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"Kantor" Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich, 2015 
Der polnische «Tüüschler» by Thomas Wyss | Tages Anzeiger

kantor

Der Weltenbummler und Dadaist Pjotr Jaros betreibt derzeit in der Altstadt einen «Kantor», in dem man eigene Dinge gegen seine Kunst tauschen kann. Der Schweiss perlt im Gesicht von Pjotr Jaros, denn es ist heiss in seinen kleinen und unklimatisierten Räumen am Rindermarkt 14, gar gefühlte fünf Grad heisser als draussen in den Gassen und Strassen der Altstadt. Dennoch sitzt der Pole vergnügt an seinem Holztisch, ritzt und sticht mit einer Schere in einem Karton herum und erklärt fast ohne Atempausen – dafür in einem herrlich eigenwilligen Englisch –, er kreiere grad die amerikanischeuropäische Nationalflagge, zumindest die Vision davon, und darauf komme dann noch ein papierener Kolibri zu sitzen. Er sei drum im letzten Jahr in Colorado gewesen, und dort habe er die niedlichen Mini-Piepmatze kennen und schätzen gelernt – es sei doch faszinierend, wie diese Vögel einfach so in der Luft stehen bleiben könnten. Jedenfalls fertige er nun laufend neue Exemplare davon an und verteile sie hier wie in einer Voliere, aber man könne sie selbstverständlich auch erwerben – schliesslich seien sie nicht nur zur Zierde da. >>> MORE



Nu pagadi" Klingental, Basel, 2012

nuPagadi_press

 

by KAREN N. KERIG - "Hinter den Kulissen"
Jedes Kind kennt Tom und Jerry. Zumindest hierzulande. In Polen kennt jedes Kind den Wolf und den Hasen. Die Trickfilmserie ist die sovjetische Travestie des US-amerikanischen Vorbilds. In jeder Folge versucht der Wolf den Hasen zu erwischen, erfolglos. Und jede Folge endet mit einem wütenden Ausruf des Wolfes. «Warts ab!», ruft er dem Hasen hinterher, oder – im Original – «Nu Pagadi!» >>> MORE

SIMON BAUR - "Fast wie im Märchen"
«Nu Pagadi!», «Wart’s ab!» ruft der Wolf dem Hasen wütend hinterher, wenn dieser in der niemals endenden Jagd wieder mal entkommt. Die Geschichte vom Wolf und dem Hasen ist das sowjetische Pendant zur amerikanischen Trickfilmserie «Tom und Jerry» und wie bei diesen gibt es immer nur einen Verlierer: den schlaksigen, ungepflegten Wolf, während sich der pfiffige Hase über seine Schlauheit freut. >>> MORE

ANNETTE HOFFMANN - "Hinter den Schein-Kulissen"
Wo bitte geht es hier Richtung Osten? Links, rechts oder sind wir etwa schon da? «East meets East» heisst die Skulptur des Basler Künstlers Pawel Ferus, die im Ausstellungsraum Klingental von der Decke hängt. Der Abguss eines gefundenen Hundemaulkorbes ist zu einem Zwilling aus Bronze verdoppelt, dessen Schnauzen in unterschiedliche Richtungen weisen. Vielleicht aber befindet sich der Osten ja in jenem Zwischenraum, der hier Leerstelle bleibt und der lediglich von einem brüchigen, organisch wirkenden Material begrenzt wird. Das Abgiessen der Form hat einen merkwürdigen Umkehrprozess ausgelöst: Ein Hund könnte kaum bedrohlicher die Zähne fletschen als dieses Gebilde aus Schnallen, Drähten und Nieten und eine Bedrohung zähmen, die womöglich nicht einmal eine ist. Ein wenig fühlt man sich an Hannibal Lecters Gesichtsmaske erinnert – auch weil die gemeinsame Ausstellung von Piotr Jaros und Pawel Ferus voller cineastischer Anspielungen ist. >>> MORE


"The Caviar Lady" at Tony Wuethrich’s Kabinett in Basel, Switzerland
by Adam Szymczyk, Basel/Berlin 2010

to see the movie go to: 
In Museum of Filmoteka: www.artmuseum.pl

Born in 1965, Jaros made a strong appearance in the nineties, when he quickly established himself as one of the most important figures in Polish contemporary art. The early nineties were an era of turbo-capitalism in Poland: the country’s transition to a free-market system produced new patterns of social behavior, poverty for many, and excessive lifestyles for some of those who were able to quickly adapt. Previously unknown career opportunities became available after the great transformation, which was initiated by the so-called “roundtable negotiations” between Poland’s last Communist government and representatives of the political opposition. In the summer of 1989, these negotiations resulted in the first free election, which was clearly won by opposition candidates. During this period, the fields of advertising, business, television, and other creative industries were held in high esteem among the younger generation at the beginning of their professional careers. But it was also a formative time for an entire generation of artists, who constituted the lively art scenes in larger Polish cities, including Warsaw, Cracow, Gdansk, and Wroclaw.

In Warsaw, Miroslaw Balka created sculptures that, on the one hand, stemmed from his critical reading of Polish Catholicism, and on the other, examined the human body in its universal, existential, nearly religious dimension. Also in Warsaw, Zbigniew Libera developed his own brand of video and installation art, focusing on the body repressed by social conventions and state apparatus. Since then, a more performative mode of working with the body while elaborating on its productive deficiencies has become a trademark of a group of slightly younger artists who all graduated from the Warsaw Academy of Art’s Faculty of Sculpture, headed by the sculptor and performance artist Grzegorz Kowalski; this younger generation includes Pawel Althamer, Katarzyna Kozyra, and Artur Zmijewski. Compared to Balka, Libera, Althamer, Kozyra and Zmijewski, all of who made their names in the nineties, and all of whom are more or less internationally recognized at present, Piotr Jaros occupies a unique and independent position.

Unlike many other artists of his generation, most of whom have long been based in Warsaw, the very buzzing and metropolitan centre of Poland, Jaros has always lived in Cracow, in the south of the country. Compared to the modernity and speed of Warsaw, Cracow is a beautiful old town, where relatively conservative attitudes prevail and a contemplative, somewhat escapist way of life is the favored choice of the local artists. Intellectual life is conducted in the cellars of mediaeval houses—clubs and cafes that know little difference between night and day. Cracow dwells in the past, longing for the grandeur it once held as the capital of Poland, a position it lost to Warsaw long ago, and which remains the reason for a certain antagonism between the two cities.

In the nineties, Jaros participated regularly in international group exhibitions, including Manifesta 1, in Rotterdam in 1996, and “After the Wall,” at the Moderna Museet, in Stockholm in 1999, sometimes alongside other leading young Polish artists, such as in “New I’s for New Years,” at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, in Berlin in 1995. His work was also the subject of a number of solo shows, including those mounted at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, in 1995, and the Ludwig Museum, in Budapest, in 1996. Like many artists in Poland who made their debut in the early nineties, he continued to work against the scarcity of institutional and private support for contemporary art in that decade and after 2000, when the new generation of artists – mostly painters – claimed the stage, leaving hardly any space for more refined, less spectacular work. But Jaros endured and continued making work in more domestic and handy media: video, drawing, collage, and small, model-like sculptures—all of which are present in the current show in Basel. In 2007, Jaros had a survey show titled “House and Work” at Galeria Kronika in Bytom, Silesia, which was recently followed by the acquisition of his works by the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz, which holds Poland’s oldest and most important collection of modern and contemporary art. However, it was the year 2008 that saw the artist’s real comeback, in a series of presentations under the common title “Eurogum” organized by Barbara Steiner, the director of the renowned Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst in Leipzig.

In his body of work, Jaros has exhibited a keen interest in the fast-changing notion of labor: the growing importance of creative and intellectual activity, accompanied by the demise of manual work’s value. Some of Jaros’s characters are workers, but the nature of their occupation is not clearly defined, as if their labor could exist in a pure state, beyond the results it is meant to produce. Another part of the artist’s cast of characters seems to belong to the sphere of business in its cheesiest, most lackluster version: the apathetic hostesses, the tacky developing world executives aspiring to first world status, the wannabe-famous of all kinds, practicing erudite idleness. In Jaros’s videos, typical protagonists are mysterious individuals who speak on behalf of shady organizations, syndicates, and make-believe corporations. A conspiracy theorist assumes forces that are beyond our control, or even perception, exert their influence on all areas of our life and, in effect, rule us. Such conspiracy theories are the flipside of the capitalist organization of life—controlling both work and leisure time—that is similarly omnipresent today but mostly taken for granted, as we grow up believing that this is simply how things are.

Jaros’s Basel exhibition features objects, drawings, and collages that might be best understood as studies or diary entries made in parallel to the film narratives that remain the core of the artist’s recent work. Accordingly, the centerpiece of the show is Caviar Lady (2010), a new 16-minute digital video that displays all the characteristics of Jaros’s style and his typical preoccupation with unusual, socially dysfunctional subjects, ritualized behaviors, and esoteric knowledge. The artist introduces four characters, two women and two men, who deliver monologues to the camera in three languages—a middle-aged man of experience who is not an English native speaker but perhaps Eastern European; a young, blonde Russian woman; an older woman speaking German, and a young businessman-type speaking American English without a foreign accent. This cast of multilingual characters is filmed against the backdrop of what seems to be a nouveau-riche residence or perhaps a hotel interior. The protagonists may be connected, but the exact nature of their relationship remains enigmatic. They speak and assume heavily stylized poses in various configurations, sometimes individually and sometimes in duos, staging the consecutive scenes as small rituals. The subject matter varies from person to person but the fantasy of greatness and corresponding fear of power seem to be the leitmotifs of the statements. The young Russian unveils her dream to establish a corporation “in major cities” (an advertisement of sorts, handwritten on a bed sheet spread on the floor, lists “Skidan Corporation—Moscow, Dubai, Tokio, London, New York, Milano”); the middle-aged man curses the obscure “lawyers” who will bring doom to everyone. There is no resolution and no culmination. Instead, the film unravels as a series of isolated tableaux and ends with an image of a smoking candle blown out, as if a strange ceremony had just come to an end.


Theatre of the Absurd
by Barbara Steiner, Leipzig 2007

A young man in casual clothes, with a sweater draped over his shoulders, is standing in front of a desolate building. He begins his speech with the words “Ladies and Gentlemen, you are in Leipzig...”. The remaining part of the sentence comes out as an incomprehensible, arbitrary sequence of words, only to develop into a clear, distinct phrase: “Make fit for the future, make fit for the future” and then again evolve into a stream of words and phrases whose meaning gradually becomes obscure. Comprehensible phrases alternate with incomprehensible ones, the speech abounds with snatches of words or grandiloquent expressions referring to “creative visions” or “higher ideas”. Piotr Jaros plays the main (and the only one visible) character; apart from him, occasionally only a child’s voice is to be heard in the background. Every single word is pronounced with emphasis and force; the actor addresses his audience as citizens, raising the issues of “essential measures in the building sector”, demanding “synergy networking”, pointing out to “opportunities for urban growth” or indicating “great challenges” of the present and the future. Some of these verbal creations are produced with remarkable ease, but at times Jaros has to search for words and concentrate on their pronunciation, repeating them as if he wanted to test their impact, modifying his ways of expression. At the same time, he frequently casts glances at a manuscript which remains hidden from the eyes of the viewers.
Phrases, repeated as formulas, are honed to perfection, while the overall grammatical structure leaves much to be desired, as when Jaros puts whole clusters of verbs such as “kann man sollen” or “belassen worden haben” at the end of his sentences. His artistic method becomes a kind of mimetic representation, as he adopts gestures or words typical for an investor or planning expert. Repeating certain expressions, he employs a manner of speaking characteristic for “investor-talks”, imitating it. Conscious acting, manifested in forceful gestures and a powerful body stance, is contrasted with faltering, fragile speech – narrative threads discontinue, terrified glances are cast in the direction of the manuscript, the pronunciation does not seem right, concepts and their sense vanish in the mimicry of sounds. Through highlighting and exaggerating, Jaros manages to disrupt the smooth flow of his lines. He is not the driving force behind these actions, however. The artist emphasizes hyperboles, which are inherently inscribed into such rhetoric, and assimilates them, so that the resulting parody becomes his major form of speech/acting.
This principle becomes even more evident in Jaros’s four-part video cycle entitled “Work without Job”, illustrating specific behaviours which, as such, already contain certain parodic elements. The first film, “Workers”, shows two men removing a car engine. The second, also bearing the title “Workers”, is a recording of a staircase window replacement. In the third, entitled “Driller”, we can watch the struggle of a construction worker during a drilling test in an air shaft. The fourth film project, “Bridge Constructor”, revolves around the construction of a wooden fence.
In all the above films, both the labour input and the means employed seem strangely inadequate. The car engine removal is accompanied by self-induced chaos, whose structure and mechanisms escape our perception. Drilling in the wall of an air shaft turns into a surrealistic demonstration of technical potential, especially in the moment where brick dust produced in the drilling process changes into a blood-red stream. The comic aspects of the attempt to construct a fence without manual skills or proper tools are further reinforced by the character’s clothes, which are in no way in keeping with the circumstances. What is more, the whole situation takes on tragicomic overtones, as we learn that the protagonist is a well-known architect and bridge constructor. Consequently, parodically marked activities reach a new level or absurdity, become independent and autonomous.
“Work without a Job” corresponds with another of Jaros’s multi-part works, namely “Habituation House”. The film “Workers”, showing a process of a staircase window replacement, is a continuation of his study of a house he moved into with his family a few years ago. Its residents had been gradually trying to adapt the building to their own needs. Consequently, the building’s grandeur began to decline, its original architectonic design disappeared with consecutive alterations and extensions, the house fell into increasing decay. Jaros was not only a tenant but most of all an astute observer of any events taking place in and around the building. His relationship with the house was manifested in its images captured in photographs and films he created over many years: “Tenant”, “Time”, “Special Delivery”, “Commonness”. Jaros also managed to capture and register the days of its fall and departure of individual residents. In his film “Time”, devoted to the limitations of our earthly existence, the artist refers to his deceased neighbour.
The window replacement symbolizes the beginning of a new era, with the artist (and his family) in the centre. In his observations, Jaros explores both social and the economic context, focusing on his neighbours as well as restoration works. In doing this, the artist defines himself, placing himself in contrast to the evolving society, inscribing himself into the society as an actor.
And that is the basic sense of the project “Für Bürgerinnen und Bürger”. Jaros takes on the role of a (polish) investor in Germany; tries to enter into his shoes, takes his manner of speaking and range of vocabulary, repeating and testing the effect of typical phrases. At the same time, he makes a highly favourable impression, with a t-shirt and a sweatshirt giving him the appearance of a stereotypical investor. With his overt acting, Jaros finally deconstructs the rhetoric of economically motivated language – the sole function of the strings of overlapping, empty words is to impress. His own role in the show is also revealed: that of an artist playing an investor in Leipzig, an artist trying his hand at acting.
In “Work without a Job”, presenting increasingly independent actions, work loses its social significance and becomes a (fetishist) ritual, whose sense and purpose remains known solely to its participants. In “Habituation House”, Jaros is a tenant and a witness of social transition, by which he is directly affected, as the introduction of a new law on private property changes the status of the house and the lives of its residents. Even then, he remains a conscious, observing and reflecting artist. Constant changes of roles and perspectives allow him to highlight – on the model of a multi-family house – a wide spectre of social changes and absurd events.
Jaros is an astute observer of economic transition. His interest lies mostly with absurdities of the transformation. It is in his play with linguistic clichés, his use of language as a formalized, meaningless medium of communication (“Für die Bürgerinnen und Bürger”), his illogical scenarios or absurd plot lines (“Work without a Job”) combined with seemingly hopeless situations (“Habituation House”), but first of all in a coherent juxtaposition of comic and tragic elements, that we can see the connections between Jaros’s artistic style and the Theatre of the Absurd. The point of departure for the artist’s explorations are his own, private fascinations, furnishing him with a pretext for investigation and observation of certain phenomena. The outcomes of Jaros’s explorations force us to take a step backwards and provoke us to reflect over the senselessness and absurdity of the surrounding reality.


“Made in China”
by Sebastian Cichocki, Bytom 2006

Piotr Jaros explores the non-obvious, phantom nature of things which, after intense scrutiny, could form the basis for many parallel lines of narration. In the 90s, the artist’s works were perceived (evidently for want of any closer, more adequate points of reference) through the prism of the so called critical art, which, entangled into a debate on post-transformational images of power, discipline and morality, thrown into a maelstrom of economic and political transition, did not leave much space for understatements. Consequently, Jaros worked outside the territory of any manifestly subversive strategies. His photographic works (including his most prominent series “Umarmen”, 1994-1996) were cold, anesthetized, hermetic. After several years, the author refers to them in a conversation with Adam Szymczyk: “I think that as one disappointed or dissatisfied with the lack of beauty and sensing a deep-down feeling of nostalgia embedded in the mediocrity of the times, I wanted to live the life of a guy from Capri or Naples, cleansed of all inherent faults.”
Jaros’s new project “Made in China” stems from his observation of the absurd world of over-abundance, a situation where the bulk of any objects of daily use available on the market is produced in China, which is after all an exotic country for us Europeans. And yet, these exotic Chinese goods are generally considered lower grade merchandise, visually intermediated by an invasion of cheap products. Geography is annihilated under heaps of colourful, shoddy products. The artist says: “I used to indulge in a game of guessing whether or not certain objects were made in China. And they nearly always were. One could get the impression that everything is imported from China nowadays – in my home town even gravestones are ordered in China due to lower prices. (…) Nothing seems to surprise us anymore. The made in China label has ceased to denote the origin of objects, as if the inscription was generated by the products themselves.”
Placed on glass shelves, Jaros’s handmade prototype toys representing animals ‘exemplify’ products made in China. The artist stresses the surreal overtones of his project. In China everything is huge and overpowering but also bizarre, governed by peculiar laws which escape our western logic. China stands for the World’s Great Factory, providing new visible elements, furnishing our flats and minds, monopolizing our tangible, familiar world.
Piotr Jaros’s objects from the “Made In China” cycle are accompanied by a film about a grotesque home appliance which went berserk and got out of control. The metaphorical nature of an electric kettle with faulty automatic switch off is basically as sexual as it is funerary. Always at the ready, always at the edge of self-annihilation. This is one of many bizarre objects “residing” in people’s homes which have lost their primary function. Jaros’s project “Made In China” is an inherent part of his explorations of the private, domestic sphere – both as a place of private happiness and an abode of ghosts from the past. Here, I refer mainly to his “Habituation House” (2002–2005), a complex, multilayered, non-linear cycle combining film and photography. Jaros and his family moved into a building erected in 1932 on the outskirts of Krakow. The process of recording the house’s inner life is quite untypical, as it remains focused on the products of the author’s imagination, his conjectures and visions. The artist spins a tale of a place which imperceptibly formats human beings, moulding their thoughts and will. There is an opposite process going on at the same time, though: the existing space is being adapted and tamed by men, arduously transformed into a perfect, safe cocoon. The process is largely affected by objects: impractical, mysterious “material evidence” for the existence of subjective, parallel worlds. This category undoubtedly encompasses Jaros’s handmade toys from exotic China, a country remaining only a figment of imagination, a product of our longings but also our fear of painful excess.

Texts:
Piotr Jaros "Fotel z którego rodzi się fluid i przywiązanie" [“The Armchair where Fluid and Attachment Are Formed”] (text: Piotr jaros), The Zderzak Gallery, Krakow, 1992
Piotr Jaros "Umarmen II" (texts: Carol Zemel, Marta Tarabuła), The Zderzak Gallery, Krakow, 1995
Piotr Jaros "Goodyear project" (text: Piotr Jaros), The Zderzak Gallery, Krakow, 2002
Piotr Jaros "Dom i praca" [“House and Work”] (texts: Sebastian Cichocki, Piotr Jaros, Wojciech Markowski, Barbara Steiner, Adam Szymczyk), Kronika, Bytom, 2007
Piotr Jaros „Ty jesteś we mnie a ja w nim” [“You Are in Me and I Am in Him”] (texts: Marek Gozdziewski, Piotr Jaros) 1996, www.csw.art.pl/old/jaros1p.html