NAME: Viktor Witkowski
LOCATION: Vermont (US) / Leipzig (Germany)
ORIGIN: Klodzko, Poland
ART: Painting, Film/Video
MAIN GENRE: Paintings about history and politics (utilizing figurative to abstract styles)
TRAINING: MA in Visual Arts and Art History at the HBK Braunschweig in Germany (2006) and an MFA in Visual Arts from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts (2010)
ARTS AFFILIATIONS: N/A
BIO: Viktor Witkowski was born in Poland and grew up in Germany. In 2006, he immigrated to the US and currently splits his time between Vermont (US) and Leipzig (Germany). Viktor teaches as lecturer in Dartmouth College’s Studio Art Department in New Hampshire. His films and videos have been screened at numerous festivals in the US and abroad including such venues as the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, the York Art Gallery in York (UK), or the LA Underground Film Forum in Los Angeles. His paintings have been featured in solo and group shows across the US, in France and Germany.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 2020 – Denkzeit-Stipend awarded by the State of Saxony, Dresden, Germany. Artist Talk with Laura Bierau, Lindenow TV as part of Lindenow, Leipzig, Germany. Visiting Critic, LIA, Spinnerei, Leipzig, Germany. AVIFF Incognito Prize for The Twins (Rise & Fall), AVIFF Cannes Art Film Festival, Cannes, France. 2019 – Artist Residency at LIA, Spinnerei, Leipzig, Germany. Artist Talk at Parsons The New School, NYC. MFA Student Critiques at the New York Academy of Art, NYC. 2018 – Aesthetica Art Prize Anthology, 100 Contemporary Artists 2018, York, UK. Artist Residency at Pilotenkueche, Leipzig, Germany. 2017 – Honorable Mention – The Aleppo Room, LA Underground Film Forum, Los Angeles, CA. Best Experimental Film Award for Refuge, Polish International Film Festival, Warsaw, Poland. Finest International Documentary Award for Refuge, The Mespies, Minneapolis, MN. Faculty Fellowship, Leslie Center for the Humanities, Dartmouth College, NH. Artist Residency at Studio MM, Galerie Martin Mertens, Berlin, Germany. Nominee – Best Experimental Short for Refuge, The Artists Forum Festival of the Moving Image: 2017, New York, NY
LATEST WORKS: 2021 – After the Beforetimes (71m, HD video, color, sound). 2019 – Our Good Land (in production). The Twins (Rise & Fall) (5:35m, digital video, found footage, color, sound). Rutland (71m, HD video, color, sound).
WORK SAMPLES: Clip #3 from After the Beforetimes (My Parents), trailer for After the Beforetimes, Refuge (full version, 2016)
Please describe your artistic themes
My paintings and films address the representation of history, domestic as well as global conflicts and the impact these have on the individual. At the same time, I ask what the possibilities of painting and film are in the face of unsettling, yet socially relevant topics. Is there a space for poetics when dealing with the darker issues in life?
My work is driven by a deeply personal agenda: after martial law had been lifted in Poland in 1983, my parents decided to flee to what used to be West Germany in order to escape uncertainty and oppression. Ultimately, my work shows that politics and history are anything but theoretical constructs. On the contrary, these conditions affect people’s minds, hearts and everyday lives.
Please describe your creative process
Both painting and filmmaking start with listening to others and research. I think all of us have an interest in various topics. Some of these can be based on our experiences or experiences of those we personally know (such as friends, family, etc.). And then there are topics that we read about, find out about on the news or by watching films, visiting exhibitions and encountering people who bring their experiences and insights to our attention. My point is that all work that I make is always the result of a collaboration. This idea of creating out of your inner self is not true or at the very least not relevant to the way I go about making paintings and films.
What are your artistic goals? What do you need to achieve them?
Whether I paint in the studio or film somewhere at a location, I hope to make something visible that otherwise would have remained invisible; to give shape to something that otherwise would not have been articulated or expressed. This can be some event from past or recent history that we have not heard about (or only some very few people are familiar with).
It can be a personal, intimate thought that has been circulating in my mind for a while, but never made sense until I found out how to externalize it, how to represent it (in film or painting). It can be a discussion with a friend, family member or stranger who made me reconsider an idea or topic. It can be the work of others that stirs me… there are many paths to choose from and none of them are straight. They tend to be long-winded and complicated and my role is try to simplify them and make them more accessible and relatable.
In terms of support: we all need support. Loving support, financial support, critical support, questioning support. In short we need others and each other to achieve what we are striving for.
What are your views on the industry?
I have the advantage of being in between worlds. On the one hand, I am part of the contemporary art world and on the other, I am (to a lesser degree) integrated in the film industry. Their audiences can intersect but you have people who go to see movies on a regular basis, yet they would never entertain the idea of spending their free time to visit a gallery exhibition.
We should ask ourselves what that says about both the movie theaters and art galleries. Why is it that we see a more particular, select group of people attending openings and exhibitions at galleries? This is not a judgement, this is a question.
There are, of course, different kinds of theaters and films as well as galleries. I do not mean to oversimplify these two worlds. But I do enjoy the idea that the audience who watches one of my films would not necessarily go and see my paintings at an exhibition. It’s rewarding to bring these two viewerships together. So far I have been lucky to meet many open-minded people in both camps, most of who move freely and fluidly between categories, media, and styles.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
To allow yourself time, to not feel pressured, to trust yourself and to surround yourself with people who will have your back when it matters most, who will offer criticism when you most need it and who will ask for nothing in return (just be sure to offer the same to them).