The Collector’s Massif: from the collections of Robert Kusmirowski and the Sosenko family, has been curated by Maria Anna Potocka for Bunkier Sztuki, a municipal gallery of contemporary art in Kraków. It is a story about collecting as a phenomenon regarded within sociological and psychological frames, posing poses the question of differences between gathering objects, and collecting them. The artist attempts to draw the line between a passionate, pleasantly neurotic hobby and an obsession that can be regarded as a form of addiction.
The show begins with a selection of old postcards, hung in cabinets in precise order. They could have been masterpieces by Kusmirowski, who is well known for imitating different objects and re-enacting various situations, but in fact are borrowed from the famous Polish collector, the Sosenko family, who own the biggest and most impressive set of Polish postcards and toys numbering around 650,000 pieces.
On the ground floor of the gallery, the artist has incorporated about 7,000 postcards and toys form this huge collection, subverting the meaning of the pieces by depriving them of their uniqueness. Although each element is one of a kind and has its own appealing history and large financial value, Kusmirowski uses them to from a complicated, but still carefully arranged, quasi-theatrical scenography. He creates a massive, coherent and overwhelming structure built from inaccessible objects of desire.
A staircase, lit with colourful, mosaic-like, bright candy wrappings stuck to the walls, draws visitors up to the first floor. As they climb, the colours fade, becoming dark tones by the top. One enters a dusty gallery resembling an attic, perhaps like a mirror of hell, a hell of objects. This is the result of the carefully planned dramaturgy of the show, in which objects move from ordered display to slowly increasing chaos, from light to twilight.
In the middle of the first-floor, there’s a path, a kind of passage for viewers, that is isolated on both sides by fenced-off spaces, the functions of which are only superficially clear. In them are Kusmirowski’s picks, vast numbers of garbage-like items such as bottles, crosses, altars, books and old papers, medical tools, chairs, lamps etc. Kusmirowski’s objects are partly gathered, partly prepared by himself as perfect replicas of real objects. Some of them come from the artist’s previous projects, like a bicycle used in his Paris-Leipzig project for the Cultural Territories #4 exhibition at Galerie fur Zeitgenoessische Kunst. Skulls, books, bookstands and some medical tools have been taken from The Ornaments of Anatomy exhibition at Kunstvereine in Hamburg. Crosses and other commentary details are selected from D.O.M. installation at Johnenn Gallerie, and later at Foksal Gallery Foundation.
Kusmirowski creates a kind of historical utopia. He evokes the ambience of a place, object, situation or create a dimmed memory of what might have happened. He also provokes thought on the aims of collecting, to distinguish strict boundaries. The exhibition tells us about what might happen to a large collection in 20 years. Kusmirowski generates a virus that affects something real, creating non-existing situations from the future, when a collection may overwhelm a collector.
Małgorzata Mleczko is a writer and curator based in Krakow