Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Veteran's Flame

Public projection: Polish veterans of the Iraqi and Afghan wars

Wzgórze Partyzantów (entrance from ul. Piotra Skargi): 24, 25, 26 July, 10.00 p.m. - 0.30 a.m., if the weather is bad - additional projection on 27 July, the same time. Press conference: 23 July 2010 (friday), 12 am

 curator: Beata Nowacka-Kardzis, executive production: Roman Krzysztofik

substantive consultation: Agnieszka Szepelak

animation and filming of the flame: Jerzy Stypulkowski, Tracy Stypulkowski


Krzysztof Wodiczko - famous as the creator of devices that serve social communication (including Homeless Vehicle, Poliscar, Alien Staff, Porte Parole, Dis-armor), he has made more than 80 Public Projections with slides and then videos projected on important buildings, monuments and public objects in dozens of cities worldwide. His works are a critical analysis of the social and political sphere, they touch on issues related to the individual and collective memory, to historical and war traumas. Projections by Wodiczko enliven public monuments with images and voices, entrusting them with new functions and suggesting new interpretations. They generate a forum in the public space for those who usually remain unseen and unheard. With his projects, the artist helps different groups of people "speak through the city". The Projection on the Hill of the Partisans (Wzgórze Partyzantów) is the first project carried out by this artist in Poland, which touches on the problem of Polish war veterans (from Iraq and Afghanistan) and their families coping with difficulties related to the return to civilian life. "They fight a sort of 'war in a time of peace' to make people understand their experience and existential situation, thus bringing to the social forum the complex social issue of the re-integration of soldiers who have experienced the trauma of war."

Krzysztof Wodiczko, born in 1943 in Warsaw - multi-media artist, art theorist, lecturer. He graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1968). In the 1970s he emigrated from Poland. He was the director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, (Cambridge, Massachusetts) and the head of the Interrogative Design Group Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the same university (until 2010). He has been a lecturer at the Warsaw School of Social Sciences (since 2008). Currently, he is starting work at Harvard University (leading the Art Design and the Public Domain Programmes).

Winner of Hiroshima Art Prize (1999) awarded to artists whose works contribute to enhancement of peace in the world; the Kepesz Award, MIT, (2005), the Katarzyna Kobro awards (2006), the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture (2007), the Gloria Artis prize (2009) and other awards. His works were presented at Documenta VI and Documenta VIII in Kassel (1977, 1987); at the Biennale in Venice (1986, 2000, 2009); at the Whitney Biennale in New York (2000) and at multiple other events.


Why showing in Wrocław?

Krzysztof Wodiczko's productions and public actions as well as his work technique match perfectly the idea of the IFF Era New Horizons. Over 11 festival days, Wrocław becomes particularly sensitive to the reception of film art, including video art. The clash or perhaps the dialogue between international film art brought to the city (shown also in public space such as the open air cinema) and art (video showing) which will occur in the city is of enormous importance.

Why a veteran theme in Wrocław?

Work on the production of each showing is a complex process. It is time-consuming, painstaking and requires the collaboration and dedication of many people as it combines numerous disciplines such as science, philosophy, art and technology. It is simply an interdisciplinary project.

Choosing the theme of the showing is always the first and strategic stage of a project. Each time, it involves a reconnaissance of a potential venue, the city of the showing; an artist wants to see the city in a way its residents do not want to see it. He wants to learn about its problems, hidden and embarrassing areas passed over in silence. For Wrocław, the reconnaissance took place in January 2009.

However, in this unique city, the artist chose an issue which was not local in nature; the problem of Polish veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and their families. Primarily, this was due to the dramatic history of the city in World War 2 and the post-war years. Wrocław is basically the only Polish non-borderland city (that is, located entirely within Poland a considerable distance from the border) whose population was replaced almost 100%. After the war, it was completely abandoned, with residents displaced and settled anew. As a city, Wrocław is a veteran as well. Thus, it is the most appropriate place for the voice of veterans telling of their difficult experiences to be heard and resound there.

The artist has been interested in the problem of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan for several years now. In 2007, he made his first project with American veterans (War Veteran Vehicle in Denver), and in 2009 with English veterans (War Veteran Vehicle in Liverpool); in this context, the project involving Polish veterans acquires a meaning, or a message, which is not only supralocal but definitely more universal, international.

Why Wzgórze Partyzantów (Partisans' Hill)?

For its role and the historic, formal and military function it fulfilled. The Partisans' Hill is a remnant of the former Taschenbastion in the system of Wrocław fortyfications. In the second half of the 19th century, the place was developed as a result of Adolf Leibich's efforts and was used as a place for walking and entertainment by Wrocław residents as one of the most elegant and stylish spots. There used to be an observation tower on the hill and among steps, terraces and fountains visitors could sit in a restaurant, cafe or beer cellar. At the end of World War 2 (from March 1945), its basements housed the command staff of the Wrocław stronghold commandant; it also became one of the last German command headquarters in the war.

"We did not grant permission for these monuments to be here, or for this space to exist. We presume that now it cannot be otherwise. I believe that, in order to understand our place in the world - which is entirely filled with art, and public art at that, done by very talented people, who are chosen for various political reasons by all sorts of committees - we must fill up this space with something that is ours. Otherwise, we shall be merely the passive recipients and agents of certain ideological programs". K.Wodiczko.

Beata Nowacka-Kardzis


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