Remembering Peter Grzybowski

The Present Tense is saddened for the recent passing of artist and curator, Peter Grzybowski. A long time friend of The Present Tense,  we are grateful we had the opportunity to show his work at the Contaminate 3 Festival in 2008.  The following is a collection of memories from those who were touched by his presence and his work.

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Peter Gryzbowski “Press” 2008 photo by Ben Smart

In the 21st century, many have surrendered to the inevitability of the hyper-documented life, a result of current technologies, but nothing can replace the experience of witnessing a live-art piece unfolding in the present moment.   To performance artists, art lives in real time and often times is believed to live in the body.  Consequently, when a body deteriorates the art dies with it.  The death of an artist working in experiential media can be devastating because it eliminates the possibility of ever experiencing their work in its totality again.

On August 29, 2013, artist and curator, Peter Gryzbowski passed away.  Like many, I learned of Peter’s passing through social media.  Discovering the death of a friend in this way seems impersonal, but it offers a collective experience of mourning that is strangely comforting.  We can see the magnitude of the expansive territory that a life can touch.  In the days after news of Peter’s passing spread throughout The Present Tense’s networks, it was amazing to see how many people in so many places throughout the world had been impacted by his work.   This tribute is an attempt to capture a morsel of Peter Gryzbowski’s impact on The Present Tense and the communities of artists with whom we are connected.  No video, no photo, no written account can capture his work, however, it feels crucial to try to compile something to honor Gryzbowski’s creative contribution.  This is also an admittedly selfish attempt.  Peter was a friend and teacher of sorts.  He showed my work when few believed it was mature enough.  As my own curatorial practice evolved, I had the opportunity to show Peter’s work as well.  He was a constant fixture in my career for a decade and I am grateful that I had the chance to experience his work and his friendship.

The following footage is from “Press,” a piece that Peter created at The Present Tense and TEST’s Contaminate 3 Festival in Boston in 2008.  The piece was minimal, cyclical and repetitive.  The principal action of the piece was captured both in real time and in video that illuminated the space through projection.  Peter engaged in the action of crumpling pieces of newspaper and throwing them on the ground.  The video played in reverse, making it appear as if the crumpled paper was magically floating back into Peter’s hand.  There were three bodies in the piece, the present self, the past self (video) and Peter’s shadow, an acknowledgement of the future self.   If my memory serves me, I remember being most excited by the moment when the accumulated paper on the ground matched the volume of paper in the video.  This visual collision offered a brief time where all three Peter’s could exist within the same moment.

Rest well, Peter.  Thank you for gifting me experiences for contemplation through your work and teaching me how to be a better artist.  I am forever grateful.

– Sandrine Schaefer

Peter Grzybowski “Press” 2008 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

This past summer, I was invited to participate in the SUPERNOVA festival in Rosslyn, Virginia. The festival circuit is an exciting one, a wonderful networking experience with both new faces and old ones. When I first caught a glimpse of the roster,  a particular old face jumped off the screen: Peter Gryzbowski. I first met Peter at the 14th International Performance Art Congress in Sacramento, California in 2006. His piece at that festival haunts me to this day. Peters presence during his performances was very powerful, and having seen and met him at a very early stage of my own performance practice, I learned quite a bit about the medium from him. Over the years I’ve felt more and more grateful for the impact he had on the genesis of my work. 

 Once I arrived in Rosslyn, I learned that Peter was unable to make it to the festival. Sad that I would not see him, I made a mental note to contact him and let him know I’ve been thinking of him. Later that day, I saw obsolete computer monitors, a favorite performance object for Peter, being loaded off a van and into the space I’d be performing in later in the festival. Once I learned that they were originally indented for Peter’s performance, I immediately felt connected to them. Eames Armstrong, the festivals curator, was kind enough to let me take one of them for my own performance. I wondered, what was Peter going to use these for? They were going to end up smashed up, weren’t they? 

I was excited to have an addition to my performance, but I was more excited to pay homage to an artist that I’ve always respected and looked up to. In the end, I chose both actions that are pertinent to my work as well as actions that were inspired by Peters work. I feel very grateful that I had this unique opportunity to connect with Peter and his practice, even if he wasn’t present for it. Peter will be greatly missed.

– Philip Fryer

Still from "WHAT NOW", Photo by Sandrine Schaefer

Still from “WHAT NOW”, Photo by Sandrine Schaefer

 

I met Peter in 2011 at Grace Exhibition Space in Brooklyn.  His interest in my work as so genuine that we spent several hours talking about performance and art in general.  His passion for live action art was clear and enthusiastic especially when he described the projects he had been involved.  We kept connected even though many times we were in different continents doing separate things.  It was until last year that I had the opportunity to witness the strength of his performances and the details of their sociopolitical content.  The last time I saw him, and I believe it was the last time he performed, was in June this year at the same place where we met, Grace Exhibition Space.  He was in full command of his performance, and enjoying every minute of his delivery.  While buildings of the former Soviet era collapsed on the screen, he walked lively through light bulbs that rested on the floor, and much later while we crushed old television sets that had been covered with different flags.  That is the last image I have of a friend who knew how to listen and how to appreciate the liveness of art.

R.I.P. Peter, you are remembered.

– Hector Canonge

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Hi Alien! where did you disappear … sounds like your last words to me? an’ of our anachronistic turn – the promise of a next round – a one again happy fight coming s…  ?I miss THE LAST MAN headlined on the seafront / a no sense postcard without you in “your meta final. touch” I picture out of the frame where to keep on hanging(…) la vie est un rêve et… then I say fucking hell* (en français dans le texte*) I could not imagine how much you are here, where only your laugh, your tenderness, and your strength, remain. My. Indian  September  summer  passenger / hush .  ???Hey! Peter “excuse my french” Hey, Peter, I am telling you good bye… and hey. Peter, I am telling you hey for very long

– Stefanie Seguin

 

 

Peter Grzybowski, 06.16.1954-08.29.2013

Peter Grzybowski was born in Krakow, Poland. Peter was a performance artist, multimedia artist and a painter. Since the eighties he completed a number of performances, individual and group shows, installations and multimedia works ?presented worldwide. In his latest work, he created performances and installations using video, audio, light and live action, synchronized by computer. His paintings are in USA, Canada, France, Germany and Poland. 

 

Christopher Robbins @ Contaminate 3

The Present Tense takes the month of August off from posting on the archive.   This summer, we would like to leave you  with a video by Christopher Robbins that we screened as part of the Contaminate 3 Festival in 2007.

 

 

“I’d like there to be a story about a man who made a birdhouse big enough for him to sleep in,

and then dragged it to the ocean.  And I’d like that story to be true”-  Christopher Robbins

 

Come back and check us out in September.  We have a lot of exciting things planned…an artist exchange between Boston and Chicago, a live art documentation exhibition, more series, more interviews, and more features from our archive!

Happy Summer!

Finding Stillness- Revisiting The Contaminate 3 Festival- Part 2/3

Willem Wilhelmus

photo by Trevor Powers

Helsinki-based performance artist and organizer, Willem Wilhelmus shared his work with Boston in 2008 at the Contaminate 3 Festival.

photo by Trevor Powers

The beginning of the performance was light-hearted, Wilhelmus asking the audience to gather closetogether.  He asked the audience to let him borrow the coins that they had in their pockets.  The space filled with the sound of laughter and coins rattling as they exchanged hands and fell into Wilhelmus’ fedora.  Once he finished passing his hat, the mood changed.  He began placing the coins on top of his bald head.  It was impressive how the coins adhered themselves to his skin.  He laid down and began covering his face.  He cut open his shirt and continued placing coins onto his chest.  Once all of the coins had been distributed, he wrote “Please take your money” on a piece of paper that was taped beside his body.  The audience hesitated for a moment before obeying this silent request to repay his loan.  The audience looked like vultures, scavenging pieces of Wilhelmus’ still body.

Finding Stillness- Revisiting The Contaminate 3 Festival- Part 1/3

Stillness is a concept that is explored through many practices. It is used in meditation, yoga,and Butoh. Stillness is captured through photographs, paintings, and animals use it as a defense mechanism. Stillness is universal concept and a communicative tool. The Present Tense is fascinated with how Stillness can be used in experiential art practices. This lead us to our recent call to artists working with Stillness. After reviewing The Present Tense archive, we found that Stillness was a common thread throughout The Contaminate 3 Festival we curated with TEST in 2008. To start off The Stillness Series, we will be sharing work from this festival over the next month.

 

Geneviéve Sideleau
“Knitted Walls” 2008

photo by Trevor Powers

Genviéve Sideleau creates installations, objects, and performances that address the body as a container/vessel. Often employing labor-intensive actions, she investigates the varied relationships between the body and objects. She is fascinated by anthropomorphism, obsessive behaviors, and the natural meditation that occurs through the process of domesctic work, daily routine, and repetitive actions.

For Contaminate 3, Sideleau sat inside of a hanging white box formed by panels of knitted lace. This structure was juxtaposed by a small screen showing a video her hands knitting the walls that the form was made of.  She remained still inside of the sculpture,her feet occasionally swaying as they hung below the knitted walls.  This was a gentle reward for the curious.

The choice to remain suspended in stillness, gave an equality to the knitted walls and her body.  The walls moved as frequently as she did, catching small rushes of air as the audience walked around them.  For several hours, Sideleau suspended time, offering the audience a pause.

photo by Trevor Powers

Farewell to Big Red and Shiny

Last week, Big Red and Shiny, an arts journal that served as a staple in the Boston art scene for the last 6 years, launched their final issue. After providing our community a forum to challenge and create dialogue around the state of the arts in New England, Founder, Matt Nash decided to “close up shop and make way for the next group of motivated artists to build a voice for their community.” Nash points out that Big Red and Shiny had been online a full third of the life of the Internet and lists poignant changes that the Internet has endured through the years. Nash expresses gratitude for the endless art, food, and music blogs that have sifted through content, providing him with the knowledge of “how best to spend the few years I have on this earth”. As I read Nash’s farewell, the worry lines began to subside and I became filled with hope and excitement for the future. In this move to end, Big Red calls upon the creatively minded to meet the challenge of building platforms for one another while simultaneously filtering through the blossoming chaos present in the internet age.

Big Red and Shiny has been crucial to The Present Tense’s evolution. It has been a cheerleader, a source of inspiration, and brain candy for us over the years, publishing interviews about our endeavors, posting our calls, and giving me another platform to publish my writing. In my grieving for the end of one of my favorite Art Journals, I have concluded that it takes courage to end something good to make room for the equally tenacious.

Because the Big Red and Shiny archive is uncertain, check out these Present Tense related posts:

Contaminate 1

Seconds Festival

Contaminate 2

Contaminate 3

Interview with Sandrine & Phil

Revolt2Die @ MEME

Sandrine’s review of The Human Cost of War

Alternative Art Spaces

Sandrine’s Review of X Me Lab