congress / people

Krzysztof Wodiczko

Date and place of birth: 1943, Warsaw, Poland

Living place: Warsaw, Poland / Boston, New York, USA

Theme: visual arts, art theory

ECC Participation: panel member

Krzysztof Wodiczko is a visual artist and art theorist. He promotes art and design as a way of addressing the problems of the modern world. At the European Culture Congress, he will take part in a "Lost in culture" discussion.

Wodiczko’s primary goal in his activities is to animate democratic discourse. The issues he discusses are, as he puts it, ones that not everyone wants to talk about and not everyone wants to hear. He believes that artistic and aesthetic ideas must go hand in hand with social issues.

“Our understanding of Europe is devoid of any criticism of Europe.”

Most of his pieces are performative in nature and employ musical instruments, vehicles, and projections. Many of them involve annexation of public space. He criticized contemporary concepts of progress with his 1973 installation “Vehicle,” a platform designed to move slower than the person walking on it.

He is fascinated with the themes of otherness, alienation, and exclusion. In his late ’80s “Homeless Vehicle Project,” Wodiczko designed a cart that could be used by people living on the street. A few years later, he created the “Alien Staff,” which was intended to be used by immigrants. His 2009 Venice Biennale installation at the Polish Pavilion, “Guests,” featured the silhouettes and voices of immigrant window-washers cleaning virtual glass. Other famous and monumental projection pieces by the artist commented on pressing social issues. In 1985, he projected a swastika on the South African Embassy in London as a protest against apartheid, while in a 1986 piece in the courtyard of Warsaw’s Academy of Fine Arts, Wodiczko projected images of a tank, the skeleton of a horse, and a police truncheon onto the Colleoni monument, in reference to the political situation in Poland at the time. His 1999 projection at the peace memorial located at ground zero of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima was accompanied by recordings of the voices of the victims. At the El Centro Cultural building in Tijuana, Mexico, the artist projected images of exploited women and victims of sexual assault (2001), and on the buildings in Denver, Liverpool and Warsaw – words and voices of contemporary veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (2008-2010).

Wodiczko studied industrial design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw in the 1960s. He left Poland for Canada in 1977, and later moved to New York and Boston. He has taught at many universities, including École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris, the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, and the California Institute of Arts. He served as the head of the Center for Advanced Visual studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Currently he is a professor of the Art, Design and Public Domain program at the Harvard University.