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Andrzej Wirth Print E-mail

Parachuting Sending Tremors, 2002

In the scarcely populated areas of occupied Poland during World War Two it was a not unfamiliar picture: the shredded remains of a parachute hanging in the morning from a tree. Those who entered the country by night in such an unconventional way were gone; the only trace left was this white nylon cloth. It didn’t stay long where it had landed. A week later it had been transformed into nylon blouses by the villagers, tight fitting on young girls’ breasts. The cloth offered a delightful half-transparency. The price was the scent of prespiration, as the material didn’t breathe.

The mysterious nightly visitors were partisans, joining underground combatants in the forests. If one is looking for a single indigenous inspiring imago informing Kuryluk’s art, this is the one. Kuryluk’s is a partisan art of traces left in uninhabited landscapes or deserted interiors by conspiratorial strangers, ghosts descending from skies, propelled by winds, crashing randomly in the most unexpected places and disappearing underground. The shredded cloth of parachutes becomes a shroud, a signature of absence, material twisted by the impact of an unspecified disaster.

Kuryluk’s seminal imago may be inspired by war narratives of her parents’ generation. Her ghosts come, however, from the future: from the fear of aging, the alienation of the sexes, and the fascination with death as natural disaster. Death is seen as a condition of the body leaving the soul, with some enigmatic fragmentary imprints left on a hospital or mortuary shroud: eyes, hands and sex, the last identity marks of a body on the way to becoming a corpse.

SPIRITUS FLAT UBI VULT. Freed from corporality, Kuryluk’s partisan ghosts descend on earth in the most unexpected places, challenging the neutrality of the landscape. They are mines, planted by the artist conspicuously, surreptiously, and displaced in a pre-explosive or post-explosive state. They are reflective landmarks, forcing passersby to stop or to flee in panic.

Kuryluk’s partisan art subverts established genres in painting, graphics, sculpture, installation, and performance. Seen as painting and drawing, it goes without frame and without flat surface; seen as sculpture, it goes without solid material and permanent shape; seen as walk-in-installation, it lacks any directionality; seen as a performance, it arrests the distracted gaze of passersby and transforms them into performers. Images of Kuryluk’s art are parachuted from a firmament of poetry, crashing on earth and dissolving underground. They leave the ground trembling slightly. The focal point of Kuryluk’s art is a crash site.

Andrzej Wirth, a critic and theater scholar, left Poland in 1966. He was Professor at Stanford University and the City University of New York, and the founder of the Institute for Applied Theater Science at Giessen University. He lives in Berlin and Venice. The Jagiellonian University in Cracow published a selection of his essays in Polish translation.

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