Artur Zmijewski: Democracies

21. April 2012 - 22. July 2012 Dortmunder U, Level 3

Opening: Friday April 20th, 2012, 18:30

Curated by Inke Arns

The installation "Democracies" (2009–2012) by Artur Żmijewski (b. 1966 in Warsaw) consists of 25 short video films documenting various manifestations of public opinion. The sequences have been assembled in random order, indiscriminately showing footage of crowds at political rallies, football gatherings, burials, military re-enactments and parades. While in the exhibition space, the live soundtracks of the videos merge into a cacophonic soundscape, visitors are also given the option to use a headphone and follow each film individually.

The title of Żmijewskiʼs series suggests that society is essentially a struggle of conflicting interests, which must be tolerated and constantly negotiated. This is an often tedious and sometimes ugly process, but it is nevertheless the constitutive essence of democracy (everything else being akin to totalitarianism). The political charge of "Democracies", however, derives precisely from the fact that it makes no distinction between seemingly mature political commitment on the one hand, and the uncensored expression of ill-judged opinions on the other. In the words of Raimar Stange: “ ʻDemocracyʼ as a model has since the Enlightenment [...] been linked to the idea of educating ʻresponsible subjectsʼ. But what remains of this link today? Education serves more or less as mere training for the labour market; the mass media, which Bertolt Brecht imagined as a college for the people, are deliberately and durably turning people into idiots; exercising oneʼs democratic rights means hardly more than ticking a box every four years. And the rhetoric of official politics [...] is long since taking part in the deliberate attempt to dumb down society. Rampaging football hooligans and stupid Neo-Nazis are by no means marginal phenomena of our capitalistic society, but indeed a very adequate expression of its mental state.” (Raimar Stange, in: vonhundert, 2009)

To put it pessimistically, we are moving towards the kind of society depicted in Idiocracy. But Żmijewski does not stop there: his video installation presents democracy as something messy, something which needs to be constantly discussed and negotiated. "Democracies" is about uneasy truths, acted out in front of the camera with such commitment that spectators sometimes feel embarrassed for the protagonists. It is about truths we ourselves must confront if we want to continually renew the social consensus – even if watching is sometimes difficult.

Artur Żmijewski (b.1966 in Warsaw) studied from 1990 to 1995 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and in 1999 at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam. In 2005, he represented Poland at the 51st Biennale in Venice. In 2007, he participated in documenta 12 in Kassel. He is a member of the political movement Krytyka Polityczna in Poland and the artistic director of a magazine with the same name. Artur Żmijewski is the curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale for contemporary art (2012). He lives and works in Warsaw.

During the exhibition, the RWE Forum | U Cinema will furthermore, in cooperation with HMKV, show "Between Us", a programme with Polish experimental and documentary short films from the 1970s curated by Katrin Mundt.

The exhibition Artur Żmijewski: "Democracies" and the film programme "Between Us" take place in the framework of:
Klopsztanga. Polen grenzenlos NRW –

Funders and Partners

Funded by:
NRW Kultursekretariat Wuppertal
Polnisches Institut Düsseldorf

Exhibition partner:

Main funders of HMKV:
Kulturbüro Stadt Dortmund
Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes NRW
Sparkasse Dortmund

Media partners:
ARTE Creative -

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