Last year the German artist Christian Jankowski travelled to Poland to produce Heavy Weight History, which consists of an installation, a 25-minute film and a series of photographs. Jankowski invited a group of burly weightlifters to try and pick up a number of massive public sculptures in the Polish capital of Warsaw, including more than one Communist-era memorial, a statue of Ronald Reagan and the figure of Syrenka the Mermaid, a famous, often vandalised symbol of the city, first erected in 1859
Simultaneously disturbing and stimulating debates surrounding the still-raw history of Polish occupation by the Nazis, as well as the country’s protracted period of Soviet rule after WWII, Jankowski’s film conversely posits a light-hearted and socially-inclusive aspect to his controversial undertaking – that of reinvigorating locals’ relationships to oft-neglected bits of Varsovian public statuary. This questioning of the continued relevance and future siting of public sculpture continues a line of enquiry by Jankowski that has previously seen him create numerous life-size bronze Living Statues (2007) – simulacra of street performers posing as Julius Caesar and Che Guevara in Barcelona – as well as a giant socialist-realist sculpture based on an anachronistically luxurious photograph by one of the Mexican Muralists, entitled Monument to the Bourgeois Working Class (2012).
As with other films of Jankowski’s, such as Casting Jesus of 2011, the live, performative elements of Heavy Weight History have been documented in the style of scripted reality television, or specifically in this case as a convincing piece of outside broadcast coverage of a competitive sport, with a well-known Polish commentator on hand to describe the action. For his fourth solo show with Lisson Gallery in ten years, Jankowski is also presenting another recent film, Crying for the March of Humanity of 2012, in which an entire episode of a Mexican telenovela has been remade, except that the lines of dialogue have been replaced by actors sobbing and crying rather than speaking – extending the dramatic, climactic soap opera moment into something more like hysteria. Photo-realistic canvases from The China Painters series (2007-08), produced by copyists from the notorious ‘oil painting village’ of Dafen, complete Jankowski’s exhibition, while similarly highlighting the potentially serious ramifications of staging or altering reality, whether that manipulation happens through translation via mass-media or as a by-product of an inherent flaw in man’s nature.
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About Lisson Gallery
Lisson Gallery is one of the most influential and longest-running international contemporary art galleries in the world. Established in 1967 by Nicholas Logsdail, it pioneered the early careers of important Minimal and Conceptual artists, such as Sol LeWitt and Richard Long, as well as those of significant British sculptors from Anish Kapoor and Tony Cragg to a younger generation led by Ryan Gander and Haroon Mirza. Lisson Gallery represents 42 of the most innovative and exciting artists working today, including six winners of the Turner Prize and many recipients of the Silver Lion at the Venice Biennale. With two exhibition spaces in London, one in Milan and an office in New York, the gallery supports and develops artists globally, including Marina Abramovič, Allora and Calzadilla, Ai Weiwei, Gerard Byrne, Liu Xiaodong, Tatsuo Miyajima, Rashid Rana, Pedro Reyes and Santiago Sierra. The Lisson Presents programme also extends a legacy of curatorial innovation beyond the gallery spaces, working with institutions and artists to present new initiatives around the world.