30 years of Komuna Warszawa: Disengagement from practice produces theoretical hallucinations
curator: Tomasz Plata
This is a parallel history to that of the Polish transformation: in May 1989, in a satellite town of Warsaw, an anarchist group is born under the name of Komuna Otwock. It operates under the name for 20 years before transforming into Komuna Warszawa in 2009. The name signals Komuna’s original objectives: to inject into the reality of Poland’s budding capitalism a dose of thinking in terms of community, to create space of independent expression, to act from the bottom up, not for profit but for personal satisfaction and social benefit. At the time, it was a provocation, in Poland of the 1990s, the word ”komuna” (commune but also a derogatory shorthand for the recently dispatched Communist regime) bore few positive connotations. Today, Komuna is at it again, in a summary of its 30 years of existence, provocatively announcing: capitalism IS! Just as some of the intellectual elites attempt a positive re-evaluation of the past Communist project, the authors of Komuna are in no doubt: we live in a capitalist world, the situation will not change in a foreseeable future, it is thus better to negotiate with capitalism than to nurse naïve hopes of an anti-capitalist revolution.
And yet this message is not a break with the heritage of Komuna but its faithful continuation. From the outset, Komuna has been committed to practice: instead of theoretical abstraction, the concreteness of social praxis. In its early years, their activities bore the marks of inspiration by Marx (especially in his youth) and his continuators. This was the result of work at the intersection of art and social activism (vide an attempt to establish an alternative culture centre in the village of Ponurzyca near Warsaw). With time, Marx has been replaced by the American pragmatist Richard Rorty (whose quote provides the title of the exhibition), while faith in utopia by a reasonable settlement with the reality principle. The process of negotiation with the rules of liberal democracy has been documented in Komuna’s most important performances: Design. Gropius, Przyszłość świata (Future of the World), Sierakowski (Future Tales. Sierakowski), Paradise Now?, Tocqueville. Życie codzienne po wielkiej rewolucji (Tocqueville. Everyday Life After a Great a Revolution), Terry Pratchett. Nauki społeczne (Terry Pratchett. Social Science). Reconstructed fragments of these performances make up a new video work of Komuna, prepared specially for the present exhibition.
Crucially, the exhibition is complemented by two new performances directed by the Komuna leader, Grzegorz Laszuk: Złota Skała (Golden Rock) about the life and music of Robert Brydzewski (premiere in July at Plac Defilad) and Loop, inspired by Kurta Vonnegut’s Pianola (premiere at Komuna Warszawa in July). Simultaneously with the exhibition opening, an internet radio station, Radio Kapitał (Radio Capital) is being launched– yet another crash test of the coordinates of contemporary capitalism, a test to what extent it leaves space for experimental culture.