October 10 – November 29,  2015
BWA Sokół
Nowy Sącz
Artists: Adel Abidin, Anca Benera & Arnold Estefán, Mihaela Drăgan, Monika Drożyńska, Aslan Gaisumov, Agnieszka Kalinowska, Yuri Leiderman, Nicoleta Moise & Olalla Castro, Dorota Podlaska, Maya Sumbadze, Ferhat Özgür,  Alicja Żebrowska & Jacek Lichoń

Aslan Gaisumov, Elimination, 2013, courtesy of KROMUS + ZINK

The exhibition Austeria, organised at the BWA SOKÓŁ Gallery in Nowy Sącz in collaboration with in Bucharest, provides a reflection on the art institution as a venue for social encounters, exchanges and the building of social relationships – somewhere on the peripheries of the cultural centre, where the passage of time is experienced differently and allows for reflections savoured in one’s own time. Austeria is a multisensorial experience that relates to complex, heterogenic fragments of individual and collective memory; it is not, however, nostalgic in character but rather it places emphasis on the present – ephemeric, fluid and incomplete as it is. 

The screening of Julian Stryjkowski’s novel Austeria, which describes the reality of Galicia at the time of the outbreak of World War I, inspires to take a closer look at the historic and geographic conditioning of Nowy Sącz. Once, the inn was a fixed point in the cultural and Polish landscape. Today, it is a non-place of old, a crossroads that has given rise to a topos passed on in oral tradition, one that has functioned both in the neo-medieval imagination (whether fuelled by film, fantasy or computer games) and in tourist marketing strategies, hospitality being their core value. The exhibition Austeria is not, however, an attempt to reconstruct a traditional inn, nor does it aspire to recreate historical facts. And it is more than merely a reference to the eponymous 1982 film by Jerzy Kawalerowicz or to numerous similar examples in the literature and popular culture both in Poland and elsewhere in the world. Austeria provides a ground to create experimental space in a venue sheltered from the pressures of the cultural hub, somewhere where the past is more likely to be contemplated that designs of the future masterminded.
The exhibition gathers works that are both haunting and humorous; it presents private narratives and delve into collective dramas; it exposes rituals and invites profanation.

Maya Sumbadze, Celebration, 2004 (video still)

Austeria – as a location – transforms the gallery of contemporary art into a less defined space and puts forwards the notion of role swapping in its context: artists turning into chefs, curators into hosts and viewers into storytellers. Austeria reforges identity obsessions into etymological games. This is an Elysium, where bitter myths, historical misunderstandings and poetic justice coexist side by side.
The artists invited to participate in the project, representing different generations, nationalities and languages, raise issues that have lost none of their topicality over the last century. In their works we shall find the illusion of hospitality and welcome meted out to the traveller abroad, which have been constructed and cultivated both by those who stay behind and those who leave the country; the motif of transience and getting old – in acquiescence with tradition and showing respect to the prevailing norms, but also in detachment from their pressure; there is the social exclusion of ‘others’, for instance refugees or those who have failed to become noticed or accepted, such as Roma; there is religion and old beliefs, the celebration of mealtime as the area for creating togetherness; there is irony used as a weapon and finally, there is a cultural fusion as a process of tampering with tradition.
Especially today, when after 25 years that have passed since the end of the Cold War, and despite the continuing attempts to affirm their own identity, the countries of the region are still perceived in the context of the old Eastern Bloc and subject to the same economic treatment – with all the consequences of global capitalism – what is needed is seeking new forms of communication through a look back to the old times. These were the times when contemporaneity was only slowly being born, times when communities formed organically, outside the fortifications of state institutions and churches, and the ‘other’ – be they Jewish, Roma or Turkish – were perceived in their complexity rather than one-dimensionally as a threat, a time when destruction of war were the beginning of the new epoch rather than merely the grim end of the existing world.
You can find more information about the accompanying programme on:

Co-organiser:, Bucharest
Partners: Romanian Cultural Institute, Polish Institute in Bucharest, Erste Foundation