More on the exhibition on the website of Bunkier Sztuki in Kraków.
(1.) the phonetic transcription of Veit Stoss‘ name into Polish
2. a stroke in cue sports
3. inf. a scam
4. slang super
Let us say that Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss) was ‘found,’ almost a ‘personnage trouvé.’
Tadeusz Kantor, “The ‘Found’ Character”
Sztos is a project constructed around the found character of Wit Stwosz (Veit Stoss); found in the sense that the life and work of the sculptor, author of the St. Mary‘s Altar in Krakow, are both its material and medium, the figure of Stoss becoming a readymade. What I am interested in are above all the ways in which “Wit Stwosz,” or “Veit Stoss” were used – as warp in the fabric of strong (national) identity constructions, but also model artist figures. Hence, on the one hand, one will find in the project echoes of the disputes around the identity of the medieval artist, regarding both his place of birth and questions of artistic influences and the “character” of his style. On the other hand, afterimages of gestures of appropriation by other artists make their appearance, both as point of reference for the local artistic tradition and model of an “artiste maudit,” or vehicle for gestures of reprisal. While Jan Matejko, the visual artist who was instrumental in the process of shaping the modern Polish identity and self-image in the 19th century, took Wit Stwosz as a role model (among others painting two portraits of the artist, as a child and as an old man), Tadeusz Kantor, whose work can be seen as as taking up the traumatic experiences of the 20th-century, was responsible for a series of retaliatory artistic gestures in Nuremberg, culminating in the theater piece Let the Artists Die, with Stoss appearing as a figure from the beyond.
Interestingly, since no (self) portraits of the artist from his time exist, Stwosz/Stoss remains a faceless figure. On the one hand this facelessness is a serious impediment in using him as model, on the other hand he thus becomes an immense projection screen, on which the spectacle of giving face and de-facement can take place.
What I was aiming at while working on the project was to give this weave of themes and issues visual, reflexive form. Departing from abstract and at the same time sensual moments and motives, I wanted to raise questions about identity and history, the relationship of the political and the poetic, as well as the “need and limits of myth” (Barthes). The decision to work with photographs of sculptures, objects and documents can be read as an expression of the conviction that objects and their constellations bear extraordinary reflexive potential.
In this attempt at delineating the figure of the late medieval sculptor it is not without significance that the time of my own coming of age was divided between Germany and Poland and that I always found interest in the dilemmas and claims of belonging. Furthermore, what appealed to me was the picaresque aspect of the St. Mary’s altar’s biography: taken to Nuremberg in a complex sequence of events during WWII, the altar‘s trajectory echoes the itinerary of its creator, who divided his life between the two cities. It is through these displacements – understood also in terms of shifts in context and/or meaning, as well as transfers of affect – that the figure of ’Sztos‘ attempts to reveal some of the crooked paths of history, identity and subjectivity is this part of Europe.