The dream of perfect art capable of changing the world – one of the main postulates of the first avant-garde – has largely remained in the sphere of utopia. However, questioning the border between everyday life and art triggered a process that has turned reality into the main field of artistic activity.

In an attempt to visualise art development, Jerzy Ludwiński proposed a model based on an ever-expanding structure which sometimes moves slowly, and sometimes rushes forward. In the 1960s, this model began to expand dramatically until it finally exploded, leading to the identification of art with reality. The clash between the two moved the entire struggle for new art to fields delineated by social, political or ideological relations.

Ludwiński’s observation that art of the future would increasingly blur its boundaries and increase its field, aiming at full connection with reality, was more than just an expression of working through the ambitions of the historical avant-garde by the neo-avant-garde – it is also reflected in contemporary artistic search.

The exhibition titled Marta’s Birthday, which initiates the Private Mythologies project, is intended to study these relations. It departs from a linear arrangement in order to emphasise the right to artistically express that which is individual, intimate or private, although socially determined. The narrative of the exhibition is based on three general areas. The first one is connected with memory and history, at the level of both preserving past traces and reinterpreting more or less distant realities. The second area concerns the agency of art and its entanglement in utopias, ideologies and social engagement. The third area is related to experiments that determine the individual experience of identity and social interactions, constituting a peculiar method of analysing not only existential issues, but any structures in which we operate or which we question.

The title of the first instalment of the project – Marta’s Birthday – is a direct reference to the 1976 film by the Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu, which is presented at the exhibition. Focusing on the story of a family celebration, the film is an example of turning towards the private and analysing an individual’s entanglement in the socio-political context, which is a characteristic features of Grigorescu’s art – and, more broadly, of a number of artists from Central and Eastern Europe living at the time. Both in the film and at the exhibition, privacy is a key factor of sensitising to the surrounding reality.

Private Mythologies is a long-term project intended to create a permanent space for the international collection of contemporary art of Wrocław Contemporary Museum. It will consist of a series of exhibitions held at two-year intervals. This rhythm, which assumes the evolving nature of the individual presentations, will make it possible to observe the collection development strategy while providing an opportunity to update the artistic statements and search for new contexts for them. Thus the project will use the collection as a critical tool for analysing the strategy of creating, displaying and interpreting museum collections as such.

The Private Mythologies project is meant to concentrate on contemporary interpretations of neo-avant-garde practices and their redefinitions in the context of current art. Drawing on the artistic achievements of the late 1960s and early 1970s, it will primarily investigate various attitudes exploring the potential of the interpenetration of art and reality. Each time, works from the collection will be juxtaposed to form new sequences showing the ever-expanding scope of art. It is this peculiar continuity of experiments and attitudes, as well as verification and reinterpretation of artistic activities, that determines the main goals of the project.

Private Mythologies tends towards personal narratives and intentions that can acquire various forms, but each time they stem from a passion to describe and analyse the world – and to fix it. At the same time, the assumptions of the project pose questions about the heritage of the neo-avant-garde thought, which is so important for Wrocław Contemporary Museum.