“Life is the sum of the people you meet” is an interview with Maria Potocka, who is a respected art critic, theorist and curator. He has also been director of the MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow for more than 12 years. She tells us about the attributes of femininity, her activities and the fact that since 1968…. has been keeping a journal. What is her latest entry? Check it out for yourself.


Life is the sum of the people you meet

Who is a modern woman in your eyes?
The modern woman is a confusion between the former slave and modern liberation.

Interesting juxtaposition. However, even a slave must be dressed in something… How do you dress on a daily basis?
I only wear things from good sports companies. Only such clothes try to “get along” with the body. If I want to manifest my festive attitude to an event – I wear more sophisticated beads. Such red, mountainous.

Lipstick and high heels – for some, these are attributes of femininity. Would you add others?
Today, the attribute of femininity is a delicate, refined personality. The rest is convincing yourself that you are beautiful or … selling your body in a broad sense. High heels are an old-style statement. “Look what long, beautiful legs I have! And don’t be afraid, I’m not going to run away.” It is a declaration of slavery.

Sophia Golubev once reproved a journalist who called her a “director,” arguing that she runs an institution larger than a kindergarten. You also believe that the Polish language is not ready for “ladies’ man” – is that politically correct?
In many cases, it is not ready. Sometimes such formulations are downright ridiculous. But perhaps it is important for deepening equality. At least that is the opinion of Magdalena Środa, in whom I have great confidence on many issues. I, however, prefer “generic” forms. Enough of these divisions.

Life is the sum of the people you meet - interview with Maria Potocka
Masha Potocka. Photo. archive

Women’s art versus men’s art – do you see any differences?
Sometimes they are noticeable, but most often not. One could say that they are increasingly absent. Artists have an intuition of the future, so they sense that in the future world the gender division will not be important, there will just be people with different types of sensitivity. And minor differences in the formation of a small part of the body between the legs will no longer determine cultural, political or other roles. It is completely absurd to what an artificial divide has been led to by emphasizing the differences between men and women.

You are the founder of the first private cultural institution in communist Poland. When looking at executives in museums and galleries, we most often see women’s names. Do you think there is a monopoly of women in the art sector?
Artists are special people. Most often much more sensitive and irritable. Women – for the time being – are better equipped to empathize with others, relieve tensions, and provide psychological support. Perhaps this is the reason?

“When a person feeds exclusively on high culture for too long, he falls into a kind of foolish pride,” Susan Sontag once said. Did you have such a moment in your life? Do you categorize art into high and low?
She meant snobbery and falling into a sense of superiority, for example, from listening only to classical music or seeing art in prominent museums. There is no superior and inferior art. Outstanding art can emerge at any level. On the other hand, this lower art is certainly one that is created to please the viewer. Such art is always poor and inauthentic.

Life is the sum of the people you meet - interview with Maria Potocka
Eva&Adele at the opening of their exhibition at MOCAK, “Artist = artwork,” 2012. Photo. Rafal Sosin

You are famous for your view that art is not obliged to be pretty, that aesthetics can be understood in a completely different way in this regard. What, then, makes up a work of art that is aesthetically pleasing?
I guess the term is “beautiful”? I hope that’s not mainly what I’m famous for! Indeed, I object to the “guiding role” of beauty in art. It is an effect that appears in some works, but it is not the purpose of art. Art is much more serious than just a machine for producing beauty. That’s what beauty salons are for.

What is the most difficult part of a superintendent’s job?
Adequate braking of creative ambitions and dedication of one’s skills to the artist and art. And many other things.

How do you see your place in art at this point? Are you still an artist, a museum professional, a curator, or is it possible to combine all these roles?
Privately, I am a writer-theorist and philosopher of art. My seventh book, “The New Aesthetics,” has just come out, in which I try to explain the cultural mechanisms involved in contemporary art. On the premises of MOCAK, I am an active part of the mechanism whose task and duty is to convey and bring contemporary art to people who, for various reasons, do not have time to explore its theory. I believe that art is an important tool for perceiving the world, but not an easy one. And that’s why “art officials” are needed to prepare a proper instruction manual.

On the occasion of exhibitions at MOCAK, which are often perceived as controversial, disputes arise over who we can call an artist and who we cannot. What is your definition? And how then to distinguish between an artist and a “non-artist”?
An artist can be anyone, and there are no restrictions here. This is not a value-laden term, an artist is not someone better, he is just a person who cultivates his worldview in an active, interventionist way. He tries to see his relationship to the world in his works. The culture looks at this and chooses those works that address currently hot topics and, in addition, formulate them well. An artist is distinguished from a person who is not an artist by his effects, i.e. his works. The question arises, of course: how do you know if something is a work or not? This is where the wide-ranging curators who are paid to know this come in.

Life is the sum of the people you meet - interview with Maria Potocka
MOCAK front. Photo. Rafal Sosin

A large part of the collection in the MOCAK gallery are objects from your private collection. Was it difficult for you to part with them? Or were they collected from the beginning with the idea of donating them to a museum?
Of course, the collection was created with the intention of transferring it to the museum, which – since the early 1980s. I was convinced of this – will be created first in Krakow. Artists who donated works to me were informed about it. The transfer of the collection was a huge relief. For 25 years I’ve been figuring out how to find a warehouse, how to pay for it, how to secure it all.

What exhibitions will you see soon at MOCAK?
“Medicine in the Arts” continues until the end of September. The exhibition is very moving, full of personal dramas – especially of women. This exhibition shows, among other things, how strange and alien the inside of our bodies is to us. In October, we will open two monographic exhibitions. Jaroslaw Kozlowski – an artist of extraordinary intellectual potential. And Daniel Spoerri – the witty, cooking-addicted creator of vertical tables and a direction called “new realism.” In addition, there is a beautiful exhibition of photographs by Olga Kisseleva, who also deals with food and arranges elaborate compositions, while subjecting them to psychological evaluations by professionals.

Have you ever commissioned a portrait of yourself from an artist?
I have several portraits painted by prominent Polish painters, but it would never occur to me to order something like this from anyone. I am attached to my own thinking, not my appearance.

You are quite unconcerned. Do you fit into any framework?
I am not anxious, I am morbidly independent. Of course I have my framework – I am a man in a woman’s body, trying to combine what is most valuable and, it must be said, most effective in a woman, with what is most outstanding in a man.

You have been keeping a journal since 1968. What is the latest entry about?
The journal is an important companion. I already have 63 notebooks. The last entry is about the GAP symposium, organized by Jerzy Hausner. I go there every year. I even had my master lecture two years ago. There you always meet a lot of interesting people. The current one was dedicated to theater, among other things, and I got to know Christopher Mieszkowski better. It was very inspiring. And I described the people I talked to. Life in general is a matter of the people you meet.

We also recommend


Używamy plików cookie, aby zapewnić najlepszą jakość korzystania z Internetu. Zgadzając się, zgadzasz się na użycie plików cookie zgodnie z naszą polityką plików cookie.

Close Popup
Privacy Settings saved!
Ustawienie prywatności

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These cookies are necessary for the website to function and cannot be switched off in our systems.

Technical Cookies
In order to use this website we use the following technically required cookies
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wordpress_logged_in_
  • wordpress_sec