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. 

 

Taste: Hector Canonge

Hector Canonge " S U R " 2013 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

The room is filled with a light aroma that could be rose.  It is familiar yet unidentifiable.  A nude body is curled up on the ground beneath a sheet of plastic, the material sticking to different parts of the body.  Condensation can be seen on the plastic, showing that the body has been in this position for some time.  This visceral action was one of many enacted in Hector Canonge’s S U R.   The artist describes S U R as a series of actions that (re)capture, (re)frame, and (re)contextualize the work the artist created during his travels in Latin America in 2012.  He further explains that S U R is composed in five interrelated parts (Genesis, Fatherland, Heartland, Tropica, and Carnation) that blend into a narrative related to the artist’s life and familial history.  Canonge brought S U R to Boston, where his actions merged the contexts of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru with Mobius intimate exhibition space.

Hector Canonge " S U R " 2013 photo by Sandrine Schaefer

When the artist emerged from the plastic, he began to cycle through a series of actions that employed materials indigenous to Latin America.  He poured Mate tealeaves on the floor, the muted smell filling the space.  He poured refined sugar in a circle around his body while singing, his controlled exhalations oscillating between power and sounding as if he were out of breath.  He wore a heavy woolen sweater that he unraveled with his fingers, the smell of dust captured in the fibers traveling through the air.  As the piece unfolded, Canonge continued to build a visceral and sensorial installation through his chosen materials and focused movement and sound.  The gentle introductions of smells created a crescendo that led to one of the most dynamic actions in S U R.  Canonge revealed stalks of raw sugarcane that he broke into smaller pieces that were tied to his waist.  He proceeded to peel them with his teeth.  He then invited the audience one by one to experience the delight of tasting raw sugarcane.  With one side of the stalk in the participant’s mouth, the other in Canonge’s, the stalk sat between the two people, their heads at an intimate proximately.  Boston is known for having active audiences that are open to participate in live art pieces, however, this action was so intimate that I was surprised at how quickly the audience agreed to engage.  After more reflection, I believe that the eagerness to interact with Canonge was something that the artist intentionally built into the structure of the piece.  Not only did the deeply poetic actions create a familial feeling amongst the audience, Canonge’s consideration of faint smell created a curiosity around the materials he used.  By the time we were asked to participate, we were thoroughly intoxicated by the experience, making it impossible to refuse.

 

Hector Canonge excerpt from S U R 2013 from The Present Tense on Vimeo.

S U R opens a dialogue around a myriad of ideas.  The work clearly has political overtones, providing opportunity to consider the complex relationship that the US has with its Southern neighbors. Although Canonge is specific in creating an experience inspired by Latin and South America, S U R also tackles more general considerations around themes such as otherness, colonization, and how place informs constructions of identity.  The piece was loaded with complex content, yet maintained a sense of accessibility throughout.  As we experienced Canonge exhibit his vulnerability, we were open to engage with him, ask questions, and contemplate the evolving role of place in the 21st century.

– Sandrine Schaefer

 

 

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Hector Canonge is an artist based in New York City where he studied Comparative Literature, Filmmaking, and Integrated Media Arts. His work incorporates the use of New-media technologies, physical environments, cinematic and performance art narratives. In his work he explores and treats issues related to construction of identity, gender roles, and the politics of migration. His performances mediate movement, endurance, and ritualistic processes as well as the interaction with the public. His visual arts projects and performance art work have been exhibited and presented in the United States, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

 

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