Usługa języka migowego

Alicja Bielawska
May 17th – July 13 2024
curator: Maria Rubersz

• opening: May 17th (Friday) at 6:00 PM

• PERSONA women’s art. Festiwal 2024: May 18th (Saturday) at 4:30 PM – guided tour by Alicja Bielawska (translation into PJM)

• during the Night of Museums 2024, May 18th (Saturday), the gallery open 4:00 – 23:00 PM


The body uses the senses to delve into the spaces and phenomena that surround it. It has its memory, allowing it to operate independent of the mind and discourse. It reacts to its surroundings, e.g. to a wall drawing, which holds performative potential. A drawing can take the hand’s kinesis and pass it on. The sight that looks without being set and focused on any one object, sight looking through silk, at semi-transparent fabrics with colors derived from natural dyes, sees differently. In his essay “The Eyes of the Skin,” whose title Alicja Bielawska has borrowed for her Foksal Gallery exhibition, Juhani Pallasmaa wrote: “Focused vision confronts us with the world, whereas peripheral vision envelops us in ‘the flesh of the world’.”** Bringing her works into the space of the gallery, the artist alters the perfect white cube, known from thousands of photographs documenting hundreds of exhibitions since 1966 at Foksal Gallery, to encourage pleasure and comfort in the body. The central object of the exhibition is a soft, household seat, upholstered with jacquard fabric stitched according the artist’s design. The seat is the furthest thing from the minimalist, angular stools associated with Foksal Gallery, which once served as pedestals for displaying archival materials, still serving in the gallery as guardians of the past.

Working with the space, Alicja Bielawska also works with memory. The first thirty years of the gallery’s operations were decidedly phallocentric. It was almost exclusively men who exhibited here, and most of the few women artists who appeared were tied to men who were important to the Foksal Gallery scene. An anecdote confirmed in the archive says that Annette Messager only exhibited at Foksal Gallery in 1978 because her partner, Christian Boltanski, made the presentation of his partner’s work a condition for his exhibition. Though few women have exhibited at Foksal Gallery, they have played a fundamental role. It suffices to look at the photographs of the openings or the gallery’s everyday workings. Although women worked with the artists organizing the exhibitions, their names do not appear in the archive, nor in traces or anecdotes. Women’s work for the gallery might be called a “labour of love,” as Wiktoria Szczupacka analyzes in her essay, “Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s.”**

Alicja Bielawska’s view of history is a peripheral view. The artist saw people, motifs, stories, traces, and invisible work, without which the gallery could not have operated. Artists, curators, and viewers, male and female, have spent time here, talked, created, forged and maintained contacts, experienced and created places. The focused gaze does not perceive this, for the focused gaze it is merely a vague and uninteresting backdrop. Warping the sharp edges and blurring the white cube, the artist has created a place to be together, to feel pleasure and safety.

* Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2024), 6.
** Wiktoria Szczupacka, “Foksal Gallery, Women and Labour of Love in the 1960s and 1970s” in Revisiting Heritage, ed. Marika Kuźmicz (Warsaw: Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, 2019), 92–99…/arton_book_revisiting_heritage_-_pd.

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