Rahim Blak - XXXVII individual exhibition

 Rahim Blak's  XXXVIIth individual exhibition  mocks a ‘monographic retrospective exhibition' presenting a linear and clear story of the artist born in 1983 - Rahim Blak. Despite the fact that viewers may see right from the start that it is a manipulation and that the form of a retrospective is an intended provocation, let's allow ourselves to enter the sphere of the game and to learn the story of Rahim - the ‘child prodigy'.


The documentary produced by Cracow TV (in the aesthetics typical for it) presents Rahim as an exceptionally talented boy spending all his days in front of the easel. We get to know Rahim when he is a placid child with a melancholy look devoted entirely to his passion - painting, about which we are additionally informed by the articles and interviews with the young genius published in newspapers and by the diplomas and rewards he received which are all printed out in large size. There is no doubt about his really being a genius after we watch a documentary on Rahim's exhibition organized by professor Zin, during which in professor's pompous speech of praise Rahim is compared to Leonardo. As an emigrant form Kosovo Rahim Blak becomes a national hero and his paintings become a symbol of the fight for his country. At the exhibition organized in the refugee camp Rahim receives congratulations and thanks from (among others) the leader of Albanian partisans and the representatives of the Red Cross. The time of the teenage rebellion is another chapter in the story of the development of the young artist - this time - as a real teenager - Rahim forms with his friends an artistic group called ‘Dobrze' (‘Fine') which is to challenge the famous group ‘Ładnie' (‘Pretty'). His is admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow on the first position. He is  definitelly an outstanding student, on the other hand he is not suitable for the traditional academic constrictions. That is why his works are being criticized among others by Marian Gołogórski who is an embodiment of all the values promoted by the Cracow Academy. But Rahim continues his artistic way without any compromise which makes whim fall into disfavour of The Piotr Skarga Institute which aims at ‘putting an end to his actions'. This way Rahim is defined as one of the most controversial Polish artists which makes the presence of his works in the museum collection an absolute must. As always he takes the matter into his own hands (the physical hands are provided here by Wojciech Markowski) and citing the museum regulations stating that if an artwork appears in the museum, it becomes its property and cannot be taken out, Rahim carries out a daring invasion on the museum edifice with his artworks - thus becoming the artist included in the collection of the National Museum in Cracow.

The authenticity of the documents of the past leaves no doubt, nor does the fact that from the very beginning to the very end we are faced with artistic creation. All of the works shown at the exhibition are very new, all done in 2006, forming together the artist's 37th individual exhibition. So there is nothing like a linear proceeding or the cause-and-result connection. Every single object is an autonomous work of art and what stops us form classifying them as historical documents is their refined aesthetic visual form, e.g. high quality large-scale printouts of the diplomas on canvas (like paintings). At the exhibition everything is between real/unreal, document/manipulation. And everything turns out to be both, what is more, the basis for this differentiation is Rahim Blak himself. Rahim Blak, being the object of creation himself, who does and does not exist at the same time, who is the Cracow Academy of Fine Arts student and who is absolutely fictional. From this point of view terating oneself as the subject of one's art and later of the exhibition is actually trying to explore the thing itself, the act of creation in its real essence, or art. This is what Rahim Blak's 37th individual exhibition is about. But has Rahim any right to do it? The exhibition is divided into two parts. The first one is the story of a young talented boy who unconsciously becomes an object of manipulation, either by being defined in terms of a ‘child prodigy' - which brings a ruin to one's childhood - or by being ruthlessly dragged into political propaganda. On every occasion Rahim's works are being used, they are a means to gain something more, e.g. to help his family to be granted Polish citizenship. He himself is somehow absent from this spcectacle which is about him and because of him. The second part is a reversal  - this time Rahim is the great manipulator making others join his game. And the game is perverse and dangerous and it is played without the knowledge of people who are its main players. The participation in the game is hard to make out since its main element is a devastating criticism of Rahim's work (the correction done by Gołogórski) or a total depreciation of him as an artist and as a man turning sometimes to an utter hatered (video with Szumiec). Everything works according to Rahim's precise scenario thanks to his outstanding ability to use any situation he finds himself in, and above all thanks to the intentional provocation. Not only is Rahim the reason for making these works/situations, their initiator and arranger, but he is also their absolute author, e.g. when he is pretending to try denouncing Rahim and together with the president of the Piotr Skarga Institute he works out a plan of compromising Rahim and expelling him from the Academy or when he writes offensive articles about himself and signs them with somebody else's name. This unique anti-portfolio which he forms by himself is a very sophisticated, yet very dangerous way of getting to the very essence of artistic creation by means of its negative definition. Art is always Rahim Blak's final destination. Every situation he finds himself in is his scope for activity, material to be used, it is his starting point for making yet another work. Certainly, this will happen too in case of this exhibition.



Karolina Nowak 




Rahim Blak's XXXVIIth individual exhibition is a myth. It is a myth built up of a series of smaller myths since every exhibited work is somehow mythologized. Every work is a stolen image, what is more ineteresting, stolen form Rahim Blak's own CV. This myth is built up from the elements of reality: documents, diplomas, documentaries, press articles. All these elements have been taken out of their context and monumentalized by their size or by the way of presenting them. The facts, the existing signs collected by the artist are appropriated by art and undergo the process of the change of meaning. The exhibition is formed by different people's statements about Rahim or by their reactions to him, which are often negative. These relations make up a story, they create a picture, a definition of Rahim Blak.


So Rahim's works cover the subject of his own identity. Identity which is build on relations with other people, on relation to objects, institutions, environment or the nation. But also on the identity based on creation. The artist manipulates his own image. He puts labels on himself and collects them. Sometimes he acts as a student, or as a patriot, a scandalmonger, a child progidy, a young rebel or a model student. He is the subject and the maker of these images. Rahim appropriates his own story, he uses it as a material for his works. He combines all the images  into one. He balances between the subject and the object. He asks a question about the input of the other in creating his own image, about the accuracy of such image and about the possibility of building one's identity upon it. Playing with mtyhologized pictures of himself, in reality he is searching for their manifestations and for the proof of their existence.


Rahim is also playing with the myth of the artist demiurg, a lonely genius, a child prodigy. Can the images of a young artist created by other people turn into his own work of art? Are they the proof of his existence? Is there any hierarchy of imporatnce between them? Rahim situates his existence as an artist inside the clash between art and institution, individual and the system, subject and object. What makes his status as an artist? A diploma, a press article, the praises by professor Zin or maybe the fact of being a part of the collection of the National Museum in Cracow? From this point of view this exhibition is also about manipulation. The manipulation arranged byt he artist and the manipulation he is subjected to. It is about art being used by politics, about artistic education, about different ways of legitimization of the status of an artist and this way about the art world which expects such legitimization.


Rahim appropriates situations, people, circumstances. He often provokes them to enable further appropriation. It can be said that the manipulated boy became a master of manipulation. It may be this way, however I would not define Rahim's actions as manipulation. Rather, he enables, he arranges convenient situations, he chooses the right people. It is his extraordinary brillance, his sharpness and intuition that lead him to such striking effects. The heroes of his videos, the commentators of his work become a symbol of a certain way of thinking, of an attitude or of a circle. This relation between the individual experience and the universal symbol projects a deeper meaning and complicates our ways of  thinking.
Magdalena Kownacka