COLLECTION AS PERFORMATIVE UTTERANCE
An outline of the idea and development of the Art Collection of the Centre of Contemporary Art “Znaki Czasu” in Toruń
The collection of the Centre of Contemporary Art in Torun has been developed since 2007. It consists mainly of works purchased under the programme of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland “Collections – Regional Collections of Contemporary Art” (since 2012) and the National Programme of Culture “Znaki Czasu” (2007–2008). The collection is built with the support of the Municipality of Toruń and the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship. Many of the works gathered in the collection are also gifts from artists as well as objects created during the exhibition projects conducted by the institution.
HOW TO PERFORM BY WORKS?
Performativeness as a category of construction of the contemporary art collection
Constructing the collection is an active and live process. This process, treated in a discursive way, focuses on creating a narrative which is capable of generating a change in both the artistic and social realities. The main category, to which we would like to refer in our reflections and strategies of collection development, is the notion of performativeness. Performativeness fulfills a dual role here. Firstly, it is a category which classifies the construction process itself – a method which is the base of the main ideological assumptions of the collection. Performativeness accentuates the tension between speech and action. It introduces a kind of utterance which implies the execution of an activity that interferes with reality, generating change there. In the same way we treat the process of building the collection as an action that will enable the active creation of narratives which use artistic works and ideas for cognitive, analytical and critical purposes. Paraphrasing the title of the dissertation of John L. Austin, the creator of the notion of “performative utterance”, it can be reduced to the principle of “how to perform by works” (art objects). Secondly, the concept of performativeness is rooted in the very history of art, referring to traditions such as body art, action art, happening, performance, actionism, experimental theatre and new media. These areas of creative activities will be analyzed by us in particular, because of the “performative element” included therein.
Creative practice. Collection development programme
In accordance with its established line of construction, the collection develops in several directions resulting from reflection on the concept of performativeness. At the same time, it is created in a manner coherent with the exhibitive programme that revolves around interdisciplinarity, openness to experimentation and innovation, as well as a focus on current creative artistic practices expressed through various means and languages of art. The main axis anticipates exploration aiming to define art as a synonym for emancipation, freedom and intellectual reflection, but also subversive, anarchist activity capable of shaking the world. It assumes exploration for activities that employ art as a tool of intensification and change of reality. Starting from rational and scientific research (not excluding the local tradition associated with the figure of Nicholas Copernicus) through artistic practices questioning social conventions and seeking alternative models of art and life, and ending in activities which emphasize modern technology and communications, such as the Internet. In this process we would like to focus on the artists and activities that in the widest range could define contemporary artistic practices in the context of performativity, while emphasizing the interdisciplinary nature of contemporary art. In terms of methodology, we assume a withdrawal from linear lecture showing the history of changes, towards the subjective vision of phenomena, which could create any narration with the widest possible spectrum of critical and innovative perspectives on selected issues in the field of visual arts, while preserving their educational potential. In our opinion, it is crucial to perceive contemporary art through its changes, confrontation of artistic attitudes and redefinition of its meanings as well as blurring the boundaries between the disciplines of art and portraying the complex interpersonal relationships that it generates.
While building the collection, we particularly direct our attention to the following fields of research:
Polish art of the 1980s and 1990s
In the process of building the collection, the last two decades of the twentieth century remains the reference point for establishing a dialogue with the past. This, already historical, time includes the important moments of the spurt for liberation, self-organization, counterculture, political and social changes associated with the transformation or the equally significant changes in the field of art itself. Entering the patches of art of that period, we are interested in activities that directly arise from these key moments and lay the groundwork for later art.
Art of performance
This area is dedicated to artistic activities which seek common points between art, experimental music, dance and theatre. We are interested not only in the trends focusing on the action and body (performance, happening), but also in activities of the situationist roots which remain primarily a critical attitude relating to social or political functioning in reality.
Taking the perspective of the contextual perception of art, it is important to point out the relationships between art and everyday reality. Activities that reflect on the social role of the artist and art as well as on building new relationships while creating and modernizing social bonds are crucial in this area.
Art of new media
The term "new media" remains a contractual declaration at this point. Leaving historical categories we head towards activities experimenting with form, technology or, broadly defined, artistic medium. Activities blending amorously with science, technology and the viewer. These can include works of video art, mail art, interactive activities, visual and audio experiments or post-internet art.
Design / graphic design / architecture
Materials related to architecture and the broadly-defined applied art constitute an important addition to the collection. The research project “Tormiar”, launched in 2014, undertakes this task by doing research on Torun architecture and design of the second half of the twentieth century. Research into graphic design and design is related directly to this area.
Archive / documentation
To develop the collection is a task focused not only on collecting artifacts in the form of complete works of art. It is also of great significance to collect documentation or remnants of ephemeral art. Any documents and archival materials directly related to the history of Toruń and the region are extremely valuable in this area.