Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field
(Intellect/University of Chicago Press, February 2016)
Polish Media Art in an Expanded Field situates media art—as technologies, practices, and experiences—in the politics of postsocialist Eastern Europe. It considers how artistic activity became representative of the tensions between global cosmopolitanism and national self-enfranchisement after Poland joined the European Union in 2004. Within this context, the book considers how media artists questioned and reimagined their site—historically, politically, technologically—and situates their works within the specific ecology of Poland’s aesthetic traditions and political history. This expansion of the global history of media art to include Eastern Europe’s heritage explores a key moment in Europe’s political and cultural history that brings together art history and criticism, media and cultural studies, globalization and nationalism studies, and political theory.
In order to articulate a site-specific context to an art form often considered as belonging to the “non-place” of a global digital culture, the book proposes a genealogy of Polish media art through the lens of Polish experimentation, one that includes the Constructivists of the 1920s-1930s, the Workshop of the Film Form and NET activities in the 1970s, the public performances and interventions of the 1980s, and the neo-expressionism of the 1990s. The subsequent chapters are centered on close readings of works (artists include Rafał Jakubowicz, Aleksandra Polisiewicz, Hubert Czerepok, Janek Simon, Grzegorz Rogała, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Aleksandra Wasilkowska, Dominik Lejman, Szymon Kobylarz, Izabella Gustowska, and Piotr Wyrzykowski), and draw on fieldwork, interviews, and original translations. Polish Media Art argues that media art enabled the pluralization of history and memory through a disruption of architectural heritage; stimulated the emergence of public spaces of appearance and communication through the inclusion of a variety of often invisible publics; and provided new experiences of the world and the self through the making strange of the everyday. Ultimately the book argues that media art has a unique opportunity for creating radical articulations for community and site, while still claiming a space in a global or transnational imaginary.