History of an Eye According to Strzemiński, Agnieszka Rejniak-Majewska

1st December, 8th December, 14th December 2010, 6.30 pm

Part of the series "More or Less Strzemiński. Lectures and seminars".

In his last series of paintings, Afterimages, Strzemiński reversed the usual order of seeing and, as Przyboś poetically put it, „gave the colour of the inside of an eye that looked into the sun” in painting explosions of light, colours and shapes. It can be said that he thus finished the work of the impressionists and of Cézanne, reaching the final – physiological – “truth of seeing”. This interpretation is confirmed in Theory of Vision created in the same period. The book presents the whole history of art as the history of consecutive, developing forms of seeing.

When the word “realism” was to take on an unambiguous, imposed meaning, Strzemiński was parsuading that different artistic systems have their internal logic and historical necessity: and all of them constitute the process of sensual and intellectual conquest of reality. Strzemiński described it as the development of “visual consciousness”. The last stage of the process “physiological realism” of the impressionists meant – according to Strzemiński – the liberation of the eye from under the perspective-based convention, liberating it from the motionless “feudal” uniformity of the model. Instead, it returned to the direct sensation of colours and confirmed the fact of our corporeal sense of belonging to the world: the “realism” thus made us aware of that which was to be the fundamental rule of materialistic viewpoint. Strzemiński’s arguments constituted the last failed attempt at political defense of pure art at this point. Simultaneously, being the culminating point of the vision-centric interests of Strzemiński, it revealed the tension between the truth of physiology and the knowledge of its functioning based on scientific theory which was crucial in his work.
The lecture will place Strzemiński within the context of other/similar theories of seeing and image: the 19th and 20th century discoveries concerning the physiology of seeing and the interpretations of the history of the art. as the history of forms of seeing (Riegl, Wölfflin) of the day. It will also bring the philosophical bases of the theory of seeing closer, remind its main theses and will attempt to make a connection between Strzemiński’s paintings and the issues of “physiology of seeing” that was of interest to him. According to the suggestion expressed in the title, in the background, the thought of Georges Bataille as an initiator of equally biological but overtly contrary to Strzemiński’s assumptions surrealist conception of painting, will be mentioned, but in terms of contrast.

Agnieszka Rejniak-Majewska – an art historian and aesthetician, an adjunct at the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Lodz. She researches contemporary art, the history of artistic criticism and the methodology of art history; she is interested in boarder issues from the area of theory of art and philosophy of a painting. She is the translator of the works of Martin Jay and Rosalind Krauss.

8th December 2010 „B=2” seminar conducted by Agnieszka Rejniak-Majewska
Interpretation of Władysław Strzemiński’s text „B=2” (1924) as an example of an avant-garde manifesto. An analysis of Strzemiński’s programme in the context of Russian constructivism and suprematism: pointing to the similarities in the bases , but foremost to the disputable pints between Strzemiński and his predecessors in terms of programme assumptions.

14th December 2010 „Seeing of Impressionists” seminar conducted by Agnieszka Rejniak-Majewska.
A discussion around Strzemiński’s texts „Seeing of Impressionists” and „I Explain Impressionism” (1947): developing particular threads of the lecture connected with the explanation of what „physiological realism” is; questions, „to what extent a similar way of thinking is relevant in contemporary art.?”; what do we see in artistic forms described by Strzemiński as “physiological realism”: “truth of seeing” or historical convention?; or is the distinction between “realism” and “convention” outdated here?

Note: number of participants is limited. Registration should be placed with the series’ curator Łukasz Biskupski (l.biskupski@msl.org.pl)

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