Swag & Threat is based around the topic of antagonism in the contemporary artistic life in Poland. The exhibition has been inspired by the phenomena of beef and diss present in the hip-hop culture. The first term represents an argument between two rappers, while the other one is used to describe an element of such argument – the open insulting of the opponent through pointing out his artistic (and other) shortcomings. Hip-hop is one of the areas of culture in which conflict is shown openly and without social inhibitions, demonstrating the energies characteristic of the avant-garde times, but swept under the rug in the sphere of visual arts nowadays. Conflict, meanwhile, is an integral part of the functioning of any environment – the building of its internal hierarchies, setting and abolishing of trends, promoting the careers of selected artists and forgetting about the other ones.
The project Swag & Threat aims to pick out the cases of conflict taking place on the contemporary art scene. The conflict can be interpreted from a number of different perspectives. On the one hand, the exhibition showcases works that openly problematize aggression – against other artists or the viewer – suggesting there is not enough room for everyone in the art world. On the other hand, we are inspired by the artists who – although they do not make direct statements, or they seldom claim they are better than the others – produce certain tension and look for confrontation in their works. The exhibition features a number of works questioning the value of individual artistic media. The use of a specific technique frequently positions the artist in the circles of emerging artists or passé ones, just as the medium they use gives them a certain place in the artistic hierarchy. An important aspect of the exhibition concept refers to the generation gap and the inevitable process of young artists entering the scene, while the old ones are being pushed off it. The latter motif is related to the relationship between academy students and lecturers, or, in a wider perspective, the academy of arts as an institution. The above issue will be problematized in workshops accompanying the exhibition scheduled in January 2018.
The contemporary artist is at the crossroads between individualism – a creative act understood as individual activity – and cultural tendencies that force him to work in a team with a precise division of tasks. We want to adopt the above perspective to consider how the artistic ego enters into the collective relationships imposed by the culture.
*The work produced with Aleksandra Kulik, Marek Broszkiewicz, Michał Rusnarczyk and Bernard Śmiałek