The Letter: Astounding New Performance Work by Artist Goshka Macuga

Photo by Stacey Cooper

As part of the Kantorbury Symposium on 18th and 19th September, with 23 UK and international speakers, performances and film screenings organised by the The European Theatre Research Network (ETRN) on the Canterbury campus, in which the life and work of Polish theatre director and visual artist Tadeusz Kantor is celebrated 100 years after his birth, the School of Music and Fine Art are providing support to enable a new performance work by visual artist (and previous Turner Prize nominee) Goshka Macuga, starting at Chatham Historic Dockyard on the afternoon of Friday 18th September.

Led by Adam Chodzko, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the School of Music and Fine Art, the performance will involve 7  Fine Art and Event & Experience Design (BA and MA) students walking an enormous letter (over 10m long), as a group, dressed as Polish postal workers, from Chatham Historic Dockyard, in order to deliver it to Goshka at the symposium on the University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus.

The tapestry is a several meter long postal envelope made of textile, bearing the address of the Jarman Building, University of Kent. It refers to the famous happening by Tadeusz Kantor carried out in 1967, but also to the potential tensions occurring between art institutions and the society. At the heart of these tensions lies the censorship in Polish art after 1989, the period sometimes referred to as the cold war of artists against the society, and marked by attacks targeted at artworks, artists, curators, directors, and institutions, often committed on anti-Semitic grounds.

To document those difficult times, Macuga decided to embrace within the show also the hate mail addressed to Zachęta and its then director, Anda Rottenberg. The Letter is a testament to those struggles, as well as to the ongoing transformation in the society, which has to confront its fears and prejudices in order to fully accept artistic freedom. This is how the performance looked when staged in Poland


About Goshka Macuga

Interdisciplinary artist, born in 1967 in Warsaw, Goshka Macuga is now based in London. In 2008, she was among the four nominees for the prestigious Turner Prize, awarded each year to the most outstanding young British artist.  Her practice moves beyond the artist’s traditionally perceived role into a form of ‘cultural archaeology’. Despite incorporating traditional media, such as sculpture, drawing, painting, photography and film, she creates installations in which she also appropriates the work of other artists, archive materials, ready-mades, combining them with objects of her own making. Macuga appropriates the techniques and tactics used by curators of exhibitions or archivists (because of this, her art is often compared to that of Marcel Broodthaers). Macuga has been exhibiting internationally at major museum and galleries since 1999.  In 2016 she has a solo exhibition at the New Museum, New York.

About Tadeusz Kantor:

About the Kantorbury Symposium 18-19 September: