Usługa języka migowego

Markus Ohrn, Bye Bye Poland

December 15, 2023

Opening: December 15, at 18:00 – 22:00

On view from 15 December 2023 through 20 January 2024

curator: Martyna Stołpiec

We are all entangled in the mechanisms of patriarchy. Art cannot overcome them. So is there still hope for equality between people?

If we agree to look at our own position in the world, with all its privileges and limitations, maybe we will understand what patriarchy, which harms everyone, really is. When we imagine a common fight against patriarchy, we dream of agreement, but we do not believe that it can actually happen. So if we are left to live out our days in this hopeless situation, will the possibility of seeing our own death be liberating? We will all die not knowing how we will be remembered. Nevertheless, we visualize scenarios of our own departure and time after: the longing of family and friends and the final moral judgements of ourselves and our deeds.

The installation-and-performance Bye Bye Poland is a continuation of Markus Öhrn’s collaboration with Karol Radziszewski’s Fag Fighters. It also marks the definitive end of Öhrn’s artistic practice in Poland. The video shown at the exhibition will present the artist’s humiliation due to his nationality, gender, age, and unclear sexual identity. Then, in a staged act of violence, he is raped and killed and his body cut into pieces by a gay gang. This takes place in a room at the Reytan hotel in Warsaw.

Exhibition for adults only

Markus Öhrn (b. 1972) is a Swedish visual artist and theatre director, currently living and working in Stocksbo, Sweden. He completed his Master of Fine Arts at Konstfack in Stockholm in 2008. He works primarily in the fields of performance, video, and sound installation. He is also a valued mentor for younger artists and has lectured at various universities in Europe. In 2018, he was a guest professor at the Faculty of Applied Theatre Studies in Giessen. The works of Markus Öhrn, including his trilogy consisting of the performances Contes d’amour (2010), We Love Africa and Africa Loves Us (2012), and Bis zum Tod (2014), have been presented both in Sweden and as well as internationally, at prestigious festivals such as Theatertreffen, Wiener Festwochen, Festival d’Avignon, Volksbühne-am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Museum of Modern Art, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, and at Dramaten in Stockholm, where in 2022 year he staged a 12-episode performance called The Unknown. For his show 3 episodes of life, which premiered at the Wiener Festwochen festival in 2019, Markus was awarded the Nestroy Theatre Prize. In addition, his plays, such as Sonata of Ghosts (2017) and 3 episodes of family life, were staged at the Nowy Theatre in Warsaw in 2021. Markus Öhrn’s work has aroused controversy and heated debates about the limits and possibilities of contemporary theatre.

Fag Fighters (2007-ongoing)

Fag Fighters are a fictional urban guerrilla unit, a gay-gang operating at the margins of mainstream society, marking their territory with graffiti signatures and committing acts of violence, including sexual violence. The Fag Fighters’ identification mark are their pink balaclavas. From the video Fag Fighters: Prologue we learn that the balaclavas have been made by Karol Radziszewski’s grandmother. Poland’s right wing perceives the gay community as a deadly threat for social order. Radziszewski intercepts and amplifies the stereotype-based conservative discourse and transforms it into an asocial, anarchic, subversive fantasy. He also fabricates evidence of the unit’s activity—graffiti, footprints, amateur pictures taken by the gang members. The border between drama and simulation is blurred; fiction appears disturbingly realistic.

The video Fag Fighters: Prologue can be seen as a bridge spanning the two realities that Radziszewski introduces into the field of his art: the family and the gay subculture. Both of these social spaces belong to the realm of the artist’s private life and yet they seem to be worlds apart; they are two opposite poles of Radziszewski’s identity. And yet the extremities unexpectedly meet in Fag Fighters: Prologue. The video shows the artist’s grandmother making pink balaclavas on an old-fashioned sewing machine. The caps will become an attribute of the Fag Fighters—a squad of gay anarchists invented by Radziszewski.

(from the curatorial text by Stach Szablowski / “I Always Wanted” exhibition catalogue published by CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, 2007)