Zbigniew Libera. Results of selected field studies

  • Curator of the exhibition: Łukasz Kropiowski
  • Location: Contemporary Art Gallery, Pl. Teatralny 12, 45-056 Opole
  • Date: 20 May to 26 June 2022, the exhibition is open daily from 11:00 – 19:00 (closed on 16 June 2022)
  • Vernissage: 20 May at 18:00
  • A curator's tour in English: 1 June at 18:00

The exhibition entitled "Results of selected field studies. Photographs, videos and drawings from 1984–2022" is a retrospective selection of works by Zbigniew Libera, focusing on what appears to be the medium most frequently returned to by the author – photography. As revealed by the dates in the title, the exhibition presents works from four decades of the artist's oeuvre, signalling the most important themes he undertook in the course of individual yet very different periods. This period of time was not only artistically diverse but also disparate from political, social, economic and "technological" perspectives. During all these years, one thing stayed the same – in his creative and life choices, Zbigniew Libera was assisted by a camera which he used to depict images both intimate and relating to culture, history and socio-political aspects. Benefiting from various photographic strategies, the author confronted the experiences of the past, commented on the present, and "foretold" events from the future.

In his artistic practice, Zbigniew Libera "feasts" on images. He analyses, critiques and uses their miscellaneous types and categories for his own purposes – such as private photos from family archives, photojournalistic shots recognisable from the mass media, flashy and intrusive images of consumer culture, as well as sophisticated iconographic references to works of art history. The role of photography in his body of work is proportional to the volume of photographic images created and viewed in the present day – trillions of images are taken each year and, reportedly, more images are taken in two minutes by US residents alone than were taken in the entire world during the whole of the 19th century . Having said that, Hans Belting reminds us that "there is a difference between the images that we equip with symbolic meaning in our bodily memory and those that we consume and forget" . Libera reflects on this qualitative difference by locating "essential" images or types of imagery. He does not underestimate their power to influence reality – their potentially manipulative potency of bodily and psychological influence, their ability to elicit reactions such as fear, excitement, affection or disgust, their tendency to create narratives and catchy cultural carbon copies, and thus form our views, desires, behaviours and perceptions of the world. In his works, the artist demonstrates how contemporary photographic and film frames penetrate the sphere of individual imagination, shaping our – seemingly private and unique – internal images.

Over the course of four decades of his creative work, Zbigniew Libera has been making intimate recordings public, paraphrasing and travestying characteristic images, quoting and making remakes of famous scenes captured by his lens. On the one hand, his works reflect the reality surrounding the artist while giving rise to self-reflection defining the real place of the contemporary artist among ubiquitous images, but on the other hand, they are a tool for its deconstruction and the discovery of the "optical subconsciousness" – unmasking the mediation of information that reaches us, the normative force of official representations, narrative techniques and mechanisms of creating specific depictions. The artist points out the fluidity of the boundary between documentary work and fiction and encourages us to take a careful look at our own notions. Ultimately, the artist attempts to make use of the pictorial potential of the created facts and fantasies to enable us to make personal reflections about the world in opposition to ideological clichés. Zbigniew Libera's works seem to request the right to negate the "obviousness" of given images of history, to distrust dominant patterns of behaviour and principles of morality, and to confuse unambiguous interpretations and opinions of media authorities.