Wybrańcy (Chosen)

A joint project between Wyspa Institute of Art and The Israeli Center for Digital Art in collaboration with Adam Mickiewicz Institute in the framework of Polish Year in Israel 2008-2009

Curators: Galit Eilat & Aneta Szylak
Assistant Curators: Dor Guez & Maks Bochenek

Wyspa Institute of Art
1 Doki Street, Building 145B
80-958 Gdansk

Opening reception, 9. 12. 2008 19.00
After-party in Modelarnia at 8.30 pm

Marxism, Nihilism, Communism, Socialism and Nazism are all ideologies shaped in modern times, functioning as secular counterparts to religious tenets. In the core of these ideologies is the secular-messianic desire of modern humans who pretend to have shaped this world and the next with their own hands, Modern revolutionary ideologies, Zionism among them, translated old religious longings into secular and political terms; religion was secularized, and turned into History - heavenly kingship became human kingship. However, authors such as Agata Bielik-Robson argue that hopes attached to the visions of the Messiah are disconnected from the utopian model of order; they stay on the side of an archaic, subversive position of mining the prevailing social order.

The project includes works by Yossi Atia & Itamar Rose, Yael Bartana, Grzegorz Klaman, Tomasz Kozak, Avi Mograbi, Ittai Meyer & Suff Backaleinick, Anna Molska, Anna Niesterowicz & Lukasz Gutt, Joanna Rajkowska, Roee Rosen, Menachem Roth & Yekutiel Roth, Sala-Manca, Twozywo and Artur Zmijewski, with the intention to investigate the paths in which national and other communal narratives of today remain affected by philosophical, literary and ideological Messianism. To “renew the meaning,” using the words of Maria Janion, of this historically and philosophically loaded term and cultural phenomenon of seeing oneself as “chosen” to fulfill a particular mission, comes either from the supreme order, an ideological belief or just a common sense of responsibility. What interests us is how contemporary visual art carries out and reflects upon the visions of people, nation and country as the trustees of a particular mission of liberation, salvation and self-empowerment, and to see the cultural plots interwoven in the particular vision of individual, the hero, the martyr, the prophet and finally, politician, artist and intellectual.

The project is a collective response to notions of Messianism – either religious, secular, false or national. It addresses its various manifestations not solely within its Judeo-Christian context, but also in today politics, society and culture. The works presented in this exhibition examine the different expressions of “contemporary” Messianism, marked by its dynamism and its constant transformation. Thus, the politicisation of theology, a hallmark of Modernism, is replaced with a process of theologising the political, and this process is expressed in the politics of religion and fundamentalism.

The exhibition presented earlier this year in Holon has now come to Gdansk. It is dynamically structured so that some of the works have undergone change or are being replaced by new productions. Within the time frame of the exhibition, experts are invited to talk about Messianism in both Israeli and Polish narratives. After the exhibition in Gdansk, an anthology summarizing this chapter dedicated to Messianism will be published first in English, then in Polish and Hebrew.

exhibition on view until 28.02.2009

Chosen Conference
10.12.2008 11.00-18.00
Contributors: Agata Bielik-Robson, Yoav Kenny, Adam Lipszyc, Magda Raczyńska-Pustoła, Roee Rosen, Monika Rudaś-Grodzka.

The exhibition is financed by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw from the means of Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in the framework of the Polish-Israeli Cultural Year. Additional funding has been provided by the City of Gdansk and the Embassy of Israel in Warsaw.

Since September 2004, the Wyspa Institute of Art, in the grounds of Gdańsk Shipyard in the building of the former Basic Shipbuilding School, has been the home of the Wyspa Progress Foundation, an innovative artistic organisation combining the presentation of contemporary art with deliberations on the shape of social culture.
The Wyspa Progress Foundation is a public benefit organisation entered in the National Court Register under the number 0000063731.

CHOSEN Conference
December 10, 11.00 – 18.00

11.00 - 11.15
Aneta Szylak- opening remarks

11.15 - 12.00

Yoav Kenny – Messiah Now! Giorgio Agamben and the Messianic Time of the Political

Yoav Kenny is writing his PhD in political theory at the School of Philosophy at the University of Tel Aviv. His Master’s thesis dealt with the relationship between time, law and sovereignty in the works of Jacques Derrida and Giorgio Agamben.

Although in recent years the political theories of the contemporary Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, have become widespread in intellectual and artistic circles, the primary role that Messianism holds in his theories does not receive due credit. This talk seeks to explore the Jewish origins (Kafka, Sholem, Benjamin) of Agamben's perception of Messianism and to consider how it is used to describe the contemporary political condition of the West.

12.00 - 12.45

Dr Agata Bielik-Robson – The Apocalyptic Breeze: Nihilism as a Messianic Strategy

Agata Bielik-Robson is a philosopher and professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

The aim of the presentation is to give a short philosophical outline of the Messianic idea in Judaism, which influenced many revolutionary and anarchic movements in the history of the West, both Jewish and Christian, religious and secular. Most of all, I would like to emphasise the highly specific internal link that connects Jewish Messianism with a certain version of the nihilistic attitude, which results in all sorts of antinomian strategies, aiming at shaking the metaphysical structure of the world and bringing it to its violent, apocalyptic end. This, as Gershom Scholem calls it, is the “apocalyptic breeze” which “airs the well-ordered house of Judaism”.

By using the abstract foil of the Messianic idea delivered by Scholem, I would like to juxtapose two modes of Messianic thinking: Jewish and Polish. I want to show how Jewish Messianism influenced the political writings of the most famous Polish Romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz, and to suggest that the difference between these two Messianisms lies precisely in their attitude towards the issue of nihilism: while Jewish thinkers tend to show in this matter a considerable daring, Polish writers, who, because of their Catholicism, remain within the frame of providential metaphysics, usually refrain from a full embracement of the nihilistic and antinomian strategies and appear in contrast rather timid.

12.45 - 13.30
Magda Raczyńska-Pustoła PhD
"Flies or Butterflies: The legends of workers‘ participation in Poland"


Magda Raczynska-Pustoła is a sociologist, art theoretician, author of numerous articles about art, culture and politics published in various newspapers, magazines and online publications (e.g. Obieg, Gazeta Wyborcza, Rzeczpospolita, Krytyka Polityczna), as well as of essays to the catalogues of art exhibitions (e.g. 'Enthusiasm' in the Whitechapel Gallery, 'You won't feel a thing' in Dresden Kunsthaus). She collaborates with the Wyspa Institute of Art, Obieg and Krytyka Polityczna. She completed her MA in Contemporary Art Theories at the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths College, and most recently her PhD in Sociology at the Department of Sociology, Warsaw University.

1989: a pseudo-event or a fleeting moment of social transformation? And what happened to participation? Using narrations appearing in Polish literature, I will try to see if it really makes any sense to criticise Slavoj Zizek's argument about the false nature of the 1989 revolution and the instrumental use of the workers' commitment.

13.30 - 15.00 Lunch break

15.00 - 15.45
Roee Rosen – Georges and Jacob, Justine and Joanna


Roee Rosen is an artist and author. He teaches art at the Midrasha School of Art at Beit Berl College and at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. Justine Frank (1900-1943) is a Belgian Jewish artist and an author of pornography. Her first European retrospective will open in January 2009 in Extra City in Antwerp, the city of her birth.

In this presentation, Roee Rosen will offer a first rough sketch of an essay on a fake artist by a fake scholar: Joanna Fuhrer Ha-Sfari, who examines certain motifs in the art and pornographic writings of Justine Frank, such as incest and the dictionary, through comparative reflections on the Polish-Jewish Messiah, Jacob Frank, and the French thinker, Georges Bataille.


15.45 - 17.00

Adam Lipszyc - Into Edom’s field, to Poland: Jacob Frank as Educator


Adam Lipszyc works at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. His main interests include the philosophical consequences of psychoanalysis, 20th century Jewish philosophy and the thought of Walter Benjamin.

Jacob Frank, the eighteenth-century charlatan and would-be Messiah, bequeathed us a fascinating volume of notes entitled The Book of the Words of the Lord. The document opens before its reader a world in which scandalous megalomania is intertwined with Frank’s religious genius. Out of the narrative, which combines motives of an esoteric treatise and a picaresque story, there emerges an antinomian doctrine of the Simpleton-Messiah who breaks the laws of this world, as well as a vision of Poland as a realm which is to play the crucial role in the economy of redemption. However, it is also worth looking at the book as a document which throws light on the starting point of Jewish modernity and presents the exodus out of the traditional space “into Edom’s field, to Poland”, the exodus which does not annihilate Jewish identity but transforms it into a highly paradoxical figure, as it doubles the condition of exile and superimposes the images of the House of Bondage and of the Promised Land.

17.00 - 18.00
Panel discussion
Proof-read by Tadeusz Z. Wolański
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