Asia is our new project at the Marta Shefter Gallery. The exhibition cycle will visibly gravitate toward the East, alluding to the concept both metaphorically and literally. The exhibitions will tell a story of Asia, its multicultural nature and artistic identities spanning the two extremes – the global and the regional. The cycle will construct a narrative based on actual encounters as well as on armchair anthropologies, persisting beliefs and phantasies, which we will attempt to challenge. We will offer an account of Asia, mysterious and unknown, discovered and marked with a pernicious impact of globalisation; seen through the eyes of both the Asian artists who will venture a passage here and the European artists who will set out there. Not unlike the poignant account of the Orient in Kakuzo Okakura’s The Book of Tea, the first Asian book addressed to Western readers, or in the works of the Greek-Irish writer, Lafcadio Hearn, hailed as Japan’s national bard and renowned by his tales of Asian folklore and culture. We will not eschew history: the colonial practices, but also an awareness of the existence of two different faces of modernity, two modernist models, which have developed not so much in opposition, as in parallel, seemingly incognisant of the existence of the other, in an attempt to elaborate shared, new instruments for writing both the ‘western’ and the ‘non-western’ art history.
In fact, the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country, there are no such people…, claimed Oscar Wilde. Until recently one could substitute Japan for the whole of Asia and acquiesce in good faith. However, the current geopolitical situation of Asian art is already slightly different. The relationship is already on another lever. Superficial inspirations and an ethnographic curiosity have been replaced with a thorough reflection and a profound consideration. We view the East that can, but need not be reflected in a mirror, and not the former mere reflexes. We experience Asian art directly and its language transpires as the language of our times, more so than any other.
Even if, in fact, every such story, such history, having an ambition to engage the apparatus of another culture, has to speak not only about its subject matter, the eponymous Asia, but also about its inner, constantly operating, reflections. Because I is another, as Rimbaud discovered a while before Freudian and Lacanian theories have taken hold.
The cycle will be inaugurated by Zbigniew Warpechowski, performance artists and theorist, a co-founder of the Black Market, and the first Asian of Polish performance art. His exhibition will tell the story of a series of his Asiatic pieces from the late 1980s, culminating in the monumental sign “Asia”, presented at the cult exhibition “Lochy Manhattanu [The Dungeons of Manhattan]”, shortly before the political Transformation.