The Discomfort of Evening
16.07 – 16.10.2022 The Discomfort of Evening
Artists: Lena Achtelik, Agnieszka Antkowiak, Karolina Balcer, Zuzanna Bartoszek, Jan Baszak, Paweł Baśnik, Justyna Baśnik, Katarzyna Bogucka, Martyna Czech, Jagoda Dobecka, Kinga Dobosz, Eternal Engine (Jagoda Wójtowicz & Martix Navrot), Monika Falkus, Wiktor Gałka, Jakub Gliński, Zuza Golińska, Marcelina Gorczyńska, Justyna Górowska, Anna Grzymała, Veronika Hapchenko, Agata Ingarden, Karolina Jabłońska, Maja Janczar, Jan Jurczak, Maria Kniaginin-Ciszewska, Karolina Konopka, Adam Kozicki, Tomasz Kręcicki, Yulia Krivich, Hanna Krzysztofiak, Nikita Krzyżanowska, Sara Kukier, Kasper Lecnim, Diana Lelonek & Denim Szram, Kornel Leśniak, Milena Liebe, Aleksandra Liput, Michał Maliński, Piotr Marzec, Kinga Michalska, Martyna Miller, Horacy Muszyński, Małgorzata Mycek, Marta Niedbał, Øleg&Kaśka, Katarzyna Olma, Paweł Olszczyński, Oom, Monika Orpik, Karol Palczak, Zofia Pałucha, Iwo Panasiewicz, Tomek Paszkowicz, Karolina Pawelczyk, Zuza Piekoszewska, Martyna Pinkowska, Cyryl Polaczek, Filip Preis, Marta Romankiv, Patryk Różycki, Irmina Rusicka, Filip Rybkowski, Mateusz Sarzyński, Ala Savashevich, Agnieszka Sejud, Agata Słowak, Mikołaj Sobczak, Paulina Stasik, Kuba Stępień, Łukasz Stokłosa, Tytus Szabelski, Kacper Szalecki, Stach Szumski, Julia Świtaj, Ola Tubielewicz, Kamila Walendykiewicz, Wiktoria Walendzik, Sebastian Winkler, Wiktoria, Karolina Wojtas, Jan Eustachy Wolski, Julia Woronowicz, Mateusz Woś, Bartosz Zaskórski, Liliana Zeic, Konrad Żukowski
curator: Magdalena Komornicka
production: Michał Kubiak and the production team
collaboration: Monika Zaleszczuk
visual identification: Zofka Kofta
exhibition partner: ING Polish Art Foundation
The Discomfort of Evening is an exhibition of works created mainly during the last three years (2020–2022) using all sorts of media: from painting, which has recently enjoyed immense popularity, to drawing, sculptural installation, video, photography, ceramics, textile, performance and actions. Born between 1985 and 2000, the artists include both recent debutants and those with an established position and recognised artistic practice, whose works have not yet been shown at the Zachęta. ‘Youth’ is a problematic and blurred category, and observing artistic phenomena through a generational lens may seem incongruent with the contemporary times, which is why age is not a defining criterion.
The exhibition borrows its title from the novel by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (b. 1991), whose ten-year-old protagonist one day resolves ‘not to let anything go’ and stops taking off her coat, which becomes her armour and a symbolic mark of trauma. Rijneveld writes in a highly suggestive manner about emotional deficits, mourning, the end of the world associated with childhood. The eponymous discomfort appears as a fundamental emotion felt every day not only by the protagonist of the book, but also by us.
The exhibition is therefore not only an extensive showcase of young Polish art, but above all a story about anxieties, emotions and the potential they hold for change. Although its form refers to a traditionally understood survey of current art, it does not concentrate on mapping phenomena, tendencies and most significant approaches; nor does it point at the key actors on the art scene. It highlights generational sensibility and various ways of reacting to tensions and changes. Last but not least, it seeks what is common instead of showcasing individualities or original approaches. For the sense of belonging and community of feelings hold the power to dismantle individualism (still doing well in art) and may become a starting point for building something new. The exhibition offers an opportunity to explore languages used to express something so hard to describe: uncertainty, lack of faith in the future, and to survey the strategies of appropriating the narrative of one’s own trauma and fear.
The socialisation of modern-day twenty- and thirty-year-olds was suspended somewhere ‘in-between’, with the old models not yet collapsed and new ones not yet developed. They are taking shape right in front of our eyes in an era of a cumulation of crises and turning points that reduce the sense of security. Everything seems ominous nowadays and any certainty about the future is undermined: from the development of technologies that get out of control, to social injustice and exclusion, to the pandemic. Emancipatory revolt and the experience of the climate and environmental disaster have become a distinguishing mark of young identities. The eschatological dimension of this experience generates powerful emotions and accumulates all kinds of fears: existential, social, even religious.
Skeletons, zombies, centaurs, vampires, cute boys, women with agency, migrants, cyborgs – these are just some of the protagonists of the works on display. The broad array of artistic statements embraces intimate stories of depression, mental health, need for intimacy and love, loneliness, among other experiences. There is a fascination with old art and its iconography, mythologies, Slavdom, the ideas of history painting and Surrealism. Many pieces address the topic of violence – from self-inflicted to systemic, patriarchal and capitalist. Many feature irony and humour, pop-cultural fetishism, and draw inspiration from cyber futurism and posthumanism. Other important threads include death, mourning, nihilism and reflection on the body and sexuality. The show culminates with works that borrow from the poetics of disaster, devoted to the archaeology of the future, relation between humans and nature, magic, esotericism and a quest for spirituality.
Anxieties, crises and fantasies of the end of the world have accompanied us since time immemorial. Today, however, the inability to show weakness is more and more often interpreted as the lack of courage to confront the world and oneself. In this context, the expert in cultural studies Agata Sikora proposes the term ‘vulnerability’ – to being hurt, being influenced – and writes: ‘Recognition of this vulnerability is a confrontation with the real and not a declaration of “helplesness” or “fragility”. It is coupled with the acceptance of weakness, pain, but does not have to be tantamount to the acceptance of the order that causes this pain.’ Not only does declared sensitivity no longer strip us of agency, but may become a source of enormous power.
The exhibition features an autumn (September – October) programme of events in Małachowski Square and a performative programme (details to be announced soon).
Guided tour of the exhibition in PJM
The Discomfort of Evening
16.07 – 16.10.2022
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
pl. Małachowskiego 3, 00-916 Warsaw
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Tuesday – Sunday 12–8 p.m.
Thursday – free entry
ticket office is open until 7.30 p.m.