Dorota Nieznalska ■ Jörg Herold ■ Katarina Pirak Sikku
8 September – 24 November 2019
Curators of the exhibition: Iwona Dorota Bigos, Martin Schibli
Dorota Nieznalska, Jörg Herold and Katarina Pirak Sikku follow the trail of pseudoscientific anthropological research which in essence is directed against the interests of humanity.
The exhibition on the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War.
Xenophobia is one of the obvious political and social facts of the present times. Where do popular resentiments against the foreigners come from and how to explain their longevity and topicality? The beginning of the racist thinking dates 400 years back. A considerable part of the consolidation of racist doctrines is connected with research in natural sciences, which had strong influence on the formation of social interpretation and classification of the alleged order among various groups of people all over the world.
Three artists follow the path of pseudo-scientific anthropological research used to fulfil aims directed against humanity.
The point of departure for the exhibition is the multi-part installation by Dorota Nieznalska entitled Ostarbeit created as a result of her research in the archive of the Institute for German Work in the East (Institut für Deutsche Ostarbeit, IDO) established by Governor General Hans Frank in Cracow in 1940.
One of its goals was the scientific research of the anthropological data concerning different ethnic groups living in the eastern areas occupied by the Third Reich, among them: Lemkos, Boykos, Romani, and others living in the mountains or in the Polish-Ukrainian foreland. Documents collected as a result of measurements, questionnaires, photographs of body parts, and health examinations aimed to prove that certain groups were not suitable for Germanization and hence they should be exterminated. The pseudo-scientific character of the research was nothing else but the preparation for the Holocaust.
Since 2006 Jörg Herold has also been preoccupied with the research on the race of selected nations and the nature of the degenerate, alluding to the theories of the German anthropologist and race theoretician – J. F. Blumenbach and the Italian psychiatrist and pathologist C. Lombroso. The exhibition will include two productions of Herold: the multi-layered and interdisciplinary work Das Kaukasische – Eine Nachlese zu Empfindungen des Herrn Blumenbach (Of Caucasus – the result of Mr. Blumenbach’s impressions) and a painterly installation Körper zeigt Seele – Herr Lombroso sieht das Böse (Body and soul – Mr. Lombroso sees the evil).
In 2006 and 2007 Herold – a self-proclaimed archaeologist of history, set off to Caucasus where he visited the cradle of humanity. At the same time he was tracing the observations of the scientist Blumenbach who was the first one to use the term “the Caucasus race” with reference to a white man, classifying all its variations as deviation from the norm, thus giving ground to the beginning of racial research.
The presentation of works by Katarina Pirak Sikku (Sweden / Sámi) constitutes the extension of the Polish-German perspective of this difficult subject matter. Investigating the history of her family originating from the Saami ethnic group, she looks into the archives of the National Institute of the Racial Hygiene (Statens institut för rasbiologi) in Uppsala, established in 1922 as the first institution in the world concerned with scientific racism.
This institute did anthropological research in, among others, the possibilities of inheriting criminal inclinations, alcoholism or mental disorders. It functioned until 1958, when it was transformed into the Institute for Medical Genetic Research (Institutionen för medicinisk genetik) at the University of Uppsala. The Institute listed a series of features typical for the pure Swedish race which became the base for the compulsory sterilization of people with mental disorders and the representatives of the so-called “worse” races, including Saami or people of mixed races who were discriminated in the Swedish society until the 1970s.
Dorota Nieznalska (PL) – Polish visual artist, graduate from the Faculty of Sculpture and Intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. Lives and works in Gdańsk. She participated in more than a hundred group and individual exhibitions in Poland and abroad. Her works are part of public and private collections. In 2013 she obtained a PhD degree at the Faculty of Sculpture / Department of Intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk. She creates sculptures, installations, photographs and videos. Her early work made use of religious symbols. She combined the question of the powerful catholic tradition in Poland with male domination in society. Furthermore, she addressed the subject of identity, sexuality and stereotypical roles of women and men. At present she is intrigued by social and political relations in the context of violence. Her research projects concern memory places, traces of memory/forgetting and history.
Jörg Herold (DE) is one of the major German visual artists. He lives and works in Lepizig. He is interested in the mechanisms of storing and safeguarding memory, including the cultural one. In his research he investigates both scientific sources, and historical literature. In his films, installations, drawings and paintings he addresses imagined and real places of memory. He calls himself “documental archaeologist”. In 1991 and 1995 he participated in the Biennales in Sidney and Venice, while in 1997 he presented his works at documenta X. In 2003 he created an architectural project called Lichtspur aut Dateline for Berlin’s Bundestag.
Katarina Pirak Sikku (SE/ Sámi) Swedish visual artist, originating from Sámi ethnic group. She received the MFA Fine Arts Scholarship at the Umeå University (2005). Her photographs, drawings, installations and texts refer both to her family history, as well as historical facts which influenced her personal life. In her art Pirak Sikku often uses subtle displacements, while her works provoke a whole array of emotions from crying to laughing. She exhibited in Korundi in Rovaniemi (Finland), Grafikens hus in Mariefred (Sweden), Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín in Columbia, Árran lulesamisk senter, Drag n(Norway), and
Bildmuseet in Umeå (Sweden).
Martin Schibli (SE/CH) – is one of the most renowned Swedish curators working in international contexts. Due to his curatorial concept as an art director (2006–2012), the Konstmuseum in Kalmar turned into one of the best art institutions in Sweden. 2015–2016 he was art director of Konsthall in Växjö. His curatorial practice was shaped by individual exhibitions of eg. Artur Żmijewski, Swetlana Heger, Guy Ben-Ner, Marina Naprushkin and Georg Baselitz, as well as group exhibitions bringing up the subjects of world political conflicts, social criticism 1993–2005, or Swedish conceptual art. He curated exhibitions in: Kunsthalle in Rostock, City Gallery in Gdańsk, Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, NCCA Ural in Samara during Shiryaevo Biennale, and Moderna Museet in Stockholm. Over the last 10 years Schibli curated ca. 95 exhibitions in numerous countries, among them: Sweden, Russia, Germany, Lithuania, Moldova, Belarus and Poland. He also lectures at different universities and art schools, eg. Linné Umeå University, Ölands Art School and Royal Art Academy, as well as in countries like Poland, Switzerland, Russia and Lithuania. In Sweden he is known as the author of the book: “How to become a contemporary artist in three days? Introduction to a survival in the art world” which combines theory and practice of contemporary art.
The exhibition is organized in collaboration with Goethe Institute in Cracow.