Zbigniew Warpechowski

Zbigniew Warpechowski was born in 1938. Performer, painter, poet, author of numerous publications devoted to the theory of performance and modern art. Between 1956 and 1962 he studied architecture at the Krakow Technical University, and between 1964 and 1965 he was a student at the Industrial Form Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. He lives and works in Sandomierz.

In 1967 Warpechowski got involved in performance art which makes him the pioneer of this movement on both a national and international scale. Since that moment he has given nearly 300 performances in many countries in Europe, Asia, and North America. In 1985 he became a member of the Kraków Group, and since 1986 he has been a part of the legendary Black Market international group of performance art pioneers. He is the author of the set scenery for eight feature movies, including four films directed by Grzegorz Królikiewicz. In 1997 he was acknowledged by the Minister of Art and Culture for 30 years of his performance work, and in 2009 he got the Gloria Artis Golden Medal for his contribution to Polish art.

Warpechowski started his artistic career in figurative painting. After dropping out of the Krakow Academy of Fine Arts, he committed himself to poetry which became the key trigger that pushed him towards performance art. “Initially, I referred to what I did as actions” – says the artist. – “I heard the performance term for the first time in 1975 when I was in Marseille”. His first performance initiatives include the Poetry Quarter (together with Tomasz Stańko) at the Krakow SAiW club, and the Poetic Quarter performed to the accompaniment of a record player and a piano (1967).

In 1971 Warpechowski conducted his first fish performance called Water at Andrzej Partum’s Poetry Office. It was followed in 1973 by Dialogue with the Fish during which he talked to a fish he held in his hand after having taken it out of the water. The same animal was also featured in one of Warpechowski’s iconic performances called Dialogue with Death (1976).

Another important performance in Warpechowski’s career was Champion of Golgotha (1978) – a topic that he repeatedly came back to until 1994. In this work he touched upon the theme of idolatry, presenting Christ as the figure of contemporary sports idol.
His output also includes many performances in which he tortured, injured and flagellated his body in the name of authenticity of expression, e.g. in Agreement of 1981 in which he referred to the political situation in the then Poland. In 1984 during his performance called the March in Stuttgart  he burnt his hair previously sprinkled with petrol.

Recently Warpechowski, who called himself the avant-garde conservative, has been criticizing in his performances contemporary consumerism culture, dominating role of media, postmodernism and social liberalism, e.g. Memory Horn (1997) or Primary Variant (2004).

During the 1974 Dreamers’ Convention in Elbląg Warpechowski announced his first theoretical manifest called the Artist in which he stressed the importance of ‘the artist’s individual actions taken up on his own responsibility’ in the process of the avant-garde art creation.

From that time he has published numerous papers and books, e.g. Textbook (1990), Container (1998), Elevator (2001), Stabiliser (2004), Textbook Cont’d (2006) and recently issued Avant-Garde Conservatism (2014) in which he describes his views on contemporary culture, philosophy, faith, and his personal experience. Zbigniew Warpechowski is also the author of sculptures and installations, e.g. Tattoo series (1983-1987), Self-Portrait (2010) or Word (2009).

Recently he has been concentrating more and more often on painting in its nearly classic form, both in terms of the technique used and topics brought up, e.g. Cain and Abel (2007) or the Heads or Corps series that is still continued.

His works can be found at the Art Museum in Łódź, National Museum in Warsaw and Wrocław, Leon Wyczółkowski Museum in Bydgoszcz and Koszalin Museum.