It is difficult to talk about Pawel Althamer’s project for Modern Art Oxford, presented at the gallery from December, as an exhibition. The very nature of his practice goes beyond contained forms of art-making as we know them, and challenges the institutional frameworks in which they are traditionally presented. At Oxford, he provides a portal into his new work Common Task, transforming the gallery into a teleportation station.
Consistent with his interest in, and creation of, ‘directed reality’ (his real-time films in Llubljana, Warsaw and London are some examples), Althamer talks of Common Task as a kind of science fiction film in real time involving neighbours from the Warsaw housing estate of Brodnó where he lives. Dressed in gold space suits, appropriate to the space and time travellers they portray, the group have journeyed to Brasilia and, in a spectacular golden plane, to Brussels where Althamer directed them in activities that involved people locally. The next journey is to Mali in Africa to spend time with the Dogon people. Althamer spent time with the Dogon as part of a Polish anthropological field trip in 1991 on leaving the Academy of Fine Art in Warsaw. It is this journey that will provide the focus of material presented in Oxford’s spaceship, as a time capsule being continually updated.
Common Task reflects a coming together of Althamer’s ongoing preoccupations with parallel realities and the idea of the ‘Open Work’, in which an artistic proposition is translated and transformed by external agents. It also reveals several strands of continuity and coherence in his ongoing engagement with his local community, in which he created the emblematic ‘Brodnó 2000’ as well as his own artistic journey back in time. Its manifestation in Oxford radically dissolves the institutional context and the day to day functioning of the space, replacing it with a dispersed field of possibility and transformation.”
Common Task: Modern Art Oxford, 12 December 2009-7 March 2010