RRRC: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost

A project by Wojciech Gilewicz

Saturday, May 30, 2015 from 12pm to 6pm
Presented in collaboration with New Museum’s IDEAS CITY

During the course of New Museum’s IDEAS CITY Street Festival, Polish-American artist Wojciech Gilewicz (b. 1974) was quietly collect, sort and recycle discarded waste produced by visitors to the event. Blurring the intersections of civic and artistic engagements and responsibilities, Gilewicz will explore the impact that can be made with a single invisible gesture.

In the Gilewicz’ statement on the project he explains:

“People who collect cans and plastic bottles from the New York City streets have their monetary reasons to collecting those items; however, no one is really interested in selecting paper or composting materials from public waste bins because it is not sellable. Be it laziness, lack of interest or confusion within the existing recycling rules, we produce an enormous amount of waste out of recyclable and compostable materials. The recycling and reuse of items has long been an area of interest for me, as both a person and as an artist. Although I’m aware of the small, and maybe insignificant, impact this kind of project might have, I would like to draw people’s attention to the question of recycling in the city, something that often goes unnoticed, something that we do not see. This kind of action reflects a broader problem of citizenship today: in running a household and obeying all of the rules of proper recycling and composting, we are only affecting small amounts of change, compared to the volume of waste produced by corporations or factories operating on a global scale. While my project cannot combat waste on a global scale, incremental change can still be produced.”

Like many of Gilewicz’ previous interdisciplinary works (e.g. Shanghai, realized in China for Zendai MoMA, 2008; Residency Unlimited, Flux Factory, NY, 2012; Food Justice, Santa Fe Art Institute, NM, 2014), his “cleaning” project for this edition of IDEAS CITY questions the distinctions, or lack thereof, between social responsibility and artistic practice. Can a cleaner become an artist as much as an artist can become a cleaner?

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Wojciech Gilewicz, born in 1974 in Bilgoraj, Poland, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan (1994-1996) and then in Warsaw, where in 1999 he earned a degree in painting (with an additional degree in photography). Lives and works in Warsaw and New York.

He is a painter, photographer, author of installations and videos.
 In his works, which usually combine all these disciplines, Gilewicz explores the blurring of distinctions between reality and its artistic representation. A frequent motif of his practice is the replacing of elements of the real world with their painterly replicas. Gilewicz’s paintings pretend to be fragments of walls, windowsills, pavements, and for an unaware viewer are utterly indistinguishable from the originals. Sometimes the artist ‘corrects reality’ by placing ‘patch’ paintings over dents or holes in a wall. The spectator is able to find the pieces, hidden in the urban tissue by the artist, with the help of specially prepared maps or films documenting the painting process. Gilewicz usually leaves the paintings for a long time in their public-space locations, deliberately exposing them to the effect of sunlight, rain, wind or the human factor. In his practice Gilewicz demonstrates the immense power of the painting medium that is able to perfectly imitate reality, while at the same time, in a way, denying the meaningfulness of painting, because his pictures remain invisible. Gilewicz’s paintings are hyperrealistic and non-representational at the same time – they perfectly imitate fragments of reality but when taken out of the reality context and transferred to the gallery, they become purely abstract.

The leitmotif of Wojciech Gilewicz’s practice is a desire to show how relative and changeable our perception of the surrounding world is and how fluid the boundaries between reality and its artistic representation can be. Gilewicz’s practice invites a reflection on the mechanisms governing our perception and on the cultural determinants of the way we see things.

About IDEAS CITY Festival (New Museum)
“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.

The theme of this year’s IDEAS CITY Festival is The Invisible City, an homage to Italo Calvino’s literary masterpiece of 1972. This theme is rooted in civic action, with each of the Festival’s platforms serving as an invitation to explore questions of transparency and surveillance, citizenship and representation, expression and suppression, participation and dissent, and the enduring quest for visibility in the city.