This year’s edition of Konteksty in Sokołowsko, Poland will take the form of a congress. We are calling it the Postartistic Congress following the theoretician Jerzy Ludwiński, who wrote half a century ago that “we probably missed the moment when what we are doing ceased to be art.” Tired of social distancing and the uncertainties over the future of the planet, instead of wondering what is art and what is not, the delegates participating in the Postartistic Congress will ask: what can be done with art today.
The Postartistic Congress will unfold over three parts between 2021-2023, gradually revealing the consecutive stages of working with Sokołowsko as a site to regenerate human and non-human bodies, and build a familial community of goals. We will look for “spore forms” for art in the age of the planetary crisis – born in remote places, far from city centers, where it’s possible to safely gather and experiment with the cultivation of art and land.
The Postartistic Congress takes place in a location unique in its architecture, nature and geology. It is said that from the meadows over Sokołowsko, you can see traces of the landforms from 260 million years ago. In 1855 in Sokołowsko, which was back then called Görbersdorf, Dr. Hermann Brehmer founded the world’s first sanatorium that specialized in treating tuberculosis. The Görbersdorf sanatorium served as the model for the spa in Davos, Switzerland. In 2007, the building of the former Dr Brehmer’s sanatorium was acquired by the In Situ Contemporary Art Foundation. The Foundation is currently rebuilding the destroyed facility and organizing festivals dedicated to contemporary art, experimental music and cinema.
The Postartistic Congress refers to the tradition of artistic plein-airs, which played a very important role in the development of Polish neo-avant garde art of the 1960s and 1970s, and helped to raise environmental and planetary awareness among the artists. The Congress will assemble over 30 people engaged in arts, crafts, artistic theory, ecology, activism and education. The manifestations prepared for the Congress by the delegates are ephemeral (walking, eating, cultivating land, deep listening, fixing objects and relationships), but the event framework also allows for the appearance of material, more permanent elements.
The program of the Postartistic Congress extends between the tradition of plein-airs, organized half a century ago by contextual and land artists and today’s interdisciplinary gatherings, in which the emphasis shifts to using art beyond art: radical education, ecology, feminism. We emphasize the continuity of certain traditions and methods of work, including process-based practices, being together, crossing disciplinary boundaries, open form, and visual games.
For over 150 years, the sanatorium in Sokołowsko was treating lung diseases, developing methods based on low temperature (thanks to its specific microclimate, additionally modified by human activities), walking and breathing exercises. The health resort may also suffocate under the weight of its own success which brought speculation on the local real estate market, overly expansive tourism, and exploitation of natural resources. The place is haunted by the threat of a growing, voracious melaphyre opencast mine located in nearby Rybnica Leśna. Konteksty is a research tool, calibrated to register the frequencies characteristic for the sanatorium center and at the same time perceptible on planetary scale (I can’t breathe!).
Thinking about the future of Sokołowsko and convening a modest congress instead of organizing an exhibition or a festival, we recall the spirit of Maria Pinińska-Bereś, whose sculpture Observation Point for Changes in Art (1974) is located right next to the Villa Rosa, the seat of the In Situ Contemporary Art Foundation. An inaccessible ladder with pink rungs hangs over the water. Pinińska-Bereś described her sculptures, which were subjected to the destructive forces of nature, as “disinterested realizations”. We imagine that this is exactly what Konteksty can be: an observation point for changes in art.