Straight on, Turn Right Past the Suits

Zacheta National Gallery of Art – Kordegarda Gallery, Warsaw

Places and People,
 District Museum in Bydgoszcz

During the recent years, the 10th Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw has emerged as the favourite venue of artists and curators, both Polish and international. Located in the centre of the city, this dilapidated, precious monument of socialist modernist architecture, erected on the rubbles of demolished Warsaw, had not served its sports and entertainment-related purpose long, and eventually became the largest market in Central Europe. It allows to trace subsequent stages in the development of free market economy as well as related influx and outflow waves of immigrants from the East — due also to political transformation of the country — who were lured into the Stadium by the hope of improving their lot immediately. The fascination with the Stadium, fuelled by announcements about its forthcoming closure, triggered a significant number of artistic projects related to the history of Warsaw after the Second World War, to architecture as well as to the phenomenon of the Jarmark Europa market, considered as the first foothold of multiculturalism, a venue of quest for the exotic as well as a laboratory for a bottom-up shift towards capitalism. The movement found its summary with the recently published book Stadium X. A Place That Never Was, edited by Joanna Warsza, the organiser of important artistic events connected with the Stadium, which have ushered in a more widespread ‘fashion for the Stadium’. The venue became one of the main attractions shown to progressive ‘tourists’ from all over the world by the ‘hip/in’ Warsaw guides.

For Dorota Podlaska, the author of the Straight on, turn right past the suits exhibition, the Stadium is a familiar part of Warsaw, where the artist, who has lived in the city for several years now, meets her friends at the weekend for a delicious dinner in one of the Vietnamese bars. She has developed a friendly relationship with some of the people working there, to quench the thirst for exotic impressions, flavours and conversations. Since her artistic debut, Dorota Podlaska has continued to blur the border between art and private life. This strategy has become her characteristic, regardless of a chosen form of artistic expression. We should not, however, be taken in by the illusion that Podlaska’a projects constitute a form of self-therapy, a simple self-portrait or only a reflection of an encountered, daily life situation. The oeuvre of the artists draws attention to a given issue (indeed significant for the author) — most often related to human/female existence in the world. Her earlier works often featured the theme of solitude, strangeness and subsequent attempts at overcoming these feelings, as well as humour. All these elements are to be found within the latest project by Dorota Podlaska, prepared specifically for Kordegarda. This time, the artist, known primarily as a painter, has created an exhibition, which consists of various elements. One of them is a spatial installation, which gives the pedestrians who follow the ‘classic’, tourist route — through Krakowskie Przedmieście to the Old Town — a unique opportunity to see the architectural cityscape of the Stadium’s ‘Vietnam Town’ from a bird’s eye perspective or a view from a train arriving at Warszawa Stadion railway station from the centre of the capital. The second part of the exhibition is constituted by video footage of the artistic action by Podlaska, acting as a female vendor with a trolley, who instead of offering snacks and warm drinks to merchants and clients — Vietnamese, Polish, Ukrainian, African, Chechen etc. — sells self-manufactured ointments and potions to ease their troubles: homesickness, solitude, implacable faces, extortion or to help their dreams of successful business or legalisation of residence come true . . . Owing to this section, the artist has also discovered other dreams of the Stadium population, which may allow her to extend the range of potions on offer. The project is also devoted to Polish people of culture fascinated by the Stadium, enthusiasts of Vietnamese cuisine and clients of the shops with exotic goods (including myself), who have already entered this different and intriguing world. The world to which Dorota Podlaska’s exhibition invites.

Magda Kardasz
exhibition curator
translation: Lukasz Mojsak