Oct 8, 2010

text about The Krasnals from the new catalogue


The following text has been written for The Krasnals’ exhibition titled Two Years of Struggle at Szyperska Gallery in Poznań. The occasion to organize it is the two and a half years of the group’s existence: from April 2008, the time the collective was started, it has been their second individual and non-virtual show in Poland (the first one, Last Supper – Brothers in Arms, 2009, took place in Skwer gallery, a branch of the Fabryka Trzciny Art Centre). The main area of The Krasnals’ activity is virtual space, regarded by them as the most democratic for the functioning of art. Since 25 March 2008 the anonymous collective has run a blog (http://TheKrasnals-pl.blogspot.com; English version www.TheKrasnals.blogspot.com).

The Krasnals touch upon the issues that have always been present in the field of art: the relations of power, knowledge, interests connected with art production, criteria of evaluation, the audience’s level of awareness, some artists’ success and other’s failure to receive appreciation as well as rivalry among artists. The Krasnals, however, make these problems controversial, as they openly pick up on the contemporary artistic system, which some people consider very uncomfortable, tasteless or unfunny. Most of their works is a critique of a local artistic metabolism, including art market, state subsidies, art competitions, awards, artistic criticism, trends and scandals. By means of painting, video, events, manifestos, verbal commentaries on pictures and modifications of broad cultural texts, in the form of thought-provoking play The Krasnals analyze aspects of economy, politics and a special kind of economy of artistic system. The general message of their work is the dominant role of the art market and the laws that regulate it. It seems, however, that the subversive politics of the group is mainly directed against the hypocrisy of today’s artistic scene and promoting people whose talent remains uncritical of today’s fashionable worldviews.

The Krasnals themselves bear characteristics of an excellent artistic product. But doesn’t the art market (incidentally, a good metaphor of an ‘inflated bubble’ of the international art market was proposed by a BBC documentary The Great Contemporary Art Bubble, 2009) still has little distance towards its own figures to appreciate their efforts? The group presents the part of Polish art pampered in the West as an ugly poop excreted at the cost of artistic independence and simplification of the image of Poland and Polish society. What is more, The Krasnals deftly employ the strategies of the system they criticize. Despite the particular irony which allows them to observe it from the outside and the selected strategies enabling them to push its walls from the inside, the products of the ephemeral, litter-like production line have already fell victim to speculation! A case in point is the joke in spring 2008: a counterfeit Sasnal was valued by the Christie’s auction house at 70 thousand pounds. After they became aware of the scam the painting was returned. Warhol’s words “Art is Money. Big Art is Big Money” are evoked by The Krasnals’s works as a terrific, corny comedy with Polish main characters. Following the quotation, not only do they expose the mechanisms (of marketing, mercantilism, ideology, politics) behind the process of art production, but also jack them up, blow up, calibrate. Obviously, it works both ways and results in an intentional or unintentional promo-criticism. Can one really reconcile the following consequence: the artwork written with the capital and noble “A” is driven by instincts, insatiability and “littleness”, but dwarfs [The Krasnals can be translated as The Dwarfs – transl.] can be rich Robin Hoods? Let us remember they also offer their paintings to charity. The relationship art -financial success and failure - social sensitivity needs to be thought over because there are a few possible configurations. The phenomenon of The Krasnals consists in their covering their tracks and it is difficult to say anything about them for sure.

The Krasnals’ specifically political and committed attitude as an informal group of activists which, via looking at reality from alternative angles, demands a more transparent vision of reality, is considered in the context of historical anarchistic and revolutionary movements such as the Dutch Kabouter party, founded in Amsterdam as a continuation of Provo movement (1965-67) or the active in Poland in the 1980s anticommunist Orange Alternative, with dwarfs as its symbol.
To understand the Krasnals' disappointment with contemporary artistic scene one needs to situate them in the context of the aforementioned artistic system in Poland, including the element of art market, distribution of authorities on art and the role an artist plays in this system nowadays. After 1989 – no matter how symbolic this date is – began the processes of democratization of the sphere of art which had been nationalized at the time of the People's Republic of Poland and the gradual emergence of art market, which required the artist to act as a businessman. One of the aims of The Krasnals' protest is the concentration of authorities by exhibiting institutions in the capital and the predominance of a situation when what makes an artist an artist is a connection with a given gallery, and art criticism loses its critical edge to trend-promoting, promotion of NON-creative projects, interesting individualities and attitudes but curatorial decisions NOT motivated by fine ideas but, for example financial relations. Moreover, in their parodic works the group often undermines the monopolization of the art critical opinion-forming authority and the authority of art academies which, according to The Krasnals, are tainted with stale ideas. Sensitive to contemporary signs of the legacy of communism as well as to the phenomenon of corporationism in art and the art system, The Krasnals' work can be considered a continuation of critical art, which in 1990s focused on the exposing the mechanisms of consumer society.

The situation represented by The Krasnals is neutralized or even nullified by the revolutionary potential in art. At the exhibition Two Years of Struggle, the title alluding to Wilhelm Sasnal's retrospective in Warsaw Years of Struggle (2007), one can see both paintings critical of the art system and art market as well as many works from the subversive project Revolutions for Morons (2008), in which the group actualizes the issue of revolution. In these pictures The Krasnals represented the figures related to historical revolutions, images of March 1968, tanks, fluorescent vans, bombs, cruisers, the revolutionary cannon fodder, sexual excesses etc. One can hardly omit to notice that these are also, and perhaps most importantly, various images of experiments on the rebellious imagination of the Objects that create them. The exhibition constitutes a certain whole, complemented by the series Cheap Sasnals from China alluding to cheap Chinese products and Ghreat Poles. The visitors will also have a chance to watch two videos devoted to the subject of revolution: about a young Chinese reading Chinese translation of Pan Tadeusz and a Krasnal trying to topple the Great Wall of China.

Galeria Szyperska, Poznań
The exhibition organized as a part of Mediations Biennale 2010
11 September- 10 October 2010

It has been more than years since the collective of anonymous artists, The Krasnals, has been active on the Polish artistic scene. On this occasion Szyperska Gallery organized the exhibition “Two Years of Struggle”. The group’s work mainly consists of painting, video, actions and word. It`s activity is of artistic, political and social importance, but mainly it concentrates on commenting current events, being a critique of the art market and the ideologies accompanying art production. The Krasnals employ the strategy of culture jamming. In a radical and ironic way they expose manipulation and hypocrisy: an artist, to make it in the so-called artworld or mainstream, sacrifices his/her independence and becomes a mouthpiece for catchy, conformist ideas and a creator of hot, easily marketable topics. Interestingly enough, pictures by The Krasnals are not respected by some critics because of their political and not painterly character, which is a sign of the misunderstanding of the meaning of their work. The exhibition will focus on this issue. It will include paintings form Revolutions for Morons project which constitute an interesting artistic proposition with a subversive, political meaning; Cheap Sasnals from China relate to the cheap, poorly painted works presenting much worse quality than the original. There will be also two videos at the exhibition on subject of revolution, which the group has been lately exploring: a young Chinese reading Pan Tadeusz in Chinese and a kransal trying to topple the Great Wall of China. The exhibition poses a question of current need, possibility and meaning of revolution in art.

Curator: Ewelina Jarosz

The Krasnals on Two Years of Struggle show

Why is our work considered harmful? “How to finally finish them off? I cannot see a better way than to give them Polityka “Passport” award – respected critics say. Well, we alter certain status quo: “we influence choices of the conservative middle-class that critics wish to influence too. And this is not only a business issue. Neither does it concern the transformation of social image of art. The aforementioned critics surely do not want to put those who demand art as a source of the “real sublime” right. This unenlightened middle class should rather get interested in for instance Wilhelm Sasnal’s work so as to, while dealing with his painting, become ideologically enlightened as a consequence of the sublime experience; indeed, Sasnal is a painter of clear leftist views. Then they will become the enlightened middle class. After all, presently no one can have appropriate views. Unless one is a total moron”. The exhibition will show you how hard-working artists The Krasnals are. We titled it: Two Years of Struggle. We believe it is funny. But this is not only a joke as we are concerned about the image of a committed artist, who is always after something in his/her painting.

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