Zofia Kulik

Instead of Sculpture


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Not on display

Zofia Kulik born 1947
Slide, digital transferred from 35 mm, 3 projections, colour and black and white
Duration: 27min, 10sec
display dimensions variable
Purchased with funds provided by the Russia and Eastern Europe Acquisitions Committee 2015


Instead of Sculpture 1968–71 is a three-channel slide installation comprising approximately 450 colour and black and white photographs taken by the Polish artist, Zofia Kulik. The photographs record various actions performed by the artist in her studio at the Fine Arts Academy Warsaw, as well as her own work and the activities of others in the communal spaces of the school. Instead of Sculpture is an important early piece that encompasses many of the key themes of Kulik’s practice; from an interest in the relationship between object and viewer, to questioning the definition of the sculptural medium and issues related to the documentation of time-based activities. Under the artist’s supervision the original slides were transferred to DVD for digital projection in 2014. It now exists in an edition of three with one artist’s proof, and this copy is number one in the edition. The work is displayed in a dark space, with seating for viewers placed in front of the three projections. It can either be shown as a corner projection, with two images on one wall and one image on the other, or in a single row of three images on one wall. The minimum width of each image is 1500 mm and the maximum width is 3000 mm. The images are displayed in an order specified by the artist and all the projections are synched.

Instead of Sculpture was assembled as Kulik’s graduation work from the Fine Arts Academy, Warsaw, and is made up of photographs from the period of her studies, between 1968 and 1971. She commented: ‘I was documenting all the time, in every situation and on every occasion I was creating this kind of visual diary. And this image-slide material served later on to create this slide projection.’ (Quoted in Sienkiewicz 2008, accessed January 2015.) The images are projected in thematic sequences, with a separate sequence projected concurrently on each of the three channels. The slide show begins with one channel displaying photographs taken by the artist on a visit to London and subsequently edited and worked on in Warsaw using paint, ink and pencil. A second channel simultaneously projects a series of images originating from the photographic documentation Kulik made of work created by two of her fellow students, while the sequence on the third channel records a field trip by a group of students around Warsaw, which included the iconic Palace of Culture and Science. During the course of the slide show other sequences are presented, including stills taken from footage shot by students during a week-long workshop with a film camera, which features a statue of Moses at the Academy being playfully dressed up and added to. There are also images recording one of Kulik’s sculptural studies, taken from different angles, as well as a female model posing with various props and a series of shots of objects and materials being moved around in different spatial arrangements for the camera. The sequences are precisely choreographed so that Instead of Sculpture has a visual impact beyond documentation. Grzegorz Kowalski, artist and professor at the Fine Arts Academy in Warsaw, has described the classification of the images this way: ‘The parallel projection gave an image of three interwoven threads. In the plastic thread: material and spatial transformations, in the life thread: occurrences in time and space and among people from the nearest circle, in the record thread: operations on the slides – the medium of the message.’ (Quoted in Sienkiewicz 2008, accessed January 2015.)

Although this work takes the form of a slide installation Kulik submitted it to the sculpture department at the Fine Art Academy instead of sculpture ¿– as the title suggests. Nonetheless, it has a close relationship to sculptural practice. Not only does the work depict objects and sculptural experiments by Kulik and other students, but it also occupies space and unfolds through a series of images laid out over time – key concerns for artists working in the medium. Instead of Sculpture is an experimental attempt at transgressing the definition of the medium as well as an investigation into it. Kulik elaborated on this ‘expanded’ sculpture in a theoretical text accompanying the installation. Titled Film as Sculpture, Sculpture as Film, the paper provided a collection of considerations about the process- and time-based character of a work of art:

What is film? Space in time. What is sculpture? Space in time. What’s the difference? Film is sculpture but in linear form (of the film frames). The form is defined not by the process of coding but by the process of restitution (playing back): the permanent flat screen always equidistant from the viewer. A sequence of pictures is shown on the screen. This sequence is nothing else than a sequence of profiles of a solid.
(Quoted in Ronduda and Schollhamer 2013, p.72.)

The installation prefigures key aspects of Kulik’s later practice, particularly the games and happenings staged for film and photographs. Kulik described these actions, carried out with her husband and collaborator Pawel Kwiek, as ‘camera-targeted activities’ (in Polish dzialania dokamerowe), stressing the performative instead of the documentary function of photography. Instead of Sculpture also marks the beginning of the KwieKulik archive. Consistently added to over the past four decades, the archive is one of the most important resources for Polish art history as well as an important resource for Kulik’s work. The art historian and curator Lukasz Ronduda has noted that:

From the beginning of her studies Kulik had been virtually inseparable from her camera. She used to try to document and structure her visual experience, or rather the formal aspect of reality. Recording the ‘looks’ of reality, as well as her small interventions into it, she was creating a kind of visual notebook. An archive was being created, and growing in the decades to come. Taking the stand of an analyst, the artist – apart from collecting ‘visual information’ – has sorted, inventoried, and classified them from the very start … The artist’s diploma projection was an attempt to present this notebook/archive and constituted a kind of ‘sculpting in the looks of reality registered with a photo camera’.
(Lukasz Ronduda in Ronduda and Schollhamer (eds.) 2013, p.73.)

Further reading
Lukasz Ronduda and Florian Zeyfang, 1, 2, 3 … Avant-Gardes. Film / Art between Experiment and Archive, exhibition catalogue, CAA Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Kunstler Haus, Stuttgart, and Sala Rekalde, Bilbao 2007.
Karol Sienkiewicz, ‘Zofia Kulik’, 2008, http://culture.pl/en/artist/zofia-kulik, accessed January 2015.
Lukasz Ronduda and Georg Schollhammer (eds.), KwieKulik, Warsaw 2013.

Kasia Redzisz
January 2015

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