Przemek Pyszczek — 1989
The Complexity of Honesty
When I first talked with Przemek about his show, he mentioned the title, 1989, as both the year Communism collapsed and the title of Taylor Swift’s latest album. This duality between an almost oppressively relevant historical period and a cultural product that encapsulates the very essence of a millennial’s preoccupations (fun, boys, love, revenge, texting, fashion) is exciting and interesting. It makes me question if most of us are actually more concerned with the color of our new Acne sweater than with the questions surrounding the disappearance of a whole socio-political system. The crumbling of Socialist regimes in Eastern Europe goes hand in hand with the emergence of a generation whose main characteristics include a loss of ideological identification; a somewhat exaggerated obsession with oneself; and a tendency for being looked down upon from all the older generations, who were more politicized, more intellectual, more stable, more mature – so they tell us.
“Fluidity” may be a defining, yet overused terminology to describe us, these young men and women who can spend 8 hours watching rich white suburban women throwing Chardonnay at each other on TV; who might be born in Finland, study in London, spend six months in Indonesia and then settle in Berlin seamlessly; who learned to promote what we eat (#foodporn), where we party (#yolo), or how we feel (#sadgirl) on a myriad of digital channels where thousands of others observe us with scrutiny. In an theoretical frame, the word is also strongly associated with the internet, this bottomless cauldron from which we get most of our (mis)information and inspiration.
What is important to underline is that our mobility and the endless universes we explore on our phones and computers, while perhaps alienating us from each other, offer an incredible amount of resources and references to draw from, and, coupled with memories and personal experiences, make for a fertile creative ground on which ideas can grow lush and numerous.
Scholars – or at least the one who taught at the schools I attended – almost hysterically refuse an artist’s biography to be considered when looking at his work. But let’s just cross that line, because with Pyszczek, this somewhat controversial reflex makes sense: born in Poland, his family emigrated to Canada when he was only two years old. The works in 1989 are, on one hand, projections of blurry, yet authentic memories from a childhood whose first references were abruptly switched from socialistic urbanism to the North American suburbia. As Pyszczek puts it, his works are “a construction of nostalgia that was not actually experienced”. This is where the elements mentioned previously tie in. Przemek Pyszczek’s practice is shaped not only by his memories, but also by the conglomerate of possibilities his belonging to this generation entails. Hence, on the other hand, these new pieces are not simply the recreation of a past; in-situ research, personal sensitivities, and appropriative gestures have coagulated into a new body of work that goes beyond the one-dimensionality of Ostalgia and allow the viewer an escape from crass fetishization.
The geometrical structures in the presented wall reliefs may remind of socialist housing unit facades, but they could as well be found as a print in a new Prada ready-to-wear collection, or as the background on a fancy website selling Korean beauty products. This doesn’t mean the works are interchangeable – each one exudes its own type of vigor and voluptuousness – but they are incarnations of a hyper-contemporary form of flexibility. While still standing up with honesty to the urban structures they’re inspired from, they surpass the naive goal of visual satisfaction without grumpily refusing to entice the viewer. Some of you might take a picture, hasthag it, upload it on Instagram and collect likes within minutes for it; it’s weirdly satisfying to know how free everyone who sees such a post (and therefore the work itself) will be to understand, categorize and appreciate it, because Pyszczek refers to past aesthetics stuck in an tight corset of codes and rules. Like the sculptures on view, 1989 showcases a multidimensional, joyful and complex artistic practice, in which blank spaces of interpretative freedom balance out saturation, pushing the works to a fresh level of complex honesty.
Text by Karim Crippa