Druga Grupa – We’d Done All That Was To Be Done

Lesław Janicki, Wacław Janicki, Jacek Maria Stokłosa and Z.L.

 

The Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA

Nadwiślańska 2–4, Krakow

8 July – 1 October 2017

Opening: 7 July 2017, 18.00

 

Commissioners: Ania Batko, Aleksander Włodyka

Project initiator and concept author: Ewa Tatar

Arranger: Zbigniew Prokop / Creator s.c.

 

In 1973, Druga Grupa [Second Group] produced an action at the Foksal Gallery entitled Zapamiętywanie [Remembering]. The artists wandered about the space of the gallery like a trio of somnambulists, trying to memorise excerpts from books selected by spectators. They simulated a dose of effort, while treating the whole affair quite seriously. Wiesław Borowski claims that the artists mostly performed themselves. “The content is there only to be remembered. We shall not use what will be remembered for any other purpose.  Our full commitment to the remembering will cause the content to remain in our memory forever,” wrote the Druga Grupa artists in a leaflet to their action. One can easily surmise that even if the random sentence clusters had survived the mnemonic entropy, they would have been covered with a thick layer of dust by now. The content is irrecoverable. The artists may misremember, mix up facts, blame it on old-age forgetfulness; nevertheless, their simple performative gestures and traces of quintessential experiences have survived. And they rest deep within them.

 

Druga Grupa, Giewont, actions at the foot of Giewont, 1970. From the left: Lesław Janicki, Wacław Janicki, Jacek Maria Stokłosa. Photo: Jacek Maria Stokłosa.

Druga Grupa, Giewont, actions at the foot of Giewont, 1970. From the left: Lesław Janicki, Wacław Janicki, Jacek Maria Stokłosa. Photo: Jacek Maria Stokłosa.

 

Druga Grupa – We’d Done All That Was To Be Done, an exhibition co-organised by the Krakow Division of the Association of Polish Art Photographers, ZPAF, and the Cricoteka – Centre for the Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor, is the first attempt at a monographic presentation of the oeuvre of Druga Grupa. It is composed of archive materials, souvenirs, photographic and film documentation, original surviving objects as well as their reconstructions. The project had been announced by the exhibition at the ZPAF Gallery, opened in November 2016, where the Kolor Druga Grupa [The Druga Grupa Colour] and boards of photographs and archival documentation from 1979 were displayed. The exhibition at the Cricoteka will be accompanied by a book-length publication containing rich visual and source materials.

Why Druga Grupa [Second Group]? “Because there wasn’t the first one!”, the group: Jacek Maria Stokłosa and the Janicki brothers, Lesław and Wacław, reply, rather mischievously, when asked about its origins. They were sometimes joined by the mysterious Z.L., consequently anonymous and frequently existing only on paper.

 

Druga Grupa, Jod [Iodine], happening at the Krzysztofory Gallery cafe, 1968. Photo: Wojciech Plewiński

Druga Grupa, Jod [Iodine], happening at the Krzysztofory Gallery cafe, 1968. Photo: Wojciech Plewiński

 

Their quasi-theatrical happenings, conceptual thinking, paradoxically having as powerful a material dimension, their peculiar wit of Dada provenance, their sophisticated mockery and disarming elegance resulted in actions that clearly demonstrated the ludicrousness of socio-political utopias. Theirs was a criticism intertwined with black humour and a youthful audacity, great fun served to audiences with a tongue-in-cheek seriousness. All these elements made up an explosive cocktail, an often magical potion that tempted, when brought to fruition, with a promise of an alchemical transmutation.

 

A vial containing synthetic gemstones from Pierwsze Nienaturalne Złoże Kamieni Szlachetnych [The First Artificial Gemstones Deposit], 1973. Photo: Jacek Maria Stokłosa.

A vial containing synthetic gemstones from Pierwsze Nienaturalne Złoże Kamieni Szlachetnych [The First Artificial Gemstones Deposit], 1973. Photo: Jacek Maria Stokłosa.

In the cellar of the Krzysztofory cafe, on the floor they had sanded, the Druga Grupa artists, dressed in swimming suits, sunbathed under sunray lamps amidst exploding flasks of tanning oil. At the Foksal Gallery, they presented their Kolekcja [Collection], giving the audience nothing but the choice between a red or a green ball; a choice determined by neither history, nor some external factor, which had to be made by each member of the audience individually. Performing their Grawancje na 20-35 [20-35 Guarantees], they imported a load of food to Paris and posed – made up as elders – next to the eponymous ‘guarantees’, making fools of French bureaucrats. During the 4th “Złote Grono” Art Symposium and Exhibition, as part of Krytycy prezentują artystów [The Critics Present the Artists] exhibition, they created a stand where one could cheaply purchase copies of all the works in the neighbouring exhibition. And for their Pierwsze Nienaturalne Złoże Kamieni Szlachentych [The First Artificial Gemstones Deposit], having concealed synthetic gemstones in 5 tonnes of sand, thus forcing the audience to a de facto humiliating exploration, they unleashed the competitive instinct and a whole array of contradictory emotions.

Druga Grupa, affiliated with the milieu of the Krakow Krzysztofory Gallery and the Cricot 2 Theatre, of which the entire trio were actors, as well as with the Warsaw Foksal Gallery, had been formed by circles of the avant-garde, while incessantly confronting its traditions. Not unlike Kantor, who not so much played Witkacy as mostly played with Witkacy. As the Druga Grupa members once affirmed: “We are certain that everything is not art, but we at once doubt the value of this definition. We know that not every man is an artist, but we make no effort to demonstrate why it is so.”

 

The event is co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

 


 

ARTISTS’ BIOS:

Wacław Janicki (b. 1944) is an art historian (the Jagiellonian University alumnus), a gemmologist and a diamond cutter. In 1966-76, together with his brother, Lesław, and his friend, Jacek Maria Stokłosa, he co-formed Druga Grupa, in which he co-authored over a dozen happenings and events. As an artist, he was affiliated with the Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow and the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw. As a Cricot 2 Theatre actor, he took part in a majority of Tadeusz Kantor’s performances, including: The Water Hen; Lovelies and Dowdies; The Dead Class; Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear; Wielopole, Wielopole; Let the Artists Die; I Shall Never Return; and Today Is My Birthday.

On the first anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor’s death, he and his brother staged their production of Samuel Beckett’s Ohio Impromtu, and in the following year, presented their play, Beckettiana, in Rome (which went on to tour Italy and Poland). He collaborated with e.g.: Christian Boltanski (on Le Voyage d’Hiver at the Opéra  Comique de Paris); the Cosmos Kolej theatre, Marseille (on W. Znorko’s Ulysse à l’envers  and Alpenstock); and in Italy, with Loredana Putigniani (on Terramare). In 2000, he published, with Lesław Janicki, their Dziennik z podróży z Kantorem [A Journal of Travels with Kantor]. Since 1993, on every anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor’s death, he takes part in the display of Living Monuments as one of the Hassidim with their Plank of Last Resort.

 

Lesław Janicki (b. 1944) is a painter, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow,  and a diamond cutter. In 1966-76, together with his brother, Wacław, and his friend, Jacek Maria Stokłosa, he co-formed Druga Grupa, in which he co-authored over a dozen happenings and events. As an artist, he was affiliated with the Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow and the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw. As a Cricot 2 Theatre actor, he took part in a majority of Tadeusz Kantor’s performances, including: The Water Hen; Lovelies and Dowdies; The Dead Class; Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear; Wielopole, Wielopole; Let the Artists Die; I Shall Never Return; and Today Is My Birthday.

On the first anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor’s death, he and his brother staged their production of Samuel Beckett’s Ohio Impromtu, and in the following year, presented their play, Beckettiana, in Rome(which went on to tour Italy and Poland). He collaborated with e.g.: Christian Boltanski (on Le Voyage d’Hiver at the Opéra  Comique de Paris); the Cosmos Kolej theatre, Marseille (on W. Znorko’s Ulysse à l’envers  and Alpenstock); and in Italy, with Loredana Putigniani (on Terramare). In 2000, he published, with Wacław Janicki, their Dziennik z podróży z Kantorem [A Journal of Travels with Kantor]. Since 1993, on every anniversary of Tadeusz Kantor’s death, he takes part in the display of Living Monuments as one of the Hassidim with their Plank of Last Resort.

 

Jacek Maria Stokłosa (b. 1994) is a visual artist, a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. He works primarily in photography, graphic arts and the art of exhibiting. He was a lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow Faculty of Graphic Arts (in digital photography and electronic image processing). He is a regular member of the Association Polish of Artists and Designers, ZPAP, and was, in 1996-2002, the president of its Krakow Division, as well as of the Association of Polish Art Photographers, where he also serves a member of its Regional Board. He was active at the Association for Image Processing. He served as the Chief Municipal Artist of the City of Krakow. He has worked in the arts since 1963. He works as a graphic artist and took part in several dozen international  print exhibitions. A prize-winner at the 6th International Print Biennial in Krakow. In 1966-76, together Wacław and Lesław Janicki, he co-formed Druga Grupa, in which he co-authored over a dozen happenings and events. As an artist, he was affiliated with the Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow and the Foksal Gallery in Warsaw. The author of several dozen individual exhibitions, e.g.: his Foksal Gallery exhibitions: Synchronizacja Niemożliwa [Synchronisation Impossible]; Pionier [The Pioneer]; Makieta [A Mock-up]; and Pytanie [A Question]; Videoinstalacja [A Video-Installation] at the ZPAF Gallery, Krakow; Poza Wyborem [Beyond Choice] presented at the Foto Expo in Göteborg as well as at the Krzysztofory Gallery, Krakow; ON Gallery, Poznań; and the Bureau for Artistic Exhibition, BWA, Słupsk; the Silver Shadow exhibition-installation at the Starmach Gallery, Krakow; the installation Zakamarki [Nooks] at the Historical Museum of the City of Krakow; a series of exhibitions at the Krzysztofory Gallery, including: Zakamarki-refleksja [Nooks-A Reflection] and Biblioteka [The Library]; Podpis Elektroniczny [Digital Signature], Space Gallery, Krakow; and Mój Tadeusz Kantor [My Tadeusz Kantor] during the Krakow 2000 Festival. In 1999, he became a laureate of the international competition for the design of the permanent exhibition at the central camp sauna building at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Together with Barbara Borkowska, he produced new designs for visual information at the Museum, for which they received the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage award. For twenty years, he had collaborated with Tadeusz Kantor, performing in e.g.: The Madman and the Nun, The Water HenLovelies and Dowdies, and The Dead Class.

 

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