Piotr Skiba | Man, That Negro Stole My Show!20. Feb - 20. Feb 14 / ended Truman Brewery
6 pm - 9 pm
Piotr Skiba’s first solo exhibition in the UK features his latest project, "Man, That Negro Stole My Show!", a series of video performances dedicated to a singular experience of madness and desolation. Although this is a one-man show focused on a mysterious figure in a latex mask, there are actually two protagonists in Skiba’s work: the artist himself; and the impersonation of the black man who once lived on the street in Wroclaw, Poland. By bringing the performance to the multicultural city of subversive freedom which is London, the project gains new meanings and puts into question the modern notion of tolerance, which is fundamental for democratic societies.
Skiba’s work is firstly an homage to the only homeless black man in the Polish city of Wroclaw, who later disappeared without a trace. It is also in homage to all kinds of quirky behaviour, which are usually carefully avoided in our perception of society. In fact, our anonymous hero was invisible from the very beginning of his story. Many people recognized the distinctive, charismatic gestures and expressive language of the chaotic pseudo-religious sermons that he sang around the Market Place, but nobody really knew him. Paradoxically, the artist only managed to speak with him once – he vanished just as Skiba got his project underway. It is as if the artist not only stole the man's identity, but also appropriated his body and the reality that he lived in. Hence, we can ask a relevant question: who actually 'steals the show' here, and from whom?
“With my face disguised under a latex mask, I showed up at the Cosmonauts Housing Project where my family and I currently reside. For several days I tried to introduce this virus into a local community which is accustomed to comfortable rituals taking place in a closed rectangle hemmed in by the hair salons, churches, chemist, Mini-Marts, psychotherapy and urology practices, and so on. The Cosmonauts Project provides residents with everything they could possibly want, so there is no need for any intervention from the external world” — Piotr Skiba.
Skiba’s performance is a sort of postmodern freak-show, an intentional mockery, where the audience is exposed to a test of curiosity and compassion towards a man who is behaving strangely. The artist dons the mask of an albino Negro and pretends to be insane to the point where he begins to identify himself with the performed role. This ambivalent persona seems to disturb the residents of the concrete estate, where the boundaries of understanding for all categories of abnormality are rather narrow.
The title of the exhibition refers to the words allegedly uttered by David Hammons, an Afro-American artist who for many years has been taking up subjects related to living in New York’s Harlem, after Barack Obama was elected President of the USA for his first term in 2008. At the same time it is the title of a one-day performance, recorded with a handheld camcorder in 2012, which will be on display together with the second film from 2013 entitled "V.D.O.P.". Both works premiered at the MWW Contemporary Museum of Art in Wroclaw, November 2013.
Piotr Skiba (b.1980) — visual artist working in the field of video, video installation, sculpture and painting. Lives and works in Wroclaw (Poland). More: http://www.piotrskiba.com/.
Curator: Magdalena Zieba
20.02.2017, 6 PM
Shop 25 (The Old Truman Brewery)
25 Hanbury Street
London E1 6QR
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