Taking its title from his 2018 video, Hanoi Hello! is a solo exhibition by the Polish-born, New York-based artist, Wojciech Gilewicz, presented in multiple sites in Białystok, Poland. The expansive, multilayered film narrative on life’s precarity and its margins, labor and work of an artist juxtaposes images of exotic settings and globalized gentrification processes to address issues of (cultural) otherness, in-betweenness and non-belonging. Over a dozen video works make up the comprehensive presentation, encompassing ten years' worth of personal search, research, and filming in Asia: China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Vietnam.
Gilewicz's films of performative and painting interventions in urban space and, less often, in nature, Magda Kardasz argues, are not so much documentations of artistic actions as autonomous impressions, paradoxically, of a very well-thought-out structure and composition. Gilewicz films them himself using a tripod-mounted camera: a part of his performances which is a near-guerrilla-like action, sucking in the many unpredictable events street life offers. So obtained footage is then edited.
The films “reality-trap” viewers’ perception, testing their ongoing interpretation of subsequent scenes, where elements of artistic intervention merge with harsh realities of the landscape, the artist’s actions with people’s day-to-dayness. Gilewicz’s work investigates labor, in particular, the grounding ingredient of human existence, as well as life of social outcasts and their survival techniques. The focus on social issues has been a recurrent theme of his entire oeuvre.
The local context of the city of Białystok in the North-Eastern region of Podlasie, still probably the most ethnically and culturally diverse in Poland, is even more remarkable with respect to this show, presenting only seemingly exotic, Asian realities in a region with a strong visual culture of its own, quite traditional views and social relations, as well as, paradoxically for such a multicultural and multiethnic area, strong nationalistic and conservative tendencies approaching fear of (the) Other/ness.
The exhibition (curated, produced and mediated by Aleksandra Kluczyk, Sylwia Narewska and Ewa Tatar), is presented as part of The Rise of Eastern Culture Festival in seven non-art spots in the city by the Arsenal Gallery, institution which for over 20 years has served as a platform for regional and international curatorial and artistic research on the concept of the border and understanding of social change.
The exhibition will be later presented in two other venues‒in Poland: The Labirynt Gallery, Lublin (October 11– November 10, 2019)‒and in Taiwan: The Pier-2 Art Center, Kaohsiung (December 28, 2019–January 12, 2020).
The exhibition catalogue, Visitor, after another video the artist produced in 2010, (edited by Bartek Remisko ) will feature texts by: Biljana Ciric (independent curator based in Shanghai), Magda Kardasz (Curator, Zachęta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw), Charles Schultz (Managing Editor, The Brooklyn Rail, New York), Jeanne Truong (independent curator and writer based in Paris), Kenichi Kondo (Associate Curator, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo), Waldemar Tatarczuk (Director and Curator, The Labirynt Gallery, Lublin), and Hitomi Iwasaki (Director of Exhibitions and Curator, Queens Museum, New York).
Wojciech Gilewicz (b. 1974) lives and works between New York and Warsaw. His media are painting, video, photography and installation, his practice extends to site-specific projects and performative actions. In his video art, each recorded frame becomes a species of a painting, fluidly registering adjoining social relations and activities taking place “outside” of artist’s actions. Gilewicz’s practice probes boundaries of art, space and social relations, reflecting on mechanisms and cultural determinants governing perception of our surrounding reality. In 2017, the Bunkier Sztuki GCA in Krakow published STUDIO‒a comprehensive monograph of his work. That year, the artist established his free-of-charge Beach64retreat in Rockaway, Queens, NY, a personal response to rising precarity in the cultural sector currently. This grass-root micro-level initiative destined for creative individuals is in its third season now.