The Way Things Are
June 14–October 31, 2008 | Znaki Czasu, Torun Poland

Julian Rosefeldt – asylum, 2001-2002
Production photograph
Photo: courtesy of the artist

The selection of artworks drawn from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Foundation explores the question of artistic representation of today’s ever more precarious work spheres within advanced economies. The dramatic but also humorous “work histories”, as narrated or represented by Julian Rosefeldt, Allan Sekula, Andreas Siekmann, Los Carpinteros, Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkácová result from radical shifts in production and work processes, such as the outsourcing of services to migrant workers, often “sans papiers”, and from larger social re-stratifications reflecting the changing orders of social representation. These histories are the symptoms of transitional states, where larger, planetary readjustments create localized distortions and conditions of morbidity and entire sectors of skilled labor are at risk of displacement or disappearance

Whilst employing very distinct artistic languages, ranging from theatrical re-enactment, to performative contextualization, poetic documentarism and the appropriation of the figure of the craftsman, the presented works engage with rather than comment upon today’s “ways of life”. What we find is a performative understanding of the larger historical shifts at work: Rather than opting for the remote position of the observer, the artists situate their speech (or their images) within the contingencies of certain specific contexts and employ familiar tropes – such as humor, slapstick, album photography - to reach us as their audiences. In this sense, they challenge us to interrogate our views on larger historic and social developments, and create an awareness of how these are constrained by the modes of representation as defined by the media or by academic historiographies.

Julian Rosefeldt’s 9-screen installation asylum (2001/02), presented in the main space of the Centre of Contemporary Art "Znaki Czasu" focuses on the unacknowledged practices of everyday work routines performed by migrant workers. Fish Story – The Middle Passage (1994) by Allan Sekula has been characterized as a hybrid, »paraliterary« revision of social documentary photography. In After the Order (2006) Anetta Mona Chisa and Lucia Tkácová tackle the issues of hierarchical distinctions between individuals and groups within societies or cultures. The artists transpose the concept of class society onto Slovakia by creating a living sculpture classified by criteria such as occupation, education, income, power and social prestige. The Cuban duo of Los Carpinteros have re-appropriated the image of the preindustrial artisan and his idealized relationship with material (wood, ceramics), nature and society to develop an artistic practice which draws largely on investigations and readings of objects of everyday life. Andreas Siekmann investigates current structures of power within the paradigmatic shifts of neoliberal economies and conceptualizes alternative social models. An earlier model of a merry-go-round that rotated around the equestrian statue of Godfrey of Bouillon on the Place Royal in Brussels (2002), which was reinterpreted at documenta 12 in Kassel incasing the statue of Frederick II, Die Exklusive auf dem Plattenspieler revolves around itself on the turntable of a record player and is inhabited by figures subservient to a fourth power – the "exclusive” – the exclusive, constituted by power and money.
The exhibition is complemented by a daily film series under the title True [Hi]stories of Work, framing the topic within various geographical and contextual parameters.
June 14 - October 31, 2008
Los Carpinteros, Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkácová, Julian Rosefeldt, Allan Sekula, Andreas Siekmann
The Way Things Are... Works from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection

Published by Centre of Contemporary Art "Znaki Czasu", Torun, 
Edited by Daniela Zyman, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Köln

With contributions by Konstantin Akinsha, Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, Barbara Horvath, Brigitte Huck, Joachim Jäger, Stefan Mucha, Daniel Muzyczuk, Saskia Sassen, Andrzej Stasiuk, Eugenio Valdés Figueroa, Daniela Zyman

216 pages, English/Polish 
Graphic design: SCHIENERL D/AD
ISBN: 978-3-86560-485-9
Price: €22.00
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