Gallery 2
April 12 - May 23, 1999
Opening: April 12, 6 p.m.

Curator Jerzy Onuch

It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Taras Polataiko is the best kept secret in Ukraine. The Centre for Contemporary Art is pleased to present the first major survey in Ukraine of this young international artist's work.

Born in Chernivtsi in 1966, Polataiko studied in Moscow in the 80-s, completing a Master of Fine Arts degree in Canada in the early nineties, where he now lives and works and where he is somewhat notorious as a bad boy of contemporary Canadian Art for his conceptual audacity.

Only 32 years old, in the last six years Polataiko has had twelve solo exhibitions at some of the most respected galleries and museums of contemporary art in Canada and New York. He is represented by the established galleries in both Canada and New York; his exhibitions are widely reviewed by the prestigious national and international media. Yet, mysteriously, his work remains relatively unknown to the Ukrainian public.

"Taras Polataiko, a Ukrainian-born artist, now living in Canada, is fast becoming one of the most carefully scrutinised artists in Canada…Everything he does draws attention, if not notoriety", reads an introduction to a feature article in the Boarder Crossings, Canadian art magazine with an international readership. In 1995 the influential New York art magazine ARTnews picked him as one of Ten Artists To Watch World-Wide. Since then his work has been the subject of numerous articles and reviews in the international press: feature articles on Polataiko's art have appeared in World Art, Globe and Mail and Parachute. Recently, Sylvere Lotringer, the publisher of Semiotext(e) a renown New York journal which is considered to be responsible for shaping intellectual fashions in North America (it was responsible for the major influence of Jean Baudrillard on the American intellectual and art scene in the 80-s) has invited Polataiko to participate in his new publication titled Apocalypso.

Polatataiko's works are represented in many public and corporate collections, among them the Microsoft Corporation in Seattle; the Saskatchewan Arts Board; MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina; Mendel Art Gallery; Art Gallery of North York, Toronto and Diane Farris Gallery in Vancouver.

The Centre for Contemporary Art presents five Polataiko's projects dating from 1992 to the present. It is our pleasure to announce that the artist has agreed to present a new project, titled Vin, conceived especially for the presentation at the Centre. The Ukrainian Vin, as a second person reference to the Devil, goes as far back as early 17th cent. (the time of the construction of the Kyiv - Mohyla Academy building).

Polataiko will have a photo-robot (on loan from the Ministry of Internal Affairs) set up in one of the Centre's galleries for the public to use. The public will be invited to project facial parts of the persons posted by the police as missing for the first ten days of the show. The changing wall-projection will be continuously monitored by a surveillance camera. The artist will then review the footage and select the image which stayed on the wall for the longest period. This image will be than printed as a "Wanted" poster, offering 1000 hryvnias as an award to the person who's facial features most resemble the image on the poster. This person will be offered a private room at the Centre to look at video camera during the gallery hours for the remaining two weeks of the show. The image will be projected live onto the gallery wall.

As usual, Polataiko's work offers the possibility for numerous interpretations. It can be seen as a reference to the early 20th century symbolist preoccupation with the supernatural or as a fin-de-siecle contemplation on the Faustus/Mephistophelis scenario. In the context of contemporary art, one can see Vin as a quest for the Sublime, the boundary between fiction and reality, an invocation of a collective identity. Polataiko says: "The project is intended to be neither an impersonal myth nor a personal fiction but a collective utterance. The affinity between a work of art and a marginalized or missing people may never be entirely clear and the artist can only invoke a people. Although a need for a people goes to the heart of what artist does, an artist cannot create a people and an oppressed people cannot concern itself with art. Yet when a people creates itself, through its own resources and sufferings, it also creates the essential ingredient of art or, perhaps, reintroduces art to what it was missing".

The Centre will also present documentation of several of Polataiko's works. Artist As Politician (In the Shadow Of the Monument), was a site-specific 1992 performance which brought Polataiko instant fame and nearly got him deported from Canada. Artist As Meal: Monument a la Carte is a video documentation of Polataiko's performance which followed a University of Saskatchewan's invitation to perform at the annual Christmas luncheon of the Departments of the Fine Art, Music and Drama. Moth is a 1996 video projection shot in the dark studio with camera light as the only source of light. A blindfolded artist tries to follow the source of light. This piece presents us with a specific interaction between the two sides of the camera lens. Mole is a photo-installation, a result of the artist's 1996 Berlin shoot of bullet holes which used to cover the walls of the Reichstag.

The video-documentation of Polataiko's Cradle project will be screened. For this project Polataiko purposefully went to Chornobyl's alienation zone and spent enough time there to infect himself with radioactivity. He then used his body as a vehicle to transport the acquired radioactivity to North America where he performed a full blood transfusion. This blood became a part of Cradle installation, arguably the most radical body art project to date.

For further information please contact with
Jerzy (Yuri) Onuch or Kateryna Kit

Supported by: The Grant Program of the CCA.
Foreign Affairs Canada, The Canada Council for the Arts, Saskatchewan Arts Board.
The Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle
Al.Ujazdowskie 6, 00-461 Warsaw, Poland
tel: (48 22) 628 12 71-3, (48 22) 628 76 83
fax: (48 22) 628 95 50 ;