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Baltic Gallery of Contemporary Art

International Performance Art Festival - CASTLE OF IMAGINATION -

Performance: the 1990's. - Wladyslaw Kazmierczak
The deaths of art and avant-garde. - Wladyslaw Kazmierczak
Performance "Dada, da, da, da..." - Lukasz Guzek

Performance: the 1990's.

A critique of the new.

For several years now the classics of performance art have been trying to discredit performance of the nineties by mentioning the patterns, facts, and artistic turmoil of the seventies. The list of their objections included eclecticism, the use of quotations, numerous references to old issues, rendering performance theatrical, superficiality, and organising performance art festivals (sic!). Although I do understand that the former avant-gardists and performance pioneers may be bored with contemporary performance, I cannot resist the remark that the fight for 'purity' of the genre, quite paradoxically, allows for an introduction of some rather undefined rules. Here, we face a contradiction whose absurdity is especially palpable in performance art. I believe that it is more gratifying to examine performance's essence and present condition. Ignoring these questions will merely leave us relishing the past, and no matter how good it was, it is still only the past.
Contemporary performance puts an emphasis on entirely different issues. The artistic fever in performance art is no longer as important as it used to be. The existence of the genre has become the main question. We must also acknowledge the fact that, at the end of the century, performance more and more often risks going in 'wrong' directions. The past 'faithfulness' of performers to the various forms of exploring one's psyche and body is consciously rejected. The performers of the nineties apply completely different strategies and it is no point arguing that these are worse. They are dissimilar. Regardless of being performance critics' favourite activity, assessing and building value hierarchies is of no use. Performance has neither fossilised nor lost it authenticity. Naturally, one does occasionally come across a banal tomfoolery, but such pitfalls have always existed. Yet, clearly there are fewer and fewer performances 'for other artists', in other words, performances alluding to the classics of the genre. Of course, I am not surprised that the performers who were active in the seventies reject the productions that do not recognise the heroic roots.
Criticising contemporary performance we lack answers to the question why artists still keep to this form of expression. Who is the contemporary performer? What resistance does he have to overcome in order to exist and create? What are the new contexts accompanying performance art of the nineties? And the last question is why not organise performance art festivals.
A one-sided argument brings destruction into the genre. I do strongly believe that having received due criticism, performance will emerge stronger.

The seventies.

In order to examine performance thoroughly, we need to plunge into its history and recapitulate performance was about.
The idea of performance art emerged in the United States in 1971 and in Europe two years later. In Poland it happened during the 'I AM' festival in 1978. Although some artists had previously adopted forms similar the that of performance, conscious identification with this genre came only later. By saying this I do not intend to blame today's critics of performance; it is a simple statement of the fact. It was significant for defining space, the use of forms, and the emergence of performers' attitude. We should remember that these were times when censorship was an important factor and Polish artists intentionally avoided controversial issues. Our performers of the late seventies were deprived of artistic excitements available to the real pioneers of the genre. Trails had already been blazed.
In the early seventies performance was a response to formalised modernistic and conceptual art and its indifference to social and political issues. Performance boycotted the existing artistic world. Galleries, museums, artists, critics, dealers and politicians. Performance emerged with a meaning, not a form. It constituted a strong reaction to the hypocritical promises of a 'better world'. Performers did not enter arguments or issue a manifesto. The notion of performance has never been precisely defined and, therefore, no rules or restrictions have been stated. No form of expression was excluded. No catalogue of values, problems and ideas was not compiled, which allowed for full openness.
People who remember the artistic climate of those times agree that the radicalism of avant-garde artists reached a grotesque dimension, leaving no space for creation. Performance offered an exactly opposite solution. It created an area of unrestricted freedom. It had a creative, anti-market, and anti-object orientation. And that was striking.
At that time performance art fascinated because it evaded 'scientistic theorising'. Its allure consisted in the fact that it did not want to engage in any arguments with other arts. It rejected competition in art as well as a possibility of creating a hierarchy of values. It did not conform to any neatly phrased programmes and theories. Performance was addressed solely to the audience present, thus eliminating all go-betweens, among which were, first of all, critics. It was the artist who presented art. He was not just represented by his work.
Performance carried out a revolution that was originally disregarded. It challenged art's cultural foundations. For the first time was the artist placed before art. It was the human being with his/her sensitive mind that became central, not art's rules or conventions. Performance's pioneers were guided by the conviction that the awareness of one's self and the world precedes the acquired awareness of art. An artificial wall within art was pulled down. Since that time the artist has never been compelled to eliminate traces of his life from art.
Yet, performance could not sidestep its times. The avant-garde mentality of artists survived. And, in a sense, performance came to be recognised as another progressive trend within art, with the whole body of behaviour patterns it carried and a sense of avant-gardist mission with its roots going back to body art and conceptualism. This, however, was no disaster. After ten years performance left the stage quite unexpectedly as its exciting aura had been exhausted.

The eighties and the nineties.

Performance art made a silent come-back in the eighties. New performers, who did not belong to the 'second avant-garde', are not inclined to put it on local and international ranking lists. They are more open. Aware of the roots and original performance rules, these artists do not perceive them as doctrines. And that is why they are much closer to the idea of performance. Unlike the performers of the seventies, who are treated with veneration, new performers are not welcome to galleries. They are still kept at a distance.
In my opinion such a situation does not create conflicts, but on the contrary, it is beneficial for performance art in Poland and elsewhere.
Still, there are some interesting questions about the eighties and nineties. What were the reasons for performance's co-existence with postmodernism in a new and awkward configuration? Here, I think, the reason is similar to that of the seventies. A focus on an individual, affirmation of individualism, rejection of art rules and conventions. Obviously, performance no longer bears a revolutionary imprint. And this is the main difference. Performance art has filled a gap that appeared after avant-gardes. Although it is not an avant-garde movement itself, performance shows many avant-garde characteristics. It remains provocative and irritating. It is familiar with social, political, existential and ethical issues. Performance art is engaged in a valid discourse about values both spiritual and real (the ones that surround us). The dispute has no programme. Performance art has accepted challenges that postmodernism fails to accept. No wonder performance art, due to its creative ability to involve viewers in shocking and formerly unimaginable situations, is made to play a secondary role. Or just subtly eliminated. Hence the numerous new tasks for performers.


No comment on art can pass over the fundamental question about the values contemporary societies cherish. We can venture to say that the world strives for a great stabilisation, for opulence and voluminous consumption at the cost of keeping silent about the divisions, convulsions, misery and calamities of this world.
That is why the contemporary artist has rejected the convention of 'the struggling artist', a provocateur asking drastic questions of the audience. Performance art assumes the role of a lonely rebel, yet its rebellion does not attempt to become more attractive by simplifications. It is always addressed to a small number of people. This, however, does not make it less irritating. One cannot fail to notice that performance is generally considered to be controversial and little known. It has been labelled 'unwanted art'. It does not arouse any special interest; in many countries it does not exist, and where it does exist, we can witness an act of civilising 'bad' art. The boycott of performance art on the part of institutions, critics and the mass media is a peculiar revenge for its radicalism. Journalists and officials eagerly search for the sensational and the scandalous rather than the ideological. Reviews which establish a dialogue with the artist are rare. In the information-oriented civilisation, performance art has no allies. Contemporary world is reluctant to finance art and therefore too expressive a performance can become the reason for closing down a gallery or cancelling a festival. I myself have witnessed many police interventions when police for minor reasons. There are also open, brutal attacks on performance art in the press. As a result of this only few galleries and museums in the world take the risk of presenting performance. Museums sabotage performance by refusing to do research or file records.

Other dangers.

There are some other dangers too. On the one hand the word 'performance' is commonly abused in show business and minor little theatres. And on the other hand, new notions such as 'live art' and 'time based art' have appeared: they are to neutralise the idea of performance. New notions and terms appear; they are used by those artists who intend to abandon the fetish word 'performance'.
To my surprise I have found out that educating performance artists in art schools is one such 'silent' method. Paradoxically enough, it pushes the process of 'improving' art' further. The programmes of art schools change performance art into 'beautiful, stylish, and intelligently overspoken productions'. The academic, formalised, studied performance resembles a minor theatre and has nothing in common with the performance of the early seventies or the mainstream nineties' performance. Yet, it does fulfil one of the basic postulates from contemporary societies as it is predictable and aesthetic. It poses no threats. That is why educating performers is a tragic mistake. The artists whose main sphere of activity are workshops also try their hands at performance and this is another big mistake. To be a performer is an attitude towards the world and oneself, not towards art.

Performance's openness as a pitfall.

Performance's openness has been its greatest strength. Yet, it became a pitfall too. It brings a lack of limitations and therefore the viewer can be surprised by a sophisticated meaning. A sublime, high consciousness of perception is required from the viewer. Performance is strongly connected with the existence of the form, vivid emotional tensions, and thanks to this it is never semantically empty. A transformation of the matter, signs, objects, mutual relations between the action and the performer takes place. The existing situation changes into an entirely different one. This brings a great discomfort of perception and of notion systematisation. Performance irritates with the accumulation of complex meanings which are not easy to interpret. Interpretation may be difficult even for those who have the necessary education. The objection that too much is demanded from the viewer is a justified one. Clearly, performance is addressed to the thinking viewer. It exposes the shallowness of the general tendency to bother us with the commonplace and the easy like, for example, television, pop, cartoons, and disco music. In our culture innovative means of expression as well as artistic stances that exceed the conventions have no meaning and are considered worthless. Performance's struggle is a silent, heroic fight for the freedom of expressing momentous and significant ideas.

Performance's anti-media character.

One of the 'weaknesses' of performance art is the fact that it is impossible to collect its documentary records. Performance art is not fit for a conventional record or description. It has an anti-media character. Direct recording, for example with a video camera, is just collecting information. And even as such it is simply poor. Taking photographs changes the meaning of an action. An aesthetic image becomes important and such an image creates a different reality. An interesting transformation, or a distortion of reality, takes place: the recorded picture of the performance is a major obstruction in relaying an emotional and intellectual message. Therefore, any action can be very easily trivialised, but, on the other hand, there is a danger of leaving no documentation, no trace for the future. Artists themselves try to solve this problem using different methods, yet none of these is good enough to serve the purpose.
The society accepts only the image of contemporary art presented by the mass media. Performance's inherent feature is direct contact with another human being. In the age of electronic communication performance is made to play a secondary role. And that is why it does matter and make sense.

Who is a performer?

A performer is an artist, but of a different kind. A performer's vision of his/her own place in culture is different. His/her reactions to the world are subjective and such is the character of the acts. A performer does not accept the role that is ascribed to artists by the society and culture. The profession does not matter. He/she has no need of professionalism and education, the two features highly estimated in consumer world. Performer's spiritual and social usefulness are more important. It is hard to define a performer. A performer is a philosopher, teacher, rebel, initiator, organiser, nomad, traveller, partner, and a bearer of moral values.

A struggle for space.

Space, those places where the artist can establish a communication with the audience, is performance's most important problem. There are few such places in Poland and all over the world. Each artist seeks new places and, out of necessity, becomes a travelling nomad.
There are places in the world where performance art festivals are organised at least once a year. These are the United States, Mexico, Korea, Poland, Japan, Slovakia, and Romania. The countries hosting irregular performers' meeting are Germany, Portugal, Canada, France, Lithuania, Ireland, and Great Britain. A these many or few? They are very few! And these festivals are organised by just one or a couple of artists.
It is not true that festivals are organised because somebody likes performance art. It is the artists that create places where themselves and others can present their art. It is done at high costs, with much effort and only after overcoming a powerful organisational and social resistance. The reason for organising a festival is not that the organisers hope to be invited abroad as a consequence. Facts show it is no conspiracy. Performance exists only in those places where artists themselves can organise its bigger presentations. There are only few curators who are not artists themselves and estimate performance art highly enough to organise festivals or other shows (such people also have to show enough determination).
Contrary to the former phases of performance, in the eighties and nineties the places where performance is presented are more and more exotic. At a river bank, in an old fortress, in a church, in provincial museums, in huge factory workshops, in TV studios, shopping centres, theatres, parking lots, lawns, at a lake, in former military bases or railway warehouses, cinemas, stadiums, somewhere in the country, on a beach, in a street, or on volcano slopes. Seemingly it facilitates contacts with non-artistic audience. Yet, a single gesture or an act belonging to the taboo sphere is enough to destroy an idealistic vision of the audience. To have chance viewers is a rule which turns out to be less attractive than it sounds. Attractiveness is not concerned in this matter. An artist who decides to present his art in a public place expects protection from the organisers. This, in turn, undermines the very essence of performance. Protected art will never taste of real provocation.

Centres. Galleries.

We can clearly notice that performance actions have been of interest to gallery-goers and festival guests in the nineties. Performance art has not moved to places where the so-called 'ordinary people' go, although such tendencies also occasionally appear. Performers still hold on to galleries and great art centres hoping to be able to establish a good contact with the recipient. The fear of unknown places makes them adhere to art institutions, which offers a 'safer' contact with the audience. Probably, there is no better solution. Performance exists among organised audiences of festivals and galleries. Other forms are deficient. A performer's individual presentation in a gallery will never attract crowds. In galleries performance becomes a mere product like any other art. The artist becomes a product too. The stronger he emphasises his independence from galleries and the world, the better he is. There is no reason to blame performers for it. All the same, performers dislike galleries. They most often appear in places that have been called galleries for various reasons.

Why festivals?

Because it is about the viewer's and performer's time. Festival audiences are diverse. It is the new spatial, social, and cultural context that matters. Artists want to see the art of fellow artists. They want to be together for a few days.
The character of performance art with its postulate of direct viewer participation involves the audience more than any other kind of art. In our everyday bustle and with the common routine of planning everyday activities, it is hard to find people who will volunteer to devote time to others. We can lament and criticise this situation, but it is a fact of life that performance audiences consist of people overwhelmed with a mania of seeking originality and... having lots of free time. It is, therefore, a small circle of 'others' such as artists, critics, students, journalists and officials. Few can fulfil the postulate of personal participation (direct presence) and even they may sometimes happen to lack time. A grotesque incident took place at one of the most interesting festivals: 24 outstanding performers, both Polish and foreign, kept waiting for an audience that never turned up.
The organisers' and performers' problem is to have a good viewer who can become the artist's partner. The viewers' problem is that the world has a limited number of good performers to offer. Time and again it is said that there are just two real performers. Fortunately, each time two different names are mentioned. As we glance at lists of festival participants we can come to an unexpected conclusion that the same names appear on the lists. There is a list of 'the best names of performers', which exists for a simple and prosaic reason money. The budgets of all festivals are unimaginably small and, consequently, creating a participant list organisers have to think how to make it 'economical and attractive'. Hence their carefulness in making the list. The Cleveland festival is an exception: a contest for projects precedes each edition of the festival.
Making lists of the so-called good artists is a pitfall. There is always a problem of stardom: competitiveness, career, obsessive ambitions and fighting other artists with astonishing ease. It is no tragedy as performance has its inner immunity. In performance there is no room for stardom. The mere fact of appearing in various places in the world brings neither fame nor money. Fortunately, performance is of non-commercial nature.


Several questions appear. Why does performance arouse disapproval in the mid-nineties, when we have been through several revolutions both in life and art, after the great counter-culture and hippie movements? As, generally speaking, performance art can be considered a logical consequence of the former modernistic tendencies propagating the idea of bringing art closer to everyday life. As performance brings up questions that are familiar to all those sensitive.
The opponents are entitled to ask what the whole thing is about: performance eliminated and did not strive for post-interference in the created works. It rejected all rules. It does not wish to be art in the traditional sense. It considers the direct contact with the audience to be the most important. It rejected critics. It was indifferent to any form of advertising. More questions can emerge. From each side.

Wladyslaw Kazmierczak
Translated by Katarzyna Buczak

The deaths of art and avant-garde.

The deaths of art and avant-garde (the second one, on the turn of sixties and seventies) were the no. 1 topic in the mid-seventies. From then on, no artistic group in the whole world has been able to claim a manifesto of new avant-garde. People who remember the artistic climate of those times agree that the radicalism of avant-garde artists reached a grotesque dimension, leaving no space for creation. Performance art offered an exactly opposite solution. It had a creative, anti-market, and anti-object orientation. It became an area of unrestricted freedom. In the early seventies performance was a response to formalised modernistic and conceptual art and its indifference to social and political issues. Performance boycotted the existing artistic world: galleries, museums, artists, critics, dealers and politicians. Performance emerged with a meaning, not a form. It constituted a strong reaction to the hypocritical promises of a 'better world' or 'better art'. Performers did not enter arguments or issue a manifesto. The notion of performance has never been precisely defined and, therefore, no rules or restrictions have been stated. No form of expression was excluded. No catalogue of values, problems, and ideas was compiled, which allowed for full openness. In a way, it was treated as the next progressive trend in art, with its roots in body art and conceptualism, focused on an individual, affirmation of individualism and rejection of art rules and conventions. Performance art has filled a gap that appeared after avant-gardes. Although it is not an avant-garde movement itself, performance art shows many avant-garde characteristics. It remains provocative and irritating due to its creative ability to involve viewers in shocking and formerly unimaginable situations. Performance art's inherent feature is direct contact with another human being. It is familiar with social, political, existential, and ethical issues. Performance art is engaged in a valid discourse about values both spiritual and real (the ones that surround us). The dispute has no programme. To be a performer is an attitude towards the world and oneself, not towards art. A performer's vision of his/her own place in culture is different. His/her reactions to the world are subjective and such is the character of the acts. A performer does not accept the role that is ascribed to artists by the society and culture. The profession does not matter. He/she has no need of professionalism and education, the two features highly estimated in consumer world. Performer's spiritual and social usefulness are more important. Performance art has accepted challenges that postmodernism fails to accept. No wonder performance art is made to play a secondary role or just subtly eliminated. In the age of electronic communication, performance is made to be outside the frame. And that is why it does matter and make sense. Internet and computers are not a direct danger to performance art. Maybe it is vice versa they are friendly tools in art and communication.
No comment on art can pass over the fundamental question about the values contemporary societies cherish. We can venture to say that the world strives for a great stabilisation, for opulence and voluminous consumption at the cost of keeping silent about the divisions, injustice, convulsions, misery and calamities of this world.
That is why the contemporary artist has rejected the convention of 'the struggling artist', a provocateur asking drastic questions of the audience. Performance art assumes the role of a lonely rebel, yet its rebellion does not attempt to become more attractive by simplifications. It is always addressed to a small number of people. This, however, does not make it less irritating. Performance art's struggle is a silent, heroic fight for the freedom of expressing momentous and significant ideas. Although it is not an avant-garde movement itself, performance shows many avant-garde characteristics. It does not conform to any neatly phrased programmes, but reminds about those, who are ready to question them.

Wladyslaw Kazmierczak

Performance "Dada, da, da, da..."

For the long years of the modernist era art was created as something new. Formal innovation activated the mechanism which created successive avant-garde movements and generated individual thinking. In that period it was a very creative factor, as it opened before art unknown areas to penetrate and initiated apostatic thinking.

This par excellence modernist idea has infiltrated thinking about art so deeply that it determines activities in the art world even now. The principle of novelty has become the primary structure of thinking in art, the formula automatically employed, irrespective of its functional applicability. It concerns both artists and critics as well as the public, that is reception of art by average art viewers used to regard art and evaluate it according to its novelty. However, the modernist principle of novelty has now a rather restrictive influence on thinking in art, makes it impossible to understand modern phenomena and cripples artists' practical activities. (For instance, the common complaint that 'everything has already happened', which questions the meaningful character of creativity.)

Naturally, novelty and innovation have always been important in creative activity, and are also important now. Yet, they are understood differently. Novelty is no longer apprehended in a hierarchical and absolutist way. The principle of novelty does no longer imply the necessity to construct a new layer on top of the old one, thus sealing and cancelling it. Innovation does not work in the ascendant direction, leading to the presupposed absolute, to the ideal.

The anti-absolutism of the idea of novelty means that creative initiatives are undetermined and multidirectional. Innovation today means responding to change rather than inventing a crucial idea, means opening up rather then restricting thinking.

Searching for novelty takes place on the horizontal plane, that is on the level of human reality, it is concerned with the human being and the World as the anthroposphere. It is the well-known area, and yet open to discovery. Thinking in this World means arranging its known elements into new wholes, marking out new routes in its area. Modernist novelty meant generally the novelty of form, while today novelty means first of all searching for meaning.

All this can be found in the general principles of post-modernist thinking, in this case practiced in art. Novelty in art appears to be a collage of the existing elements, strategies and art languages, while originality means indicating new routes, passages and connections in the well-known area. Collage-making reveals new areas of meaning, and the art issues which seeemed to have been resolved appear to be applicable today.

Wladyslaw Kazmierczak purposefully places his performance beyond the modernist principle of novelty. Its title 'Dada, da, da, da...' clearly indicates its starting point. By referring to the Dadaist-and-surrealist concept of art, it points at the same time to the roots of performance art, and as it is the most topical form of art, to the roots of contemporary art generally. An art historian could find some other connections, yet what is most important here is the author's attitude which defines the performer's thinking and points to the sources of his art. In performance art, which is so closely identified with the artist, it is more important than historical truth, relative anyway.

The sound background to the performance was provided by a tape with the recorded texts, interviews, poems and music by the Dadaists: Tzara, Janco, Huelsenbeck, Schwitters and Duchamp. The changing character of the sound track marked the rhythm of the successive parts of the performance. Its structure was based on a quotation from the Dadaist art history - on the well-known work by Duchamp showing a bicycle wheel on a stool. It was ingenuously intertwined into all activities of the performer. In order to achieve his objective, the artist used only a few props and performing devices.

The immaculately dressed artist entered the gallery, adjusted his clothes briefly in front of an old mirror on the wall, sketched the outline of a chair standing nearby on the wall and 'sat' on the reflection. In that part of the performance the artist employed body language, typical of living art. It was physical performance, designed to confront his own endurance, to test his corporality, but also to assess his mentality. The use of the chair was clearly intentional. This ordinary commonplace object amounts to an anthropological measure of reality which emphasizes its human dimension. We may not always be aware of the reason why all chairs in the world are roughly of the same size. Thus the performance started with an example of classic performance art.

Then the action moved to the next prop: a bicycle propped upside down. The artist removed the 'Duchamp' front wheel, placed it on the wall and drew a stool underneath. Thus a specific replica of Duchamp's work was produced. Here the ready-made, Duchamp's artistic principle, appears to be a potentiality not only for objects, but also for their artistic meanings. This gesture elevates Duchamp's work to the rank of a mytheme - an elementary myth-making factor. This mythologizing of the Dadaist art history intends to introduce it into contemporary reality and to make it participate in this reality in the form of symbolic meanings. The quotation from the Dada classic art, together with the classic performance art presented by the artist in the first part of the event, offer a mixture of reality and fiction, facts and appearances, existence and non-existence, the history and the present of art, all that according to the Dada-and-surrealist mood. These two worlds are connected by the person of the artist - the conditio humana manifested in each form of reality.

In the next phase the place of the removed wheel is taken by the artist himself. The object appears functional not only in the series of symbolic meanings, but also in the constructional sense, in the performance structure. This metaphoric representation intimates the change in the position of the history and the present of art: a close similarity between the remote prehistory of this art and the live performance. Such exchange is possible because of the physicality and mentality of the human being - the artist in this case - that is because of the close connection between art and life. Direct presence in art, once the shocking gesture of the Dadaists, is now practiced in performance art (or more generally, in all living art).

The artist's body is a specific ready-made in performance art. W. Kazmierczak, following the procedure in the first part of his performance, puts the chair in the place of the removed wheel and sits on it, in a very physical sense. His face is now covered with slices of raw meat secured with thread. Turning the pedals with his hands he puts the back wheel into motion and presses his cheeks to the tyre. Rubbing against the tyre, the thread makes the sound similar to the recorded Dadaist music played from the tape. The artist repeats this activity many times. Depending on pressure, the sound changes producing Dadaist music, and the wheel tears to pieces the meat covering his face. The physical character of performance art is presented here again. However, it is only presented, toned down, it takes the visual form and not the literal form typical of classic performance, which treats the performer's body in a savage way and exposes it to real torture.

The performance ends in the artist's removing remnants of meat from his face, adjusting his clothes in front of the mirror and in his final departure carrying the mirror. The mirror, and more precisely, a reflection in the mirror, is an old method to express our doubt in the real character of reality which turns out to be appearance only. Moreover, the mirror can multiply, it can turn the three-dimentional reality into infinity. Mixing up reality and non-reality is a human condition which the Dadaist-and-surrealist programme intended to implement through art. Removing the mirror means putting an end to art conceived as ambivalece of art and life, the World and the person.What remains is only life, only the artist - only performance art as equivalent to the anthropological dimension of the World.

Lukasz Guzek
translated by Jadwiga Piatkowska


It seems obvious that the properties of contemporary civilization and culture should at the same time be the properties of contemporary art. The matter is not so simple, though. In our time, there coincide features characteristic of the past or rather of many pasts, both more and less distant. Therefore, separating the old way of thinking from the new one is essential for our orientation in the world around us and the processes occurring in it; also, for our orientation in contemporary art.

One of the most perceptive analyses of the state of civilization available today is offered by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. They describe themselves as futurists. But in their understanding futurism is not fiction, as in SF. The future is now, around us, we only need to arrange, understand and interpret the developments that occur and the processes in progress. "The Third Wave" is the term coined by them to define a set of systemic (general) features of the future civilization and its present-day indications. Their conception includes also a number of intellectual tools that make it possible to surf the Third Wave.

The Third Wave is connected with sophisticated technology. Yet the inclusion in the Third Wave is not determined by new machines, epitomized by the computer, but by knowledge. Knowledge is understood here to be not only a concrete body of scientific-technological facts but also the domain beyond or between them, that is to say, theories, hypotheses, models and ideas. In this sense, mental pictures, presentiments, convictions, emotions, all that cannot be fully verified or realized, are equally valuable elements of knowledge as well. This kind of knowledge is represented by the very concept of the Third Wave, which the Tofflers themselves refer to as a "vision". Their vision is not an abstraction separated from reality, but is based on analyzing and associating data, creating new, surprising links between facts, and building a network of mutual influences and interactions. Conceived of in this way, knowledge has a lot of common with what philosophy traditionally describes as "spirit" or "spirituality". It resembles also the project of hermeneutics by H. G. Gadamer, who proposed to include similar factors in the conception of truth. The Tofflers are not concerned with metaphysics, though, but with economy, politics, society, and family. It is also clear that all aspects of culture, including art, play a fundamental role in the creation of knowledge as defined by the Tofflers.

Two basic properties of the Third Wave arise from the above assumptions and notion of knowledge. Firstly, it is inevitable: it will reach everywhere, since there is no other way for civilization to develop than by means of technology. Secondly, its most important asset is man the source of knowledge. The Tofflers call knowledge a "material". It is used to make the product of the Third Wave: information and symbols, or the forms and means of utilizing information. Ultimately, it is man, not machines that determines the shape of contemporary civilization this humanistic message follows from their vision of civilization, and it is an optimistic prognosis, especially if we look back on predictions such as Huxley's Brave New World. The Tofflers believe that "the world will not go to hell", provided that certain conditions are met. As we learned it the hard way in Poland, it is impossible to combine totalitarianism with knowledge in practice, for systemic as well as economic reasons: totalitarianism is ineffective and cannot by any means afford sophisticated technology.

The Third Wave is the post-industrial era, as contrasted with the Second Wave, or the industrial era. In the Tofflers' view, the two waves remain in conflict. Yet the result of the clash is a foregone conclusion. Modernism and the avant-garde movements identified with it were the art of the Second Wave. Industrialism had a fascination for modernism, and that quality is stated expressis verbis in its manifestoes and visual forms. The art of the Third Wave remains opposed to artistic modernism. Today, modernist thinking obstructs the changes of the Third Wave everywhere. The institutions and artists bogged down in modernist mentality are inevitably losing touch with the present, just as it is inevitable for the Second Wave to ebb and never return. But the Third Wave is only being born, its art has not gathered momentum yet, and the artists of the Third Wave are few in comparison to the army of Second Wave modernists. Both the former and the latter lack knowledge, or, as the Tofflers would put it, a vision. It may be provided by a futurist analysis of artistic phenomena, which allows to isolate the indications of the future from the present. It will turn out then that those features are identical for the whole of civilization. What applies to economy at a global level and the level of a company, applies also to art as a part of culture and to a single artwork.

The end of modernism and the system of avant-garde movements in art is marked by conceptual art, art performed live and the expansion of the media. All of them have the duality characteristic of borderline phenomena: they belong to modernism and at the same time contradict it, and inasmuch as they are avant-garde, they are also the last avant-garde. In accordance with the modernist slogan of "art for art's sake", they appear as formal novelties, as the most radical solution to the problems formulated before, thus situating themselves in the sequence of avant-garde movements. On the other hand, by departing from the concept of an artwork as a coherent, physical object, which is equivalent to the abandonment of modernist formalism, they put an end to the evolution of artistic forms developed by the avant-garde movements of modernism. The artist replaces the form. Therefore, man becomes both the form and the source of art. The shape of art is determined by man, not by visual forms. The most important consequence of the fact is that instead of searching for forms, one looks for content. Art has become dematerialised - the quality is common to those three ways of creating it. A contemporary work of art consists of space and presence. The equation "art is the artist" had originally formal character, but in time art took on the features of human life: it became changeable, relative, contextual as well as understated, illogical and allusive. There is no absolute in it, there are only momentary feelings, weak beliefs, fleeting impressions, notions, presentiments, convictions, emotions, or, again, what cannot be fully verified or realized.

All three artistic formulas exist blended in with performance art and installation art today. They are like expressions of the same language, used with no regard for disciplinary divisions which, just as political labels, have lost their significance. Art created live has not only retained the greatest autonomy but enjoyed the longest historical continuity as well. Of the many terms used in the past to describe that type of activity, "performance" survived in the language of art to the present, and it really is the legitimate heir to the whole history of live art. It has its genesis in modernism and thus it is a form of continuing the line of avant-garde movements in the present. Therefore, it has primary significance for the Third Wave art. Furthermore, for obvious reasons, it is the art closest to man. The traditional work of art was too static a structure, not mobile enough to convey the dynamism of life. Besides, avant-garde art was self-referential, it was an art about art. In the final analysis, man always speaks of himself, even when he speaks of something else, makes references to God or abstract spirit he cannot transcend his own human condition. After modernism, there arose a need for an art that told about man, designed to match the human scale. Art had to take on the features of life and adapt creative standards and procedures to it. And the information could only be supplied by live art forms.

Creative freedom was always a major problem in Poland, therefore art created live played an important role in culture. Since its origin, performance has played the same part in the field of visual arts. It is also appreciated worldwide as a kind of "Polish specialty". There are three generations of performance artists active in Poland and each of them gives it a specific character. Wladyslaw Kazmierczak belongs to the middle generation of Polish performers. He is doubtless the most active Polish artist on the international performance scene at present, widely known and respected in the world. He is also the author of the performance art festival called The Castle of Imagination, which has been held annually in the castle of Bytow for six years now, one of the few regular events of international significance in Poland that are devoted to the issues of contemporary art. As is usual with representatives of the middle generation, elements of both old and new approach to performance are intertwined in his art. On one hand, his are classical performances based on the direct experience of man's psychophysical condition; Wladyslaw Kazmierczak is thus a successor to Zbigniew Warpechowski and other classics of the first generation of Polish performers. On the other hand, they are enhanced with the elements that introduce new motifs and points of reference into performance art. If the concentration on the formal, "carnal" aspect of presence in classical performance was a modernist quality, the use of it to build content, to establish meanings and a network of logical connections is wholly postmodernist. At the same time performance, contemporary performance in particular, is an instance of the art of the Third Wave, corresponding ideally to its civilizing parameters. Wladyslaw Kazmierczak is a perfect, "Tofflerian" example of the Third Wave artist. Even though the two waves collide in his work, the Second Wave is overcome, the qualities of future art prove stronger and defeat its traditionalist competitor.

To discuss the features of the art of the Third Wave, I will use the example of Wladyslaw Kazmierczak's performance, Pulp Fiction. The title points clearly and openly to the source of inspiration; the well-known film of the same title by Quentin Tarantino. The whole cultural content of the film was quoted in the performance. The element adopted from the movie literally and incorporated in the performance was music. The songs from the film's soundtrack were played back in succession to define the temporal structure of the performance: each was accompanied by an action of the performer involving the use of different props. The artist took advantage of the film's popularity. He assumed that the spectator knew the movie and could superimpose its narrative, its basic plot, on the narrative of the performance. The film is one story told from several points of view, or several stories taking place simultaneously. It is easy to imagine the plot extended to include more stories. The story related in the performance may be regarded as one of such parallel stories. In that case the narrative was carried outside the screen and became parallel to the cultural presence and reception of the film. Most of the movie's narrative threads are woven round the relationship between man and woman. That was also the case in the performance: she (Ewa Rybska) stood on a high platform, acting in a rather casual way, dancing and blowing soap bubbles. He (Wladyslaw Kazmierczak) circled around her, carrying out various actions. Their essence was to examine his psychophysical condition in different ways. The element is par excellence a trait of performance, belongs to the classical language of that art. At that very moment the telling of the story becomes performance art, and all the props and formal means turn out to serve artistic purposes.

The artist's activities included symbolic gestures, such as the ostentatious and pompous presentation of the products of religious kitsch and mass entertainment, but there were also personal, everyday gestures, e.g. lighting a cigarette, and acts referring to the history of art, for instance to "Malevich's square" and "geometric abstraction", here cut out of a sheet of paper. The action became now dangerous, e.g. when he smashed panes of glass against his head, now comical, as he hit his forehead with an inflatable hammer or put on a funny mask. In the course of the performance, he showed his face to the spectators several times through a mirror with a special transparent lens that distorted the image. Those were elements of autoirony, of not treating himself and his actions too seriously, but also a suggestion of their many-sidedness. The story narrated in the performance was given a truly cinematic happy ending: to the rhythm of "make-out" music, He came up to join Her on the platform, where they had a long and passionate kiss. The performance was discreetly patronized by one of the symbols of mass culture, Marilyn Monroe; the famous image-icon of her as a blow of air sends her skirt swirling upwards was hung by Kazmierczak on the wall at the very beginning. By adding to it the props he used in the course of the action, he created a sort of little altar of cultural devotion.

Contemporary art is subject to immensely radical and profound changes. The end of modernism and avant-garde system had artistic consequences which in fact hardly anyone realizes today, and it is even more difficult to imagine the future form of art and its mode of operation. From the start, the modernists predicted the end of art, yet it was always understood to be the end of a certain kind of art. At present, however, in front of our eyes, art is becoming something totally different from what has been regarded as art so far, not only during the period of modernism. A total and the most thorough redefinition of art possible is taking place. This new form of art cannot be described in familiar terms. The more so as our artistic vocabulary and network of concepts are mostly of modernist origin. Also, the very words "art" and "a work of art" seem applicable to the history of art only. A new language and terminology, adequate to contemporary art and type of imagination, has yet to be invented. It is not an impossible challenge, however.

The adoption of the Third Wave theory as well as its vocabulary and system of concepts to examine artistic issues is an attempt to illustrate the transformation in art which we are now witnessing. The Tofflers admit that the Third Wave corresponds to the scope of the concept of post-modernism. Nevertheless, they consider it too static to express the complex dynamics of changes in contemporary civilization. It may be assumed then that applying a conceptual alternative to art will prove revitalizing to it and will open up new perspectives of thinking and interpretation. The Tofflers analyze a series of problem areas in which the changes of the Third Wave manifest themselves. The issues are crucial for contemporary civilization, and furthermore, they determine the shape of its future today. Their sum forms a wide panorama of contemporary culture. It is also a catalog of the conditions of thinking in and about our times. In the subsequent paragraphs I will discuss the key issues of the Third Wave enumerated by the Tofflers, applying them to contemporary art. The order of presentation is the same as the sequence adopted by the authors in Creating a New Civilization: The Politics of the Third Wave, first edition in 1995, Polish edition in 1996, in the chapter "The Way We Make Wealth..." (originally included in War and Anti-War, published in 1993). It is the best and most lucid synthesis of the idea of the Third Wave of all the books by the Tofflers familiar to me. One more remark concerning the following text: one may have the impression that it contains many repetitions. They result from the fact that the questions discussed have been artificially isolated from the living organism of our civilization and culture, in which they function in a system of interrelations.

Factors of production:

"Factors of production" open the list of factors involved in the changes of the Third Wave civilization, which is logical, since we must not forget that the starting-point of the Tofflers' analysis is economy. But its subject civilization considered integrally is the same as in art. The main "factor of production" in the Third Wave economy is knowledge as opposed to land, labour, raw materials, and capital in the Second Wave. The Tofflers' definition of knowledge includes "information, images, symbols, culture, ideology, and values." Abstract, immaterial, "soft" factors dominate over concrete, material, "hard" factors. From the Tofflers' concept of knowledge it follows that art is in itself, as if by its nature, a factor of production in the Third Wave economy. In modernism, or the Second Wave art, the basic "factor of production" in the terrain of visual arts was form. Using the slogan "everything is art", avant-garde movements sought to exhaust all possible means and forms of making art. And even though the very idea appeared at the beginning of the avant-garde era, it took up an entire century to carry it out. At present, the problem is closed. In the art of the Third Wave, formal, "hard" means are of no significance. The importance of art and a particular work is determined by "knowledge", or the connections between forms, things, objects. In a situation when, finally, "everything can be art", the mission of avant-garde movements has come to an end. Yet "knowledge", unlike the supply of forms, is inexhaustible. There will always appear new connections between forms, offered by life. A presence any presence is par excellence significant. The art rooted in human condition is in no danger of exhausting its resources of sense. The meaning of Wladyslaw Kazmierczak's performance does not lie in the mere fact of using mass culture and its symbols. What matters is the narrated story. The props are not important in themselves; what matters is the communication of content which they serve. The composition reflects human interconnections, expressed both in the relations between the objects used and between the individual elements of the action and the acts and gestures that were performed. We can be sure that there is a bond between the heroes of Pulp Fiction. The performers are not actors. The situation (narrative) created (recreated) in the performance Pulp Fiction belongs to the "factors of production" determining life and art, constituting a component of "knowledge."

Intangible values:

The Third Wave economy is based on "intangible values", or "knowledge", as opposed to fixed assets in the Second Wave. The value of the modernist work of art in the Second Wave consisted in its form. The significance of an avant-garde movement was attested by the formal innovations it introduced into the language of art. The modernist slogan "art for art's sake" means as much as "form for form's sake". Conceptual art the last avant-garde raised "intangible values", or, more generally, The Tofflers' knowledge-vision to the rank of art, but the act was given mainly formal, not sense-generating significance. The value of the work of the Third Wave art, in other words, of the post-modernist and post-avant-garde work of art, is immeasurable because it lies in the extra-formal sphere. Form is no longer an issue in itself, it has become a function of the sense of a work of art. Ultimately, the meanings contained in the work of the Third Wave art are determined by "intangible values", since those values are an element of the Tofflers' knowledge the basis of the Third Wave. Consequently, the work remains ambiguous, not quite clear. Lack of explicitness presents the recipient with possibilities of interpretation, of establishing an intellectual relationship with the work. As for the artists, it enables them to interact with other works and, more broadly, facts of culture, as in the case of the performance Pulp Fiction interacting with the movie and its plot. The artistic value of the Third Wave work consists in the creation of sufficiently interesting, viable connections between forms, not in the forms as such. The connections, their "quality" and "content", depend on "knowledge." The form is designed to be as open as possible. The openness is a risk included in the artist's activity. Performance is intangible by nature, since it is based on relative existential values. An example of how "intangible values" function in the post-modernist art of the Third Wave is the form's dependence on the environment in site specific works, which applies to performance and installation art as well as to their combinations and all hybrid forms that blend styles, techniques, and tendencies. Meanings are created in the course of a performance or when we enter an installation and move about inside it, or as we are watching a video. We have certain feelings, intuitions concerning reception then, yet we can never grasp the whole, the one and only, absolute truth. Aware of these conditions of reception, the artists use the language of impressions, addressing the individual intuition of the recipient.


The Third Wave involves "de-massification" in favour of infinite diversification. The period of modernism in art is regarded as a time when artistic novelties were booming. In reality, however, avant-garde movements aimed at the uniformity of art, at introducing the order of the one and only correct style. That objective is reflected in the totalitarian rhetoric of their language, conspicuous in the manifestoes: each of them declared the ultimate solution to all artistic problems, claimed to invest world art with its final form. It proved to be one of the worst mirages of the avant-garde, and strict adherence to formal premises is now regarded as a sort of avant-garde academicism. During the reign of the particularly influential avant-garde movements the works of artists all over the world looked nearly identical. Such similarity is impossible today. Not only are the works of various artists diverse, but also the works of one artist often differ completely. The fact that art is based on an extra-formal factor, i.e. knowledge as defined by the Tofflers, causes it to become individualized, even personalized: for each theme, each situation, a suitable set of formal means has to be selected. Any affinities do not result from working according to the same formal principles, but directly from the affinities of history, character, psyche, creative temperaments, and changes in life and fortunes. And the work of art is at once variable and invariable in so far as it is modelled on human condition. To avant-garde movements the artist (man in general) was less important than ideas. A work of the Third Wave is not created as a result of an aesthetic only, or in reference to some fundamental, ever-important artistic problem. The same applies to writing about art: it is impossible to write a seminal text, since they will all lose validity in time, and the ideas they contain will demand updating. The absence of absolute relationships leads to potentially infinite diversification of art. The possibility of change is allowed for in a work of art, anticipated in every artistic project. The forms and means of creation are used according to the requirements of the problem currently dealt with. Attention to the consistency of one's creative choices, so highly valued at one time, is of no significance today. What matters is the ability to react through art and to keep updating its substantial content. Searching for a motive to create a performance is not related to one's belonging to an artistic movement, but with individual experience. In our lives, we constantly challenge the reality that surrounds us, e.g. by making personal decisions or investing on the stock exchange. The artist draws also artistic conclusions from an experience. But for the relationship of the partners, the performance would never have been made.


Work is completely transformed in the Third Wave. In modernism, the artist's work consisted in a possibly original use of formal means programmed by a given avant-garde movement, i.e. in the optimal performing of an aesthetic task. In this sense, the work of an avant-garde artist does not differ from the work of an academician inclined toward classicism, as each of them relies on professional training whose aim is an artist's mastery of his specific technique. Besides, the participation in the avant-garde depended on an artist's declaration. In the Third Wave art, the form is unimportant. Lesser significance is attached to the work of art itself. Art is determined by character traits and the sum of individual experiences, or the matters that avant-garde movements situated outside the sphere of art in the strict sense of the word. The art of the Third Wave changes the character of the artist's work, which now amounts simply to being-in-culture. Chance occurrences, vicissitudes are more significant than one's ability to draw. That is why artists so often challenge reality, for example, by making journeys, both literally and figuratively, to other cultures in search of different viewpoints. What is local grows in significance. The awareness of the existence of "different viewpoints" results in the conviction that the same work of art can in fact be a completely different thing. Individualization and personalization seem to be the essential changes in the way the contemporary artist works. An academy of art is not a school of life, whereas it is on life that contemporary art is modelled. The concept of a "work of art", denoting a single product, is replaced with "project", which is usually in hybrid form and can be adapted to the conditions of exhibition. Most importantly, a project is preceded by research into a given problem, and art is determined by its results. The acquisition of knowledge is the main part of artistic work. In economic terms it corresponds to an increase in the role of indirect labour as opposed to direct labor, e.g. on the assembly line. Projects can be freely extended in time and last until the moment the artist decides that the project has exhausted its possibilities. Consequently, the execution of the project changes as the research progresses, which necessitates the flexibility of formal means. Work is individualized and based on personal experience, not on the permanent features of an international style. The next step involves the transformation of research results, feelings, and experiences into information, that is to say, the selection of a set of forms carriers of the information, e.g. the elements that an installation is made of, props and gestures used in a performance, images loaded on a WWW page, etc. The very execution of the performance, the act of giving it a specific form, was less important for the origin of the work Pulp Fiction than the discovery of connections between the projected content and the film, and the relationship between the film's narrative and the private "narrative" of the lives of Wladyslaw Kazmierczak and Ewa Rybska. Their collective performance reveals another aspect of contemporary artistic work; although the avant-garde stressed the point that its ranks were closed, the principle of the authorship of a single work remained intact, whereas here the authorship is not so important and may be partly ceded to the partner, since the form and formal innovation are of lesser significance than the individual experience behind them. It is in this sense that the Tofflers regard the Third Wave work as difficult to replace. The existence of a particular avant-garde movement depends less on the work of a single artist. Cubism or expressionism could subsist without the contribution of some artist or other, after all. As for the present, the subject of the Third Wave artist's work are cultural essences, and not art itself, as was the case in modernist art for art's sake. Every work or project is individualized, or specialized, and therefore a potential source of the Third Wave knowledge. Wladyslaw Kazmierczak and Ewa Rybska represent their own "point of view" and it would be difficult to say that they are representatives of "performance" or even "contemporary art", just as modernist artists were the representatives of the avant-garde.


Another feature of the Third Wave economy is innovation related to an immense quantity and diversity of production. Innovation has always been and will be important in art. However, contemporary innovation of the Third Wave is different from the innovation of modernist avant-garde. The subsequent avant-garde movements formed a linear sequence of artistic developments. Today we can easily reconstruct the development of art forms throughout the period of modernism, mark the beginning and the end of both the whole era and a particular avant-garde movement. At present, innovation does not consist in inventing forms, but in discovering their sense. Novelty is not determined with respect to an earlier form, but with regard to the current spiritual state, the pulse of culture and the world, and the state of knowledge understood according to the Tofflers' definition. Although the innovative power of avant-garde movements seemed extraordinary, it is insubstantial when compared to the situation in contemporary art. In post-modernist art of the Third Wave each work is an innovation, or, to be more precise, novelty appears each time a work, for instance, a performance, is executed. Because it is related to the course of life and human condition, the birth of novelty is natural, not doctrinal, as was the case in the avant-garde of the Second Wave. The principle of creating links between avant-garde forms was based on subordinating, preceded by the declaration of joining the appropriate course of the history of art. The Third Wave innovation stems from knowledge; as defined by the Tofflers, naturally. It is stimulated by being-in-a-situation and openness which promote unconventional thinking. Avant-garde movements produced new conventions, whereas contemporary art is concerned with discovering the rules that govern the play of conventions, with establishing relationships, and reacting to a given situation. In the performance Pulp Fiction the innovative element, which results from having "knowledge", is the very fact of creating connections between a cult movie and performance art. That type of connection is exemplified by the adoption of the movie Pulp Fiction as a metaphor aptly describing the present existential situation of the performers. The play of performance conventions was superimposed on the play of movie conventions; the means used in performance art were complemented with cinematic means. Avant-garde movements usually directed their innovative energy against the old aesthetic order in art, the aim of their work was negation. In contemporary art, novelty is a prerequisite for creating every work of art, since its form has to adapt itself continuously to the changing conditions, places, and situations. Even though many works have a built-in critical attitude towards the subject they deal with, the innovations do not take on a negative meaning. But the openness and fluidity of structure gives them a decidedly dialogic character, making the work of art a voice in a discussion, not a weapon in a battle.

Scale of production:

The Tofflers give "scale of production" a general meaning of "the scale of productive activities". The ideal of modernist art was mass production according to the same canons, which were the aesthetic expression of modernity. Each avant-garde movement aimed at standardizing artistic production in the whole world of art according to its own premises. Therefore, the art of the Second Wave emphasized art's relationship with industrial design, which took over the traditional function of crafts. A formalistic approach to art, typical of modernism, facilitated the close connection between art and design. Today's design is radically different from art, has a different place in culture, and all possible connections can be found at the level of general ideas, not at the level of form, although postmodernism is in fact believed to have its fullest expression in the field of design. Third Wave artists do not produce an immense number of related works, there is no "mass production" any more, no sea of works flooding the world of "old" aesthetics. The formal structure of a work has to be open, since a rigid ideology of the avant-garde kind generates "losses of sense", evident in the eluding diversity and variability of the world. The artists of the Third Wave adapt their art to the projected sense and the conditions of presentation. A work must be multifunctional, ready to be presented in many forms. Second Wave avant-garde movements repeated the configurations of the same elements ad infinitum, which made their works recognizable at first sight, but short on diversity. The qualities they had in common were the most important. Such permanent and identifiable elements are few in contemporary works. They are also extremely diversified. One author carries out several projects using various means and techniques. Due to the very nature of an installation or a performance, their production on a large scale is not very feasible, while from the artist's point of view such action would be a hypocrisy. Hence, the postmodernist "art" of designer objects is something different from the art discussed here. The avant-garde was formed by a group of artists creating in the same style; now quantity is replaced with individualization. Although performance appeared when the system of avant-garde movements still affected the form of art, it never had a starting-point, e.g. a founding manifesto (even though there have been attempts to introduce them, e.g. by Zbigniew Warpechowski in Poland, manifestoes have failed to take root in performance). On the other hand, performance art has never come to an end, has not been replaced by another, more modern avant-garde form. Performance is an art of direct presence, related to the artist's life and psychophysical condition. They are the only factors determining "the scale of productive operations" in this art. Its reception is also personalized: the number of viewers will always be small in comparison to the number of people who come to see a painting in a museum. Large exhibitions and museum expositions disintegrate into a series of installations, assume cellular character (each work in a separate box). If it were not so, installation, a par excellence spatial art, would dominate all the exhibition space available and individual works would merge into a single artwork, which is inadmissible from the viewpoint of museum orthodoxy.


The avant-garde movements of the Second Wave were organized into a hieratic, rigid structure set on the attainment of an absolute goal. The organization was adapted to the needs of a group creating art after a selected pattern. As a result of that, artistic works were all alike. Military comparisons are rightly employed to describe the mode of operation of avant-garde movements. Their army-like organization was adjusted to the way of constructing meanings in accordance with the premises adopted in advance and written down in the manifestoes. To use a comparison from the field of company organization, the artists of modernist avant-garde movements in the Second Wave can be described as "bureaucrats of art" following the "rules" of their groups to the letter. The art of the Third Wave does not make any "hard" initial premises, which it would then have to carry out. The organization of the work of the Third Wave art has to allow for the need to absorb new and unpredictable situations as well as for the necessity to adapt art continuously to a changing substantial content on one hand, and particular works and creative means to individually constructed meanings on the other. For that reason, it has to be "de-bureaucratised", free from obligations to art. The organizational structure of the Third Wave art does not serve to generate many identical works, but to establish links between the elements and conventions that are often familiar, to facilitate navigation in the network of meanings. Adapting the movie Pulp Fiction, its plot and off-screen, cultural position for art and connecting them with methods and means peculiar to performance art testify that the work is organized around the sense, not around the form. The very fact of coordinating such distant forms of creativity in the formula of performance proves that the artist sees it as his role in culture and art to invent their applications (connections). He believes that his artistic task is to master the art of moving deftly within the network, to connect its points forms and meanings and to manipulate them so as to create a meaningful whole. The organization of the Third Wave art does not serve to ensure a doctrinal purity of style, either, as was customary for avant-garde movements. Creating a work depends on the subject or a local situation. Elaborate research projects, executed over a long period of time, require adapting the work in such a way as to make the inclusion of incoming results possible. Site specific art is an example of the flexibility and adaptability of contemporary art. All forms of the art of direct presence, such as performance, are especially sensitive to the specific properties of a place, but at the same time show the greatest adaptability. In general, a performer can adapt himself to all conditions, whereas it is not possible, for instance, to exhibit a painting everywhere. Today, festivals and exhibitions are held in the most bizarre, "non-classical" places instead of in galleries and museums. Curatorial duties do not concentrate so much on aesthetics, style, and technique as on specific subjects or the narratives of the present, posing problems and questions of extra-formal artistic character.

Systems integration:

Another issue is "the integration of elements". The integrating factor in modernist avant-garde movements was style, homogeneous in each formation. The label of style identified an avant-garde group once and for all. Moreover, the art of the Second Wave was consolidated by the general ideological premises of modernism, made well-known by the phraseology of its major slogans, which enable us to regard the avant-garde system as a coherent whole today. At present, however, there is no formal element integrating artworks into one style. The elements of an installation can only be perceived as a whole because they are interconnected in a system of meanings. The integration does not so much involve objects or forms as the connections between them, that is, the domain of sense. We can say that the integration does not take place at the level of the work, but at the level of the artist, his way of thinking and feeling. The viewer's reception and interpretation must assume similar properties. The same is required of the curators of exhibitions. Integrating the resources of knowledge inherent in every work (including its author's knowledge) demands knowledge on the part of recipients and curators as well knowledge, let us not forget, in the Tofflers' sense of the term. Such knowledge is the main integrating factor in the art of the Third Wave. There does not seem to be anything revolutionary in the statement that one should be well-acquainted with a subject to express opinions on it. As far as the Third Wave is concerned, though, it refers not only to the sum of general, objective, factual knowledge, but also, and most of all using the language of metaphysics to spiritual involvement, a matter that is very subjective and therefore belongs to the Tofflers' knowledge as well. The performance Pulp Fiction revolved around the relationship between Him and Her and could be summarized in the sentence, "My road to you", which means that a lot has to happen before the final kiss. Incidentally, just as in the plot of the film. Love story is probably the most universal "integrating element" in the world. And the construction and general intention of the performance is based on that very factor, not on the formal elements and artistic means used in it, even though they were numerous and each of them was extremely interesting and spectacular. Once, in the early history of the discipline, each would have deserved to be treated separately and to be called a complete work of art. Once, they would have determined the forming of a work of art into a homogeneous structure. This is the measure of the transformations that have occurred in art and in performance art.


In the Third Wave art, infrastructure is the way of distributing meanings in a work of art and, by means of art, in culture. I would like to point out that the concept of technique is understood broadly here, as the whole of the artist's professional equipment, including not only artistic methods, but ideas as well. The technique of the Second Wave art was the general ideology of modernism together with the forms peculiar to a given avant-garde formation. The technique of the avant-garde consisted in the ability to generate new forms and creative means, while the purpose of its methods was to increase the scope of what could be considered art and be included in its definition. Yet the achievements of avant-garde movements can be arranged in a linear sequence, whereas contemporary art has no direction. The idea of development is foreign to it, although there is, of course, a "before" and "after", some history of art is continued. But this order results only from respecting the social agreement concerning time and calendar. The infrastructure of contemporary art has the form of a network. The distribution of meanings takes place in the network made up of conceivable forms, which are equivalent as potential carriers of meanings. Integrated into the infrastructure network of the Third Wave art is a peculiar "internal infrastructure", i.e. the artist's biography, education and personal experiences. The technique of contemporary art serves to provide links between the points of the network the components of the Tofflers' knowledge-as-vision. The basic artistic skill consists in ensuring the openness of art, in making a work into an "information superhighway", which allows it to be present in the network of forms and meanings. The infrastructure of the work, and of the art world as a whole, must provide room for new content and senses, but at the same time must accept its own incompleteness and inexplicitness. Analogously, the infrastructure supporting art, facilitating the distribution of meanings in culture, i.e. the system of galleries, centres, and festivals, is also a network. Wladyslaw Kazmierczak does not base the infrastructure of his performance, his technique, exclusively on the movie Pulp Fiction, but uses the stratagems typical of performers: depriving the viewers of the feeling of safety, putting himself in a dangerous situation, bodily experience, physical exertion, or ironic gestures and clownery. In contrast to "orthodox" performance, they neither dominate the whole of the action nor are the basic sense of the work. They are only a vehicle of sense. They form a network distributing meanings within the scope of the performance Pulp Fiction and thus incorporate it into the network of global culture.


The Tofflers call the Third Wave economy an "economy of speed"; let me add that it is a very high speed. It might seem that the dynamics of the Second Wave art, the rate of changes of avant-garde movements and their varieties were very high. From the perspective of modernist artistic opposition, namely the academicians for whom art was based on the universal canons of beauty established by the ancients and Renaissance artists, all variability was a disease of art. Yet the dynamics of Second Wave changes is slow in comparison to the dynamics of Third Wave changes. The speed of changes in modernist avant-garde formations was the same as the speeds of the machines known at the time, such as the locomotive, the automobile, or the airplane. In the Third Wave art, changes have the speed of an optical wave guide, the speed of transmitting information. Time itself becomes a form in contemporary art: it is not a continuation of what is universal or absolute, but serves to describe variability. A work of art is created "just-in-time", at the moment when we need it, since shortly afterwards it will lose its validity. Such strategy applies both to Third Wave artists and to the recipients of art. Nobody regards a work of art as an everlasting creation. Contrary to the ambitions of avant-garde movements, a work does not initiate a style, does not mark a new epoch. Its form has to keep up with the changing conditions. There is no room for laborious perfection, for the craftsman's meticulous finish here. Also, the artists often work on several projects simultaneously, using various means according to the subject. "Consistency of creative choices", traditionally presented as a value, is a mere superstition in the Third Wave art. A work has significance now or is insignificant. There is no other way to start a dialog with a diverse and changing world. An installation or a performance keeps changing with each execution, their forms adapt themselves to the conditions of presentation. I have seen several renderings of the performance Pulp Fiction. Each was different and it is impossible to say that one of them was the "real" one. Certain elements, such as the relationship between the partners, music or props, e.g. the glass smashed against the artist's head, were common to all of them, however, and provided the structural (formal) frame and the minimum of information necessary to convey the projected message and to create the performance. The art of the Third Wave is created and then disappears forever, the whole process happening at an enormous pace. It is its "natural state". It can only exist in the form of documentation, which is always an incomplete record of events. Before long, there will be a gap in our memory of art, which we will be unable to fill. It resembles the situation that faces an anthropologist or archaeologist exploring old civilizations or preliterate cultures: there are some material remainders left, some potsherds, architectural remains, ornaments, but the meaning of the narratives of those cultures, their rituals, cults, and customs, life of those people, finally, their history, remain either unknown or incomplete, elude understanding. Remarkably, the descriptions of such rituals, e.g. those of Siberian shamans in Eliade, could be used to describe contemporary installations and happenings. Contemporary art of the Third Wave differs radically not only from modernist art, but from the entire history of art as well. The existing collections of the museums and galleries of "contemporary" art, in which the souvenirs of the Second Wave art predominate, will remain as evidence of a certain cultural stage that is becoming more and more distant from the present time. Today, official institutions are not prepared to accept the Third Wave art. The most genuine contemporary art, it is not to be found in museums and probably never will be; possibly, some of it will remain in the archives in the form of electronic and magnetic records. Reconstructing today's state of art will be a task, by no means an easy one, for the "digital archaeology" of the future historians of civilization, culture, and art.

The features of the Third Wave art can certainly be formulated and presented in a more detailed way. However, this art, in so far as the word is adequate here, is just being born. It is a rapid process and the differences between the art dependent on the Second Wave and the art of the Third Wave will be more and more conspicuous. If we can currently point out individual examples, search out the isolated presages of the Third Wave in the history of art, then it will soon begin to dominate artistic life. Therefore, it seems that the essential task now is to develop the models of thought which will become the basis for artistic creation and interpreting of what is about to appear. The Tofflers complain that the world's economic thought is lagging behind the processes of the Third Wave that are already in progress. The situation in art can be similarly assessed. In Poland, as in most countries, the art system is not adapted to new art, unprepared to confront the future. The system of managing artistic institutions, including the financing and promotion of art and the administration of contemporary artistic values, is not open and flexible enough. Consequently, it encourages artistic opportunism, and in the field of theory intellectual opportunism. Meanwhile, the changes in the world and, in turn, in art are radical and instantaneous. If the work of these institutions is to reflect them, they must undergo a professional transformation according to the terms of the Third Wave or they will cease to be the institutions of contemporary art. Today, due to their inertia the changes in culture take place slowly and are evident only in the activity of small institutions, private artistic societies and galleries run by the persons who keep their finger on the pulse of art, breathing to its rhythm.

Lukasz Guzek
tr. Robert Galazka