Artur Zmijewski

Poland 1966

Photography, Video Art

Artur Zmijewski
Artur Zmijewski
January 19, 2017
Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The matter of body representation in the work of Artur Zmijewski has perhaps the central role. How the human physicality is being controlled, used, monitored, and shaped by the socio-political mechanisms triggers Zmijewski the most. Regardless of the media, the artist is on a constant quest to unmasking and deconstructing various states of the body by subtly undermining it’s fragility and vulnerability in accordance with the social norms. The narratives which the artist shapes are related with the bio-political discourse and various theoretical approaches that are dealing with the body. Therefore, it can be said that his art practice is bold, radical and progressive, despite the general notion of what political or engaged art, in general, should be.

The żmijewski works from 1999, 1998, 2001, 2007, and 2010 are shown in new Polish Foksal gallery
Artur Zmijewski – Democracies, 2009, Installation view – image via

Thinking Art Differently

Artur Zmijewski is born in 1966, in Warsaw. From 1990-1995 he attended Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw at the sculpture department guided by the famous Polish avant-garde artist Prof. Grzegorz Kowalski. Four years later, Zmijewski started studying at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam. His career was already rather developed, but after he received the first prize at the exhibition Guarene Arte in Italy for his video work An Eye for an Eye, the artist started gaining international fame for his work. The exhibition activity was largely increased as well as reputation which then led to Artur Zmijewski representing national pavilion at the Venice Bienalle in 2005.

Undermining the material bodies subjection to illness and decay

The disabled people were main foundation of żmijewski new film that was shot in warsaw
Artur Zmijewski – Sculpture Plein-air, 2009 – image via

Body Talks

During and shortly after his studies, Artur Zmijewski was focused on the production of objects. Those were specific mechanisms almost like robot devices whose operation depicted physical or psychical functions of man, like fear, the stench of decaying flesh or circulation of liquids in the organism. In one point the artist started to work with video since, as he once claimed, was fascinated with the possibility to treat the body the way a sculptor would treat clay. Additional media which he found useful and was a prelude to motion pictures was photography. Anyhow, that transition came naturally since Zmijewski just sought to find other means to represent his idea. Actually, from analyzing collective or individual bodies in relation to certain obstacles, Zmijewski was constantly trying to focus on the matters of otherness, inclusion, marginalization, illness, imperfection and captivity in order to speak about the politics.[1]

The physical defect as a metaphor for spiritual or mental cripplehood

The main foundation of his works were people with difficulties who suffered greatly because discrimination
Artur Zmijewski – Blindly, 2010, video still – image via


On the Venice Biennial in 2005, Zmijewski presented himself with the project titled Powtorzenie (Repetition). It was a reenactment documentary focused on the historical Stanford Prison Experiment from 1971. The maker of that experiment was Doctor Philip Zimbardo who was known for his highly debatable psychology of evil. That meant analyzing the behavior of ordinary people placed in the roles of prisoners and wardens in a make-shift prison in order to prove that human behavior is predictable and dependent on circumstances. In Zmijweski’s edition, the experiment took an extremely different turn – the participants collectively decided to leave the prison, revolting against the author of the project.

The film of Artur Zmijewski was surrounded with controversy

The polish foksal gallery produced new żmijewski film in 1998 1999 2001 2007 and 2010
Artur Zmijewski – Repetition, 2005, video still – image via

Constant Activity and Social Engagement in the work of Artur Zmijewski

Besides producing and exhibiting on regular basis, the artist took an active part in the art world as curator of independent group exhibitions, editor of the art magazine Czereja published irregularly since 1992, and as the author of numerous critical texts on art. In 2007, he published a collection of interviews with various artists entitled Trembling Bodies and in 2011 he was named the curator for the 2012 Berlin Biennale. At the time being, the artist is an Art Director for Krytyka Polityczna, a socio-political magazine held in high regard in Poland. His constant battle to speak about problematic social and political issues by all means possible, make his presence rather relevant even outside the borders of his country and the art world.The constant battle to speak about problematic social and political issues by all means possible, make the presence of Artur Zmijewski rather relevant even outside the borders of his country and the art world. His works can be seen both as metaphors and documents of reality and exactly that ambiguity makes them progressive and inseparable from the contemporanity.[2]

Artur Zmijewski lives and works in Warsaw.


  1. Sansone, V. (2009): Artur Żmijewski – Let’s get rid of art, Flash Art Online [January 19, 2017]
  2. Szász, L. (2016): The Purpose of Art – an interview with Artur Zmijewski, Mezosfera, [January 19, 2017]

Featured image: Artur Zmijewski – Berek (The Game of Tag), 199, Installation view – image courtesy of Peter Kilchmann gallery
All other images for illustrative purposes only

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2012–2013Kritik und Krise. Kunst in Europa seit 1945Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, Germany, cur. Monika FlakeGroup
2012–2013United States of Europe”,cur. Johanna SuoLPoland, Finland, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Portugal, Cyprus, Germany, Belgium, France, IrelandGroup
2012Moving Forward, Counting BackwardsMUAC, Mexico City, Mexico, cur. Antonia Majaca, Ivana BagoGroup
2011Victims and MartyrsGöteborgs Konsthall, Göteborg, SwedenGroup
2011Artur ZmijewskiCentro Cultural Banco do Nordeste do Brasil (CCBNB)Solo
2011Polish! Contemporary Art from PolandKünstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2011Declining DemocracyPalazzo Strozzi, Florence, ItalyGroup
2011ThemMocca, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, CanadaSolo
2011Models for Taking PartThe Justina Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, CanadaSolo
2011ContinuityCenter for Contemporary Art, Celje, SloveniaGroup
2011The Power of FantasyPalais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2011Andrea, Christoph, MartinGalerie Peter Kilchmann, Zurich, Switzerland,Solo
2011Too late, too little, and (how to) fail gracefullyKunstfort Asperen, Asperen, NetherlandsGroup
2011AlternativaWyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk, PolandGroup
2011The WorkersMASS Moca, North Adams, USGroup
2011Without Reality there is no UtopiaCentre Andaluz, Sevilla, SpainGroup
2011Plot for a BiennalSharjah Biennale 10, Sharjah, cur. Suzanne CotterGroup
2011New in the CollectionDe Hallen, Haarlem, NetherlandsGroup
2011Models for Taking PartPresentation House Gallery, North Vancouver, CanadaGroup
2011Trembling Bodies-Körper in Aufruhrdaadgalerie, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2010Die Nase des MichelangeloGalerie Peter Kilchmann at Marktgasse, Zurich, SwitzerlandGroup
2010Artur ZmijewskiTramway, Glasgow, UKSolo
2010There is always a cup of sea for man to sail29th Sao Paulo Biennale, Sau Paulo, BrasilGroup
2010Following Bauhaus A Foundation, Liverpool, UKSolo
2010Post MonumentXIV Biennale Internazionale di Scultura di Carrara, Carrara, ItalyGroup
2010Artur ZmijewskiKalmar Konstmuseum, Kalmar, SwedenSolo
2010Politics of Art. Artur ZmijewskiFundaçao Joaquim Nabuco, Recife, BrazilSolo
2010Kratos - About (il)legitimate(d) PowerTeam Gallery, New York, USGroup
2010Early YearsKunst Werke, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2010Promise of the PastCentre Pompidou, ParisGroup
2010Artur ZmijewskiRoyal Hibernian Academy, DublinSolo
2010Artur Zmijewski. Trembling Bodies. Conversations with ArtistsBerliner Künstlerprogramm, DAAD, BerlinSolo
2009Knast sind immer die anderenNGBK, BerlinGroup
2009Opposition & DialoguesKunstverein Hannover, HannoverGroup
2009Artur ZmijewskiCamera Austria, Kunsthaus GrazSolo
2009Artur ZmijewskiMoma, New YorkSolo
2009DemocraciesDaad Galerie, BerlinSolo
2009Video Europa Le Fresnoy, TourcoingGroup
2008Artur ZmijewskiTe Tuhi Centre for the Arts, Manukau CitySolo
2008Artur Zmijewski. The Social StudioBasis voor Actuele Kunst, UtrechtSolo
2008Artur ZmijewskiInstitute of Modern Art, BrisbaineSolo
2008Artur ZmijewskiGallery TPW, TorontoSolo
2008Radical SolidarityTrafo Gallery, BudapestSolo
2008LanguagesMuseum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, cur. Imogen StidworthyGroup
2008History Will Repeat ItselfCentre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, WarschauGroup
2007UntitledDocumenta12, Kassel, GermanyGroup
2007Artur ZmijewskiNeuer Berliner Kunstverein, BerlinSolo
2006Artur zmijewskiGalerie Peter Kilchmann, ZurichSolo
2006Personal AffairsMuseum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, GermanyGroup
2005The Polish Pavillion51 Biennale di Venezia, VeniceSolo
2005Artur zmijewskiKunsthalle Basel, BaselSolo
2005War is OverGalleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Bergamo, ItalyGroup
2005SpektakelLustprinzip oder das Karnevaleske, Shedhalle, ZurichGroup
2005Irreducible: Contemporary Short Form Video 1995–2005CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San FranciscoGroup
2004Artur ZmijewskiCAC Centre d’Art Contemporain de Brétigny, ParisSolo
2004Artur Zmijewski, Selected Works, 1998 – 2003MIT List Visual Arts Centre, CambridgeSolo
2004Public Rituals, Art-Videos from PolandMuseum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, ViennaGroup
2003An Eye for an EyeMUCA Roma, Mexico CitySolo
2003Singing Lesson I + IIFoksal Gallery Foundation, WarsawSolo
2003Singing Lesson IIGalerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, LeipzigSolo
2002KarolinaGalerie Peter Kilchmann, ZurichSolo