainly so because they included interventions in urban spaces with such outstanding artists like Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Joanna Rajkowska, but also cultural animation activities with local communities, exhibition projects around the Castle, as well as many projects in other facilities and cultural institutions.
For all, this will be an opportunity for a unique kind of time travel, and for many, an opportunity to remember the events in which they partook. The exhibition will show materials from the rich collections of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art as well as its International Collection of Contemporary Art. The exhibition is an introduction to the recapitulation of the experience of art in public spaces in Poland, as well as a basis for the critical self-reflection of the institution and deliberation over new strategies for public art in the twenty-first century.