Perhaps the most widely admired Polish artist in the world, Wodiczko is a conceptual artist using the techniques of photography and video, as well as an art theorist and scholar. Continuing the legacy of the avant-garde of the early 20th century, Wodiczko defines his role as an artist as essentially that of a participant in the life of society. For three decades he merged elements from industrial design, digital media, performance, and architecture to address pertinent issues of politics, sociology, and psychology.
Wodiczko is internationally renowned for his over 80 large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments realized since 1980 in Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, and the United States. These projections are a practice he has pioneered in order to give voice to such marginalized people as the homeless, immigrants, survivors of domestic violence and war veterans and from which the artist challenges his viewers to draw social and political conclusions.
He has also developed a series of public nomadic instruments for both homeless and immigrant operators that function, not without a touch of irony, as implements for survival, communication, empowerment, and healing, like his prototype for a portable one-person home called Homeless Vehicle (1988-89).
Born 1943 in Warsaw, Krzysztof Wodiczko graduated in 1968 from the Design Faculty of Warsaw's Academy of Fine Arts. He worked as industrial designer for Warsaw's UNITRA (1968-1970). In 1969 he created for street performances a Personal Instrument that reacted to sound. Between 1970 and 1977 worked as industrial designer for Polish Optical Enterprise in Warsaw. In 1971 he began his work on Vehicle (now in the Museum of Art in Lodz) - his first sardonic conceptual vehicle which he tested on the streets of Warsaw the following year. Initially, he exhibited at the Wspolczesna Gallery in Warsaw, and later collaborated with Warsaw's legendary Foksal Gallery.
In 1977 Wodiczko emigrated to Toronto, Canada, where in 1980 he began developing his ideas for slide projections in urban space. Since 1983 he has lived in New York, where he has continued developing his series of "public intervention" instruments. Currently Wodiczko shares his time between New York and Cambridge, Mass., where he is a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the head of the Art, Design and Public Domain program. Formerly a professor in the Visual Arts Program since 1991 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where continues to direct the Interrogative Design Group. Represented by Galerie Lelong, Krzysztof Wodiczko has exhibited in museums and galleries worldwide, including major Biennales.
ART: The artistic practice of Wodiczko, in a radical yet at the same time utopian way, undertakes social problematic of 1920s Polish constructivism - using primarily the ideas of Wladyslaw Strzeminski - with reference to particular threads in mythology and religion, and applying them to "public art". Since the 1970's Wlodiczko has been realizing works in which ideas of justice are present: the artist speaks up for the harmed and unaccepted ("the others"), among them those suffering from HIV, and those rejected (mostly immigrants) in a context of racist views hidden under the facade of the so-called liberal society. Wodiczko's art is also often related to that of artists like Hans Hacke and Zbigniew Libera, who strip away the myths of the post-modern state and reveal its hidden mechanisms.
In 1987 Wodiczko entered into collaboration with writer David Lurie, which resulted in Homeless Vehicle, tested over the next two years in Manhattan and Brooklyn. In 1991 Wodiczko tested a prototype Poliscar. In 1992 he worked on the project Allien Staff - the work which referred to Christian iconography and the notion of a religious myth (among others, to Moses' walking-stick), but was applied in the context of immigrants ("strangers") in the West's consumer societies. From 1994 to 1997 Wodiczko was director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT, where he worked with his students on subsequent realizations like Porte-Parole, 1994. As head of Interrogative Design Group at the Center (since 1997), he worked on a number of projects including ÆGIS (2000) and Dis-armor (1999-2000). Since 2008, Wodiczko has started to explore the veteran experience. With the war in Iraq expanding over the years into other areas of the world, like Afghanistan the importance to hear the voices of the veterans grew exponentially. He started with the project War Veteran's Vehicle (2008), a spin off the Homeless Vehicle, which allowed homeless veterans to open up about how they deal with the return to civilian life. Later that year, Wodiczko created the Veteran's Flame, a projection on a flame on the wall of Fort Jay's arsenal in New York City.
In his projections, which since 1980 have been presented on architectural and sculptural monuments literally all over the world, using either video or frozen photographic stills and the technique of demontage, and referring to a strategy of the Berlin Dadaists of the 1920s (e.g., John Heartfield), the artist has tried to give life to the old historic monuments or to reveal their political message, which - though often in an historic-politically changed costume - remains topical. His projections often consist of authentic reminiscences and reflections of marginalized citizens, presented through a juxtaposition of selective images, like a succession of pairs of hands gesticulating, accompanied by the subjects' voice-over remarks, allowing him for a communication with the society - an issue crucial to Wodiczko's artistic thought.
These politically charged projections, over 80 of them, have mesmerized crowds at such landmarks as Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, London (1985); the Campanile in San Marco Square (Canadian Pavilion, XLII Biennale di Venezia 1986); Martin Luther Kirchturm (Documenta 8, Kassel 1987); the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC (1988); The Whitney Museum, New York (1989); the Lenin Monument, Leninplatz, East Berlin (1990); Zion Square, Jerusalem (1990); City Hall Tower, Krakow (1996), Bunker Hill Monument, Boston (1997), A-Bomb Dome, Hiroshima (1998), El Centro Cultural de Tijuana, Mexico (1998, 2001), Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China (1999), the Old Courthouse, St. Louis, Missouri (2004), and Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston (2009).
Since 1985, Wodiczko has been honored with a number major retrospectives at such institutions as the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Bunkier Sztuki Art Center in Krakow, Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw; Museum Sztuki, Lodz; Fundacio Tapies, Barcelona; Wadsworth Athenaeum, Hartford; and the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. Wodiczko's work has been exhibited in the Paris Biennale, the Sydney Biennale, the Lyon Biennale, twice in Documenta, and thrice in the Venice Biennale; he also participated in the Sao Paulo Biennale and and other major international art festivals and exhibitions. His international career was sealed in 1998 with a prestige award and exhibition, The 4th International Hiroshima Art Prize for his contribution as an artist to world peace (Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art). In 2005 Krzysztof Wodiczko and architect Julian Bonder developed a major public monument commemorating the abolition of slavery in Nantes, France.
Most recently, in 2011 Wodiczko was awarded the Order of Polonia Restituta, one of Poland's highest honors. He also received the 2004 College Art Association Award for Distinguished Body of Work, as well as the Georgy Kepes prize at MIT, the Skowhegan Medal for Sculpture, the Katarzyna Kobro Prize, the Gloria Artis medal from the Polish Ministry of Culture, and More Art's Feed More Art to the World Award.
TEACHING: Wodiczko earned his MFA in 1968 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Poland, with an emphasis on architecture, industrial design and the visual arts. Currently he is a professor at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he directs the Art, Design and Public Domain program. He also serves as a Senior Lecturer in the Psychology Department at the Warsaw School of Social Psychology. Before Harvard he was a professor in the Visual Arts Program since 1991 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies he continues to direct the Interrogative Design Group. Before coming to MIT Wodiczko was on the faculty or a visiting professor at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts, California Institute of the Arts, Cooper Union School of Art, University of Hartford, New York Institute of Technology, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Ontario College of Art, Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, and Warsaw Polytechnic Institute. He lectures frequently around the world and has conducted seminars on such topics as the history and theory of the avant-garde; the theory and criticism of public art; nomadic design; art, identity and community; design, technology and ethics; the art of counter-memory; and interrogative design.
ESSAYS: Wodiczko has supported his works with theoretical treatises. All his works critically approach the socio-political arena and reflect his engagement in social problems. They touch themes related to individual and collective memory, historic trauma, as well as issues of immigration and the figure of The Other (the artist has developed a theory of xenology). His very consistent attitude developed since the 1970's and his unique theoretical conscience demonstrating the authenticity of his engagement in discourse, have been decisive for the meaning of Wodiczko's art. For these reasons, the artist's texts are regarded as the most important of those from the American post-modernist circle linked with the influential magazine "October". Wodiczko's essays addressing aspects of public art have appeared in October, DIA Art Foundation's Discussion on Contemporary Culture, Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, Assemblage, Grand Street, Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art, Art In Theory, 1945-1995, and numerous exhibition catalogues. Volumes of his writings have been published by Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris and recently by MIT Press.
Krzysztof Wodiczko's CV
Wodiczko at PBS's ART 21
Interrogative Design Group
Krzysztof Wodiczko, Public Projection for InSite, Tijuana, Mexico, 2000
Krzysztof Wodiczko, AEgis: Equipment for a City of strangers, 2000 © Galerie Lelong
Krzysztof Wodiczko, Vehicle, 1974
Krzysztof Wodiczko, Homeless Vehicles, 1988 - 1989 © Krzysztof Wodiczko