Michal Martychowiec | Winter kept us warm

Post-conceptualist Michal Martychowiec presents his second solo-exhibition at Migrant Bird Space, comprising his newest body of work from the series “The daily questions”, “Do you believe in art” as well as “Shadows and other signs of life”. On display will be neon-installations and prints, accompanied by his infamous “Art Cage”, featuring conceptualised live rabbits. 

Despite its modest size and at first sight literality of elements, the exhibition offers, as is often in the case in Martychowiec’ work, a complexity of ciphered hermeneutic constructions. It combines references scattered not only within its own frame but most importantly within the complex practice of the artist and art history. The spectator is invited or perhaps challenged with the possibility of a reading. However, how should one approach, the hero of this story – Josephine – a black and white rabbit who the artist draws as one who was spared the fate Beuys’s hare met in the process of art-making?

The exhibition space is clearly divided into two independent counter-parts: upper and lower. The upper part being dedicated to Josephine and the lower, in the basement, being a re-enactment of the installation enacted in 2016. Originally, Josephine was one of the rabbits hopping away in the gallery, as part of this work. It is crucial to consider the installation a different work to that from 2016. Even if its principle, construction and some of the elements are identical, the rabbits in it are different. None of them is or could be Josephine, but each of them offers a new story. For this reason, Josephine is not present physically, neither up- nor downstairs, but within various works at the upper floor.

Josephine is a work of art in the form of a living rabbit. ‘While alive, a work of art, and when dead, a part of art history’. In this sense, it is a re-enactment of art history and at the same time contingency of art history. In its form, it continuously questions the paradigm of art, which is redefined in the context of its own, and other works of art around it. Throughout Josephine’s life, various works have been made, within which the rabbit functions as an incorporated work of art and a symbol. It is thus Josephine can never be fully contained within man-made systems: i.e. it is neither appropriate for the museum or the art space, nor the virtual realities, actual ones and the ones which could be considered as such metaphorically. For a virtual reality, a system (also called program) has to be created. To create such a system the [created] thing has to be within the scope of our complete understanding and prediction. This is why Josephine can never become contained within such context; because Josephine as a living being escapes all reason.

Josephine is then, of course, on the very basic level, the symbol and embodiment of life, ever fleeing and never truly tangible. Words of Jodorowsky come to mind: “What is the meaning of life? Life has no mean­ing. Live! Live! Live!” But what is life worth, and is it actually worth living without constantly pursuing the meaning of it?