States of the Arts


Crocheted Charging Bull

by Olek
Public art

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A huge, menacing bull stands in Bowling Green Park, near Wall Street. Placed there without permission by artist Arturo di Modica in 1989, it has been embraced as a symbol of American determination and success, especially the aggressive culture fostered in New York’s financial district. In 2010, it briefly assumed a different character when crochet artist Olek gave it a pink and purple outfit, its build tempered by cheerful colours. The new clothing poked fun at the public assertion of masculinity, and shared the approach of di Modica’s guerrilla art. While the earlier work remains in place, Olek’s short-lived addition was removed after only a few hours.

Words by Sophia Martin-Pavlou

Three Colours: Blue

directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Feature film

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Headlamps pierce the blue mist on a bitter, frosty day. The lights form a constellation within the cloud of coldness, a familiar sight within an unnavigable space. But the comfort that they give is short-lived. Within moments, the car collides with a tree, fumes billowing from the broken structure’s carcass. Three Colours: Blue follows the woman widowed by this accident, exploring the grief that consumes her. Along with its sister films, it comprises a trio of loose meditations on revolutionary themes: liberty, equality, fraternity. As the Blue, White, and Red titles suggest, each is drenched in a different hue of the French Tricolour.

Words by Elizabeth Brown

Apotheosis of the Dance

by Witold Wirpsza

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Witold Wirpsza’s six-poem verse cycle is an absurdist attack on totalitarianism, in which each part acts as a comical reinvention of a different historical figure. Beethoven is alive and pottering through the streets of Lwów in the twentieth century. Plato takes his place at the keyboard. Stalin becomes a sentimental poet travelling the south of England, fending off wild wolves with somersaults and pirouettes. Such dances with death form a thematic motif. News of Beethoven’s demise is met with conga line and pantomime, while the final line of the cycle has horses’ hooves drumming a rhythm from heaven: ‘Can-can, can-can, can-can.’

Words by John Wadsworth

Voyage II

by Elzbieta Sikora

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Voyage II starts with a bang, an almost unbearable blast of noise that threatens to send the listener leaping for the volume control. Then, by infinitesimally small degrees, the sound gradually fades towards silence. The effect is that of a musical microscope, bringing the strangest, tiniest noises into stark relief: fragments of whispered speech, bleeps, and buzzes. A succession of ringing bells follow, their reverberations marking them out as miniscule offspring of the piece’s opening cacophony. The quiet does not last forever, though. The composition returns to where it all began, closing with a final, cataclysmic roar that brings the journey full-circle.

Words by Lewis Coenen-Rowe

More to discover

Crocheted Charging Bull: Watch a video of Olek installing the artwork here, and visit the artist’s website here. Malia Wollan has written about Olek for the New York Times, and a gallery of her work has featured on The Guardian.

Three Colours: Blue: Watch the trailer here. Nick James has written about the film for The Criterion Collection. Jonathan Romney interviewed Krzysztof Kieslowski for The Guardian.

Apotheosis of the Dance: Read the poem here.

Voyage II: Listen to the composition here, and visit Elzbieta Sikora’s website here.

Question of the day

Which Polish artworks would you recommend, and why?
Let us know on FacebookPatreon, or Twitter.

Blind Chance, a film directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. It’s one of the more thoughtful films that are based on the concept of alternative narrative outcomes. (→)

– Lusine, electronic musician and film composer (via The Brief →)

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