press release

Imagine a workbench from the Gdansk Shipyard crashing through the window of a respectable history museum. The Nobel Museum in Stockholm has commissioned a special project from Gdansk-based artist Grzegorz Klaman alluding to the figure of Lech Walesa – the electrician, legendary leader of the strikes held in the Gdansk Shipyard during the summer of 1980, one of the founders of Solidarity and the first president of a free Poland, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1981 in Oslo. The project is a "flying" real object – a workbench from the electrical workshop at the Gdansk Shipyard, where Walesa used to work. As Dieter Roelstratete puts in the catalogue essay "here we come across the central concerns, tightly strung together, of this particular 'memorialist' strand within Klaman's practice as a whole: the easily manipulated notions of certitude and authenticity or veracity, for instance (especially when entwined with notions of personal aura, empowerment and autonomy), or the uneasy dialectic of remembering and forgetting and its ambiguous relationship to the minefield of recent political history. What interests Klaman in the figure of Walesa is obviously not so much the man himself or even the actual weight of his contribution to the 'changes' – bracketing this notion already suffices to beg the question of how much has actually changed – but the symbolic 'Walesa' as a site of historiographic contestation, as a work station (no pun intended!) from which the recounting and rewriting of political history can be controlled."

Lech Walesa's workbench appears in Klaman's Stockholm project as a completely unexpected object. Although there are numerous physical objects connected with famous people at the Nobel Museum, only one of them is currently thrust halfway through the wall of the museum building, so that it is both inside and outside.

The object's status is uncertain, its aesthetics debatable. The strength of the project lies in its play with the notion of the value of a historical object and an object of art, the unclear attribution of the workbench itself, its mass-produced character, banality and altered form of usefulness.

Grzegorz Klaman is a pioneer in critical and politically engaged art in Poland. He has carried out a series of important public space projects, including the Subjective Bus Line (2002, 2009, 2010). In this project, which drew much attention, shipbuilders present their visions of the past – comprising many voices, incorrect, personal and at variance with official history. A critical attitude towards the notion of commemoration, the problems involved with remembrance and history are among the key issues and driving forces behind Klaman's art. He is known for his controversial projects, which upset traditional understanding of an object, the function of art and the role of the artist. Lech Walesa is today a legendary figure albeit one that evokes varied reactions. In a way, he is a figure who embodies the essence of disputes concerning Solidarity's past, visions of history and the "museumification" of memory. Klaman's answer to this situation is critical and performative.

Grzegorz Klaman is the co-founder of the Wyspa Institute of Art, which opened in 2004 on the former premises of the Gdansk Shipyard. On May 1 2010 he also launched his Subjective Bus Line again, together with the actual building of Walesa's workplace - both a form of in-situ museum and an installation by the artist.

The project is accompanied with the catalogue edited and published by The Polish Institute in Stockholm with text contributions by Olov Amelin, Dieter Roelstraete, Katarzyna Tubylewicz and Aneta Szylak.

It is realized in collaboration between Nobel Museum, Wyspa Institute of Art and Polish Cultural Institute in Stockholm and supported by Cultural Capital of Europe Gdansk 2016 Candidacy.

Grzegorz Klaman's Crushing In.
Lecha Walesa´ Workbench
Kurator: Karin Jonsson