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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » October 1, 2010
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The Physics and Metaphysics of Vision
October 1, 2010   
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The exhibition A Theory of Vision: A Review now showing at the Center for Contemporary Art illustrates the problems of visibility, perception, observation and optical recognition which underlie the visual arts and the subjects of artistic experiments in their various ideological and technological configurations.

The title of the exhibition is an allusion to Władysław Strzemiński’s A Theory of Vision (1936-1958). Strzemiński, who anticipated the international avant-garde, invoked various theories of vision as well as optical apparatuses designed to assist the naked eye in his work. The main visual device on display is a “photoplasticon” where 3D pictures are observed through a system of revolving lenses. People had their imaginations fired up by this sort of device from the end of the 19th century until the 1950s.

The issue of vision is placed within the context of the Polish modernist tradition and illustrated by selected works by contemporary artists.

The first two sections of the exhibition tell the 20th-century story of the eye and the ideological stimuli behind it. The first is an attempt to delve into the nether regions of the unconscious. This can be discerned in the works of artists like Max Ernst, Tristan Tzara, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali, Alicja Żebrowska, and Jadwiga Maziarska. The second section grapples with the all-encompassing vision of such modernist enfants terribles as Jerzy Kujawski, Tadeusz Kantor, Jerzy Pawłowski, and Józef Robakowski.

The next section is given over to contemporary ideologies of observing and perceiving. The eye views reality critically and seeing becomes a form of resistance to being repressively manipulated by a picture. This part of the exhibition is dominated by the work of Zbigniew Libera, Thomas Ruff, Aernout Mik, and Jill Magid.

The exhibition also expands on the related topic of visual technologies. This commences at the very beginning of the exhibition where the “exotic views” of the peepshow are juxtaposed with an 1872 miniature by Jan Piotr Norblin showing a “strolling panorama owner.” A little farther on, we find Jerzy Rosołowicz’s pictures made of lenses from 1968 and the reconstruction of Krzysztof Wodiczko’s forgotten “seeing and hearing instruments” installation from 1970. After that, there is a painting by Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz from his series of astronomical compositions surrounded by contemporary photographs taken through the lens of the Hubble telescope.

Open until Nov. 1
Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, 2 Jazdów St., Warsaw
Open: noon to 7 p.m. Tue.-Sun. and noon to 9 p.m. Fri.
tel. +48 22 628 12 71-3, 48 22 628 76 83
email: csw@art.pl
Admission zl.12 (regular), zl.6 (concession). Free admission on Thu.
For more information, go to www.csw.art.pl
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