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10.10.2022 – 23.06.2023

PRIMARY FORMS

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
01

Primary Forms

Primary Forms is a periodic programme designed for pupils from the fourth through the eighth grade of primary school, carried out by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the Roman Czernecki Educational Foundation. This year sees its second edition.

The programme once again features a box that contains a “dormant” exhibition, which can materialise at any moment in a form chosen by pupils with the support of their teachers and the Museum’s education team. 

The boxes are sent out to selected schools in different parts of Poland. During the first edition in the school year 2021/2022, they travelled to Szczekociny, Pogorzałki and Rozdrażewo, among other towns. The artworks created in the local primary schools served as teaching props (Goshka Macuga’s piece), transformed the interior decoration of classrooms (Kasper Bosmans), helped organise reading clubs (Slavs and Tatars), initiated happenings (Sharon Lockhart), and changed the school regulations (Mikołaj Moskal).

The box from the first edition of Primary Forms contained exercises, tools and instructions created by the above mentioned artists as well as Paweł Althamer, Gabo Camnitzer, Ramona Nagabczyńska, Agnieszka Polska, Katarzyna Przezwańska, and Olga Micińska.

The second edition box, prepared for the school year 2022/2023, will once again be sent to ten schools across the country, and – as part of broadening inter-institutional collaborations – to five cultural institutions, which will work on site with teachers and pupils. Joining the project are: Municipal Art Centre in Gorzów Wielkopolski, BWA Ostrowiec, Goyki 3 Art Inkubator in Sopot, Kronika Centre for Contemporary Art in Bytom, BWA Tarnów.

This year’s edition comprises works by Tarek Atoui, Maximiliane Baumgartner, Alicja Bielawska, Katya Buchatska, Dora Garcia, Prabhakar Pachpute, Joanna Piotrowska & Bożka Rydlewska, Raqs Media Collective, Jaśmina Wójcik, and the Zakole collective.

Designed in the form of artistic exercises and objects placed in the box, the exhibition refers to the tradition of art history: to Marcel Duchamp and his travelling exhibition-in-a-suitcase, as well as to “Fluxkits” – boxes prepared by artists affiliated with the Fluxus movement, containing scores, models, audio recordings, games, puzzles, and stencils, among other items. Primary Forms also alludes to other experiments in the fields of art and education undertaken in the 20th and 21st centuries, such as Pure Consciousness – the series of On Kawara’s exhibition in kindergartens, initiated in 1998. Paintings by this Japanese conceptual artist could be used as teaching props helping to learn the days of the week and numbers.

The programme is carried out in classrooms and corridors, gym halls and schoolyards. The exhibition in a box can be executed numerous times and interpreted in various ways (through the selection of different fragments, scale, colours, etc.). We use it to ask the following questions: what can we do with art? What can an exhibition be? What can we learn from artists? Is knowledge created through contact with art? And finally, how to understand art or enjoy not understanding it?

Primary Forms was inspired by the School Prints initiative, carried out for a brief period in the UK after World War II. On that occasion, a set of lithographs created by a group of esteemed artists was sent to primary schools. Those artists included Barbara Jones, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, John Nash, and Pablo Picasso, among other figures.

The Primary Forms programme is developed under the curatorial supervision of Sebastian Cichocki and Helena Czernecka.


 

02

Letter

Dear friends!

We don’t know each other, but we’ll meet soon. We’ve prepared a box of surprises for you. We’re sure it will bring you much joy and keep you from getting bored!

The box you’ve just opened contains an art exhibition. It’s not ready yet, and you will be the ones to put it together. This will require some patience and work, and the effects may vary a lot. Do things your own way. Each small box contains a set of objects that will help you complete one of the tasks prepared by a group of artists. Art means a lot of different things! You will discover this by unpacking the parcel.

All the objects you’ll find here have been prepared especially for you. The exhibition that these objects form can be shown in the classroom, corridor, gym hall, basement, cloakroom, or perhaps even outside the school building? One thing is sure, you won’t see this exhibition in any museum in the world.

You’ll find instructions below that will tell you what to do with the contents of each cardboard box.

Whatever happens, write to us, to the Museum. You might want to send a message to the artists whose works you’ve found in the box? There are postcards inside with a stamp and the Museum’s address. It’s enough to write your message and throw one into the postbox. We promise to answer every letter!

We hope it’s just the beginning of our acquaintance and many adventures await us.

Do it yourself! Or let’s do it together!

Sebastian and Helena

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw

 


 

03

Participants

Tarek Atoui, Maximiliane Baumgartner, Alicja Bielawska, Katya Buchatska, Dora Garcia, Prabhakar Pachpute, Joanna Piotrowska & Bożena Rydlewska, Raqs Media Collective, Jaśmina Wójcik, ZAKOLE

A

Tarek Atoui

BUBBLES AND DROPS

Water brings to mind silence. It is said, for example – as in the well-known proverb – that fish should be seen and not heard. And since the same is said about children, it certainly cannot be true. After all, many things are going on under the water surface! There’s a lot of hustle and bustle. Think about what sounds are made there. Can a sound be sticky, cold, oily, sharp, or perhaps round?

Tarek Atoui invites you to form a water orchestra. The box contains several simple objects that will help you do a dry run (or rather a wet run!) of sounds generated underwater and on the water surface. So fill your mugs, bowls, buckets and jars, and form your school music band.

Does every drop of water that falls on the surface sound the same? What emotions does the sound of water inspire? Do fish have a voice? Who makes noise underwater? Are there sounds we cannot hear? What do coral reefs hum about?

Listen to drops, to a storm in a teacup, to underwater bubbles. Water containers will be your instruments. Equipped with proper tools, you will make a lot of water sounds and learn to listen to the underwater world. Recording these sounds is a rather complex task, which will require additional elements. If you wish to record your orchestra’s concert, e-mail us at: formy@edukacja.artmuseum.pl, and we’ll deliver all necessary tools.

Tarek Atoui was born in Lebanon, he currently lives in Paris. He defines himself primarily as a musician and composer, and only secondarily as a visual artist. Atoui experiments with sound – he performs in public, builds musical instruments and sound installations, researches musical traditions, and organises concerts, which also feature non-professional performers. His instruments are akin to sculptures: refined objects set in motion by touch, breath, wind, dripping water, or little engines.

His designs often borrow inspiration from traditional instruments preserved in museum collections or still used in rural communities. Atoui looks for new ways of experiencing sound, also by means of senses other than hearing. As part of his project WITHIN, he created special instruments for people with hearing disabilities, who could activate them and hear them through touch.

He also takes an interest in the sound of materials not commonly used in music-making, such as ceramic tiles, stones, steel rods, or wooden structures. Not only does he record the sounds they produce, but also makes them vibrate and uses them as speakers. Atoui himself says that at home he listens to music from a gramophone connected to underwater speakers placed in an aquarium – it’s enough to add or remove a bit of water to change their sound.

B

Maximiliane Baumgartner

COPYCATS

Maximiliane Baumgartner encourages you to create a gigantic painting. To get you started, talk about what is abstraction – what does it mean that a painting is abstract, or what is abstract thinking about? 

The final form of your work will depend on you, but you’ll make use of ready elements prepared by the artist. Maximiliane also dropped quite a lot of hints. After all, the created painting results from your collaboration with the artist, albeit a remote one.

During this task you’ll become “shadow catchers”. Wait for a sunny day, as only then you can succeed. Observe when and where shadows are the longest around your school.

Read the instruction once or twice aloud and make sure everything is clear. Maximiliane also asked you a few questions, but try to answer them only after completing the task. 

Here’s what to do first: measure your classroom. Take various objects from it and put them in front of the school. Mark the length and width of the classroom on the pavement, street or schoolyard – these will be the dimensions of your painting. Arrange the panels that Maximiliane painted for you. Paint the shadows cast by your bodies and the objects taken from the classroom. 

Now think about these questions: 

How do we differentiate between one thing and another?

What does it mean that we “see” something in a painting?

Aside from that – do you prefer to do things together or individually?

How does it feel not to understand something?

Can we make incomprehension pleasant? Or instructive?

What are the reasons for doing things that make no sense?

Maximiliane Baumgartner lives in Munich. She is a painter, although her works are far-removed from a typical rectangular canvas in a decorative frame. She usually paints on wooden or metal panels cut in various shapes, from simple, acute polygons to complex, soft, rounded forms, which is why her works function like spatial objects and reliefs. She often presents them in public space, especially in cities – on building facades, streets, or in parks – referring to the history and architecture of specific locations.

Baumgartner installs her series of paintings on geometrical frames and racks, staging painterly installations that resemble strange gardens or playgrounds. As for her individual works hanging on walls and facades, she composes them like jigsaw puzzles, matching their shapes.

The artist takes an interest in the social function of painting – she researches the potential use of paintings hanging on a street wall, a trailer in a parking lot, or integrated into a playground, and the actions they make provoke.

Baumgartner is also active in pedagogy – for two years, she co-headed an artistic socio-educational centre in one of Munich’s parks, and currently lectures at the university; she works with children and publishes books and zines devoted to learning through art and play.

B

Alicja Bielawska

EXPAND VIEW IN AN AFTERIMAGE

Alicja’s box contains a variety of fabrics. Take them and lay them out in any place in your school: classroom, corridor, or schoolyard. Depending on the space, the fabrics can reveal their potential in different ways. The more place at your disposal, the more possibilities exist.

Look carefully at the colours and shapes of the fabrics, their thickness and texture, as well as what they are made of. Think about what these textiles remind you of. Which of them are you more used to, and which of them less? Geometrical shapes may suggest potential use, steer you into various associations, provoke you to move or even dream. 

You can animate the fabrics by moving them, individually or in a group, you can wrap yourselves in them, hang them, and much more – you can do everything that comes to your mind. There are tunnels on the sides of each of them, into which you can insert a broomstick, for example, and there are metal rings that will help you fix them. You can build meanings by setting fabric in motion: a textile banner or flag represent ideas and identities. Fabric can also be used to separate space, it can offer a sense of privacy and safety, give shelter and dress wounds. It is soft architecture.

How many people are needed to carry a banner?

What can you manifest with it?

How many people can fit on fabric laid out on the floor or another surface?

How can fabric delineate a place to rest?

How does it happen that fabric may both let light through and reflect it?

How does colour influence the way we feel? 

How does it build atmosphere and temperature in an interior?

Alicja Bielawska studied art history in Warsaw and fine arts in Amsterdam, where she took an interest in sculpture and fabric. She appreciates the ordinary and the everyday, and instead of “sculptures” she prefers to call her works “objects”. As she explains: “When I call them objects, less is expected from them than if I called them sculptures. There’s one more important issue: when I talk about an object, I emphasise that it has the same rank as the table at which we sit.”

The artist uses materials sourced from home or DIY stores: ordinary linoleum, wood-like veneers, floor panels. She comments on them as follows: “There’s nothing personal about them, they have virtually no character, they are neutral in themselves. But they give me the possibility to build forms that to a certain extent connect to our everyday lives …”

Bielawska also likes working with textiles, which are the closest thing to human skin. The artist explains: “Fabric is something that accompanies us throughout our whole lives. It is the closest to our touch and body, which is why it evokes memories and influences our memory. … Whether it’s a dress, a tablecloth, or a tent, fabric easily adopts the shape we want to give it, and despite its delicacy, it is surprisingly durable.”

B

Katya Buchatska

THE SECRET PLAYER

The work prepared by Katya Buchatska is a deck of multicolour cards.

The blue ones are objects. They are used inside the building: in the classroom, gym hall, corridor. Draw one and imagine yourself as an object. You’re a book, a bottle, or maybe a pair of shoes? Find a place where you’ll feel comfortable in your role. It is known that, for example, books like lying on the shelf or on the table, but be careful – you won’t fit everywhere. Stay there motionless for one or two minutes. How do you feel?

As a group, act like the objects you’ve drawn at the same time. Ask someone to take a photo when you’ve all become things. Looking at this photo, can you guess who plays what role?

The green cards are animals. They are used outside the building. Take one and imagine yourself as the animal you’ve drawn. Move like it, make appropriate sound. Play together with the rest of the group for a minute or two. Ask someone to take a photo of you as a herd. Can you tell who plays what role? What animal are you? Do you crawl, fly or jump in the trees (just be careful!)? Are you a warm-blooded or a cold-blooded creature? What do you feed on? How do you feel in this role? 

The red cards are emotions. Return to the classroom or, if possible, to the auditorium. Go on stage; the same box contains Alicja Bielawska’s fabrics, and you can use one to sit on. Choose a card and show it to the other players. 

Talk about how you feel about the emotions you’ve drawn.

How often do you experience it?

Where?

Do you fell all right with it? 

There are no winners and no losers in this game. People, objects, animals and emotions win. But you can award special prizes, for example, for the most convincingly played role of a book!

Katya Buchatska lives in Kyiv. A versatile artist, she draws, paints, writes, creates sculptures and objects, collages, photographs, video films, and designs exhibitions. Already during her studies she was active in many fields, such as printing, graphic design, illustration, icon writing tradition, murals and frescoes. She is methodical and modest at work: instead of lofty words and spectacular gestures, she concentrates on careful research on issues of interest to her and little activities that allow for seeing the familiar in a new light. Buchatska takes an interest both in personal stories and the geological history of life on Earth. Akin to an archaeologist, she digs through subsequent layers, seeking to articulate individual traumas and memories through prehistoric fossils, imprints, and casts. 

Buchatska also makes use of the wide array of her skills for educational purposes. In Kyiv, she runs classes for children and works with adult individuals in the autism spectrum.

G

Dora García

100 IMPOSSIBLE ARTWORKS

Dora García returned to her list of “things to do”, written twenty years ago. The tasks are rather peculiar – actually impossible to carry out. Each of them is, or rather could be an individual artwork. Executing some of them would take too much time (“To photograph every moment of your life”), while others are simply beyond human capacity (“To quit sleeping”) or go against common sense (“To be transparent”). There are also tasks that are seemingly easier to carry out: “To know the truth” or “To read minds”.

How to approach this? Are these nothing but jokes, or perhaps they hide a secret? As we know, things often happen in art that may at first come across as unreasonable, unreal, or simply silly. We can also assume that it’s an invitation to a journey into the unknown.

Start by hanging the poster in a place where you and your group can see it. You can draw and write on it, decorate it, mark tasks that seem interesting, comment on them. Talk about what and how can be done to make the impossible at least a little bit possible. Exchange tasks, challenge someone to an impossible duel. Or work in secrecy on a special mission.

Think about what is more important: a good idea or its execution?

Does art have to have its weight, height and width, does it have to be visible?

Do you remember tasks that seemed impossible to carry out in the past, but have now become easy? Can you think of something that posed no difficulties in the past, but seems impossible now?

When do we consider something “done”?

Can an artwork change over time?

If so, does it only happen when we don’t look at it?

Do we ourselves change over time? 

The Spanish artist Dora García claims that fiction is the only tool that allows us to understand the surrounding reality. Fiction is the propeller of her work. The artist makes use of imagination and creative workshop to construct in public space stories, situations, and events that balance on the edge of reality and fiction. Based on conceptual ideas and lengthy research process, her works adopt complex forms, sometimes difficult to grasp. 

García often works like a director – she creates the concept, draws up scripts and instructions for action, which are then executed by actors, performers, audiences, and even random people. The artist has staged performances in galleries and museums, organised live theatrical activities in urban space, television broadcasts, stand-up performances, among other projects; she also opened a café, affiliated with the anti-psychiatry movement, for people hearing voices. What’s more, García has created numerous online works in the form of blogs, Tumblr profiles, online content generators, interactive novels, and enigmatic websites.

She is an eager educator, who runs classes and workshops, as well as lectures at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. One of her students says: “The most important thing I learnt from Dora is that it’s the best to become mature as late as possible.”

P

Prabhakar Pachpute

BASED ON 100 PROVERBS

Prabhakar Pachpute’s paintings are populated by a variety of hybrid creatures. We can recognise their parts: here we see a hammer, there we see an aerial and a cow’s head, a fragment of a tree, and there we find elephant tusks. These creatures march on human legs, their heads often replaced by tools. Neither people nor animals. They are like nightmares or fairy tales that could be invented by children of Indian miners, who descend underground every day to extract coal in dark tunnels. Set in mining landscapes, the creatures are surrounded by billowing snakes, strolling elephants and tigers. It is not a merry world – it rather brings to mind nighttime illusions, feverish visions.

How about inviting one of the figures inhabiting the artist’s dreamy paintings to your school? Take a look inside the box. Who is that creature? What’s its name? What’s its history? Can you try to tell it and then write it down? Can this creature from a far-off land come to life in darkness? What shadow does it cast? What voice does it speak with?

If you like, you can send a postcard to India and share your story with Prabhakar. We know he’s looking forward to receiving your tales. If you want to do this, use one of the cards with a stamp from the box and send it to the Museum, we’ll take care of the rest.

Aside from that, think about how you can recognise that you’re not dreaming. Can you travel very far without leaving home? Is it possible to talk with plants and animals, or perhaps even with a stone?

Prabhakar Pachpute comes from India. His artistic work is founded on the experience of living and working conditions in a region dominated by industrial exploitation of nature. India’s economy is based on coal. Called “black gold” in the country, this raw material is not only a source of electricity for millions of people, but also one of main export products. At the same time, its extraction leads to the deforestation and pollution of vast area, which degrades not only nature, but also large-area cultivation of cereal crops, rice, and cotton. For all these reasons, famine is an enormous, regularly recurring problem. 

Pachpute admits that his drawings and paintings combine memories from his childhood days in a mining community with surreal visions, such as mythical figures and animals inspired by traditional Marathi literature (written in Marathi language in western India and significant for the Maharashtra region, from which the artist originates). He creates large-scale drawings with coal applied directly on walls and murals in which surreal motifs (for example, a human figure with a headlamp or binoculars instead of the head), afterimages and memories are combined with commentaries on the current political, social and ecological situation.

R

Joanna Piotrowska i Bożka Rydlewska

SOLIDARITY IS OUR POWER

Do you notice things around you that you would like to change? Perhaps the meals in the school cafeteria or the day schedule? Maybe you’d like to see more playgrounds and greenery instead of so many cars on the streets? By making a protest banner for you, Joanna and Bożka remind us that regardless of superior authority (such as the school director or the president of the country), deciding about one’s own affairs is a key element of life in society.

“Solidarity is our power” – begin by discussing together the topic introduced by this slogan, and it may soon turn out that what matters to you is also important for others. What and why would you like to change in your school and its vicinity? What solutions do you propose to achieve it? Arm yourselves with a plan and arguments, and when you decide what to protest about, proceed to the form – take a closer look at Joanna and Bożka’s banner.

How can you tell it’s a prop used in demonstrations?

Do you know that the represented person is Dominika Lasota – a Youth Climate Strike activist. Not much older than you, Dominika regularly takes part in happenings and protests that put pressure on politicians to take action to prevent global warming and environmental crisis.  

Prepare cardboards, paper or fabrics, paints and felt-tip pens, create banners for your demonstration. What will make them stand out? Colours, symbols, or perhaps slogans? What’s more, think about the choreography of your protest. Where will it take place? Will you stand in a symbolic location or march? With music, chants, or in silence? Will it take place on a working day or will it accompany, for example, your school’s official celebrations? Will you organise it once or will it become a cyclical event? How long will it last? How will you inform other people from your school and encourage them to take part in the protest? Can a protest be art? Can art change the world?

It’s all in your hands!

Joanna Piotrowska is a photographer, who mainly lives and works in London. Bożka Rydlewska is a graphic designer, illustrator, and painter. The artists are friends and they jointly created the work included in Primary Forms.

Piotrowska approaches photography as a tool to research interpersonal relations and tensions related to them. She draws inspiration from seemingly simple gestures that generate larger, complex stories. In her photographic series titled Self-Defence, the artist shows how adolescent girls learn self-discipline and conformity to norms imposed by society. We see young women striking uncomfortable poses and performing gestures from a self-defence handbook.

The photographer often employs old techniques, such as gelatin silver prints, popular in the first half of the 20th century, and 16 mm film stock, which she uses instead of a digital recorder. Her works have been shown at Tate Britain in London and Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland, among other venues. 

Bożka Rydlewska’s work is inspired by fairy tale and natural motifs. She draws from botanical atlases, but many of her pieces are fuelled mainly by her own imagination. The artist is also active as an interior designer and grows orchids in all possible shapes and colours.

R

Raqs Media Collective

TIME TRAVEL

Monica, Jebeesh and Shudda from the Indian group Raqs Media Collective like poems, libraries, riddles, clocks, and the smell of old paper. Their art sometimes resembles a voluminous book or a film in which threads are mixed, otherworldly creatures appear, and the plot breaks off and often leads down a blind alley. Time Travel, created for you by Raqs, is not a typical board game, although it looks quite ordinary: it consists of a board, instructions, and alphabet squares. There can even be a winner. 

But, in reality, it’s a poetic game that requires attention, patience and… time. According to its creators: time wins, each time. Of course.

To start playing you need: two people (eager to travel into the past and the future), board, two paper sheets and two pencils, alphabet squares (from Scrabble), and a lot of imagination. The box contains a precise instruction, or rather a letter addressed to you. Read it carefully, it’s best to do it aloud, perhaps even two or three times – and you’ll find out what to do. It also mentions that the fuel of time travel are stories and that every journey begins with a word.

When the winner emerges, think: can we turn back time?

Or maybe we can find ourselves inside a spatio-temporal tunnel?

Do you remember days that passed very quickly, but you remember them as very long?

Does time always flow forward, from point A to point B?

Can time flow in a spiral?

How long is “now”?

Raqs Media Collective

In Persian, Arabic and Urdu, “raqs” is the trance-like state experienced by whirling Dervishes. It is also an acronym for “Rarely Asked QuestionS”. For Raqs Media Collective, it has become a metaphor that characterises and indicates the directions of the group’s artistic activity.

The collective comprises Monica Narula, Jeebesh Bagchi and Shuddhabrata Sengupta, who met during their studies in Delhi, the capital of India. Since the establishment of Raqs in 1992, the city has often been a source of inspiration for their works and projects.

Raqs are active in many fields, often going beyond what we usually understand as art. They create documentary films and video-essays, as well as installations, collages, photographs, and digital works. They also operate intensive research and scholarly activity, publish books and texts, organise exhibitions, meetings, and events.

Raqs are also active in the field of experimental education. In 2000, they were among the co-founders of the Sarai programme as part of the activity of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in Delhi. It functions as a residency centre, design and digital media laboratory, café, publishing house, and urban research centre. Sarai works with youth from slums interested in photography and poetry, among other communities.

The Raqs artists love philosophical speculation – they often employ artistic and scholarly methodology to imagine alternative scenarios, (im)possible worlds, and (im)probable visions of the future.

W

Jaśmina Wójcik

PEASANT WOMAN

Peasant Woman, whom you’ll find in the box, offers a great opportunity to get to know each other better. Jaśmina Wójcik’s idea is based on hopscotch, also called chłopek [“peasant” in Polish], a game that your parents and grandparents probably remember from their childhood. The artist explores the topic of the perennial function of games and the role of amusement in discovering the world and getting to know your colleagues and yourself.

The box includes instructions and boards in the shape of a peasant woman’s silhouette. Her body is a field on which new rituals, games and bonds are formed, and the figure’s blood circulatory system is filled with fluids of various activities. 

Start by choosing the place where you’ll lay out the board. This may be your classroom, corridor, schoolyard or pitch.

Warm yourselves up before you begin the game: set your bodies in motion!

Form groups of 3-4 people. Make sure the groups include colleagues you don’t know so well. Peasant Woman will help you exchange experiences and bond with each other.

Throwing a pouch filled with sand, start to roam the board and discover activities, drawings and phrases.

The box also contains a “secret diary”, that is a notebook that should circulate among players, passed from hand to hand. Each of you should add their own answers to the questions it asks and then fold the next page to form a triangle and hide there a little secret you’ve invented.

Here are the questions:

What’s your favourite game? What’s the oldest game you know? What can games teach you? How can you get to know another person better? Why do we need friendship? What is a ritual? What rituals do you have with your friends? Do we like to have fun, and why? How does a secret come into being and what can be a secret?

Jaśmina Wójcik is an artist who works in collaboration with various groups and communities. Her most famed piece is Symphony of the Ursus Factory, a documentary film shot with former workers of the now-defunct Ursus tractor factory in Warsaw. Wójcik also enjoys working with children, happily offering them cameras and microphones to record their own fantasies. She is the originator of Gazeta dzieci [Children’s Newspaper], a magazine whose authors and editors – in line with the title – are children themselves, and the spectacle King Matt the First, directed by children. The artist’s work is based on what matters to her the most, that is giving children agency – by creating a magazine or a spectacle, they turn into active participants, and not only passive readers and viewers.

She describes her experience as follows: “I interpret being an artist as playing the role of a transmitter, a person who lets others speak and offers them space. I’m an artist, educator, activist, director, pedagogue, and mother. All these domains are constituent parts of my identity, between which I move freely without separating them, without building barriers and borders. The most important thing about them are relations, cooperation, mindfulness, empathy, learning from each other, but also having an influence on others. Cooperation is fundamental for me – as an artist, I never put myself on a pedestal as a privileged figure who knows more, but I actively exchange, listen, set into action, think critically (also about myself). I’m attached to the ideals of care, well-being, sharing, building trust, creating spa.

Z

ZAKOLE

WATER WALKERS

The ZAKOLE collective invites you for an expedition. The box contains a number of objects: a magnifying glass, a mirror, fabric, and a letter. Read it carefully – you’ll find out what to do, what to look out for, how and in which direction to look. Take paints and paintbrushes with you. Wear clothes that you won’t regret to stain or get wet. Take a walk outside the school in search of water. In your area there is surely a water reservoir, river, marsh, humid meadow, or simply a large puddle.

The expedition will give you a lesson in observing the wet and humid world around you, noticing various forms of plant and animal life. You’ll look under your feet, but also observe the sky. You’ll smell, listen and breathe deeply. Take care and have fun. Splash!

Think about what can be learnt from creatures living in water. What would happen if a river had its name and surname, address, its own rights and duties? Could people live underwater? Is the amount of water in the world decreasing or is it always the same? What is climate and how is it different from weather?

Zakole is a collective comprising artists and scientists from various disciplines, such as media art, biology, hydrology, and anthropology, who took under their care Zakole Wawerskie – a unique wetland of high natural value, located almost in the very centre of Warsaw. Few cities in the world have within their borders such amazingly preserved marshes and meadows of outstanding natural wealth, overgrown with alder cars, reed beds and grass, where so many bird species, beavers, frogs, and other animals live so close to people.

The collective combines scientific and artistic methods, which have much more in common than it might initially seem. For example, they organise walks guided by a biologist and an artist, who share with participants their approaches to experiencing reality.

Zakole takes an interest in the life of insects, small mammals, arachnids, organisms living by water and underwater – everything that requires a change of perspective, leaning over, bringing one’s face closer to fragrant, humid ground, and activating all the senses. One of the favourite games proposed by the group is “mindfulness cube”, during which attention is focused on one cubic metre of soil in order to see from up close the life of ants and beetles: Stenurella bifasciata, lined click beetles, sulphur beetles, acorn weevils, as well as hymenopterans, butterflies, fairy longhorn moths, March flies, leaf beetles, and snails.

Members of the collective also emphasise that they gain knowledge about wetlands not only form other people, but also from animals, insects, and plants inhabiting this half-wild area. They define this way of discovering the world as “poly-knowledge”.

04

Lexicon

 

Alphabet

The alphabet is one of the most amazing inventions of humankind: several dozen simple signs are enough for us to share virtually every thought and emotion, and what we write may survive for thousands of years. But we know all too well that sometimes the alphabet alone does not suffice – not everything can be expressed with it as intended. Artists frequently seek to extend the available repertoire of signs, search for new uses of the alphabet and construct new languages to express what matters to them.

hu hu

        hu

        hu

krrro

  krrro

                krrro

       tu tu tu

            tu tu tu tu hu ha hu

– recited the Serbian poet Katalin Ladik. She considered paper, the traditional medium of poetry, as too static and replaced it with her own body. The artist deprived words of their meanings, returning to the mechanical function of letters as a record of sounds. Her poetic performances transformed the alphabet and the language of written poetry into music and choreography. She prolonged vowels, repeated consonants, called new words into being, which seemed to come directly out of the bowels, throat, mouth.

The alphabet was also deconstructed by the Polish artist Ewa Partum. In her video Active Poetry. Poem by Ewa, agency over language is given to wind and water. Partum scatters letters in the wind and thrusts them onto waves, which form new words. She chose to liberate the alphabet from rigid rules and allow chance to take control over language. When invited to London’s Tate Modern in 2006 for a re-enactment of the piece, she scattered letters from James Joyce’s Ulysses in the gallery’s most famous space, the Turbine Hall. Children who came to the exhibition with their parents immediately began to collect the letters and arrange them as they pleased. When asked not to touch them by the museum staff, they rebelled and cried. Their parents eventually complained to the director of Tate Modern that the artist was disturbing the children. They approached the alphabet as a common good. After all, everyone has the right to use language and form words. Chitty-chat you old chap, you better GTB. Buh-bye!

(Kuba Depczyński)

Break

Pause, break, slit in time, digestion, fermentation, imagination, listening, immersion, contamination. Interval as room for that which is possible, as the creation of the conditions for something new to happen.

Break – a welcome moment of catching your breath, carefreeness and fun. It is usually understood as a moment of freedom from the rigour of lessons, activities and duties. But perhaps it is exactly the other way round: schools exist only for the sake of breaks and genuine learning doesn’t take place in the classroom, but in the corridor, sports field and schoolyard? 

In 2015, two Brazilian artists, Tainá Azeredo and Cláudio Bueno, founded Intervalo-Escola, which means “school break”. It does not have a permanent location, but rather appears unexpectedly in various places and institutions. Nor does it have a fixed curriculum – this school is all about never-ending breaks, during which every person can suggest the next fun activity. Knowledge produced at Intervalo Escola is generated by all of its participants, who decide themselves what they want to do together and how. The artists emphasise that according to their educational model opportunities for learning together do not arise during lessons, but during relaxation, cooking and eating, naps, casual conversations, walks, games and fun.

Perhaps we also need to take a break from museums and art? 

For many artists a break turned out to be the most important lesson. The American artist and poet Peter Nadin decided to take a break from art in 1992. He stopped exhibiting his works and moved out of the city. He bought a farm from the early 19th century located on the outskirts of New York City and began breeding pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and bees. Although during that time he stayed away from museums, galleries, critics and curators, he soon realised that farmer’s work was also a precious and edifying form of art. Inspired by this discovery, he transformed his farm into the quasi-institution Old Field Farm/Art & Agriculture, which engaged in agricultural and artistic production. Inspired by his farming experience, Nadin’s current works are often made using materials from the farmstead, such as cashmere wool and beeswax. In 2006, he published the book The First Mark: Unlearning How to Make Art.

(Bogna Stefańska)

Climate

If we were to leave school familiar with just one topic, it should be climate. Human-induced planetary changes: global warming, rising sea and ocean levels, extinction of species, destruction of ecosystems, disturbed circulation of chemical elements in nature, will determine how life is lived on Planet Earth for hundreds, if not thousands of years to come. The response of our and the next generations of Homo sapiens to the question of climate, natural environment and ecology will decide whether we can adapt to these changes in any measure and reduce their negative consequences or else experience them as a series of disasters beyond control.

The problematics of climate change abounds in contradictions and paradoxes – global warming is a process too vast and massively distributed in time for us to see and grasp it in its entirety. At the same time, however, we experience it directly with every drop of acid rain and PM 2.5 dust particles suspended in the air. On the one hand, it demonstrates the incredible agency of humans, who, after all, affect the functioning of the entire planet. On the other hand, we all feel helpless in its face and efforts towards reducing it appear pitiful. The complexity of climate crisis compels us to change everything at the same time: politics and lifestyle, economy and values, individual and social behaviour, language and imagination.

We can learn what to do in the face of climate change from the Indian engineer and educator Sonam Wangchuk, who gained renown for his work in the Ladakh region. Inhabitants of this high-altitude and desert region are stricken with ever more severe droughts caused by global warming. In order to tackle the water crisis, Wangchuk and his team began raising ice stupas in Ladakh to store frozen water in the form of conical shaped ice heaps. It does not take complex technology to build them, just a skilful use of the force of gravity and local differences in temperature. Melting slowly, the stupas provide the people of Ladakh with water during long rainless months. What’s more, as more than a dozen metres high ice sculptures set in the middle of the desert, they make beautiful and Surreal artworks.

Wangchuk realises that his efforts are not enough to cope with climate change across the planet. That’s why he has engaged in educational activities for years. He creates new curricula for schools and universities and sets up his own institutions that place emphasis on sustainable, ecological and environmental education. Who knows, perhaps the construction of ice stupas will soon be embraced in the core curriculum of Polish schools?

(Bogna Stefańska)

 

Collective Action

Some people take great satisfaction from collective action. It allows for sharing resources, learning from each other and developing competence in group work and self-organisation. Does modern-day school offer opportunities for collective action other than team sports played in PE classes? Could the gym hall host lessons resembling group investigations into movement pursued at the beginning of the 1970s by Steve Paxton, one of the founders of the dance technique called contact improvisation? How would Game on Morel’s Hill unfold on the school pitch – the “visual manoeuvres” initiated by the artist duo KwieKulik between the participants of the Young Creative Workshop in Elbląg in 1971?

In Anna and Lawrence Halprin’s work, community-forming artistic activities happened in a specific place, which for many artists became something of a school. That place was the Halprin residence designed by the architect, urban planner and ecologist Lawrence Halprin in Kentfield, California. A dance terrace built on a woody slope for the choreographer Anna Halprin became a site of improvisations based on assigned tasks as well as movement rituals. It hosted workshops devoted to art, healing and social change conducted with a multiracial community.

Modern-day school seeks to keep up with trends in education. Teachers ever more often organise classes outside the school building, combining the acquisition of knowledge about the surrounding world with experiments and the use of technology. But there is more to collaboration and collective creative work than simply gaining more knowledge as they foster empathy, develop emotional intelligence, creativity and the sense of agency, which are indispensable at every stage of child’s development.

Group activity can result from a spontaneous and ephemeral initiative, as in some street actions in urban space by the Polish experimental theatre and artistic collective Akademia Ruchu [Academy of Movement]. It can be done without a leader, as in the case of the New York collective of choreographers and dancers that functioned from 1962 to 1964 in a space of interdisciplinary exchange at Judson Memorial Church, from which the collective took its name: Judson Dance Theater.

Artists from the circles of Akademia Ruchu and Judson postulated communality and egalitarian interpersonal relations. They created collaborative improvisations that addressed everyday life and relied on the corporeality of performers’ bodies, and their methods grew directly out of counterculture and participatory forms of social protest: marching, taking over urban space, sit-ins. Nowadays, a similar political sensibility informs the actions of the School Strike for Climate, which began as a group of high school students and developed into a dynamic social movement that taps into the performativity of protest and social media to manifest emotions, express opposition and formulate scenarios for the future.

(Alicja Czyczel)

 

Colour / Theory of colour 

It is not what the eye catches mechanically that matters in the process of seeing, but the consciousness man has of his seeing – claimed the Polish avant-garde artist Władysław Strzemiński in his Theory of Vision.

Not only people see colours. Dogs and cats can best see yellow and blue. Birds see ultraviolet. Reptiles see infrared, and many mammals are colour blind, unable to make out the difference between green and red. However, as theory of colour posits, colour is just a subjective mental impression generated in the brain of the observer, such as a human being or an animal.

Investigating various ways, possibilities and limitations related to colour perception, the Vietnamese collective Art Labor combined art and science in their project The Adventure of Color Wheel at the Pediatrics Department of the Eye Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. Art Labor fused their discoveries with artistic imagination in their design of colour solutions for the hospital and a series of murals. On the ceiling of the main entrance hall they installed revolving letters E, which look like abstract paintings while testing the vision of illiterate individuals. In turn, in the halls of the Pediatrics Department, patients’ eyes can follow wall graphic pieces with thousands of colourful wheels and painterly depictions of imagined landscapes. The hospital’s new interiors not only relax and fascinate young patients, but also offer a useful tool for a range of diagnostic tests.

Artists can also find concentration on colours soothing. In the 1970s, the Polish artist Andrzej Szewczyk sought to escape painting and tiresome challenges of creative work in every possible way. In this he resorted to the most radical means: he denied himself the possibility of using artistic imagination and the very idea of creation. Instead, he embarked on covering the pages of children’s colouring books with primary colours, strictly following attached models and instructions. Szewczyk stated: “For the first time I rejected all artistic, aesthetic and non-aesthetic dilemmas, and questions about all these values became groundless for me.” 

(Bogna Stefańska)

Experiment

1. A scientific procedure undertaken to make a discovery, test a hypothesis, or demonstrate a known fact.

2. A course of action tentatively adopted without being sure of the outcome.

– Oxford English Dictionary

Experimenting is one of the most enjoyable and attractive methods of learning. When we experiment, something finally happens, and dull exercises from school textbooks materialise in front of our very eyes: cress does really grow on cotton wool, reagents in phials and beakers change their colour, and a beam of life passing through a slit behaves like a wave. It is such experiments that allow for investigating the phenomena around us.

Experimenting is also one of the most pleasurable and interesting ways of making art. Artists who experiment do not focus on the pursuit of a specific premeditated effect, but on the very process of putting their idea into practice. They specify initial conditions, set creative machinery in motion and observe what happens. What will happen if they hang canvasses in the forest, exposing them to rain, mudslides and encounters with animals? What will happen if they write a score of a musical piece by throwing a dice? What will a film look like that consists of nothing but sunset scenes?

We could try to fuse biology, physics and chemistry lessons with art and art history classes into a single experimental subject. This is how many artists work, for example the Cooking Sections duo, who experimented with using artworks as innovative tools to tackle drought in Sicily. In collaboration with agronomists from the local university, they built three scientific-artistic installations resembling minimalist sculptures to water citrus trees in Palermo, a city engulfed by water crisis. Built of clay water pipes and bricks and colourful mesh made of a material designed specifically for this purpose, the structures generated a unique microclimate that enabled plants to absorb water directly from cool humid air. The installations and trees were connected to sensors measuring the parameters of the microclimate and its influence on plants. The gathered data was published both on site and online, which allowed the audience to monitor the course of the experiment in real time. The experiment conducted by Cooking Sections ultimately turned out successful both as a watering device and as an artwork devoted to water crisis.

(Bogna Stefańska & Kuba Depczyński)

Fooling Around

Laughter is contagious. When caused by positive feelings, it can release superfluous tension from our bodies, offer a sense of relief and uplifting joy (endorphins!). As in Antonia Baehr’s performance Laugh, in which the artist performs laughter outside its usual context in an aural form, like a musical score, and the audience cannot help but spontaneously burst out laughing.

Joke has a special place at school, it may be glued to a colleague’s backs, noted down in notebook margins, drawn on benches and the blackboard, posted on TikTok and shared as a meme. It is accompanied by choreographies of furtive gestures, winks and data flows.

Laughter can also carry subversive content – it may become a commentary that ridicules and denounces undesired attitudes, phenomena and actions, as well as a tool of critique of the value system and authorities. This happened in dance and cabaret performances by the avant-garde dancer, pantomimist and actress Valeska Gert, which relied on the mimical expression of emotions and expressiveness of the body to challenge bourgeois morality and mores of the era.

Discerning comic qualities in people and situations may foster community formation. Fooling around at school integrates the group and may offer a moment of liberation from disciplining the bodies of pupils, who sit in rows of benches from an early age and silently carry out tasks assigned by their teachers. Loud untamed laughter engages the whole body and oxygenates the organism.

Experimental pedagogy and alternative education pay considerable attention to pupils’ individual interests, talent, needs, and to developing their social competences without excessive supervision, grading and textbooks. Learning is accompanied by physical activities, games, trips, conversations, rest and fun, which help absorb knowledge. Sitting on the floor, murmuring, walking around the classroom, fidgeting on a chair – this is exactly what some of us need to learn better and enjoy it.

(Alicja Czyczel) 

 

Foreign languages

Do we really learn foreign languages at school? It would seem so at first glance; after all, school timetables are full of Spanish, French, German and even Latin classes. In reality, we learn a certain “language” on every lesson: body language in PE classes, language of literature in English classes, language of art in art classes, language of science in biology and chemistry classes. Although we don’t always understand them, these languages can hardly be recognised as genuinely “foreign”. After all, each was created and is used by representatives of the Homo sapiens species.

The Korean artist Kim Beom has been thinking for many years about ways to include the non-human world into the education process. In his works, the roles of students are played by various objects: the artist lectures a stone on the beauty of poetry, explains to a ship in a bottle what the sea is, and clarifies the difference between a human being and an object to a plastic watering can. Despite the efforts, the disciples remain completely indifferent and insensitive to the languages of literature, biology, physics and history. Beom shows that although we learn a lot at school about humans and the reality they have created, we unlearn contact with the non-human world at the same time. Paradoxically, the more human we become, the more difficult we find it to communicate with what surrounds us.

The world abounds in non-human languages. Water and air, flowers and rocks, cats and dogs, mushrooms and trees hold an ongoing conversation, and we don’t understand a thing! Nobody taught us at school how to communicate with a boulder or an amphibian, or even how to derive joy from mutual incomprehension. Can we imagine what learning a “foreign language” could look like? Beom dropped us some hints in his book The Art of Transforming, published in 1997:

How to Become a Rock

Choose an appropriate spot.

A spot with more stones around is recommended. Assume a low position – sitting or lying, but in harmony with the surroundings.

Freeze still and stop breathing.

Don’t think about anything, care neither about the season nor the weather. Don’t allow anything to grab your attention, not even a storm or another cataclysm. Don’t pay attention even if you’re about to fall down from your spot. Don’t worry and keep your position.

Even if moss has grown on a patch of soil near you or worms are building their nests, don’t destroy them, leave them alone.

(Kuba Depczyński)

Imagination

We learn a lot at school about facts from the past: what happened, where and when, who conquered whom, where borders ran, which year a given poem or book was penned. We find out a bit about how it is: what an animal cell consists of, how modern-day English grammar works, where copper deposits are located in our country, the difference between the European Parliament and the Council of Europe. However, we are told less about how it will be: about what is approaching, about the world we will inhabit in ten or twenty years. But does school teach us at all about how it could be?

According to many contemporary thinkers, the greatest crisis we’re facing today is the crisis of imagination. Philosophers, scientists and artists warn us that we’ve lost the crucial ability to imagine reality anew. To create new worlds. To formulate previously unknown narratives and visions. Today, even the boldest and most radical proposals for change seem rather down-to-earth and not far-removed from what we already know. The only solution we’re able to come up with when faced with such problems as climate change, rampant social inequalities or the crisis of democracy is “business as usual”. In order to really tackle them head-on, we need to go beyond how it used to be, how it is and how it will be. We need to imagine how it could be.

Using your imagination is something that can be learnt and developed through art. Active in the 1960s, artists, activists and theorists affiliated with the Situationist International believed that we could begin training our imagination simply by walking around the city. They developed their own method of casual urban strolling, which they called drift (la dérive). It’s simple: when drifting one should avoid familiar paths, beaten tracks and conventional routes, allowing oneself instead to be attracted by the ambiances of individual districts and places, to follow surprising hints and embrace unexpected encounters and plot twists.

Situationists perceived drifting, which set imagination free, as the first step towards changing the world. What would a city look like if it wasn’t organised around efficient thoroughfares, shopping malls and tourist landmarks? A city that would act as a source of joy of aimless strolls, enable the experience of a variety of ambiances and constantly surprise and stimulate the imagination of its dwellers? What would their daily life look like? And their culture? How would their society be organised?

(Kuba Depczyński)

Library

The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the school library is a nostalgic atmosphere and volumes giving out a dusty smell, arranged in orderly rows, in alphabetical order. Is this the only use of library resources? What else can be done with books?

When asked if he read books, the British artist John Latham might have replied: I devour them. In 1966, Latham and a group of his students subjected to a literal and metaphorical “test of taste” their much-loathed book by the renowned American art critic Clement Greenberg. The group tore it into tiny pieces, which they later chewed and spat out. The chewed remnants were carefully collected and left to ferment. When Latham received his overdue notice from the library at Saint Martin’s School of Art, he returned a phial with the chewed content. That gesture cost him his teaching post. That was how the piece Still and Chew. Art and Culture 1966–1967 came into being, which currently belongs to the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Latham frequently used books in his work – he cut out their fragments, glued them together, covered them with plaster and paint or burnt them. He created cycles of “skoob” works, that is “books” written backwards. In 1991, he worked with the most significant books in the history of humankind in God is Great, a conceptual piece comprising copies of the Bible, the Quran and a volume of the Talmud, each cut in half and bonded to a glass panel. But Latham was not a butcher of the printed word. A recurring motif in his art is the power of books, which takes the viewer away from the physical world and into the spiritual sphere or imagined universes.

A similar use for books was found by Marcel Broodthaers. After twenty years of attempts to become a successful poet, in 1963 he chose to become an artist and began creating objects. He commemorated that moment of symbolical passage by squeezing fifty unsold copies of his volume of poetry into plaster. Thus, he created his first art object. Broodthaers described the difference between poetry and art with irony: “Finally the idea of inventing something insincere crossed my mind and I set to work straightaway. At the end of three months I showed what I had produced to Philippe Edouard Toussaint, the owner of the Galerie St Laurent. ‘But it is art’, he said, ‘and I will willingly exhibit all of it.’ What is it? In fact, objects.”

(Kuba Depczyński)

The Passage and Measurement of time

Time at public schools is measured in precise units marked by a sound signal – the school bell. Each lesson lasts 45 minutes, each break – 15 minutes. One must not be late and confuse time for learning with time for rest, eating, fun. Meticulous measurement of time spent in the school bench is accompanied by reflection that learning takes considerable time, including free time, which needs to be devoted to doing your homework and preparing for tests. What attitude to being in time, its passing and transience does school shape in us? How do we think about spending time together and how about our individual sense of time? Do we talk about the fact that some people need more time for certain tasks and activities than others? Are we able to accept it and do we find a language to describe it? Instead of “competing”, “outdoing each other in progress at school”, “winning” and replicating the CPF cycle (“cram, pass, forget”), can we, as the school community, create time and space for slowing down, learning from our own mistakes, getting bored, losing ourselves in something and building interpersonal relations?

Contemporary art offers inspiration and tools for experiencing and making use of time in more creative and emancipatory ways. Even at the museum, where discipline is maintained, where we behave according to mastered rules and remain under supervision, an encounter with a work of art can become an opening intellectual and sensual experience.

In the 1970s, Tehching Hsieh, an artist of Taiwanese origin, began a series of performances in New York that lasted for a year. During one of them, Time Clock Piece (One Year Performance 1980–1981), he punched a time clock every hour on the hour, engaging himself physically and mentally in this demanding and exhausting performative action, which left a trace in the form of video documentation.

In 1977, the artist duo Marina Abramović and Ulay spent sixteen hours in the gallery. They sat with their backs against each other, their hair tied together, surrounded only by gallery employees, who documented the process. After a dozen or so hours, when the duo was very close to exhaustion, the audience was allowed into the gallery, which compelled Abramović and Ulay to treat the viewers’ presence as an energy boost and extend the performance by one hour.

A totally different approach, focussed less on expressing intensity and liminal experience and more on details and the impression of time becoming denser, is used in her performances by the choreographer Maria Hassabi. Staging from 2017 is a piece presented at museums and galleries which combines choreography for a group of performers, light and sound installation, and an enormous pink carpet. Movement composed in a loop develops extremely slowly and lasts as long as the opening times of the institutions that hosts it. We may therefore leave the museum in the morning and come back in the evening to find out that the performers, akin to snails, have only moved to the other end of the room, renouncing the spectacular for the sake of change, mindfulness and continuity. Never pressed for time.

(Alicja Czyczel)

 

Practice/ Excercise

The acquiring of knowledge and skills – the education system as a whole – is based on constant practice. We practise by repeating, copying texts, drawing, completing tasks and doing homework. Children at school practise in order to absorb the core curriculum. Artists at the academy practise to master a given medium.

Classes held at the experimental Black Mountain College in the 1930s under the supervision of Josef Albers consisted in famous exercises in interaction of colour. Students used paint to combine colours in different configurations and thereby to understand their specificity and the way they influenced each other. Exercises adopted a much more spontaneous and polyphonic form in Creativity Exercises created in 1975 by Miklós Erdély and Dóra Maurer, an amateur art course held at Budapest’s Ganz-MAVAG factory. Combining various disciplines and introducing movement, music, acting, film and photography in their exercises, Erdély and Maurer founded them on participation, group action and the practice of imitation. An exemplary exercise: one person covers themselves with a piece of fabric and assumes a most complicated pose. The other participants try to guess and assume the same pose. The concealed person may be additionally represented in a visual form. The idea behind the exercise was to develop creativity and a collective creative process.

However, practice does not always necessarily mean progress. What if an exercise led to unlearning instead of learning? Unlearning Exercises is a research project run by the artist Annette Krauss in collaboration with the Casco Art Institute. It is based on exercises devised for art institutions with the goal of unlearning conventional ways of thinking. A fixation with immediacy and growth is replaced by a process of gradual change oriented to the culture of equality and community. One of the exercises consists in achieving balance together in a group by holding each other’s arms while sitting in a circle on chairs and balancing on two legs; another is based on cooking and tidying together. Krauss’ exercises challenge the normative mode of learning and the institutionalisation of knowledge. Regardless of the goal it serves, practice is said to make perfect.

(Helena Czernecka) 

School desk

We spend hundreds of hours at them. We know their every detail. Just as we stare at traces left by those before us, we also like to leave something behind. A cut? A drawing? A signature? The school desk is a collective amassment of signs and traces left by pupils. It is a testimony to time spent on learning, but also on dreaming and fantasising. Boredom and moments of oblivion, to which scribbles on the desk testify, appear to be part and parcel of knowledge acquisition.

The sociological potential of the analysis of drawings made on school desktops by absent-minded children during classes became an inspiration for the artist Petrit Halilaj. In his series Abetare he made use of drawings on desktops in his own primary school in the town of Runik in Kosovo, which he preserved on an enlarged scale by means of steel rods. Having chosen those spontaneous drawings, featuring such motifs as hearts, houses, birds, flowers, cars, airplanes, rockets and weapons, Halilaj examined the relation between the personal and the universal, documenting the desires, hopes and anxieties of several generations of children and teenagers.

The escapist power of a drawing made on the school desktop, which allows a child’s imagination to liberate itself from the rigid frames of school classes and the institutional surroundings, also inspired the project Frequencies by the Colombian artist Oscar Murillo. Since 2013, he archived more than 40,000 thousand canvasses that had previously been installed on desktops at schools worldwide. Scribbles and drawings, signatures, football team logos, images of famous people, hearts, skulls and dozens of other motifs bear testimony to the widespread need to oppose the school’s normative surroundings; they speak to the desire for freedom and liberty in making youthful fantasies come true.

(Helena Czernecka) 

 


Colophon

Curators:

Sebastian Cichocki, Helena Czernecka

The box design:
Michał Sikorski TŁO

Graphic design:
Zofia Kofta

Production:
Marta Wójcicka

Educational programmes and coordination:
Anna Grajewska, Marta Przybył

Consultation and programme advisory:
Aleksandra Saczuk, Urszula Arciszewska (Fundacja EFC)

Texts:
Sebastian Cichocki, Helena Czernecka, Jakub Depczyński, Bogna Stefańska

Editing:
Kinga Gałuszka

Translation:
Joanna Majewska-Grabowska, Łukasz Mojsak

Communication:
Józefina Bartyzel, Marlena Dudzic, Weronika Regosz, Anna Szałas

Artists:
Tarek Atoui, Maximiliane Baumgartner, Alicja Bielawska, Katya Buchatska, Dora Garcia, Prabhakar Pachpute, Joanna Piotrowska & Bożka Rydlewska, Raqs Media Collective, Jaśmina Wójcik, kolektyw Zakole

Educators:
Alicja Czyczel, Aleksandra Górecka, Agnieszka Kowalska-Kucharczyk, Magdalena Kreis, Aleksandra Kubisztal, Justyna Łada, Dominika Malska, Barbara Mołas, Katarzyna Solińska, Katarzyna Szul, Aleksandra Trościankowska, Marta Węglińska (Kobalt Migrating Platform), Katarzyna Witt, Hanna Zwierzchowska

Teachers:
Agnieszka Dąbrowska-Woźniak, Marta Dobrowolska-Wesołowska, Małgorzata Dyrkacz, Ewa Kempska, Bogusława Kostka, Agnieszka Kutera, Mariola Kutyła, Danuta Przybysz, Małgorzata Sokołowska, Agnieszka Świerblewska, Katarzyna Tamulis, Magdalena Trusz, Katarzyna Waluda, Kinga Wiecha, Kinga Zaleska

Schools:
Niepubliczna Podstawowa Szkoła Montessori z siedzibą w Warszawie
Szkoła Podstawowa nr 5 im. P. Maciejowskiej w Bytomiu
Szkoła Podstawowa im. A. Skupnia-Florka w Gliczarowie Górnym
Zespół szkół im. W. Kochowskiego w GoleniowachSzkoła Podstawowa nr 13 z Oddziałami Integracyjnymi i Oddziałami
Sportowymi im. A. Fiedlera w Gorzowie Wielkopolskim
Szkoła Podstawowa im. Św. Królowej Jadwigi w MaćkówceSzkoła Podstawowa im. J. A. Maklakiewicza w Mszczonowie
Szkoła Podstawowa im. A. Fiedlera i Armii Krajowej w Raszkowie
Publiczna Szkoła Podstawowa Nr 5 im. S. Żeromskiego w Ostrowcu ŚwiętokrzyskimSzkoła Podstawowa z Oddziałami Integracyjnymi nr 9 im. Gen. W. Sikorskiego w Sopocie
Szkoła Podstawowa nr 3 im. M. Konopnickiej w Tarnowie
Szkoła Podstawowa im. bł. ks. J. Balickiego w Ujeznej
Szkoła Podstawowa nr 351 im. B. Prusa w Warszawie
Szkoła Podstawowa nr 128 im. M. Skłodowskiej-Curie przy zespole Szkolno-Przedszkolnym nr 9 w Warszawie
Szkoła Podstawowa nr 77 im. W. Zieleńczyk z siedzibą w Warszawie

Art institutions:

Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych w Ostrowcu Świętokrzyskim
Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych w Tarnowie
Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Kronika
Goyki 3 Art Inkubator w Sopocie
Miejski Ośrodek Sztuki w Gorzowie Wielkopolskim

Art institutions:


Exhibition partners

Organizers

Logo Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw Logo Roman Czernecki Educational Foundation

The Museum is funded by

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The premises and selected projects are funded by the City of Warsaw

Logo City of Warsaw

Patrons of the Museum and the Museum's Collection

Logo EY Logo Allegro

Strategic Partner of the Museum

Logo Ergo Hestia Logo Hestia Artistic Journey

Legal advisor

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