I’m Back is Jan Świdziński’s first work created after his return from the United States to Poland in the early days of the country’s political and economic transformation in 1989. This also marked his return to the Mała Gallery in Warsaw after a prolonged absence, a milieu with which he had been ideologically affiliated for years.
The piece was created according to the postulates of the contextual art manifesto, written by Świdziński in 1976, in which he stated that art concerned a specific “here and now”, which in this case was the major life change experienced by the artist. In this way, Świdziński turned his return to the country into the topic of his work by developing a commentary on what he encountered in the reality around him.
The artist begins with a brief talk, in which an anecdote is used to challenge faith in otherworldly paradises and emphasise the importance of earthy life, which means appreciating the place where one finds oneself at this moment. Świdziński then attaches to the wall a pop art poster with the text of his talk. By performing an action that accompanies the proclamation of the manifesto, the artist highlights the agency of the artist’s gesture in the gallery space.
Świdziński’s theoretical reflection heavily underscored the significance of context in attributing meaning to artistic activities. I’m Back addresses this question by focussing on the tension between the ephemerality of a performance art piece and its material documentation.
Film recording by Zygmunt Rytka.
© Leszek Golec