Why We Have Wars: The Art of Modern-Day Outsiders
19.02 – 01.05.2016

Artists: Damian Czeladka, Stanisław Garbarczuk, Władysław Grygny, Marian Henel, Konrad Kwasek, Mikołaj Ławniczak, Tomasz Machciński, Władysław Matlęga, Justyna Matysiak, Iwona Mysera, Radosław Perlak, Pisarka M.H., Daniel Stachowski, Maria Wnęk

The exhibition “Why We Have Wars” presents works by fourteen artists-outsiders who confront the urgent questions of the contemporary times. These are strong artistic personalities for whom art is an existential must – a tool that allows them to comment on reality and protest against it.

Who are outsiders? They are people who operate outside the contemporary art circulation – individuals without a degree in arts, without affiliation to institutions, the market and the conventions of the art world. They are also “outsiders” in the traditional understanding of the term – individualists, often perceived as “different” for various reasons, who may even sometimes live on the margins of the society. The activities of such artists distinguish them also in the broader landscape of the so-called non-professional art in Poland, where creative practice used to manifest dissent is generally uncommon. Therefore, what the presented artists share is primarily the separate and independent character of their approaches to art and life.

A common denominator of different artistic strategies is the frequent use of text as an equally important element of the work. The Conceptual game between the image and poetic slogans can acquire different forms. The works that inaugurate the exhibition are those by artists who comment on the current social and political situation, often from radically different ideological standpoints. Another theme embraces projects that refer to living conditions and existential situations, as well as more intimate voices that relate to the questions of identity and love. A common theme of works is the point of reference that they find with media representations of the world, which can either meet with resistance or exert a fascination. Some of the projects are enigmatic, as their authors create their own codes to describe the world.

Contestation practices developed by outsiders inspire reflection on what it means to be critical today, both with regard to art and institutions. Critical approaches in contemporary art have lost their significance in comparison with the 1990s, while museums are facing the question of the extent to which they continue to operate as open and democratic spaces of dispute. The show not only provides insight into artistic strategies and points of view of members of social groups other than art academy graduates, but also demonstrates a major emancipatory role that artistic practice can play.

In the Polish context, art created by self-taught artists is often referred to as “so-called naïve art” (A. Jackowski), or more broadly as “naïve art in a non-naïve society” (K. Piwocki). In the face of major crises of the contemporary era, the distinct critical voices of outsiders appear rather as non-naïve – in a world that is naïve and technologically advanced, but certainly not wiser.

Katarzyna Karwańska
Zofia Płoska

Research advisers
Małgorzata Szaefer
Katia Szczeka

Monika Kozub

Research team
Ewa Bałdys
Gabriela Jaguszewska
Kamila Kolebacz
Monika Kozub
Bartłomiej Sierpiński
Joanna Szulc

Exhibition architecture
Maciej Siuda
z zespołem projektowym:
Agnieszka Wach
Katarzyna Dąbkowska
Rodrigo Garcia González

Graphic design
Piotr Chuchla

Huncwot, współpraca: Monika Kozub, Gabriela Jaguszewska, Joanna Szulc, Anna Roszman, Bartosz Stawiarski

Exhibition production
Michał Ziętek
Jakub Antosz

Dorota Godlewska
Anna Mazurek-Sierocka
Jan Szyszkowski
Mieczysław Ryniewicz
Jan Jurkiewicz

Financial coordination
Łukasz Radzikowski

Special thanks to:
James Brett (Museum of Everything), Leszek and Ewa Macak, Marya Nawrocka-Teodorczyk, Christine Rostworowska-Rickards, Bogumił Książek, Anna Stankiewicz, Filip Żarów, Zbigniew Sałaj, Stanisław Mancewicz, Maciej Chorąży, Jan Ostroga, Małgorzata Rel, Romek Zańko, Magdalena Kwiatkiewicz, Grażyna Filipiak-Perlak, Bożena Olszewska from The Ethnographic Museum in Toruń, Anna Dudziak from the Bishop J. Nathan Specialist Psychiatric Hospital in Branice, major Adam Piórkowski from the Central Board of Prison Service, Katarzyna Padło, Justyna Domasłowska-Szulc i Elżbieta Wrona from Dom Kultury Foundation, Elżbieta Sala, Magdalena Mazik, Joanna Pawlik, Krystyna Haszczyńska and Ewy Jasik-Wardalińska