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Miroslaw Balka “Kein Name”

Exhibition “Kein Name” by Polish artist Miroslaw Balka in The Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum in Lviv (Dragomanova Str., 42)
(October 12-29, 2017).

When a camera downsized to the dimensions to fit in the hand, becoming an easy-to-use device not catching anyone’s eye, Mirosław Bałka started creating his video pieces. They are all short, lasting from several seconds to several minutes, made in one plane, almost monochromatic. The artist never edits them. It is a sort of performance, one-for-one, where a video piece is to record the moment of ‘action’. The difference is only that a performer does not stand in front of the camera but holds it in the hand.

The “Tanz” (2002) opening the exhibition was filmed on the train. A small moth is twirling around on the train compartment’s floor. Projection is an element of a sculpture. The image falls on the plane of salt filling the metal frame. Salt is a material Mirosław Bałka uses most often. It is a sediment of tears and sweat, the two substances amply excreted by us, humans, while alive.

First video pieces by Mirosław Bałka were made in the death camp Majdanek in Lublin. In the second hall, there is one of them – a ”MapL” (1999/2010). It is also projected onto the salt screen. We can see a map of Lublin of the German occupation period filmed in the death camp. Monotonous range of colors and simple forms resemble a constructivist art of the early 20th century. The same hall also has the ”Primitive”. On a small screen, we can see a dim face of a man who keeps repeating the word “primitive”. It is a hidden camera recording an interlocutor of Claude Lanzmann in the “Shoah” film. He used to be a guard at the Treblinka death camp. He was explaining to Lanzmann the work conditions in the death camp: “Treblinka was an effective but a primitive death conveyer.” When questioned by a surprised Lanzmann, the interviewee answers: “Yes, primitive.” The several seconds of the phrase was used by Mirosław Bałka in the video piece in an obnoxious loop, as if in a nightmare.

The exhibition is concluded by the „AAA + Rauchsignale” (2007). A large projection screened onto the wall shows “smoke signals” against the skies. We hear rhythmic engine sound. The truck driver is trying to use the accelerator pedal to reproduce the tune of a popular lullaby “ААА, two kittens…”

In order to see the entire exhibition, 10 minutes would technically suffice. It is the duration of the films displayed thereon. However, in order to decode it, we need to spend much more time. Most elements used by Mirosław Bałka matter to help read his works. The combinations of the senses are also significant.
Darkness, a truck, smoke, a lullaby, Lublin, Majdanek, a map, the present, a train, a trip, Shoah (Catastrophe, Holocaust), a dream, salt, exhaust gases, light, dance – these are a few expressions from Mirosław Bałka’s vocabulary presented at the “Kein Name” exhibition.

Curator: Waldemar Tatarczuk


Londyn, 15.10.2009 – Miroslaw Balka w Tate Modern – How It Is. Fot. Marek Szczepanski/Przekroj/ Forum

Mirosław Bałka (PL)

Miroslaw Balka was born in 1958 in Warsaw, in Poland. Sculptor also active on the field of experimental video and drawing. In 1985 he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, where he runs Studio of Spatial Activities at Department of Media since 2011. Received the Mies van der Rohe Stipend in Krefeld. The member of Akademie Der Kunste, Berlin.

His works were exhibited at numerous international shows such as: Documenta, Kassel (1992), Venice Biennale (1990, 1993, 2003, 2005, 2013), The Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1995), Sao Paulo Biennale (1998), Liverpool Biennial (1999), Sydney Biennale (1992, 2006), Santa Fe Biennial (2006). In 2009 he presented special project “How It Is” at Unilever Series, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London. Author of the memorial to the victims of the Estonia Ferry disaster in Stockholm (1997).

His works are owned by museums worldwide including: Tate Modern / London, Van Abbemuseum / Eindhoven, MOCA / Los Angeles, SFOMA / San Francisco, MOMA / New York, Hirshhorn Museum / Washington DC, Art Institute / Chicago, The Carnegie Museum of Art / Pittsburgh, Museu Serralves / Porto, Moderna Museet / Stockholm, Kiasma / Helsinki, Kroller Muller / Otterlo, The National Museum of Art / Athens, The National Museum of Art / Osaka, The Israel Museum / Jerusalem. In Poland: Museum of Art / Lodz, Centre of Contemporary Art / Warsaw, Zacheta National Gallery of Art / Warsaw, Museum of Modern Art / Warsaw, The National Museum / Wroclaw, MOCAK / Cracow.