The concept of progress as development, a process of betterment, a transition from a lower to a higher stage was one of the guiding principles of the French Encyclopédistes, the thinkers of the Enlightenment and 19th century positivists. It was also an element in the founding myth of modernity – the building of a new, better world. The faith in progress that was characteristic for the past century was expressed both in artistic manifestos and in new tendencies: such as Futurism, Constructivism, Suprematism and Neo-plasticism. The modern architecture and design that were associated with them were to influence a change in the habits and lifestyles of the inhabitants of cities – to shape a new person through new forms. This utopian idea disintegrated in the times of the crisis of the 1920s, and the idea of progress and the social engineering associated with it were engulfed by the processes of dehumanization at work in totalitarian societies.
The exhibition presented in Zachęta, “Progress and Hygiene”, is devoted to the pitfalls of modernization in the context of the idealistic faith in progress and the possibilities of “betterment” common to both art and science at the beginning of the 20th century. It was conceived as an essay which critically analyses such phenomena as genetic engineering, eugenics or research into the purity of races, also drawing attention to their continued impact on today’s world.
The exhibition is composed of the works of Polish and foreign artists realised in a diverse range of media – such as painting, installations, film and photography – and of others especially prepared for the exhibition. The context for these will be formed by historical materials, including posters, archival photographs and documentation. Through the confrontation of contemporary works with those from the modern period, the spectator will be able to explore such themes as social health, eugenics, social engineering, racial hygiene, national identity, the problem of the “other” and exclusion, or even cosmetic surgery and self-creation. “Progress and Hygiene” poses a question as to what today has remained of the idea of modernism and as to the directions in which contemporary modernization is heading.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with extensive visual materials and texts by Prof. Zygmunt Bauman, Prof. Monika Płatek, Prof. Piotr Juszkiewicz, Father Adam Boniecki, Dr. Marius Turda and curator Anda Rottenberg.
artists: Nelly Agassi, Korbinian Aigner, Mirosław Bałka, Yael Bartana, Anna Baumgart, Rafał Bujnowski, Robert Capa, Marek Cecuła, Jan Fabre, Jorge Galindo, Felix Gmelin, Hadassa Goldvicht, Dina Gottliebova-Babbitt, Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys, Marianne Heske, Erez Israeli, Sonia Khurana, Anna Konik, Zofia Kulik, Zbigniew Libera, Bernard Moreau (Tymek Borowski & Paweł Śliwiński), Ciprian Mureşan, Michael Najjar, Marina Naprushkina, Jean-Gabriel Périot, Krystyna Piotrowska, Agnieszka Polska, Joanna Rajkowska, Gerhard Richter, Hans Richter, Leni Riefenstahl, Alexander Rodchenko, Wilhelm Sasnal, Ahlam Shibli, Chiharu Shiota, Santiago Sierra, Pablo Sigg, Luc Tuymans, Magnus Wallin, Vadim Zakharov, Zuza Ziółkowska
curator Anda Rottenberg
collaboration: Magdalena Komornicka, Krzysztof Kościuczuk
exhibition design Robert Rumas
Exhibition supported by the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation.
Nelly Agassi’s and Erez Israeli’s visits in Warsaw are financed by Polish Institute in Tel Aviv.
Anna Konik’s work is co-produced by Romanian Cultural Institute.
Ahlam Shibli’s visit in Warsaw is financed by Adam Mickiewicz Institute.
Felix Gmelin’s visit in Warsaw is financed by The International Artists Studio Program in Stockholm.
sponsor of the opening reception Freixenet
media patronage: The Warsaw Voice, Stolica, Artinfo.pl