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Writing while thinking


The first review for this course I censored by myself and it sits silently on my google disc. This is the second one. It’s not going to be a review of one article, but rather some loose observations based on a few sources.

I’ve read in the Guardian:
1. Much of the experience is meant to be horrible’. ​ Hito Steyerl review by ​Adrian Searle (1).
2. ‘The Serpentine’s Sackler gallery should be unnamed’, ​ an interview with Hito Steyer by Hettie Judath (2).

I’ve also watched:
1. An Interview with an artist on a Serpentine Gallery website (3).
2. A video:​ ‘Is the Museum a Battlefield’ ​found on AQNB website (4).

Now. They are a couple of reasons why I decided to write on the subject. Firstly, it felt kind of personal and closer to refer to, as I had an opportunity to meet the artists personally.

When I still was a doctoral candidate in 2013, Steyerl had tutorials in Kuvataideacademia (currently University of the Arts in Helsinki) that I was studying in. She was already quite popular at that time, not only in Helsinki but also in Berlin. She was supervising some of my colleagues’ doctoral thesis, was active internationally – both lecturing and exhibiting.

I remember that I was impressed by how skillful she was in the theoretical part of her artistic activities. At the same time, I wasn’t that convinced by her videos (that I have seen for the first time in the Venice Biennale). Particularly, because I found them less crafted in comparison to her texts. BTW. to defend the craft at that time in some intellectual circles equaled committing artistic harakiri or allowing oneself to be ostracized among own colleagues.

For me, there was some kind of virtuosity in Hito’s thinking and writing, contrary to her ability to communicate through visuals. Some might say that her videos have a meta-level of edginess, intentional clumsiness, some sort of heta – Uma (bad but good, poorly done, but with aesthetic consciousness) qualities. However, I was suspicious. I thought that if she puts so much energy into writing and thinking, she cannot have enough time ‘to craft’ her filming. At the end of the day, I thought, it’s impossible to redistribute creative energy equally among all activities.

By that time I didn’t know that her documentary-style came as an aftereffect/ an influence of Harum Farocki’s ‘method’ in which research takes the main position in constructing an artwork and is accompanied/ visualized by a collage of images. Today, I still think that the visual content that she is producing is not sufficiently explored. I also think that this attitude says more about my expectations than her art per see.

Secondly, when I’ve read the review of her exhibition in the Serpentine Sackler Gallery I immediately wanted to know more. I thought I didn’t fully get it. Reading fragments of it, I supposed, the Guardian’s reviewer would conclude harshly. After all, he was writing that: ​‘Steyerl’s latest project is difficult to approach’, ‘To begin with, I hated it’. ‘I am far from immune’. ​ However, he did not.

Adrian Searle​r continued: ‘​Steyerl’s show is a gigantic conceit, a meta-fiction, a tease. I think much of the experience is meant to be horrible’, ​and ​‘With this complicated splicing of fact and fantasy, social reality and grim futurology, Steyerl sucks us in. But don’t get too seduced, she seems to be saying. Along with the fun stuff and the pretty flowers in the gallery, life for many people is hell. Hear their voices, walk with them.’

I also assumed that the review will focus on issues surrounding the exhibition, such as funding of the gallery by the Sucler’s family, or even the existence of the show within the institution. Surprisingly, the reviewer had a rather old fashioned – I would even say the modernistic approach. He focused on the form and content of it… I said old fashioned because sometimes reading art reviews, I found them written about everything, but not art. In this sense his review was different.

On the other hand, there was something else that bothered me. The text was tiptoeing around the real issues in the show; the author was hesitant to make a stronger critique. Was his writing authentic? I asked. It’s hard to judge.

This reminded me, on the other hand, of two cartoon drawings made by Grayson Perry that I found in his book: ‘Playing to the gallery’. In the chapter: ‘Does democracy have a bad taste’, Perry brings two sketches on which we can see a couple looking at Chuck Close’s painting and a cartoon strip that surrounds it. On the first strip, a comment made by a couple, says: ​Ooh, That is clever, looks just like a photograph. I wish I could draw as well as that. ​ On the second one, a different couple (holding glasses of wine that implies connections with the artworld) mentions: ​I love these early Chuck Close drawings, they say so much about the redundancy of artistic skill, the blank futility of all that effort.

In a way, I felt like two people were writing the review. So to speak, ‘a regular visitor’ and an art critic. A critic prevailed. I finished with the text of ​Adrian Searle​.

I’ve changed the page and started with an interview with Steyerl titled: ​The Serpentine’s Sackler gallery should be unnamed. ​ Here, Hettie Judath begins by outlining the context where the interview and the exhibition take place. She writes: ​’This is the glam version of Kensington, all Fendi bags and Belstaff jackets. But what interests my dining companion, the German artist ​ Hito Steyerl, is what happens when you dig beneath Kensington’s upper crust’.

After that, she described closer the silhouette of the artist – although relatively unknown in the UK, she is already acknowledged by the art world; for example, her name is listed in ​ArtReview magazine’s Power 100​. She suggestively builds an ​interviewee’s ​authority gradually changing the topic. Now it’s time to discuss the exhibition. Augmented reality, monitors, and smartphone screens – it is a mixture of digital and real. Here, futuristic, fictional plants intertwine with the interviews of the people walking on Kensington park, the soundtrack with the artist’s voice & calming ambient music.

The last few things are not, however, mentioned by Judath. I learned about them from the previous text. From now on both interlocutors will talk about the relationships of the exhibition with the Sacler’s ‘issue’ (some of the members of the Sucler’s family are facing lawsuits related to the American opioid crisis). Generally, Steyerl criticizes family – institution connections, proposing ‘unnaming’ / removing the Sacler’s name from the name of the gallery. During the interview she mentions even that the show is about: ‘​non-opioid-based ways of medication’​… Much of the rest of the talk tackles things close to her artistic practice: surveillance, migration, and the movement of capital.

While reading both texts, I asked myself, why she did not withdraw from the show? Yes, it’s possible that she did not fully handle the form, but I doubt she’s a hypocrite. I’ve started to dig deeper. I’ve found an old video of her:​ Is the Museum a Battlefield  ? – she asks. Pointing to doubtful relationships of art museums and a weapon industry she brings a metaphor of a feedback loop to justify her decision to stay in the art world. She explains: ​’After I found myself in such a loop, I made a decision. Rather than withdraw from such spaces because of their connections with the military, violence, and gentrification, I would on the contrary (…) try to reverse the direction (of it), just to see what strange the physical effect might happen.’

Well. Her reasoning is logical and her argument convincing.


(1) https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/apr/12/hito-steyerl-serpentine-sackler-building-should-be-unnamed
(2) https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/apr/10/hito-steyerl-review-serpentine-sackler-gallery-london
(3) https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/hito-steyerl-power-plants
​(4) https://www.aqnb.com/2014/04/16/an-interview-with-hito-steyerl


Beautiful Sentences


ABC – Z & ∞

A – beautiful ​ act

Ad Leones! (1)

Bourgeois did not have that easy
people called them
Nabokov said they are prudish
Kierkegaard despair
For Nietzsche, they lacked a true unity
with full pockets
Lowbrow conformists
hoi oligoiOnly Wittgenstein had
some respect
hoi polloi

for a while –(after he gave away all his money)

However, he lost it soon
as he opposed
the granting of women the right to vote
and advocated for
corporal punishment
for children

and when he hit
the boy so badly that
he lost
The world was everything
that was a fact.

The logical picture of the fact is the thought –
Das logische Bild der Tatsache ist der Gedanke.

B – ​ But

Ad Leones!

The fight between
Pariah and Philistines
for Pride
goes on
Eviva l’arte! Man must die

Dear Tetmajer

I just received a text
Enjoy your cashback
when using your credit card
Enroll now and choose your preferred category
Terms and conditions

you said
We, who often lack bread for the dry,
We, to the autumn so similar leaves,
Laurels for gold, we will not give a crown
We glorified by the sun,
Us, kings without land!

We can go hungry somewhere near the doorstep,
But like eagles with wings they break –
And though our life is worth nothing.


Dear Milosz

You’ve been right
Materiality escaped
It’s spectrum proved to be a void,
a haze on a film

Everywhere was nowhere and nowhere, everywhere.
Reality could be seen if downloaded by
app for your ipad
Digital flowers will blossom
It is a spectacle
that is indeed unlike

Neither work nor leisure was justified,
Nor any existence.

No progress
Nor criticism
is possible
Feedback Loop

Eviva l’arte!

C – To be​ continued

Ad Leones!

Truu ruruuu ruu luu lruu llluuu
Here, all of them, shaking their heads in various ways, listened to the next
I did not expect to live in such an unusual moment.



(1) The novel Ad Leones, by C. K Norvid depicts the story of a sculptor working in Rome who creates the work ‘Christani ad leones’ [Christians for lions]. Under the influence of the tastes of an American rich buyer, however, he transforms his work into a sculpture entitled Capitalization.


Mediative Vignettes


From question to​ withdraw to question to stay​, this description is a semi-fictional commentary on Berek’​ s work. The film ​Berek ​by Polish artist Artur Żmijewski was removed from the Berlin exhibition dedicated to the millennium of the neighborhood of Poland and Germany. According to the information provided by the curator of the exhibition Anda Rottenberg, the removal happened after the intervention of a representative of the Jewish community. The management of the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum explains its decision as a ‘respect for the victims of concentration camps’. ​ Some characters (1) and statements have been invented or changed.



A young woman is leaning against a fence. She has short curly blond hair, is rather stocky and short, but in a way she’s handsome. Behind her stands a whitewashed tree. It’s probably a cherry. I like this photo. A grandmother is young here. She liked the photo herself. Before she died, she told me many times how beautiful was the dress that she was wearing. Black with red & white flowers. And with a snakeskin strap. She was also very proud of the shoes that she was wearing. As a child, she was mostly running barefoot.

Grandmother – in a different photo on a motorcycle and with a gold tooth – was born in 1933. Her life was interrupted by the II world war. When it started, she was just six years old. If she was born today, she would probably have attended kindergarten. By that time, one of her memories were fragments of ‘red’ (as she described it)  bodies of the Russian soldiers floating in the river.

The war – ended in 1945 – left grandmother with the stigma of the necessity of fighting for life, hiding from soldiers in the fields, or starving and planting potato peels in the hope that something would grow out of them.

When one day the SS soldiers barged into the tram, her older sister saved herself from being sent to a labor camp by sitting down on a young Dutch boy’s knees and pretending to be … his wife. Fortunately, the boy confirmed the story, although, he saw the girl for the first time in his life. He saved her. They got married later and had several children.

Grandmother, unfortunately, never looked as good, as in this photo again. She suffered from depression, diabetes, neurosis, and other diseases. She died suffering, although, until the end, she did not want to die.


-Barbara S.-


We entered the room. There are several of us. Gentlemen and ladies of all ages. Mr. Artur was very kind when he invited us to the project. He enters the chamber first. He reminds us once again what to do. The camera is in the corner of the place. We discussed the scenario yesterday, but we still need to repeat everything on the spot. We took off our clothes before entering. It’s cold, but I do not have any problem with it.​ From an early age, I liked to run naked. And I still like it even though I’m almost 65 years old. Am I ashamed? What to be ashamed of? We are all the same without clothes.

There is a little moisture here, concrete, gray, shabby walls, plaster on the floor, or maybe this is just the mud flatten down… The light is weak, there is only one bulb. The chamber, I know, all these people … God bless their soul.

Mietek (45) started running first. He slapped Jadwiga (36) on the shoulder. She did not manage to jump aside to the left. Being blocked by the wall she had nowhere to escape. He made it. He touched her. I ran to the right. I almost stumbled over my own legs. The chamber is small and young boys are running fast. It’s getting warmer. I run. I’m caught by some thin, tall, veiny man. Corner. I bounced back. I forgot to crouch down. Now I’m a Berek. I’m running like crazy. I feel my sweat. I am tired but happy. I manage to run through the room. With the fingertips, I catch up with the blonde (30). Her skin is sticky, warm as if covered with tallow. I pull my fingers to my nose. Acid smell. I’m running away. Some things I do for money, some things I do for free. (2)


-Barbara S.’s Granddaughter-


Grandma appeared in the film. What a film was it…? She stood there naked as God created her. Then she started running…




Mrs. Barbara S. often attended our church. It is a great surprise for me to see her in this production without clothing.


-Barbara S.’s Son-


I am very proud of my mother.


-Museum press spokesman-


‘From the information we possess, it appears that the director of the film was obliged by the former director of the Stutthof Museum to obtain the script’s acceptance that was to take place before the beginning of its implementation. The director (Zmijewski) did not fulfill this commitment. Despite this, he led to the creation of the film. When it turned out what was its content, the director of the Stutthof Museum demanded the destruction of all material, recognizing that it is a profanation of the place of the memory. Artur Żmijewski undertook to destroy the film, however, as in the case of the promise to submit the scenario for acceptance, ​ he did not honor the undertaking​.’(3)




‘According to Freud, the natural pursuit of the organism (…) to ensure its own security in the face of (natural) forces interacting in the world, becomes the emergence of culture. Culture, on the other hand, often begins to live its own life. Combating – through a system of deeply stored in the subconscious prohibitions – also an imaginary threat. In this way, culture becomes a source of suffering.  A model example of such an imaginary threat is for psychoanalysts a fear of nudity. Psychologists and sociologists agree a long time ago that (this feeling) is not a source of erotic scandal. Nevertheless, we feel the fear of presenting it even being on the beach and being almost naked, we are dressed symbolically. Anxiety does not protect us in this case against any natural threats, but against the ​outgrowth of culture​.’ (4)

-The Artist-


‘They are naked, they run around, they laugh a lot. But they are also very serious. They know where they are — in the gas chamber of a former Nazi extermination camp. ​Berek ​ is about a part of history that is treated as​ untouchable ​and about overly painful memories when the official commemorations of this history are not enough. The murdered people are victims – but we, the living, are also victims.
And as such we need a kind of treatment or therapy, so we can create a symbolic alternative; instead of dead bodies, we can see laughter and life. ​Berek ​is about how we can engage with this brutal history and work with​ imposed memory.​ It’s possible to have active access to history and to attempt to emancipate ourselves from the trauma’. (5)


-Art Critic-


She was used as ​a tool​ in the hands of a cult artist. Her life was invaded and her privacy violated. Some artists use the power of the topic – the topic is important, so your art too. ​This gesture doesn’t change anything.​ Dominant culture stays at it was.



They accused Żmijewski that he uses as objects other people’s bodies in his projects. However, these people ​subjectively​ agreed to participate in them. If he would use his own body in the projects, it would not make any sense. The bodies of these people are symbols – he used them as the color of the paint. Some things can only be painted in red.




If you live in Poland, in a sense you have a martyrology in your blood. Graves and wreaths, celebrations, and wreaths are everywhere. Masochistic tampering with wounds up to the bones. Looking at them with curiosity how they are festering. Scabs that you like to scratch. Perhaps, repeating after Kant, it is a pleasure to feel that a given action is purposeful, even that is accompanied by suffering. Sometimes I want to ​ puke. (6)




I took a photo of my grandmother photo. I’m afraid that it will disappear. She smiles with elegance and looks bright into the future. She doesn’t know how difficult it will be. At this very moment, however, she is happy. Her happiness has the freshness of children playing Berek. And the simple happiness of a young woman who just has been photographed.


(1)  https://culture.pl/pl/artykul/film-zmijewskiego-o-holocauscie-usuniety-z-wystawy-obok

(2) ​The Knife

(3) http://stutthof.org/node/975

(4) ​Mirosław Żelazny, Estetyka filozoficzna, Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Toruń 2009, page. 13

(5) https://lookingwithoutbeingseen.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/berek-artur-zmijewsk-7th-berlin-biennale-kw-april-26th-2012/​

(6) ​Mirosław Żelazny, Estetyka filozoficzna, Wydawnictwo Naukowe, Toruń 2009, page.13