Exhibition These Things Now was open in gallery Propaganda, Warsaw, from February 20 to April 2, 2016. The exhibition was presenting selection of works by Paweł Kowalewski from mid 80’s. Working on them he was younger then these works are today, and without a clue about what will happen in following thirty years, with all the socialpolitical changes in Poland, Europe, world in general, and of course his own life. These works on one hand are perfect examples of 80’s zeitgeist with their counter regime connotations, on the other due to their mystical and historical inclinations are profoundly timeless and universal. The question of their contemporaneity is the question raised within the framework of the exhibition. The context the works bear with their history is somewhat obvious but we strongly feel that we are not asking whether they have kept their actuality or not but what actually is their actuality. Our intention was to select works that have two main themes – religion and politics. Also they were never, or very rarely shown and thus gain additional significance. In the 80’s some of them were withdrawn from various exhibitions due to intervention of state censors and to avoid problems and after intervention of church. This stands as proof of strenght and ambiguity of the wit that shines through these works that pushes viewer into areas of profound uncertainty. Today all of this remains and given current political situation, in context of ever changing social situation, in time of great insecurity and also great ambitions it is difficult to be doubtless.
These Things Now are:
- Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels open an exhibition of downgraded art in Munich, 1986
- Six Proofs of Nonexistence of Jesus Christ, 1983
- Food uneaten by Jairus’ daughter
- A stone that was made bread
- An uneaten ear on the Sabbath
- Money taken by the publicans above the amount that was appointed to them
- The right ear of the high priest’s servant
- Shoe latchet unloosen by John
- Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land and feed on His faithfulness, 1984
- I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree, 1985
- The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth, 1985
- Many are called, but few are chosen, 1985
- Brightness, 1989
- The poked eye of God, 1988
Adolf Hitler and Joseph Goebbels open an exhibition of downgraded art in Munich, 1986
The exhibition revolves around work that refers to infamous 1937 exhibition Die Ausstellung “Entartete Kunst”. Nazis willing to discredit avantgarde and artists of Jewish ancestry organized this show that ironically was extremely popular and thus became a symbol of some sorts of paradoxical character of state intervention in art. Pawel Kowalewski in the 80’s was among those who could be considered by state as degenerates, and was outside of the official circulation, which was also outside of his interest. These work stands as a statement about interference of state in shaping of cultural development to fulfil political agenda of ruling power, regardless of what ideology the regime follows. The risk that is inherent to those type of actions is not only upon policy makers but also curators, critics, historians and artists themselves. This work in joking manner shows that there is no control over art.
Six Proofs of Nonexistence of Jesus Christ, 1983
‘Give me a person and article and section will be found’ – a popular saying that could be a subtitle of this series of works. Proofs of Nonexistence of Jesus Christ are commentary to the way how communist regime tried to discredit its opponents and also ironically a theological discussion. Proofs refer to miracles done by Jesus Christ and in rational way are designed to discredit their divine character. The works do not engage in discussion about godly nature of Christ but in discussion about reason to such discussion. These works are perfect example of defending freedom of faith.
Fragments of Gospel (King James Version):
Gospel of Mark, 1, 4-8
John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost”.
Gospel of Mark, 2, 23-28
And it came to pass, that he went through the corn fields on the sabbath day; and his disciples began, as they went, to pluck the ears of corn. And the Pharisees said unto him, “Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?” And he said unto them, “Have ye never read what David did, when he had need, and was an hungred, he, and they that were with him?” How he went into the house of God in the days of Abiathar the high priest, and did eat the shewbread, which is not lawful to eat but for the priests, and gave also to them which were with him?” And he said unto them, “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath: Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath”.
Gospel of Luke, 3, 10-14
And the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” He answereth and saith unto them, “He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise”. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, “Master, what shall we do?” And he said unto them, “Exact no more than that which is appointed you”. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, “And what shall we do?” And he said unto them, “Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages”.
Gospel of Matthew, 4, 1-4
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, “If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread”. But he answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God”.
Gospel of Matthew, 9, 18-26
While he spake these things unto them, behold, there came a certain ruler, and worshipped him, saying, “My daughter is even now dead: but come and lay thy hand upon her, and she shall live”. And Jesus arose, and followed him, and so did his disciples. And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole”. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, “Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole”. And the woman was made whole from that hour. And when Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the minstrels and the people making a noise. He said unto them, “Give place: for the maid is not dead, but sleepeth”. And they laughed him to scorn. But when the people were put forth, he went in, and took her by the hand, and the maid arose. And the fame hereof went abroad into all that land.
Gospel of Luke, 22, 47-53
And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. But Jesus said unto him, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, “Suffer ye thus far”. And he touched his ear, and healed him. Then Jesus said unto the chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to him, “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness”.
Series of works on paper, 19841985
These imposing in scale works illustrate quotes from the Psalms of David. Every each is a short meditation on the phrase that is written on them and Kowalewski’s variation on how religious picture is constructed. To many they are blasphemy i.e. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth, that can be depiction of Satan but also of fear of the Just, or both at the same time depicting inherent human ambiguity – in the end antichrist also has to become human. The quote itself has of course political meaning that can be attached to anyone participating in public debate. We can imagine officer of secret police asking a question such as: ‘So Mr. Pawel, tell us who truly is The Wicked’, but also we can imagine asking the same question today.
A term ‘hot tap water’ became recently popular to describe certain state of achieved development. Work Lightness shows how easlly material well being can be redefined and idealised. The stairwell lamp has missing glass cover and missing light bulb has been replaced with sculpture element referring to permanent lack of supplies during communism. The ersatz of light bulb represents the lack in desire that constitutes the lack by itself.
The poked eye of God, 1988
If God does not exist – his eye can’t be poked out.
If God does exist – his eye can’t be poked out.
And here it is.
 In the 80’s very often exhibitions were held in places belonging to catholic church or in churches themselves.