“Visibility and Equality are Connected”, Krzysztof Wodiczko lecture

Last night at the University of Łódź, the artist Krzysztof Wodiczko gave a lecture as part of the NECS 2015 conference. We are in Poland to finish mastering our second album Critical Magic and our host, the sound artist, culture and media theorist Maciej Ożóg invited us to attend.

Wodiczko has spent most of his career working with people who do not normally have access to the public sphere – migrants, workers – developing projects that remove their invisibility, because, as he quoted the philosopher Hannah Arendt, “Visibility and equality are
connected”.

Although he has also created artworks using wearable technology, he is most famous for a set of projects, spanning decades, that involve projections on public buildings and monuments.

One of the first projections he talked about was at the Basel Kunstmuseum in which the lower torsos of irregular migrants were rendered onto the facade, and their voices, stories rang out into square. He explained that, by and large immigrants don’t have access
to art institutions, so these projections gave them
access. And by positioning the migrants in the project up high, it made people, the passing public, look up at them and not down as is so often the case.

He feels that cities are always-already monuments to the victors, the vanquished having no voice, no history, no presence in public architecture, and the works he helps create try to overturn this.

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In 2001 he presented in Tijuana Mexico which attempted to give a voice to the teenage and young women who work in “maquiladora” factories assembling goods for export. Over the course of a year, he got to know these women and they wrote their own testimonies which they then performed to a camera strapped to their faces which was then projected onto the enormous dome facade of the Centro Cultural Tijuana. The women narrated stories about the difficulties they face in their lives, including abuse at work or at home. Again, as with the Basel Kunstmuseum, in this setting, for the general public filing out of the Imax cinema, these women were impossible to ignore.

Someone asked Wodiczko about the audience response to this performance. He said that, while this was a good question, a better question was “In what way did the people
involved make sense of the project within the context of their lives?
Something was born from the
development of this project – another public, an inner public, consisting not only of the performers, but also their friends, family, activists, lawyers and so on. The project generates own public
which connects with another public.

Wodiczko said he hoped his work had a therapeutic effect – therapeutic for the
participants and therapeutic for the viewer, against their own
numbness.

More about Wodiczko here: http://culture.pl/en/artist/krzysztof-wodiczko

http://www.art21.org/artists/krzysztof-wodiczko/images