My understanding of one history of art is just not there. There are many reasons for that and no need to address any of them. Now I find myself discovering Ewa Kuryluk’s work (via books and internet) and I fail to make sense of this late encounter. Why not sooner? I arrived at Kuryluk’s work through her voice, after reading an essay entitled A plea for irresponsibility, which got me almost as excited as when I first read Dubbufet’s Asphyxiating Culture. I then went on to look for her artwork and was not surprised to see that in it I find the same strength and truth I had just heard. Again I thought of authenticity and the authentic-making of artworks.
In the end of the aforementioned article, Kuryluk writes that “art is a coded love letter and a private plea: to retrieve from the river of blood and time what’s irresponsible and mutual”. Her plea for irresponsibility is a plea against the politicization of art and the institutionalized commitments of artists with their social context. She sees this relationships as harmful, in the sense that they bring to art a sort of commercial dimension that artworks don’t have to bare. This commercial dimension can be understood in many ways, but we’re basically talking about a need for artworks to communicate, to directly intervene with the public sphere, as if the personal dimension of the artist was not part of the communal.
We’re political beings. Kuryluk’s plea is a political statement, but what I’d like to point out is that this political dimension is not the core being of her artworks. As I was reading her essay I wondered what sort of work would she make and immediately thought of fabric, so it’s curious to find that the personal weaving of memory is at the core of her practice. Reflecting on her condition, as a human being, as a woman, she is not only transforming her space, but ours. Those who fail to see this and consider her portraits (photography-based or not) a sign of her disengagement with the Other will also fail to understand the “purpose” of art.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before: I often find young students have a hard time enjoying photography that is socially or commercially unengaged because they keep looking for a finality, i.e., a message that would serve a purpose. As they become more familiar with the freedom implied in artistic expression, they end up finding different “purposes” for their practice. This process seems to confirm that in order to enjoy art one needs some sort of education, not in the sense of explaining the context of the artworks or their meanings, but, instead, educating towards freedom. Maybe that’s what is really hard to understand in the artistic experience: that it is a gift and it needs to be experienced without grids. I’d say the institutional grids are the worst, but they easily translate into artists’ processes and then public awareness, corrupting the entire artistic experience. There are other ways to approach art, but that is another (looong) conversation