Obieg 5 - tentative title - The Aesthetics of Contingency / The Aesthetics of Risk
Commenting on the myth of the Eiffel Tower, Roland Barthes wrote, ‘Architecture is always dream and function, the expression of a utopia and instrument of a convenience’.1 The experience of Warsaw, as well as a number of other cities razed to the ground during World War II, has paved the way for a new understanding of contemporary architecture. For what is an architectural reconstruction that represents the very building that used to be there? Is today’s Warsaw, which has been 1:1 reconstructed urbanistically, the same city that it once was, or is it rather a sophisticated illusion? Are the ‘ghost’ buildings that pose as their former selves sufficiently quake-resistant? The Ujazdowski Castle symbolises Warsaw. What binds the building to the capital city is not just its ‘ghost’ reconstruction’, as one of many based on Bernardo Bellotto’s panoramas of the Warsaw of old and on incomplete photographic documentation. The Castle, the reconstruction of which was considerably delayed, is a special case of the anarchitecture of the capital.
The theme of the current issue is the ‘ghosts’ and ‘quakes’ of the architecture of the Ujazdowski Castle – the seat of the first Centre of Contemporary Art in Poland, viewed from the vantage point of the ‘aesthetics of contingency’, experimental architecture and social engagement. Some of the texts will be an attempt to confront the architecture of the Ujazdowski Castle CCA with its own ‘ghost-like’ aspect and with comparable artistic institutions in Central-Eastern Europe – located in unusual architecture whose function has changed. In the second, expanded, part of the issue, the architecture of the Castle and the output of contemporary art’s ‘production line’ will be juxtaposed with issues of the ‘aesthetics of contingence’, that link these themes to the current crisis, as well as to global insecurity, the precariat and ‘quakes’ – in a loose reference to the exhibition Dizziness, and more generally to the prevailing conditions and uneven distribution of comissions/visibility/and money in the field of contemporary art.
The above combination should prove interesting to the local art community; it will also provide an opportunity to introduce into the Polish discourse the most currently topical threads from the ‘aesthetics of contingency’, attention economics, forensics and global risk, whether in direct or indirect relation to the architecture of the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art. Readers of the English edition will find a compilation of texts by leading commentators on the visual arts, as well as an updated portrait of the UC CCA – created through a nuanced approach to working on the institution’s own resources – an institution that enjoys a uniquely avant-garde setting in Central Europe.
Translated by Anda MacBride
1 Roland Barthes, The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies, University of California Press 1997.