en Libera

curator, cultural researcher, publisher and creator of the TRASA W-Z Archive dedicated to popular culture from 1956–1989.

Head of the Artists’ Archives at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw.

An interview with Zbigniew Libera on the art of outsiders

Robert Jarosz

Have you, Zbigniew Libera, had any periods in your life when you considered yourself to be an outsider? If yes, then what made those outsider moments different from moments when you didn’t feel like an outsider? In other words, what for you constitutes being an outsider?

Zbigniew Libera

I was definitely an outsider in the 1980s. I wasn’t striving not to be one because of martial law and the situation that existed at that time. What would I have been striving for? To be accepted into the Association of Polish Artists and Designers? What for, since it didn’t even exist then because the galleries had been closed?

In 1982, during the martial law period, a then 20-year-old Zbigniew Libera shaves his head completely. For art’s sake. This gesture automatically made you an outsider and banished you to the margins of society, because at that time only prisoners and soldiers doing basic training had shaved heads. For me, that would seem to be your foundational moment: Libera the artist was born at that moment.

Yeah, something like that. With that symbolic act I made myself an outsider.

Shortly afterwards, in August 1982, you were arrested for printing underground flyers. You were sent to prison, and in prison there were nothing but outsiders (laughter).

Of course. But it only seems that way when you look at it from a distance. As long as you’re free, they scare you with prison. But what do they scare you with once you’re there? What is scary when you look at prison? You think that in prison you’ll be excluded from society. But it isn’t true, because life goes on whatever role your position in it is. Life in prison is its own kind of miniature of society, a kind of condensed version, the essence of life in society. Except that there you can’t lie, no one tosses around lofty slogans. Things are real there, it’s a jungle and a struggle for survival.

Is there space in the jungle for outsiders? What is that world like?

I’ll give you a little glossary. In prison, there is a hierarchy: you’re either in a gang, or you’re a snitch, depending on where you are. Most prisoners are in a gang. You can either be in a gang or not, but a member has to propose that you join. They have to think that you’re worthy of being a friend. You can say no, but you might never get another proposition again. Then you’re a punk. [Ed. note: not a member of the musical subculture, but a rank within the prison hierarchy.] There are three categories of people; wolves, punks, and fags. A punk is in the middle, in purgatory. You can’t sit at the same table as the wolves, and a fag can’t do that. There might some exceptions, a punk might be considered good enough to sit at the table with the wolves. When you’re fag, you’re an untouchable, you’re demoted and anybody who has contact with you is also demoted. You can do anything to somebody who is demoted, piss on him for example, nobody will protect him.

So we have the following situation: prison changes a man. The paradox is this, that as an outsider artist, Zbigniew Libera, you are sent to prison and instantly stop being an outsider!

That’s right!

A fascinating process. And this happens in an hour or two?

No, longer. When you’re in prison, you see what it means to be an outsider and you don’t really want to be one. My dilemma was this; I didn’t want to identify with a gang, and at the same time I didn’t want to be a fag. So I became a punk. I had some artistic skills which turned out to be useful for the whole cell, and that’s how I survived, without being one thing or the other.

In the archives of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, there is your Bible with handwritten notes. Before becoming a prisoner, did the outsider artist Libera read the Bible, or was this something you did when you entered the prison mainstream?

I got the Bible from Salesian priests. In prison, there isn’t much to do, so I read a lot of books. In the prison in Łódź at Smutna street there is a great, well-equipped library. At the time, I had just read a really thick book that was a linguistic critique of the Bible, which inspired me to read the Gospels again. It made me aware that you can read those texts without necessarily sticking to the official Church interpretation.

You got out of prison, where you had been in the mainstream because it was the only way to survive, and immediately fell into an outsider’s rut again.

When I got out, nothing happened which could have changed my situation. Of course I became an outsider again. But prison hardened me. I stopped being afraid. In the 1980s, in the milieu of Kultura Zrzuty [“Chip-in Culture”, from the practice of a group of people chipping in to buy alcohol] we realised that in the art world we were invisible and meaningless, and so we could do whatever we wanted. We were free because we had absolutely no chance of tagging along with someone else’s success. And so we had no obligations to anybody. That freed us from a certain kind of paralysing burden.

Let’s recall the scene the way it was in the 1980s. On the one hand, there was the state-approved, official culture accepted by the communist authorities. On the other hand, there was the art of the Church and the opposition, the so-called second stream. The third stream was one which was independent of the other two, and at its heart the most essential phenomena were taking place in the realms of the visual arts and alternative rock music. It was in these areas that the voice of an entire generation was most fully articulated. The importance of this third stream is increasingly being recognised, and the most unexpected institutions, such as the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, are trying to associate themselves with this movement.

Every government in power since 1989 has wanted to snatch up the punk movement for itself. It’s an obvious exaggeration. Even in Andrzej Wajda’s film about Lech Wałęsa, you can hear punk music, which is a total lie because punk was not a political movement. If anything, it was antipolitical. I would say that the punk movement was anarchist, and not pro-Solidarity. If anybody wants to find out what punk was, the best thing to do is read Sławek Gołaszewski’s lyrics.

The third stream was a successful attempt to build an alternative society with its own places and structures, without falling into an administrative miasma.

Strych [the Attic] as a place and Kultura Zrzuty as an event were a real alternative to reality at the time. We didn’t have to write applications and there were no budgets, because we had to organise everything ourselves anyway. Our lack of pretension seems to have been what kept a lot of the people involved from wanting to be leaders. There was no reason to push and shove in a struggle for power, because each one of us was equally hopeless (laughter).

Do you think that the system that outsiders function in, or at least try to function in, pushes them to the margins of society, making them outsiders?

Of course! In the 80s, in the 90s, at the beginning of the 21st century, and now in its second decade that’s exactly how things work in Poland. Art has been traditionally marginalised. In the 80s art wasn’t taken seriously, in the 90s everything was allowed with the understanding Do what you wanna do, it doesn’t mean anything anyway. At the end of the 90s, politicians got involved who wanted to use art for their own purposes. They managed to get into Parliament by demonstrating against art. At the beginning of the 21st century something changed. It seemed for a moment that art had been accepted. At an opening at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw there were as many as 2000 people – and I didn’t know hardly any of them (laughter). A certain atmosphere grew around art, some painters started to make big money, society started to get interested in art, etc. It looked like something had changed. But the last couple of years have shown that no, we’ve gone back to the same situation that has always existed. Modern art in Poland simply hasn’t put down roots.

Being an outsider is usually either a choice or something forced on the artist. In some circles, being an outsider is considered cool, it means being somebody better than the rest.

That depends on the context. In the People’s Republic, Henryk Staszewski and Edward Krasiński were at the same time part of the artistic elite and outsiders.

So the situation of an outsider can be created by the broader context, independent of the artist.

Probably yes. What exactly does the word outsider mean? Somebody who is one the outside, disengaged from society. In the art world, outsider means someone who operates outside the fields that are recognised as proper art. An outsider is someone who does not have credentials to be there. It seems that an outsider is someone who creates art, but who doesn’t particularly care whether their work is accepted or not. Who doesn’t strive for acceptance from a society whose opinions he or she despises anyway. It’s not even about the artistic value of the work that an outsider does, it’s about the attitude. Those who actually have credentials to be artists must constantly strive to renew them, by trying to get their work exhibited, by trying to get their works into museum collections, by trying to be visible in the market and in publications, and so on. They have to cultivate their career.

Do you cultivate your career?

 

Yeah. Just like all artists.

 

So in 2017 Zbigniew Libera is not an outsider.

 

No, I’m no longer a dog (laughter).

 

You mentioned society, that on a wider scale modern art has not put down roots. What’s your diagnosis of the causes of this state of affairs?

 

There are simple things that can be done, and you don’t have to be especially clever to see them. There is a lack of education, of promotion, and of care. Art has to be explained to society and promoted, maybe even more so than other things. This should have been done long ago. Where is art, and where are automobiles? Automobiles are advertised and promoted. Art no! (laughter).

 

In recent years, there hasn’t been art or music education in schools.

 

I had art lessons. And you?

 

Me too.

 

But you’re laughing about it. So what if we had art lessons, if they weren’t really lessons at all. They existed in name only. Sure, maybe we drew something from time to time, maybe we made little people from horse chestnuts, but whenever there was the slightest pretext, lessons were cancelled.

 

In primary school, I learned the definition of texture and thanks to that I was allowed to move on to the next class. I remember until today that texture is the feel, appearance, or consistency of a substance or surface. For the teacher, that was enough.

 

Ha, ha, ha, okay. In the Czech Republic, where I lived for a long time, things are completely different. Surprisingly, kids there are at a significantly higher level in terms of artistic development than Polish kids. There, they paint and draw, and they play an instrument, too.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the key figures in outsider art in Poland after World War II. Nikifor spent the years after the war in the spa-tourist town of Krynica, where he created his paintings.

 

Nowadays, everybody knows who Nikifor was, especially after the excellent film made about his life with Krystyna Feldman in the title role. And sure, you can see his works in museums, but in ethnographic museums! I’m not trying to trivialise the rank of ethnographic museums, which I like and which I often go to, but that’s not where I would expect to see Nikifor.

 

So what kind of museum would you like to see Nikifor in?

 

In the kind of museum where I go to see art.

 

The National Museum in Warsaw doesn’t exhibit Nikifor. I once read that the National Museums in Kraków and Poznań have some of his works. The exhibition I’m No Longer a Dog was organised by the Muzeum Śląskie. Silesia itself has an incredibly rich tradition of non-professional art. Just look how problematic the situation is with regard to terminology left over from the People’s Republic: non-professional, amateur, outsider, etc. Art history and critique in Poland, despite the passage of nearly three decades since the fall of communism, has not only not changed its conservative way of looking at things, but has also not developed any new conceptual apparatus.

 

Yeah, we constantly employ a variety of euphemisms, do whatever we can to avoid saying – attention, attention! – these are not serious artists (laughter).

 

The Muzeum Śląskie and the Museum of Katowice History for years have been presenting the works of painters from the Janowska Group, including Teofil Ociepka, Paweł Wróbel, Paweł Stolorz, Ewald Gawlik and Erwin Sówka…

 

Do you remember the film Angelus by Lech Majewski and Adam Sikora? It’s nearly a true story. For me, it’s Majewski’s best film. Teofil Ociepka was the leader. They didn’t paint from normal artistic motives, but purposes of esoteric initiation.

 

And that’s something very interesting: mysticism in the times of Władysław Gomułka and Edward Gierek.

 

Mysticism which was expressed with incredible imagination in paintings. Various politicians then and now seem to think that to make art you just ned to snap your fingers. There’s no money that needs to be given, they eliminated funding and that’s that. There’s nothing more naïve. We’re dealing with exceptionally incompetent, uneducated authorities, who don’t realise that art cannot be stopped by decree. And the outsiders from our exhibition are the best possible proof of that. You can give orders and pronounce bans, but Ociepka and his friends did everything outside of official doctrine, they didn’t give a shit. In working on I’m No Longer a Dog we found out that there are a lot more artists like these in the country, so many that we couldn’t show them all because the exhibition would burst at the seams.

 

The exhibition was prepared by curators from the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, Kasia Karwańska and Zosia Czartoryska, at the request of the Muzeum Śląskie. What are for you the greatest discoveries that you’ve made from the artists in this exhibition?

 

Whoever you look at from the 24 artists included, they are all amazing personalities. The thing that binds them with professional artists – if the two categories still need to be differentiated at all – is personality. Tomasz Machciński is already a star, but he’s going to be even bigger, though fame is coming to him very late. I’d already heard of him in the 70s, because the press wrote about him. I was familiar with his work. Józef Robakowski showed some of it at his exhibition. But those writing in the press at the time couldn’t resist making comments which created a certain distance. They wrote about him in a particular tone, that he was an amateur, that he was “not trained”, that he was a strange man, maybe a weirdo or pervert. Today, when we look at his total output, we know just how impressively consistent he is in his work. It’s worth recalling that when Machciński started doing his work, Cindy Sherman was still in diapers.

 

Machciński did his first self-portrait photography in 1966, and found his own particular road four years later. Cindy Sherman did her first work based on changing identities, A Play of Selves, in 1975, and she started Untitled Film Stills a year later. The Museum of Modern Art is in the process of acquiring a large collection of the photographs of Tomasz Machciński, and his entire output will be shown in the Artists Archive section of their website.

 

Very good, a purchase of this calibre will be a confirmation of Machciński’s success. Projects of this type need many years of confirmation. Anybody can have an idea like that and take pictures of themselves once or twice in a lifetime. But to do it for a whole lifetime with the kind of consistency that Machciński did! He subordinated his entire life to taking the next photo. Marian Henel’s photos are also fascinating, illustrating his fascination with larges asses. For years, he took photos of his own ass, whilst dressed up as a cook or a nurse. He got fat in purpose, in order to make his ass grow. But he didn’t photograph himself nude, always under an apron. His mental state can be compared to that of Hans Bellmer, there’s a brotherhood of spirit. Henel’s photographs by definition were outside of the official world, there’s a heavy charge in them … (Libera shows a clenched fist). Words can’t describe his creativity, you have to see it for yourself.
I can’t mention every artist in the exhibition at the Muzeum Śląskie here, but I absolutely must mention Radosław Perlak, He’s a boy from a good Poznań family, who travelled to France at a young age, where he joined the French Foreign Legion and spent a few years in service on Malta. He was on leave and came to Poznań, where – I don’t know the details of the story – he shot a police officer. I should also add that I found out recently that there is supposed to be an unwritten international law which says that soldiers of the Foreign Legion who get into trouble are not released from prison because with their training, they would be too dangerous. Perlak was given life for killing a guy that, as he claims, he had nothing to do with. He’s doing time in prison in Rawicz, where he has received permission from the warden to paint. He’s got a lot of talent and paints exceptionally realistic pictures. His works are sometimes exhibited outside the prison, but he can’t attend the openings in person.

 

You speak of all these people with real enthusiasm, I can see a spark in your eyes.

 

Initially, the list of artists taking part in I’m No Longer a Dog was just a shapeless mass for me. While arranging the exhibition, I had to look through all the works and find out exactly what they were all about. Now that I’ve done my work, I’m full of admiration for these individuals, even though there are a couple of dangerous people included. But as far as art goes, this is irrelevant. Conversely, there are also people included who are completely normal, decent people, almost too decent for society. We have artists who are categorised as mentally disabled. No one takes them seriously or affords them any respect. Maybe I’m exaggerating. For example, Maciej Olszewski has some difficulties resulting from cerebral palsy, but still he’s a sculptor and makes objects from aluminium and diodes. Were Włodzimierz Borowski to do them, everyone would be thrilled. Maciek listens to techno music and works at a factory called Metalworks (laughter). He lives in a tower block in Poznań, where he’s made himself a studio in the garbage chute.

 

All of the people that we’ve been talking about here exude a tangible and sincere love for art, in the abstract and as a means of expressing themselves.

 

They are people who have discovered the release that exercising any kind of creativity gives. They finally have a voice. Until now, they have been pushed aside to the margins, unheard. The ability to create is like a drug, it anaesthetises them, because all of a sudden, they have a different kind of problem from what they experience in their daily lives – a purely aesthetic problem. Simultaneously, this creativity elevates them, because even if they’re sitting in a dirty corner somewhere, they still feel worthwhile. In that sense, art becomes a kind of therapy.

 

In the context of our conversation, the case of Krasiński is special: an individual artist, associated with the Foksal Gallery, an aristocrat in the People’s Republic (making him a highly suspect person in the eyes of the communist authorities), and his own brand of outsider, functioning somewhat on the margins. Let’s remember that Edward Krasiński said, “Art is too important to be left to artists.”

 

In the political context of his times, Krasiński was doomed to be an outsider. Gallery Foksal itself undertook something of an outsider program, involving not so much displaying works, as protecting them from the public. That itself is a conscious outsider decision to withdraw, isn’t it?

 

The number of articles and critical texts on Krasiński in the 70s and 80s was not substantial, because for the most part the art world was not capable of recognising, understanding and appreciating his work, although Ryszard Stanisławski for example, recommended him for the Tokyo Biennial. For that matter, Krasiński’s work is still problematic for some art writers, such as a well-known art history professor who expressed her opinion of him in a press interview in a way which did not exactly flatter her.

 

And Andrzej Partum? There’s an outsider!

 

One of your role models …

 

…who actually wanted to be an outsider due to the context of the state regime at the time. For him, not being an outsider at that time meant you must be implicated in the dirtiness somehow.

 

We remind our readers that the 1970s, when Edward Gierek was in power, though a colourful time, were not an easy time. After martial law was introduced, things clarified to the extent that the situation became black and white. What lead to Andrzej Partum becoming your role model?

 

The essence of what Partum was talking about, that is a radical call to undermine everything, to refuse to recognise any hierarchy, and to look critically at everything. He conducted an outstanding critique of institutionality. He saw that even on our circles, people follow clichés and truisms which have already been said before.

 

Each one of the artists that we are talking about was alone, in the same sense that Miron Białoszewski was alone in literature. However distant Krasiński and Partum may have been from each other, both of them operated in their art according to rules which they created themselves.

 

Of course, that’s one of the aspects. But would Rimbaud have written poems according to other people’s rules? As much as Krasiński may have been accepted to the highest heavenly echelons of officiality, Partum is still waiting. Although he was known by thousands of people, nearly all of them considered him an outsider, and the people who took him seriously can be counted on the fingers of one hand – Jerzy Truszkowski, Zofia Kulik, Przemysław Kwiek and maybe one or two others. But Partum would fit in the exhibition I’m No Longer a Dog, since he may not have risen to the heavens of the art world, but he’s already in its purgatory.

 

I should add that reception and distribution of Partum’s art is frozen as of 2017 due to the unclear situation surrounding copyright to his works, since his heirs have not been able to reach an understanding.

 

Zbyszko Trzeciakowski was another outsider. A skilled professional artist, working as an assistant at the State Higher School of the Visual Arts in Poznań, who announced that he would never appear in any private or state gallery. He did amazing work.

 

In the mid-80s, he was the most radical performer in Poland, and his performances flirted with death. Apart from the fact that he was a radical in art, he was equally radical towards himself and his work, because he destroyed his videotapes of these performances.

 

He might have destroyed them because he didn’t want a posthumous exhibition to be done. Fortunately for us, we have the right not to respect the will of the artist.

 

We have an example in Max Brod, who after Franz Kafka’s death didn’t burn his unpublished manuscripts, despite the author’s express instructions.

 

The examples that we are talking about show that the division between outsiders and non-outsiders is arbitrary. It turns out that an outsider can suddenly become a classic.

 

How would you explain the not immediately obvious situation that a variety of musicians who appeared in punk rock groups in the 80s, have quite confidently recreated themselves in the field of visual arts? Examples of these include Robert Brylewski, whose works are exhibited at the Muzeum Śląskie, and who played in Kryzys, Brygada Kryzys and Izrael, Paweł Kelner Rozwadowski from Deuter and Izrael, Krzysztof Zygzak Chojnacki from TZN Xenna, or Tomasz Budzyński from Siekiera and Armia. They painted pictures, album covers and posters, made comics, films, stencils, t-shirts and fanzines, they designed the visual brand of their groups. All in the DIY spirit.

 

There is a myth that if somebody can play the guitar, he can’t do anything else.

 

So, in line with this myth, Zbigniew Libera and Jerzy Truszkowski shouldn’t have been able to create music in the group Sternenhoch.

 

Exactly. It’s nothing strange, for example John Lennon and Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones and a lot of others came from an art school background. The two things go hand in hand. I’m not surprised that someone who plays, sings, and writes lyrics also paints pictures.

 

And let’s not forget the psychedelic incarnation of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett.

 

Right, all of them were from art school. That’s the best example. You can see when you compare with other groups that they were refined and had a clear idea of form and aesthetics.

 

The evolution of album cover design was interesting; it became a wholly autonomous form of creativity. The Beatles, and others who followed, collaborated with the best artists and photographers. The cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band was designed by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake, and The Beatles was a concept piece by Richard Hamilton. In the USA, Andy Warhol designed The Velvet Underground and Nico and that’s probably enough to prove the point.

 

Derek Boshier designed the fantastic cover for David Bowie’s Lodger Davida Bowie, he also designed a songbook for The Clash. Apart from these well-known guys who you mentioned, there is also Marcelo Zammenhoff, who operated on the border between music and visual arts. He’s one of the few in our group who have had exhibitions in galleries. Just like Mirosava, who graduated from an academy. Her works are part of I’m No Longer a Dog.

 

In the exhibition at the Muzeum Śląskie, there are also works by very strong and independent female artists. Tell us something about Mirosava, pseudonym for Anna Bachanek from Puławy, who I understand you know, since you lived together in one apartment in Warsaw in the 80s.

 

We belonged to a group, a “commune” you could say, living collectively at Chomiczówka. The make-up of the group fluctuated, but included Jerzy Truszkowski, Barbara Konopka, Barbara Wysocka, Ania Batorczak and others, among them Mirosava. She was a devotee of painting on maps. Artist’s canvas was hard to come by then, and maps mounted on canvas were cheap, plus you could easily roll them up and transport them.

 

In the 80s, Tomasz Sikorski also painted on maps.

 

Mirosava was selected by Ryszard Ziarkiewicz for inclusion in the famous exhibition Ekspresja lat 80 [Expressions of the 80s] at BWA in Sopot (1986). It’s from that exhibition that the decade of anarchy dates, a time when one power structure was being dismantled, while the new one hadn’t quite installed itself yet. It was at that time that art in our country flourished. After 1996, politics started to force its way into art again. Anyway, Mirosava told Ziarkiewicz that she had friends who painted and played in a band. She sometimes sang her own lyrics with us in Sternenhoch. We were included in that exhibition only thanks to Mirosava, who was exhibiting eight or nine maps in Sopot, three of which by the way wound up in the Muzeum Śląskie. Later she abandoned painting. Maybe she considered the time we spent together as “crazy college days”. Currently, she’s a teacher in Puławy, she’s raising three children, and writing poetry which she publishes in serious magazines and on a poetry blog.

 

Why was it that in the 1980s, so in the last decade of the People’s Republic, the participation of women in the visual arts or rock music was so small? When you look at exhibition catalogues or line-ups of groups, you see an overwhelming majority of men. I’ve asked a lot of people that question and no one knows the answer.

 

I don’t know why. There was participation, you can’t say there wasn’t, but in fact it was really small. Since that time, we’ve found out a lot more about what a woman is …

 

We, meaning who?

 

We, meaning everybody, including women. In Poland in the 80s, we were a society with an ancient model of social culture. It took 30 years for us to find out things that at that time didn’t even occur to us; that a woman is also a person, and not a half-slave created for the convenience of men.

 

Did you really think that way?

 

Maybe not me, personally, but society in general, yes. Even with the best of intentions, at that time you behaved towards women the way the social construct told you to. It’s still that way, in fact. Women were there, they had something to say, but not with such a booming voice as men.

 

Perhaps they weren’t taken seriously by the macho world of art or culture at large?

 

That’s it exactly. And in saying that, I’m thinking of Kultura Zrzuty and the women who were there in large numbers, but as a certain kind of decoration. They were important to us, but you can’t see that for instance in the magazine “Tango”.

 

What you do see is exaggerated aspects of female anatomy, which features prominently, especially in the works of the members of Łodź Kaliska arts group.

 

Those works are expressive of their attitude towards women. No one found this to be unacceptable, improper, or disturbing. From that time on, part of our society has become educated and emancipated, but the vast majority hasn’t. That fact is still a serious dividing line. Although we’ve learned something since then, the truth is that if you are a female artist, you have fewer chances to be recognised than if you were a man.

 

A pathetic diagnosis of the state of the art community and of society.

 

It’s the truth. And in spite of the fact that we understand the mechanisms, it’s still that way.

 

It’s as if it was somehow genetically encoded …

 

This phenomenon has existed for so many thousands of years that now how can we get rid of it? (laughter)

 

We don’t fully know how it was back then. There are strong indications that at one time society was matriarchal.

 

That’s described for example in a fantastic book by Robert Graves, The White Goddess.

 

So, the mere fact of being a woman could in your opinion push you into an outsider’s position?

 

Well, one interesting example is Ewa Partum. In the 1970s, she wanted to be a conceptual artist, but the culture of the time meant that Ewa couldn’t get recognition in the eyes of men. She hung around with them, she was an attractive woman, but they didn’t want to admit that she had a brain too. One way or another, that made her revolt and turn to a strongly feminist attitude, which she maintains to this day.
The sluggish resistance of male artists and their attempts to negate the art and person of Ewa Partum strengthened, radicalised, and crystallised her attitudes.

 

In the early 60s, female artists became outsiders simply due to being women. The process dragged on, but the situation loosened up somewhat with time. I have the impression that things are changing now.

 

Did the People’s Republic reinforce this conservative attitude towards women in culture or in society at large?

 

I would say rather that it was the Catholic church. Let’s remember that the People’s Republic wanted girls on tractors, and they got them. And the Church didn’t want girls to drive tractors. The Church began to acquire real power in politics in the 1970s. Communist party comrades made speeches from the tribunes, but on Sunday they went to church.

 

Who supported the work of outsiders in the 70s and later? The first person that comes to my mind is Józef Robakowski, who for example promoted Wacław Antczak and Tomasz Machciński.

 

At that time, artists organised by themselves. Do it yourself, and do it for free. Things started to go wrong when people with biases got involved. In my archive, I’ve got more than 400 right wing press articles about critical art from the tur of the 20th/21st centuries, nothing but excoriation and disdain. And I’ve got just four articles which defend us … Our problem is illustrated by that disproportion. Where are the people that we’re speaking to, the people who may or may not understand what we’re doing, but who need our work? If we had at least 20 supporters. For example, during the trial of Dorota Nieznalska, the only person from the entire artistic community who defended her was Łukasz Guzek, and towards the end the feminists joined in. But art people did not defend her. In Poland, we suffer from a shortage of artists. Critics who understand and feel a passion for art are few and far between. I’m not going to name names, but in Warsaw I know just three people like that.

 

Outsiders are not so far removed from the professionals, but the gap between them is created by the system.

 

The question arises: why do we even have to make an exhibition of outsider art? After all, every artist, male or female, is an outsider in the social sense! But the ones in I’m No Longer a Dog are even more outside.

 

And all the while society looks on …

 

… although it doesn’t want to see at all.