C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska / Halka/Haiti 18°48'05"N 72°23'01"W

Polish Pavilion, Venice
Polish Pavilion Commissioner: Hanna Wróblewska
Deputy Commissioner: Joanna Waśko
Exhibition Curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz

May 9–November 22, 2015 

Inspired and provoked by Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, two artists decided to revisit his mad plan of bringing opera to the tropics. In order to reveal and undercut Fitzcarraldo's colonial romanticism, they attempted to confront a set of particular historical and sociopolitical realities by staging a specific opera in a specific place.

The opera was Stanisław Moniuszko's Halka, a tragic story of love destroyed by class differences, considered Poland's "national opera" ever since its Warsaw premiere in 1858. The location was Cazale, a Haitian village inhabited by the descendants of Polish soldiers who were sent to Saint-Domingue by Napoleon in 1802 and 1803 to put down the slaves' rebellion. The Poles—who had joined Bonaparte to fight for the independence of their own motherland—ended up uniting with the revolutionaries and were later granted honorary status of blacks in the newly established republic. Still today, people from Cazale identify with their historical motherland, call themselves "Le Poloné," and bear creolized surnames of their Polish ancestors.

On February 7, 2015, a one-time-only performance of Halka was staged for a rapt audience of these Haitian Poloné, along with their friends and neighbors, on a winding dirt road complete with passing animals and motorbikes. The final shape of the performance resulted from a collaborative process between a Polish opera team and Haitian musicians and dancers. The event was filmed in one take to be shown as a cinematic installation recalling the format of painted panoramas at the International Art Exhibition in Venice, the world's preeminent site for exhibiting art in a nation-centered framework.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book that provides both a multifaceted conceptual framework for staging the Polish national opera in Haiti and a detailed record of this remarkable endeavor. With an introductory essay from the project's curator and an interview with the artists, the book also features newly commissioned essays from literary scholar Katarzyna Czeczot, diplomat Géri Benoît, and anthropologist Kacper Pobłocki, alongside the late Michel-Rolph Trouillot's seminal reflection on the global silencing of the Haitian Revolution. 

Also included are questionnaires completed by the project's Haitian and Polish participants, translated selections from the opera's libretto, photographic documentation of the rehearsals, and stills from the film itself. Edited by Magdalena Moskalewicz, the book is co-published by Zachęta—National Gallery of Art and Inventory Press, with design by Project Projects. 

The artists

C.T. Jasper's works oscillate on the threshold of various media, concentrating principally on video and electronic-partisan interventions in already existing film works. His most recent projects include Erased (2013), Sunset of the Pharaohs (2014), and Vertigo (2015). Jasper's projects have been presented in exhibitions in North America and Europe, most recently in Relations Disrelations (2015), a two-person survey show with Joanna Malinowska at Muzeum Sztuki Łódź in Poland.

Joanna Malinowska works in sculpture, video, and performance. Her projects—often inspired by interest in cultural anthropology, cultural clashes, and music—have been exhibited in the United States and Europe, at venues including the Sculpture Center, Art in General, and CANADA in New York; Espace Culturel Louis Vuitton in Paris; Saatchi Gallery and Nottingham Contemporary in Great Britain. Malinowska was also included in the First Moscow Biennale (2005), Performa 09, and the 2012 Whitney Biennial. 

The curator

Magdalena Moskalewicz is A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral C-MAP Fellow at The Museum of Modern Art in New York, where she leads a research group focusing on 20th-century experimental art from Central and Eastern Europe. Previously editor-in-chief of Poland's monthly contemporary art magazine Arteon, she now also serves as co-editor of MoMA's digital publication post. In her scholarly, editorial, and curatorial work, Moskalewicz critically investigates local art histories and representations of national identities in order to reshape and revise dominant historical narratives.

Exhibition organized by Zachęta—National Gallery of Art, Warsaw

Polish participation in the 56th International Art Exhibition in Venice was made possible through the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.

Exhibition in collaboration with Culture.pl

Media partner: Artnews

Polish Pavilion
Giardini della Biennale

Image Credits: 

1. C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska, Halka/Haiti 18°48'05"N 72°23'01"W (still), 2015. Multichannel video projection. Courtesy of the artists and Zachęta—National Gallery of Art. Directors of photography: Barbara Kaja Kaniewska, Mateusz Golis.
2. Polish Pavilion

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