Thursday, September 20, 2012

szu szu

For those who are not familiar with the "szu szu", enjoy! :)

The Flying szu szu Gallery, or Team-playing With Art

The initiators of szu szu gallery, a mobile platform for artistic activities founded in 2001 – Piotr Kopik (born 1979), Ivo Nikić (born 1974) and Karol Radziszewski (born 1980) – play various roles: of artists, curators, managers; they document their actions and write about them. What they create is a ‘flying gallery’ without a fixed address, an entity based on self-organisation and collaboration with other artists. Every time they arrange the situation of art’s appearance in the context of public and private space: a street, a shop, sometimes also the gallery; in temporary places, for a moment deprived of their unequivocal identity and annexed into an area of different experience. ‘Each project is a new place, new circumstances. They show most recent art. They show themselves and others’, szu szu concisely define themselves. Each of the three artists works on his own as well, but the Flying szu szu gallery is a formula for joint activities, usually of the open nature of a process or event. They paint, make photographs, do installations, publish zines. They play with art in a very convincing manner – a bit careless, slightly ironic, but always direct, easily overcoming the artist-recipient barrier.

One of their first actions was the urban-space plein-air workshop W centrumie, carried out in department stores in downtown Warsaw, subsequently presented at the Warsaw University library, 2001. Then they organised a video and installation show in a posh shopping arcade in one of Warsaw’s new office buildings (You Walk Through the City, 2003), a photo session with the amateur artist Baj-Maj (2004), curated the gallery show Small Girls during a festival of young Polish art in Berlin (2006). The flying gallery made its appearances in an officers’ mess, a theatre, a cinema, a park. More often in the shopping  arcade than in the art gallery. More often on the wall and in photocopy than on canvas. More often with others than in its own company, and, importantly, more often for the non-artistic public than for the gallery-goers. szu szu’s urban-space activities consist in searching for cracks in which art can be presented. The three artists are more interested in playing a game with the existing urban setting than in provocation. The strategy is not to blend with reality, to blur at all cost the difference between art and the real world. Nor is the objective of their practice to analyse or criticise the art world – szu szu say they are neither pro-gallery nor anti-gallery, the choice of the place of presentation depending on the nature of the given work and the complexity of the message. Fiction and art appear here in a simplified, often coarse, form: they copy the catalogue of a woman artist they are friends with on recycled paper, produce the cover from cut-up pieces of an advertising banner, and the promotional event takes place in a parking lot, the catalogues handed out straight from the car boot. Such negotiation of the circumstances, guaranteeing freedom of action and genuinely good fun, represents an effective protection against the risk of niche alienation or immersion in hermetic discourses, and the photocopy aesthetic and the use of recycled materials are an escape from over-stylised design. A joint action with the French group Seriall in a sex shop-and-kebab basin in downtown Warsaw (Sex, Kebab & Computer, 2005) was far from being an anti-institutional manifestation but close to fascination with the exoticism of the urban landscape with its kitschy and chaotic – intense and inspiring – places.

In the action It’s This Something, Somewhere (2004), szu szu indicated the address of a shoemaker’s shop and the viewers had to discover themselves what was so unique about it. It was an intriguing object, a ‘side product’ created in passing – a plank covered with consecutive layers of glue – discovered like the surrealists’ ‘found object’ or a kind of ready-made, left, however, in its original context. szu szu annex nothing by force into the field of art, even though the shop experienced a sudden invasion of untypical guests who were not really sure what they were looking for. The artists shared an unusual view tracked down in the urban iconosphere, a view of slightly ironic, artistic connotations: they mentioned it reminded them of the art of matter of the 1960s.

As part of their appearance at the Warsaw CCA’s Laboratorium (2003), szu szu organised a retrospective exhibition – an informally arranged archive of their urban-space actions so far – creating something ‘between an art salon and a club’. Factory Outlet in Bern (2006) was a variation on the ‘living gallery’ theme. During the three weeks of the action, a small shop in Bern’s old town was transformed into a travel office, a hairdresser’ shop, an organic food store, and a club, with the artists playing the staff. The high conventionality of the situation, the ultra-simple decorations based on stereotypical signs, and in a hand-made version, did not prevent szu szu from entering into a relation with the space of the Swiss city and adding to it a completely fictional element, like a small fraud or a theatre dummy.

The project [in ‘klud], continued in successive editions, is a kind of work in progress, a developing and mutating structure initiated in the group’s studio in right-bank Warsaw as a space of experimentation and a laboratory of form – yet treated with szu szu’s characteristic distance towards the fetishisation of the artistic process. [in ‘klud] is a sculpture-installation made with recyclable waste, a kind of biotechnological organism bringing to mind Kurt Schwitters’s Merzbau. As the artists themselves say, [in ‘klud], whose name itself is in a way ‘constructed’, is a kind of intellectual experiment, a game played with the conceptual forms of art. The object’s theoretical premises were explained with due seriousness and solemn dignity in a special presentation, and as part of one of the project’s consecutive editions at the Goldegg castle in the Swiss Alps, an altar of the [in ‘klud] civilisation was created – or rather discovered – a complex installation. ‘We have to think [in ‘klud] is religious, and impressively so, that is what [in ‘klud] tells us to do. And if its religiousness is so intense (it has been proved), we have to consider whether [in ‘klud] is not a spiritual being in general’. If this is conceptualism, it is a topsy-turvy one, lined with mockery and irony, exploiting the longing for convincing scientific explanations or a respect for the hegemony of all systems – and adding a pinch of transcendence to all that. But not only that – we again see here an emphasis on processuality, a practice in which the final effect – a finite work – is of secondary importance; this time, szu szu go beyond reality, releasing abstract speculations of the mind. ‘A sharp rise in [in ‘klud’s] meaning has recently been observed. Without going into the highly complex growth indicators, we can suppose [in ‘klud] will yet surprise us on many occasions to come’. As will surely szu szu themselves.

Text by Kaja Pawełek from the book New Phenomena in Polish Art after 2000, published by the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, 2008

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Photo of szu szu by Philippe Servent, 2008

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