Pawel Althamer

04 Apr - 21 Jun 2009

© Pawel Althamer
Courtesy: the artist.

4 April - 21 June 2009

Benjamin Agel, Salem Al Daas, Pawel Althamer, Kajana Ananthanathan, Thomas Apitius, Maximilian Arend, Canan Aslander, Sükran Ay, Jessemin Ay, Umut Ayas, Serkan Aytemür, Arianna Baart, Melisa Bastimur...

Intuition, emotion, spirituality, irrationality: all these are terms or definitions Pawel Althamer (born 1967 in Warsaw) uses to describe his works. His oeuvre ranges from sculptures and installations to video, performance, happenings and barely perceptible artistic interventions in public space. Althamer’s work can also be seen as a social project. He is both a sculptor and a radical performance artist who likes to involve other “authors” in his work.
During his studies he had already worked in these two artistic categories and formed sculptures from natural material whose figures made a very lifelike impression and which he quite often declared to be self-portraits. Yet the more he portrays himself and his body, the more he withdraws from his performative projects, which he likes to hand over to other participants. The magic moment in such artwork is exactly this delegation of authorship to others, often to the underprivileged, such as the inhabitants of the outskirts, the homeless, prison inmates, illegal workers, street musicians and, repeatedly, teenagers and children.
With his 2000 action Bródno, Pawel Althamer convinced 200 families in a pre-fab apartment block in Warsaw’s outlying district of the same name (where he is living) to turn on or, as needed, turn off their apartment lights so that the year 2000 could be seen brightly illuminated on the facade. During this nightly performance, folk music was played and free meals were provided. For Manifesta 3 (2000) in Ljubljana under the title “Motion Picture”, a barely perceptible intervention, he had ten actors play a certain scene for a half-hour each: as lovers, as street musicians or feeders of pigeons. In 2001 he explicitly sought out the Polish homeless in Frankfurt in order to dress them in typical art-scene “vernissage outfits” and had them mingle unrecognized among the opening crowd at the exhibition Neue Welt. For his exhibition Prisoners (2002), Pawel Althamer worked together with the inmates of the local gaol in Münster’s city centre. In joint workshops they produced objects and drawings that, together with simple found objects from the prison, were quite conventionally presented at the Kunstverein Münster. His contribution to the Berlin Biennale Von Mäusen und Menschen (2006) was called Fairytale. It implied the obtainment of a residence permit for a female immigrant staying illegally in Berlin. During the exhibition period this “Fairytale” did not come true, but the demand was pursued after the biennale was finished. One year later for the Skulptur Projekte Münster Pawel Althamer generated a path which led out of the city and ended abruptly in a field. The visitors of the exhibition and not only them, who took this path, also left behind their marks of change and expansion. Not only with this path but with his radical performances Pawel Althamer subverts systems of rules and calls for new patterns of action. His withdrawal as an artist from the realisation of his performative projects also enhances a complete blending of the former separation of art from life and this of course especially when his modes of working mirror this separation. Althamer thereby of course draws attention to people who are in other places usually socially excluded; in this context he stimulates the public awareness.
Already in 1997 Pawel Althamer was a guest in Kassel. His contribution Astronaut2 for documenta X created a certain distance between him and the city. Dressed in a space suit, hidden behind a non-transparent helmet he moved through Kassel’s everyday life. During the exhibition the audience could witness Althamer’s city exploration on video in a white, purely functional designed caravan which was located in the Karlsaue. Furthermore one could get acquainted with a sort of old ego of the artist, because the caravan was tenanted by a Pole selected by Pawel. For his new project in the Kunsthalle Fridericianum Pawel Althamer will hand the house over to children – and of course not only into their hands but also into their heads and wishes; therewith on the contrary this time he will develope another special closeness to everyday life in Kassel. The Fridericianum loaded with lots of historical events, with its history as library, elitist educational institution or long lasting tradition as an exhibition space will experience a complete metamorphosis. Project room, playground or sports field, dancing school or music hall, all together or none of the mentioned; the artist does not want to fence in the imagination of children.
To the question why he especially likes to work with children he once answered: „The simple fact that there exists a child inside of every adult and the ability to reach the potential, originating in childhood that exists in memories and, in my case, forms the base for some extremely intense experiences.”

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