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Andrzej Mitan interviews Andrzej Mitan

publication date: 2006.03/04-05/06
author: Andrzej Mitan

Elite are people living in truth,

characterized by unselfishness

in making good and beautiful deeds



You are one of those artists whose work does not fit into any standard genre of art.

Maybe it’s time to die…

So if this is omega to you, what was your alfa?

As every young well-bred boy I listened to and analyzed Bach, then the impressionists, and later the great contestant artists, such as Schwitters or Cage. Then the time came for Coltrane, Davis, Jarret, Hendrix, Mclaughlin… and finally I took the risk myself. In 1968, together with Jan Olszak and my brother Piotr I established an art group called ONOMATOPEJA, and after a year we presented our first musical happening. That was my alfa.

Later you became very active at Riviera-Remont – the Club of the Warsaw University of Technology...

I arrived in Warsaw in 1974, from Lublin, where I studied at the Catholic University. I identified Riviera-Remont as one of the most important places for artistic and intellectual activity. I found its program – which was very modern and distant from political isssues – extremely attractive. Very soon, I joined the group of animators of music, theater, film and art, proposing several interdisciplinary projects.

Riviera-Remont was a club particularly friendly for jazz fans.

O yes! The greatest jazz artists performed here. They didn’t come to a place which was anonymous. Remont was an important and famous club. For Polish musicians it was a place of highest artistic rank, a place which ensured very good promotion. It was at that time that I got infected with that incredible and incurable disease called JAZZ.

With whom did you cooperate at that time?

I worked with the composer and guitar player Jan Olszak and poet Jan Gałkowski. A friend – in terms of art – was Cezary Staniszewski – a great personality and book artist. His books didn’t resemble traditional books with text; there were art objects, with abstract signs and imagery on every page. Each book was a fascinating score, which I performed in a prearranged space.

We’re talking about jazz, about innovative art actions, independent creative activity. But around was everyday life under communism. What was your reaction to this?

The situation required civic activity and cooperation. Teodor Klincewicz „Teo¶” – a legend of the anticommunist opposition, entrusted me with the mission of distributing newsletters, illegal books and periodicals. Very soon, Remont became not only the place were independent publications were distributed, but a true stronghold of oppositionist activities. The victory of „Solidarity” in 1980, the registration of the Independent Students’ Union, inspired many art events. The SUPER GROUP WITH NO FALSE MODESTY was created, with the participation of Janusz Trzciński, Andrzej Bieżan, Helmut Nadolski and Andrzej Przybielski. Our main endeavor was the play „Job’s Book” staged at the National Theatre during the 1981 Jazz Jamboree. Another staging, at the Szczecin docks, planned for December 14, was cancelled because of the proclamation of the martial law.

Do you have any documentation of this performance?

After several years I managed to organize a recording, so it is not just a transitory reminiscence of that unique period.

What was your activity like under the martial law?

At the very beginning of that period, the INDEPENDENT STUDIO OF ELECTROACOUSTIC MUSIC was created under the ideological leadership of Krzysztof Knittel. Apart from the two of us it was co-created by the following composers: Paweł Szamański, Stanisław Krupowicz, Andrzej Bieżan, Mieczysław Litwiński and Tadeusz Sudnik. We gave concerts in churches, artists’ studios, private apartments (all students’ clubs, Remont included, were closed). We cooperated with actors. Our {“Psalms” were very well received, they integrated people, and comforted them. After limitation and finally abolishing of the martial law, we implemented several important projects at the National Concert Hall in Warsaw, in the Krzysztofory Club in Krakow, and during the prestigious festival „Inventionen” in West Berlin.

How was the New Music Club Remont created, and what preceded the production of the famous art records?

Many wonderful performers, unconventional artists, composers and jazz musicians were deprived of the opportunity to make professional documentation of their works. Only an independent music publisher could give them that chance. A traditional registration of music on a music record isn’t anything new. That’s why my project was all about producing personal art objects, consisting of a record and a hand made sleeve.

Every record (nine titles, published in a 1000 copies each) was a strict music documentation on one hand, and an independent visual piece of art on the other. In a squat at Sienna street, I managed to establish and run for a couple of weeks a workshop, where artists created art covers for their records. The following artists took part in this big endeavor: Włodzimierz Borowski, Edward Krasiński, Andrzej Bieżan, Krzysztof Knittel, Marcin Krzyżanowski, Wojciech Konikiewicz, Janusz Dziubak, Włodzimierz Pawlik, Wojciech Czajkowski, Helmut Nadolski, Andrzej Przybielski, Zdzisław Piernik, Andrzej Szewczyk, Tadeusz Rolke, Andrzej Zaremba, Jarosław Kozłowski, Cezary Staniszewski, Ryszard Winiarski, Tadeusz Sudnik, Tadeusz Konador and many volunteers. Only later we learnt this was quite a unique project. During an exhibition on history and art of records, organized by the international publisher „Broken Music”, our series was presented among the works of Warhol, Cage, Heidsieck, Vostell, Kagel. It was a very satisfying project, even more as it was completely non-profitable.

After the international success of the records, you began to present your works at the RR Gallery curated by Cezary Staniszewski. How did your cooperation with Emmett Williams begin?

Emmett Williams, an internationally renowned artist and the backbone of the international FLUXUS art movement, made his performance „Genesis” in our gallery. Soon after that we organized the first Polish Fluxus-Concert together (concrete poetry-jazz-visualization). I was on cloud nine and proposed to organize an international art festival in Warsaw, which would be something totally innovative. Both Emmett and Cezary were quite skeptical at first, they thought it was an impossible thing to do (political situation, closed borders, the costs of the endeavor etc.)

But you made it… The International Art Seminar ETC… took place in 1987 r. More that a hundred eminent artists from the US, Europe and Japan participated.

Two years later, I organized another art event at the Ujazdowski Castle (which was being refurbished at that time). This was the beginning of the Center for Contemporary Art. (Andrzej Dłużniewski presented a very intuitional work then, a round table). Independent artists, demonstrating solidarity, won the battle over the Castle. But it was not a complete victory, as we could later learn... Paradoxically, the third Polish Republic proved to be a nasty step-mother for many avant-garde artists and the artistic milieu.

In 1990 you accepted to work at the Center for Culture Animation. It seems you had to limit you own creative work.

I continued my cooperation with many wonderful galleries – such as AT in Poznań and Galeria Działań in Warsaw. The GR Gallery, which I curated, became an important place for me. I organized a lot of exhibitions, concerts and festivals there. After the „Fish Concert” created with the participation of Janusz Skowron, we made a decision – which proved to be big with consequences – to create an art group, which we called A CONCERT OF THE PSEUDOSOLIDS. We invited Cezary Konrad, Zbigniew Wegehaupt, Marcin Pospieszalski, Krzysztof ¦cierański, Michał Mi¶kiewicz, Tadeusz Sudnik, and Grzegorz Grzyb to cooperate. This cooperation among exquisite artists lasts till today and gives us the unique opportunity to create on a „total level” (refined dialogue among musicians, non-semantic sound poetry and performance).

This sounds like some very exclusive offer. How does it operate on the art market?

Art is not an economic category, and I’m no salesperson. Art is exclusive, and it will continue being exclusive, and at the same time it is open, and it disinterest in offering non-material goods in a beautiful way. It is a process of creating an independent reality, manifested by an artist. I will put it that way: it is an manifestation of humanity in a world which is full of contempt for spiritual values.

What have you been working on recently?

My new project named „The Polish Didactic Poem” is a poetical exposition full of art theory and philosophy or creation. Its form, what is important to me, is void of artistic experiment. Its message is as simple as silence: „don’t; shout so loud, as you won’t be able to hear the lips through which the world utters you, don’t run so fast, as you won’t be able to experience the path which speaks with your own feet”.

Thank you!