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"Awake and Dream", the poetic title inspired by professor Andrzej Turowski's essay, embodies a dual invitation. These words mark the Signum Foundation's inauguration of its Venetian exhibition space in Palazzo Donà and the first public showing of its art collection.

Palazzo Donà is an unusual venue, imbued - as is Venice herself - with a thousand years of cross-cultural history and remaining a veritable treasure house of art. Surprisingly, however, it does not deny access to contemporary art. It is in this context that Signum Foundation envisages its place in Venice.

Palazzo Donà, known also as Palazzo Donà Brusa, stands in Venice's second largest square, the Campo San Polo. The palace was most probably the first domicile of the aristocratic Donà family. The surname derives from the Latin nickname Donatus given to the Roman citizens of Aquileia who in the VI century sought for refuge in the Lagoon. From the IX century on the family took active part in the public life of Venice with three Doges bearing this name.

The artistic traditions of the Palazzo can be linked with the name Brusa. Giovanni Francesco Brusa was a composer of sacred and operatic music, and a collaborator of Carlo Goldoni.

It is the neighboring Carlo Goldoni House to which Palazzo Donà could be compared. Both palaces are characterized by a beautiful Gothic courtyard with a well and internal staircase. One enters Palazzo Donà through a grand Gothic portal framed by a sculpted stone frieze representing a hunting scene. From the piano nobile, the courtyard is surveyed through a monumental quadrifora. An oxblood pastellone floor with carved and decorated Gothic and Renaissance ceilings characterize the interior.

The artistic traditions of the Palazzo was continued by the last owners, the Fonsecas, an American family of sculptors, painters, and writers. Signum Foundation would like to carry on by making Palazzo Donà a place dedicated to the promotion of contemporary art with free admission to the worldwide public.

The first exhibition in Palazzo Donà entitled "Awake and Dream" presents works by 33 Polish and international artists from the Signum Foundation's art collection dating from 1910 to 2009. The collection was started 15 years ago by Jaroslaw and Hanna Przyborowski, the founders and chief executive officers of Signum Foundation. It includes more than 1000 objects of prevalently modern and contemporary art.

The exhibition in Venice aims to promote Polish artists in an international context. Many are past and present figures on the international art scene with frequent appearances at various Biennale exhibitions.

Pawel Althamer, for example, is known from his sculptures in public spaces and Katarzyna Kozyra's performance Il Castrato, from the cycle "In Art Dreams Come True" was presented in Bologna at the San Leonardo Theatre in 2007. After his recent show in Guido Costa Projects space in Turin, Robert Kusmirowski will work on a new long-term site-specific project in the Palazzo Donà.

"Awake and Dream" is dedicated to the question of desire in its many guises - from carnal lust, through the lust for power and space, to the yearning for beauty, and the desiring of desire itself. The course of the exhibition ignores linearity and chronology. The traditional visual narration is enriched by musical and film fragments which cross the borders of geography and history making impossible encounters possible.

In this sense the Foundation will invite the Venetian composer Luca Mosca and the librettist Gianluigi Melega with the musical scherzo "Freud, Freud I love you" (which had its world premiere at Teatro Olimpico in Rome on January 15th, 2009) as well as Pier Paolo Pasolini with sequences from the film "La rabbia" (The Anger) made originally in 1963 and restored by cinematheque of Bologna just a year ago. The early 20th century Polish composer shall be the host with the second act from his opera "King Roger" in the 2007 performance by Mariusz Trelinski at the Wroclaw Opera.

"King Roger" is a result of Karol Szymanowski's first visit to Sicily in 1923. The composer travelled with his friend, the painter, writer, and playwright Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, aka Witkacy. The forty photographs mise-en-scène by Witkiewicz will transform one of the Palazzo's bedrooms into a true cabinet of photography. There we will see Witkacy in heterogeneous disguises and poses. Experiments with human and artistic identity constitute an important theme in the course of the exhibition.

The arrangement of the exhibition space makes this course even more unusual. The representative piano nobile and the monumental courtyard find their counterpoint in the more modest and private rooms of the palace. Among them there are unexpected passages and hidden places. In a metaphorical way one passes from the vastness of social problems to an intimate human dimension where one's desires are veiled.

In the Gothic hall there is a model of the "War Veteran Vehicle" by Krzysztof Wodiczko, Poland's representative at the current Biennale. The vehicle is a part of a project commissioned and sponsored by Signum Foundation since 2007. The project was preceded by "Poznan Projection" prepared in collaboration with the Social Emergency Group of Poznan. The author said: "As in other projects, the planned public projection in Poznan will be my yet another attempt to employ the symbolic quality and prestigious presence and scale of a selected city monument."

Photographs by Zbigniew Libera (known in Venice from his participation in the exhibition "Aperto" in 1993) as well as the vehicle/sculpture call attention to today's ongoing wars by examining the link between a direct testimony and its transformation into a universal image by means of art. The hall is decorated with a video fresco by Dominik Lejman inducing a reflection on various forms of social life.

Society from a woman's perspective appears in the Renaissance hall. Female sensuality, which can be also represented by a male body as in Zofia Kulik's photographs (which call to mind her exhibition at the Rembrandt hall of Wilhelmshöhe at the 12 Documenta in Kassel in 2007), collides with the brutal reality of everyday life or with a sophisticated fetishism. The female body is pushed to the extreme in the performances by the artistic group Sedzia Glowny (The Chief Judge) with its unusual interpretation of Women's Day. The intimacy is restored within the installation by Agata Michowska "Suicide in the Museum", while a violated and violating human body returns in the photographs from the set of Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Salò or the 120 Days of Sodom".

In the symbolic passage between the official halls and the private part of Palazzo Donà there is place for art outsider, Krzysztof Niemczyk. The painter, writer, and performer active in the 1960's and 70's has been slightly neglected owing to an original style which does not catalogue easily. Niemczyk uses his own body as both a tool and a material of sculpture and painting and as a marker of his existence in the environment. It is through the body that the artist connects himself to the real and the symbolic universe.

The art of Krzysztof Niemczyk is reconstructed in the photographs by Eustachy Kossakowski. The same photographer provides the documentation of the historic happening "Panoramic Sea Happening" by Tadeusz Kantor in 1967. One shall find it "abandoned" on the Palazzo's mezzanino along with paintings and drawings by Kantor.

In the smaller or more private rooms of Palazzo Donà is revealed one of the treasures of the Signum Foundation's art collection: the "Spatial Composition" by Katarzyna Kobro surrounded by Kasimir Malevich's drawings from 1927. These masterpieces, which illustrate the discipline of the constructivism from the turn of the 1920's, also represent the universal value of art of any time expressed by the desire of space.

Dialogue with time predominates in the objects exhibited in the master bedroom which closes the private wing of the Palazzo and completes one of the possible itineraries in the exhibition. The monumental installation by Miroslaw Balka (introduced to the Venetian audience with the exhibition "Aperto" in 1990) confronts the shadows which can only be modified by the passage of time. The white table by Antoni Starczewski is a window on infinity, as well as one of counted paintings by Roman Opalka. (Already represented in Venice by several paintings at Axel Vervoordt's 2007 exhibition "Artempo" in Palazzo Fortuny in 2007.)

"Awake and Dream" is a subtle confrontation between the contemporary artists and their predecessors though the relationship may be less than obvious: "Detail" by Roman Opalka and drawings by Bruno Schulz. The solution is up to the beholder. Photographic visions from the Witkacy cabinet turn up again in the salotto where the artist Andrzej Karmasz gazes at us from his self-portraits. Karmasz dresses himself up to the point of losing his individual appearance and recreating it anew. In the Renaissance hall the artists of "Sedzia Glowny" group offer hommage to the photographs of Natalia LL, who in the 1970's was the forerunner of media experiments with a female countenance.

The objects placed in more hidden places on the various levels of Palazzo Donà refer to the unattainable mental spaces beyond the reach of the beholder. Nicolas Grospierre (The Golden Lion at the Architectural Biennale of 2008) converts a tiny back room in an enormous library. The erotic pictures by Jerzy Kujawski from 1960's and 1970's point to the hidden universe of sexual activity. The most recent photographes by the youngest participant of the exhibition, Michal Martychowiec seem to have been taken with one's eyes closed, deep in a slow dream about a journey into the mystery of death.

The reference to death and the desire to fathom its mystery appears within "Awake and Dream" in different dimensions, from the visionary to the political and social. The vision of death is introduced by a imposing painting "Self-Portrait with Death" by Jacek Malczewski from 1910 placed on the courtyard's wall at the very entrance to the exhibition. The motif of death disappears and returns many times as one of the possible keys to the exhibition and the entire collection of Signum Foundation.

The exhibition "Awake and Dream" is accompanied by a book of the same title in English and Italian with a complete photographic documentation, essays by Giorgio Agamben, Janusz K. Glowacki, Grzegorz Musial, Andrzej Turowski, and biographical notes of the participating artists.

AWAKE AND DREAM / SVEGLIATI E SOGNA, Exhibition Chapters and Artists:

narcissus, metaphor, costume
Jacek Malczewski, Katarzyna Kozyra

books, copies, mythologies
Robert Kusmirowski, Nicolas Grospierre, Miroslaw Balka

images, scraps, falls
Tadeusz Kantor, Eustachy Kossakowski

faces, gestures, insatiability
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), Karol Szymanowski

ephemeral, lost, inexistent
Michal Martychowiec

wars, simulations, montages
Zbigniew Libera, Jan Maria Brzeski, Dominik Lejman, Krzysztof Wodiczko

entrapment, violence, abuse
Pier Paolo Pasolini, Karolina Wiktor i Aleksandra Kubiak (Sedzia Glowny), Zofia Kulik, Agata Michowska

desire, pulsation, flow
Jerzy Kujawski, Krzysztof Niemczyk, Andrzej Karmasz, Natalia LL., Pawel Althamer, Emeka Okereke, Qudus Onikeku

limits, rhythms, void
Kasimir Malevich, Katarzyna Kobro

forms unformed
Roman Opalka, Bruno Schulz, Tadeusz Kantor, Antoni Starczewski, Luca Mosca

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