Interrogative Design: Selected Works of Krzysztof Wodiczko

Photograph of a statue of a figure outdoors, in front of a tall building.

“Monument,” Madison Square Park, New York City, 2020. Image courtesy of Krzysztof Wodiczko.

Spanning five decades, the artistic practice of Krzysztof Wodiczko has interrogated a variety of social conditions across cultures through artistic interventions that deploy creative technologies to disrupt the public and civic spaces of our everyday urban environments. He is well known for his public projections where his subject matters range broadly, from homelessness to war veterans to name a pair, as he consistently engages marginalized peoples and gains their trust to use his artistic platforms for their own public speech-acts. He researches public squares, institutional buildings, and wartime monuments and delves into the various histories embedded in the design, ornamentation, and inscriptions of these pieces of civic architecture. His literal sighting of these surfaces shifts them into a stage setting for his ephemeral events where the unseen, unheard and forgotten people inscribe their lived experiences back onto the materiality of the architecture. Using projected light, Wodiczko transforms the scale of the individual to the urban as these architectural facades—literally the face of the building now comes alive by seeing the faces and hearing the voices of those who have been dispossessed by the host society. This artistic technique of defamiliarizing our everyday built environment empowers the alienated and this temporary projected light of their identities also shines a spotlight on the structures of power of their systemic oppressors.

While Wodiczko is well known for his large-scale slide and video projections on architectural facades and monuments as outlined above, this exhibition also features a set of his process drawings and objects, expanding and deepening the discourse surrounding his artistic methods. These objects from his practice may be less visible and public than his large-scale installations, but they are equally important as provocations whereby a subject can extend their identity out into urban contexts, reclaiming a sense of agency over a world that has rendered them powerless. By exploring this exhibition as a whole—projections, objects, drawings, videos, texts—we will begin to have a deeper understanding of how Wodiczko approaches a subject, in particular his engagement with communities whose very identities are intertwined with local sites, public spaces, monuments, and architecture. Questions that animate this exploration include: How does Wodiczko approach communities of people who are often marginalized, under-represented, or unheard, and how does he begin to build a trusting connection with them so they contribute and collaborate in his interventions? The exhibition title, Interrogative Design, aims to evoke the entirety of this creative process: locating a subject, researching an urban area, selecting an architectural element, navigating power structures and cultivating trust throughout.

Taken as a whole, Interrogative Design will introduce, or reintroduce, visitors to the diverse and wide-ranging aspects of one of the most vital artistic practices of the 21st century. The exhibition will reemphasize Wodiczko’s practice as one bridging art with design, weaving social engagement with innovative technologies, mapping marginalized identities onto architecture, and reinscribing new memories onto existing monuments. By focusing on the origin stories of each project on view, this exhibition will become pedagogical for our audience, allowing the viewer to refocus on the precision within Wodiczko’s processes while still being moved by the human stories that his disruptive gestures make public.

 

Interrogative Design: Selected Works of Krzysztof Wodiczko
October 21, 2021 – February 20, 2022

In conjunction with the Harvard Art Museums exhibition:

Krzysztof Wodiczko: Portrait 
October 14, 2021–April 17, 2022

These exhibitions are made possible by the Graham Gund Exhibition Fund, held jointly by the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Harvard Art Museums.

 

For the duration of this exhibition, we will be providing a weekly screening of expanded content to give viewers a deeper access to the selected projects. Our weekly playlist is below.

October 25, 2021
Monument: Madison Square Park, 2020, New York, New York
Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Project, 2012, New York, New York

November 1, 2021
Sans Papier, 2006, Basel, Switzerland

November 8, 2021
Homeless Vehicle Project, 1988-89, New York, New York
Real-Estate Projection, 1987, New York, New York

November 15, 2021
City Hall Tower, 1996, Krakow, Poland

November 22, 2021
The New Mechelenians, 2012, Mechelen, Belgium

November 29, 2021
Alien Staff, 1993, various locations
Dis-Armor, 2000, various locations

December 6, 2021
Hiroshima Peace Memorial, 1999, Hiroshima, Japan

January 10, 2022
The Central Library, 2004, St. Louis, Missouri

January 17, 2022
El Centro Cultural, 2001, Tijuana, Mexico

January 24, 2022
Poliscar 1991, New York, New York

January 31, 2022
Voices of Bunker Hill Monument, 1998, Charlestown, Massachusetts

February 7, 2022
Loro (Them), 2019, Milan, Italy

February 14, 2022
Personal Instrument, 1969
Vehicle, 1971, Warsaw Poland