Alicja Pakosz

Machine, 2020
acrylic on paper

A traffic event in which a forward-travelling machine disappeared, leaving only what was adjacent to the ground. I conceive of the machine as an idea that has its reflection in real institutions. The following combinations can occur, e.g.: God–church; art–museum; love–marriage; or, science–university. The machine’s disappearance leaves behind a zombie: institution–shell, capable of evacuated existence, or a take-over by a new operating system.

Text: Alicja Pakosz

Little Warsaw

Rebels, 2006–2018
book design; installation (wood, books)

In 1990, one of the first monuments toppled in Hungary was a several-hundred-kilogram figure with a machine gun on the Monument to the Hungarian Soviet Republic (Proletarian, 1961). The monument was by István Kiss—the then rector of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts (MKE), where a months-long struggle for changes at the university was simultaneously starting. Students formulated their demands not only against their so-called ‘Communist’ teachers, but primarily against what the teachers represented: conservatism, academism, and a non-democratic structure of the institution. Up to this point, the MKE had provided an education in the spirit of nineteenth-century academies, based on a traditional, master-student relationship and method of masterly correctures. Its division into faculties corresponded to classical domains of the arts, such as painting, sculpture, or graphic arts. ‘The Rebels’ demanded e.g.: inclusion of ‘new media’ into the curriculum; free choice with respect to teachers; and student collaboration in the process of decision-making within an autonomous University.

Rebels is a research and publication project by the Little Warsaw collective (András Gálik and Bálint Havas), representing and analysing the history of the 1990 student revolt by means of archival video recordings, television materials, documents and interviews with its leading participants. The artists allude to the form of the photographic novel—which could be found at the time in popular youth magazines, such as “BRAVO” or “Popcorn”—under the rubric of “photostory.” They also draw attention to the role of novel instruments used during the staging of the conflict: VHS cameras and access to free media.

In the Rebels publication, the Little Warsaw collective asks what rights students have in influencing their education process and what are the instruments at the individual’s disposal when s/he decides to counter petrified structures of power. Also, they inquire into the success of the 1990 Budapest students’ revolt. On the one hand, the student movement led to the establishment of the Intermedia Department, which introduced the proposed, new subjects into the curriculum and employed neo-avant-garde artists producing contemporary art. On the other, the students had also fought for reform of the University structure and restoration of its autonomy. Nonetheless—after a student-forced dismissal of the previous (Party nominated) rector—the new, democratically elected government appointed the next rector without consultation with the University Council or students. University structure had not therefore changed at all.

Based on:
LITTLE WARSAW: Rebels, ed. Little Warsaw (András Gálik, Bálint Havas), Katalin Székely, Budapest 2017, passim.

Martina Drozd Smutná

A Room for both of us, 2019
cycle of interviews; cycle of painting

In 2019, creating its BFA diploma work, Martina Smutná met and interviewed female alumni and ex-students of painting at the Brno University of Technology (VUT) Faculty of Fine Arts (Fakulta výtvarných umění, FaVU). The artist’s interlocutors had been educated at the institution in 2003–2016. Records of the interviews and its illustrations in small-format painting make up her project, A Room for the Both of Us, narrating a fragment of the university history from the perspective of its women-students. The artists speak about their (miscellaneous) experiences arising from an education model based on paternalist master studios. Their accounts raise, for example: issues of being a mother in university education; questions of continuity of maintaining power by male studio supervisors; sexism and abuse; education to copy the so-called “master’s style”; creating an unhealthy competition between students; problems of value of grades detrimental to a sense of self-worth; unequal treatment of persons exhibiting lesser self-confidence, introversion or otherwise non-conforming to the expected model in a non-formalised environment of art schools. Also, former female students speak of conscious and unconscious strategies of coping with the so-constructed system: ‘self-silencing’ as a reaction to uncomfortable situations as well as provision of sisterly support by co-students.

The title of the cycle refers to Virginia Woolf’s eminent essay, A Room of One’s Own (1929), underscoring indispensability of having one’s living space and source of income at woman’s disposal for her to embark upon a writers (or—more broadly—artist’s) career. Smutná suggests a foregoing of this framework in favour of sharing the space of—the axiomatically rivalry-inducing—art field, “grounded in mutual respect and willingness to remain in a heterogenous collective, composed of art students and teachers of all genders.” Since, as the artist claims, “there’s always too few of those rooms.”

Based on:
Pokoj pro nás obě, Vysoké Umění Technické v Brně, 2019

Dinner, 2020
Cuddle, from the series Beyond Nuclear Family, 2020
Relaxation, 2021
Couple, 2020
all works: oil on canvas

Martina Smutná’s large-format oil paintings draw on research into the history of artistic education, primarily from women’s perspective, conducted by the artist at the Faculty of Fine Arts (FaVU, VUT) in Brno, currently expanded in her DFA at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague (Akademie výtvarných umění v Praze, AVU). Thus, the painter’s solo work incorporates explorations into representation of collective experiences of preceding generations of women-art-students. The paintings speaks both about a sense of exhaustion stemming from the necessity of incessant rivalry and point towards mutual support as a method of struggle against a so-organised system. The artist writes: “Ten years of education at art schools has left me, mostly, with a deep-rooted need of constant comparison with others—comparing myself as well as my position as an artist. Inducing the need of constant readiness for comparing one’s own skills and status with others could have morphed into pure rivalry without a shadow of empathy; I owe that this has not come to pass to a certain friendship. … Empathy and curiosity triumphed over this enforced rivalry and endowed the imperative of self-comparison with new meaning. … Precisely hence comes my desire to change the principles of functioning of the whole system of artistic education, similarly to my interest in my women-predecessors’ and colleagues’ work and life-stories.”

Based on:
Martina Smutná, O władzy, milczeniu i wolności w edukacji artystycznej [On Power, Silence and Freedom in Artistic Education], text for the Deschool! exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery in Białystok, 2022


Correspondent. Art Academy, 2006
video, 40′72″

Structure of the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture (NAOMA) in Kyiv has not undergone significant alterations during the post-Soviet transformation and remains post-adademicist, preserving divisions into traditional disciplines. Educating in the spirit of Soc-realism had been supplanted by an imperative to acquire academic skills and engage patriotic themes, which helped the Academy to preserve its role as an instrument of implementation of cultural politics of the state. “School” has remained the central method of education, while a professorial studio – the carrier of tradition. Simultaneously, artistic education started undergoing a process of market (re-)orientation, whereby the artist’s role is, primarily, using his/her skills for the needs of commercial design.

The REP (Research for Poetics and Equality) Collective—in 2004, it had been composed of 20 artists; since 2006, its members include: Ksenia Hnylytska, Nikita Kadan, Lesia Khomenko, Volodymyr Kuznetsov, Zhanna Kadyrova, Lada Nakonechna—was the first group in Ukraine to have assumed a strategy of collective work grounded in consensus. Their artistic actions deal with subjects symptomatic of the state of Ukrainian society, including that of post-Soviet cultural institutions.

Video touching upon the above-discussed issues at the NAOMA is part of the cycle Presentation of Ukrainian Official Culture. The REP group—responding to an invitation to present their practice to students of the post-conceptual Academy of Fine Arts Vienna—staged a fictitious, official presentation of the NAOMA. There, the REP screened their documentary film, Correspondent. Art Academy, especially produced in Kyiv for the purposes of the Vienna projection. A similar presentation—this time, of the National Union of Artists of Ukraine—was held at the gallery of Estonian Artists’ Association, during the Biennale of Young Artists in Tallinn. In turn, at the Warsaw Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, the artists combined the two presentations into a three-hour-long performance. Both films created by the REP—on the Academy and the Union of Artists—were screened and contents of both organisations’ websites were read aloud.

Based on materials provided by the artists.

Lada Nakonechna

Studium des Menschen (4), 2022
Studium des Menschen (5), 2022
marble, steel, plastic, papier mâché

Classical training at the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture (NAOMA) in Kyiv includes studies of the human body on the example of sculptures from European Antiquity. A cycle of works by Lada Nakonechna, Studium des Menschen, refers precisely to the curriculum based on long anatomical studies and uncritical, multi-hour copying, during which students are taught solely on the basis of ostensibly universal and eternal representations of (mainly male) bodies of standard proportions—rather than in relation to real, individual human bodies marked with history and the present. Nakonechna’s sculptures may, thus, be posited as a critical commentary on the severing of the NAOMA artistic education from the social reality of contemporary Ukraine (the artist observes that the main task of Soviet post-academism was a silencing of the social purpose of art, which is still not spoken about within the walls of the Academy).

On the other hand, her decision to show studies of knees solely—modelled in papier-mâché and combined with black, steel pipes—makes Nakonechna’s pieces reminiscent of prostheses placed on marble pedestals. This allows for interpreting them—similarly to decomposed, ancient European sculptures—as references to non-normative bodies. In the context of the on-going war in Ukraine, however, they can be read as bodies of persons with war-induced disabilities.

Works from the series Studium des Menschen were first exhibited at the EIGEN + ART gallery in Leipzig, soon after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. The artist, asked about the cycle, said that she decided to change nothing in her previously completed project, as the war, for her and her relatives, has been going on for the past 8 years. Also under war conditions, Ukrainian artists of all genders keep critically viewing their surrounding reality, and making attempts to change it.

Based on e.g.:
Lada Nakonechna, „Przeciw katedrze sztuki współczesnej” [“Against the Contemporary Art Department”], Polish translation of article published in the on-line magazine Prostory, 3 December 2020 [original title: „Проти кафедри сучасного мистецтва”].
Carolin Krahl, untitled, text for Lada Nakonechna’s exhibition Studium des Menschen, Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig, 26 March–23 April 2022

Decadence / Gift Shop

exhibition reconstruction
curators: Ola Rusinek and Agata Grabowska


Karolina Kłaczyńska, Grójec (Messenger of Commerce), 2017

Vera Althamer, Kraków, 2017
ceramic mass

Dominika Hoyle, Brodnica, 2017

Arman Galstyan, Myślenice, 2017

Aleksandra Trzcińska, Malbork, 2017
plaster, was, synthetic resin varnish (artist’s technique)

Kaisu Almonkari, Skierniewice, 2017

Wojtek Baran, Żyrardów, 2017
plasticine, golden pollen

Alek Grzybek, Olsztyn, 2017

Natan Kryszk, Sieradz, 2017
corn crisps

Aleksandra Piotrowska, Nowy Targ (were you at the opening?), 2017
tart (reconstruction, 2022)

In 2017, authorities of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw announced that the cult “Klubojadalnia Eufemia” establishment, operating on the school’s premises, would be closed—in lieu of which a high-dining restaurant and a “show-room”, or a “souvenir store”, were supposed to be developped. Students of all genders as well as the artistic milieu of the Polish capital spoke up in defense of Eufemia, arguing that it was a site of creative ferment, serving free exchange of thought between various art milieus as well as organisation of student life that was open to cultural phenomena from the Academy and beyond, while being actively supportive of young, creative initiatives. One of the answers to the school authorities was Decadence / Souvenir Store— exhibition produced as part of Dawid Radziszewski’s course in principles of curating—about which then-students, Ola Rusinek and Agata Grabowska, the exhibition curators, wrote:

“Decadence [from the “French décadence, from Old French decadence, from Medieval Latin dēcadentia, a decaying, declining, from Vulgar Latin dēcadere, to decay; see decay.”] – decay of cultural and social values; tending towards perdition; crisis or decline (of literature, art, etc.)(“1. A process, condition, or period of deterioration or decline, as in morals or art;, accessed: 7 July 2022 (translator’s note).

[…] Our exhibition is a symbolic expression of protest against ideas of transforming the cellars formerly occupied by Eufemia in the spirit of profitability and placing market over social and cultural values. We evoke a cycle of ten identical figures sculpted by our rector, Adam Myjak, for the “Dekada” chain of commercial centres, with the aim of drawing attention to an association between the current authorities of the Academy and the world of business. We reiterate Professor’s sculptural gesture, while entering a polemic both with the master-student model of teaching, focused on uncritical striving for faithful imitation, as well as with the market model, imposing on students an accommodation of their creative efforts to current trends in the so-called “luxury goods”.

We maintain distance in relation to questions raised by interpreters’ of Professor’s sculptures: “Is it a winged figure symbolising the genius loci—distinctive spirit of a place—the foundation of every investment and an inspiration for the development of a project? Or, perhaps, the figure symbolises The Angel of Commerce, the initiator of the enterprise-stimulating

Profesor Adam Myjak dla sieci galerii Dekada [Professor Adam Myjak for the Galerias Chain “Dekada”],, 22.05.2015.

Weronika Zalewska

today we paint! the window view from an un/certain standpoint, 2022
cycle of digital collages; sound, 17′25″

Weronika Zalewska studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Ghent, Belgium, where she co-formed the School of Love collective. Members of the Collective investigated the place of love in institutional reality. Currently, the artist is affiliated with the Consortium for Postartistic Practices (KPP)—a fluid collective, working at the junction of art and activism.

Collages from the cycle, today we paint! the window view from an un/certain standpoint, depict art academies and universities in Central-Eastern Europe in absurd, spatial contexts (swamp; desert; village; mine). Not without a dose of black humour, the pieces echo questions of current relevance of institutional structures in the face of the climate catastrophe. Zalewska’s sound work, accompanying the collages, evokes scenes from life at fictional academies, interrogating the capacity of artistic education to respond to reality.

Alicja Pakosz

A Monument of Not Getting Noticed, 2020
diorama, styrofoam, linoleum, sand, putty

Located in a barren landscape, a big hand gestures seeking teacher’s permission to use the toilet. Ignored, it is resorted to stand in a puddle of urine, a desert monument of those unheard.

Text: Alicja Pakosz

The Problem Collective

Educational Boards no. 1, 2, 3, 2020–2022
installation; digital print on foam, chairs, projection

In 2016, four artists from Minsk: Aleksei Borisionok, Uladzimir Hramovich, Olia Sosnovskaya, and Alesia Zhitkevich formed an art-research group, the Problem Collective. Initially a reading group, the Collective organises communal reading sessions, drawing inspiration from and deconstructing early Soviet methods of workers’ reading groups. The group focuses on the history of Belarus and Eastern Europe–including political and art history—through working with archive materials, practical methods and images.

The artists conduct research, e.g., on the history of the International Red Aid Pavillion, erected in Minsk, in 1930, and designed by the Finnish artist, engineer and educator, Aleksanteri Ahola-Valo. Documentation of the Pavillion—housing a diorama depicting the history of political violence—is very scarce. In the course of archival research, members of the Problem Collective found a document listing over 150 exhibits showcased there: artworks, photographs, objects, and furniture. The Collective worked on the document in several ways, during sessions of communal reading and through performative reconstructions.

In their work Educational Boards, the Collective decided to focus on point no. 52 of the aforementioned list: Breaking Strikers. Like many other items on this list, Breaking Strikers is also vague and it is impossible to uncover to which fact it refers, or which exhibit provided its representation. Starting from strikes in a historical perspective, the Problem juxtaposes them with contemporary strikes in Belarus. On the firing line of anti-government resistance in 2020, numerous factories, universities, cultural institutions and firms went on strike against violence perpetrated by the police and the state. Passed over in silence by state media, the strike was manifested in ‘low-fi’ images, public statements, insiders’ news reports, workers’ dismissals and arrests, singing and banners. The Collective chosen visual form is the info board—a teaching instrument popular in institutions of education, libraries, and factories.

Each of the Boards is dedicated to a particular subject related to opportunities and the political potential of the strike. Educational Board no. 1 (Care and Strike) highlights the significance of feminist strike, care work and its invisible character. Educational Board no. 3 (Nature and Strike) refers to labour movements, extraction of natural resources and the concept of ‘the commons’. Educational Board no. 2 (Reading and Strike) speculates around the notion of strike at a library—both librarians’ strike, the worst paid workers in the country, as well as readers’ strike and perhaps even one of the books’. During a recent visit to the National Library of Belarus, the Collective’s female member asked one of its female workers about her participation, to which she responded: “Oh, even if we did go on strike, nobody would have noticed anyway.” The Problem Collective sketches a visual representation of several, significant, historical strikes, such as the Naroch Lake fishermen’s strike in 1935, or workers’ strikes from the early 1990s, juxtaposing them with the strikes of 2020 and 2021.

In the wake of brutal suppression of the 2020–2021 uprising—owing to constant repressions and Russian support of the Lukashenka regime—the Belarussian territory and infrastructure are being presently used for Russian war on Ukraine. Those disastrous events give rise to unprecedented questions concerning group agency and strategies of political action.

  • On 30 July 2022, the Problem Collective run a communal reading session.


Neon Kem, 2018
installation; neon

Kem is a Warsaw queer–feminist collective, working at the intersection of choreography, performance and social practice. Grounded in experimental formats of actions and friendship infrastructure building, Kem engages in critical intimacy and queer pleasure. The artists comment that their projects are marked by hybridity and fluidity, blurring boundaries between art, curatorship, education, activism, club practices, and community creation. Among principles of the collective is also a reinforcement of queer, feminist and antirasist art practices and discourses.

Since 2021, the collective has also been running the Kem School. Its current program strives to develop solo and team ways of developing its participants’ work through performative, choreographic and experimental activities as well as those emerging from queer-feminist methodologies. Participants will be invited to become involved in developing methods of collective, critical and embodied processes of knowledge production. The Kem School will also be asking the following questions: How to embody resistance? What counts as a body and which bodies are significant (matter)? What do we understand by practices of world creation and what types of worlds do we desire? How can we create new and mobilise future intergenerational knowledge? Which forms of community let us organise practices of touch, attention and multisensory perception? What kinds of archives can we draw upon to create alternative genealogies and forms of naming?

Based on materials provided by the artists.

  • Neon, representing a symbol created by Kem, marks the site of the collective's activities. On 13 August 2022, the Kem School appeared at the Arsenal Gallery in Białystok and invited to participate in its activities.

Mothers Artlovers

Landscape of Emotions, 2022
object; fabrics

Mothers Artlovers Archive, 2016–2022
photographs; digital print on paper

Mothers Artloves is a collective of women–visual artists, theorists, curators and activists–who are also mothers, responding to particular experiences, problems and needs of mothers and caregivers, working in the art milieu. Originally operating as a self-study group, within which women conversed about their creative work and mutually supported each other in their artistic activities, hindered by the experience of motherhood. Nowadays, besides provision of mutual support and art mapping with a focus on parenthood, the group also works on the political and institutional aspect of the issue. The aim of Mothers Artlovers is creating an art world which will be more suitable for the needs of parents and caregivers as well as other persons in need. Since its inception, the collective has managed to gain an influential voice in the Czech art field; group members, Darina Alster and Kača Olivová, run the Mothers Artlovers studio at the Academy of Fine Arts (AVU) in Prague. One symptom of changes that have occured in the past few years in this area is the establishment of a kindergarten at the academy. The women artists exhibit an archive of their activities and–similarly to other institutions of art–create a friendly space for meetings, workshops and discussions with audiences, inseparable parts of their artistic practice.

  • For the Deschool! exhibition, the artists invited to the following activities:
    • Emotional Body Resonance workshop, Sunday, 10 July 2022
    • Kača Olivová, Radical Body Positivity, performative lecture, Saturday, 16 July 2022

Mothers Artlovers Manifesto, 2019
video, 12′04″

The video is a documentation of a happening that strived to draw attention to the difficult situation suffered by mothers working in the art milieu, as well as to insufficient help from art institutions that do not provide support, significantly contributing towards pushing out women-artists from professional life. During the happening, members of the Mothers Artlovers collective delivered a manifesto, highlighting how the art field and a majority of its institutions ignored mothers and caregivers, creating an environment exclusive to both parents and children. Mothers Artlovers oppose this dominant trend and struggle for transformations in museums, galleries and art academies. The manifesto was delivered in front of the Galerie Rudolfinum in Prague, taken as a representative instantiation of the issues raised by the collective.

Nowolipie Group

Untitled, 2020
sculpture; ceramics, metal

In 1994, on Joanna Grodzicka’s initiative, a ceramics workshop for persons with systemic mastocytosis was opened at the State Art Circle on Nowolipie street in Warsaw,. The later Nowolipie Group had originally been intended as a therapeutic group for people with a diagnosis of SM. They were supposed to work with clay and, sculpting in the material, find psychological relief, while exercising their muscles. Paweł Althamer, then a young sculpture department alumni, was employed. Group members came from various professions (from truck driver through textile factory worker to specialist concrete tester or linguist), so classes started with the basics of vessel formation. Althamer says that already after several weeks of such proceedings, he got bored with the convention, and suggested making sculptures: portraits, animals, groups of sculptures. For 28 years, workshop participants have been meeting once a week at the Art Circle. They produce collective work (sculptures, drawings, performances), recording their relationships and ties, reinforced in the process of communal creation. Simultaneously, they blur the traditional category of authorship and leave space for a person’s particularity, also observable in the work presented here. As much as, at academy sculpture studios, pieces are created from “nobler” materials, the Nowolipie often makes use of clay and brittle ceramics, frequently associated with art classes for children. Academy students work with “ideally-bodied” models; meanwhile, members of the Nowolipie Group include wheelchair users or people walking on crutches. Art academies grade their students’ work; the Nowolipie Group members repeatedly went on record that the essentials of the group operation was its lack of valuation of artistic effects of its activities. From their perspective, the results are less significant. The group emphasises joy flowing from creating, experiencing feelings of satisfaction, pride, hope and ‘bewingedness’ (elevation). They say they no longer create for therapeutic purposes, but for the sake of creating. And that the most crucial aspect of their practice is being in touch and relationships with other people, mutual support, discussions of future projects, outdoor excursions, or the ritual of starting each meeting with coffee, tea, cookies and conversations.

Asked about his teaching method, Paweł Althamer responded: “In my view, it was a movement resembling child play in its course—we work on something so long as we find it interesting.”

Quoted in:
Uskrzydleni. Paweł Althamer i Grupa Nowolipie [Bewinged. Paweł Althamer and the Nowolipie Group], Państwowa Galeria Sztuki w Sopocie i autorzy [National Gallery of Art in Sopot and the Authors], 2016

  • On 6 August 2022, the Nowolipie Group arrived in Białystok in the Dreamer—their golden bus. During communal workshops they created an image of the educator, using educational aids and source texts brought by participants of the event. The piece developed in the course of the workshops became a part of the Deschool! exhibition.

Rafał Żwirek

Bewinged, 2016
film, 15′51″

Bewinged, a film by Rafał Żwirek, a long-standing collaborator of the Nowolipie Group, is a short history of the Group told by means of excerpts from interviews with its members, Izabela Skonecka and Urszula Dobrzyniec, as well as with Paweł Althamer; the film also features documentation of group meetings.

Visit 2, 2016
film, 11′06″

A film presenting a visit to Remigiusz Bąk’s allotment. Bąk is an outsider artist who joined the Nowolipie Group, despite not being a person suffering from SM. One of the Nowolipie values is the group's readiness to include people commonly considered as “bizarre”, and offer acceptance to deviation from widely-shared norms. Paweł Althamer speaks about him: “I find it hard to say when did his autonomous perception of himself as an individual creator precisely arise. Precisely not as the Nowolipie member, but as a separate artist. I remember that we had this conversation, as we were going to Remigiusz’s allotment to dig out small extraterrestrials, which he had hidden from the sight of unkind people. And he said: “You know what, Paweł, I’ve been an artist since childhood. From a very young age, I had this knack and adored doing all that, but people told me not to. They knocked on their heads and said that if I did such things, other people would think that I’m mad.” I, then, thought to myself that the exact same thing happened to me. With the caveat that the circumstances were much more in my favour. … Yes, I do something that, from the perspective of a proper society, should have happened a long time ago. Namely, I provide the opportunity—for people, such as Remigiusz, with a passion and a need that does no harm to others, but rather introduces radiance, energy, creative vibes into this world and inspires others—to put their ideas into practice.”

Quoted in:
Uskrzydleni. Paweł Althamer i Grupa Nowolipie [Bewinged. Paweł Althamer and the Nowolipie Group], Państwowa Galeria Sztuki w Sopocie i autorzy [National Gallery of Art in Sopot and the Authors], 2016

Nowolipie goes to Zoppot, 2016
film, 17′12″

The film is a documentation of the Nowolipie Group trip to Sopot, where the Nowolipie retrospective entitled Bewinged was held in 2016, at the State Gallery of Art.