Mirel Leventer (b. 25 December 1950, Bucharest) is a respected architect. He graduated from Ion-Luca Caragiale High School in 1969 and from the Ion Mincu Institute of Architecture in Bucharest (today the Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism) in 1975. He has a rich professional experience, and has taken many professional development courses both in Romania and abroad. Between 1985 and 1993, he lived in Israel. At present he has dual Romanian and Israeli citizenship. His architectural work includes a number of major buildings, both in Romania and abroad, including a considerable number in Israel. He is a member of Club A in Bucharest and was the coordinator of its cine-club between 1970 and 1975, when he was a student at the Faculty of Architecture.
His interests include advertising, video production, mountaineering, travel, and film history. He continues to take pleasure in taking photographs. It is a passion of his that goes back almost half a century: “I’ve been taking photographs since high school, in fact since the eighth grade. So, in a way, I’ve almost always liked taking photographs. Indeed, when I was at high school I took part in many photographic exhibitions for pupils. There was also a photography club at high school. In those days, photography clubs were little amateur institutions, where we learned what to do with a camera. We had a coordinator, who in our case was our physics teacher, but the clubs had no special connection with school. A club like that encouraged us to develop a particular passion; I could say that this was where the ‘first seeds’ of a passion were sown” – the passion that would later give rise to the unique collection of photographs and films connected to Club A.
- Bucharest, Romania
Ante Lešaja is a retired full professor at the University of Zagreb. He was born in Korčula in 1931. Upon receiving a degree in economics in 1958, he started working at a shipyard in Korčula, where he was in charge of organising and analysing operations. He moved to the Institute of Economics Zagreb in 1962, where he dedicated himself to research in the field of economic policy and theory, company productivity as well as economic reforms in socialist countries. He received his Ph.D. at the Faculty of Economics and Business in Zagreb with his thesis “The Influence of the Means of Economic Policy on the Conditions of Earning.” By the end of 1972, he was promoted to associate professorial at the Institute of Economics in Zagreb, lecturing on political economy. Later he also taught political economy at the Faculty of Economics in Mostar and the Faculty of Special Education in Zagreb.
Besides research and teaching, he published his work regularly in journals. He translated the works of Czech economists (K. Kouba, Č. Kožušník, Z. Šulc, O. Turek, M. Pick), some of which were published, while others were used for the internal purposes of the Institute of Economics. Upon retirement in 1990, he worked as a volunteer for the town library in Korčula, and the unfortunate events of the destruction of library collections motivated him to conduct in-depth research into the phenomenon of book destruction in Croatia during the 1990s. The results of this research, which spanned over several years, can be found in the form of a study entitled Knjigocid – Uništavanje knjiga u Hrvatskoj 1990-ih (Libricide – The destruction of books in Croatia in the 1990s), Zagreb: Profil & SNV, 2012. He was particularly engaged, especially in the last 25 years, in the gathering of the collection related to the journal Praxis and the Korčula Summer School. The most important reasons for this engagement was the belief that the efforts and outreach of the Praxis thinkers are a vital component of the cultural heritage.
- Korčula, Croatia
- Zagreb, Croatia
Zbigniew Libera is one of the most renown Polish visual artists.
He is considered to be the key figure of the Polish „critical art” of the 1990s and a pioneer of video art, which he had created since the early 1980s.
He was raised in a small town Pabianice near Łódź in central Poland. He was a son of a nurse, a single mother. He is perhaps the only one of Polish renown artists who did not attend to an academy of fine arts. His whole artistic education was informal.
First, there was a musical family of his high school friend, who’s father was a conservatory professor. Then, there were exhibitions in the Museum of Art in Łódź. Several years later a private archive of performance and conceptual art of the 70s curated by Zofia Kulik and Przemysław Kwiek (KwieKulik duo) became Libera’s „university”, but also a „convent”. Libera becomes an „apprentice” of the duo and lives in their house on the suburbs of Warsaw for a couple of years.
In the beginning of the 80s Libera entered the counter-cultural milieu of the Pitch-in Culture. They met at an attic of an old tenement house by the main alley of Łódź. Soon after the Martial Law was introduced in 1981 and state-sponsored galleries were closed, the attic became a venue for exhibitions and concerts of the „second circulation”.
The first exhibition on The Attic included Libera’s artistic debut.
During the Martial Law, Libera spend a year and a half in criminal arrest and an internment facility. He was arrested for printing and distributing leaflets in protest against the bloody suppression of the strike in Wujek coal mine. He was released shortly before his debut. This was not the only difficult experience that influenced the course of his life. In 1986 he worked in a psychiatric ward of Pabianice hospital as an occupational therapist for a year. He moved from Łódź to Warsaw to avoid constant harassment by the communist security service (although he no longer had ties to political opposition). In the breakthrough year of 1989 he started a half year long solitary journey to Egipt, Israel and Sudan – as he puts it – a mystical journey of a hermit. He went through a couple of identity crises and departures from art, during which he destroyed his old works.
Although Libera became a star of the art world in the 1990s, he was engaged in artistic life and created interesting controversial works already in the previous decade.
He is a pioneer of video art. As early as in the time of the Pitch-in Culture he bought a quality Japanese VHS camera, thanks to an inheritance from an uncle from USA. Throughout the 80s he intensively documented Polish artistic life, including parties and plein air trips of the Pitch-on Culture milieu as well as exhibitions and performances of fellow artists.
He recorded his closest family as well, in private situations, including his 90 year old bedridden grandmother, with whom he had close ties, and after whom he took care afer being released from prison.
Camera registers a man in his twenties feeding, bathing and changing diapers of his grandmother. It also registers how the grandmother, in advanced dementia, spins around an iron chamber pot on the floor, in regular sequence. Libera identified this strange behavior as a kind of mystic ritual substituting rosary prayer. After awhile, Libera assembled these recordings into a short films and started to show them to befriended artists and curators. That is how some of the earliest, strongest and best known works of Polish video art were made (Intimate rites 1984, Mystical Perseverance 1984).
Libera achieved international renown due to his work Lego. Concentration Camp (1996).
Out of grey blocks acquired from the famous Danish corporation he build miniature barracks, walls, crematoria and clothes sorting facilities. He used plastic policemen in black uniforms from „Police” sets as guards, and skeletons from „pirate” sets as prisoners. He arranged and photographed scenes based on archival photos from the II World War period. The photos were printed on boxes deceptively similar to original Lego System sets. The pice provoked an extensive press and academic debate reaching i.a. Denmark and Israel. The work found its way to the prestigious Sao Paulo Biennale and – almost – to the Venice Biennale. The curator of the Polish pavilion in Venice pressed to exclude the controversial piece from Libera’s planned exhibition, so the artist withdrew from the show entirely.
Today, editions of the piece are included in the collections of the New York Jewish Museum, the House of the History of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bonn, and Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.
Lego was created as part of the Corrective appliances series. Others include Body master – a miniature body-building atlas for boys and delivery bed play-kits for girls – for ages 7–9. There’s also the Ken’s Aunt plastic doll – with a body of a late middle-aged woman sporting a ’60 hairdo. Finally, there’s a weight stack made to enlarge penis size. All are designed and crafted with factory precision with packaging resembling actual products found in toy stores.
Other notable series of Libera are Positives – large format photographs restaging iconic pictures of tragic moments in the XX century.
The Corrective appliances were interpreted in relation to the concepts of dispersion of power and disciplinary society by Michel Foucault.
Libera characterizes his art, in words of his artist friend Marek Janiak – the „art of embarrassment”. „It brings forth an effect of embarrassment, confusion, it throws the viewer off balance, out of the normal course of thought” – said Libera in an interview with Łukasz Gorczyca and Artur Żmijewski. – „Its beauty lies in an error, in some exceptional dud, in an unknown situation, in the oddity, the puzzlement.”
Libera also said that his art operates like a „virus”. It employs an esthetic that is accessible to the wider audience, almost pop-like. However, at the same time it hides a subversive message of cultural critique.
Pieces from Libera’s expansive body of work were interpreted in connection to problems such as social marginality, bodily practice, gender and sexuality, senility, illness and death, oppressiveness of the state and the dominant culture, as well as memory of historical trauma.
- Warszawa, Warsaw, Poland
Aldona Liobytė (1915-1985) grew up in Vilnius, which belonged at the time to Poland. She studied the Polish language and literature at Stephen Bathory University in Vilnius between 1932 and 1935. In 1935, she moved to independent Lithuania, and started to study the Lithuanian language and literature at Vytautas Magnus University, graduating in 1939. From 1941 to 1949, she was an actress with Vaidila in Vilnius and the Vilnius Drama Theatre. Between 1949 and 1961, she was editor-in-chief for children’s literature at Grožinės literatūros leidykla (Literary Fiction publishers). As editor-in-chief, she promoted Lithuanian folk culture, adapting it for children. She encouraged young Lithuanian writers and artists to pay more attention to Lithuanian fairy tales and folk songs. Because of this, she made the biggest personal contribution by Lithuanian authors to encouraging folk culture. In 1957, she and the composer Julius Juzeliūnas wrote an opera libretto based on Vincas Mykolaitis-Putinas’ novel Sukilėliai (The Rebels), but the public performance of the opera was not allowed by the authorities. She was forced to leave her position as editor-in-chief in 1961. Nevertheless, she did not give up her creative work, and continued writing plays and short works for children. She even received a state prize in 1985 for this work. That is how her life and work testify to the difficult position of the Lithuanian intelligentsia at that time: full of anti-Soviet sarcasm, she negotiated with the regime, introducing new, semi-approved themes and topics to the national culture, and for this she won personal recognition in underground networks, and later even from official institutions.
Being a very active person, Liobytė initiated and led informal networks of the Lithuanian intelligentsia. As Ingė Lukšaitė (see her profile) recalls, Aldona Liobytė was a person who organised unofficial meetings of the intelligentsia, discussing various issues in cultural life. She maintained social ties and correspondence with many artists, discussing, making suggestions about creative work and everyday life, and supporting the ideas of the younger generation of artists. One of these people was Jonas Jurašas, a young director at Kaunas Drama Theatre (see his profile).
- Vilnius Gedimino prospektas 11, Lithuania 01103
Piotr Lisowski (1982) is a curator, an art historian, and an initiator and co-organizer of the Jerzy Ludwiński Archive at the Wroclaw Contemporary Museum. He was born in Kielce, studied art history at the Faculty of Humanities at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Torun. He also completed a post-diploma programme in Curatorial Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Since 2007 he worked as a curator in the Centre of Contemporary Art (CoCA) in Toruń and since 2016 he works in theWroclaw Contemporary Museum. He co-created a private Love Gallery (pl. Miłość), which operated between 2014-2017 in Torun.
In 2011, Lisowski curated an exhibition entitled „Filling the blanks” (pl. Wypełniając puste pola) in the CoCA devoted to Jerzy Ludwiński – a historian, theoretician, art critic, whose ideas greatly influenced the Polish neo-avant-garde of the 1960s and the 1970s. The exhibition was based on the archival materials, which allowed the audience to follow Ludwiński’s critical and curatorial practices, and strategies. As a basis of the exhibition served two facts: the Current Art Museum program, proclaimed by Ludwiński in 1966, and the 8th Artists’ and Art Theoreticians’ Symposium in Osieki in 1970 – an event during which Ludwiński gave his famous speech on post-artistic epoch.
The exhibition in Torun succeeded in reminding of Ludwiński and his ideas. Soon after the event, Lisowski started to work on a concept of the Ludwiński Archive which found its place in the newly-built Contemporary Museum in Wroclaw. Works on the Archive had been conducted between 2012-2013, however Lisowski was hired by the MMW yet in late 2016. As a curator (e.g. in CoCA in Torun, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum) Lisowski organised numerous exhibitions concerning the art of the 1970s and the 1980s, including i.e. the Zero-61 group, Jacek Kryszkowski, the Exchange Gallery or the Wroclaw independent music scene.
- Wrocław, Poland