Kronika - Anna Ostoya, ‘From a to ∞’ 23rd January – 27th March 2010

Anna Ostoya, 'From a to ∞'

23rd January – 27th March 2010

Opening: 23rd January 2010 (Saturday), 7-9PM

CSW Kronika, Rynek 26, Bytom, Poland

Curator: Stanisław Ruksza

For her first institutional solo exhibition in Poland, titled 'From a to ∞', Anna Ostoya takes up the topics of war and violence, treating them as questions about an 'end of knowledge'. The impossibility of finding the solution to the threat of war and violence defines the limits of human intellect.

'From a to ∞' originates in the correspondence 'Why War?' between Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, published by the League of Nations in 1933. The pamphlet was supposed to popularize the critical view on war, but its distribution was restricted after the Nazis took power in Germany.

In 1932 Albert Einstein, a committed pacifist, asked Freud in a letter what inclines a man and society to turn to violence and killing each other? How to prevent it? Is there a possibility to control man's mental evolution in order to eliminate the psychosis of hate and destruction?

For Einstein, the temporal solution was an international institution that would guarantee peaceful resolutions of conflict. However, he was perfectly aware of the limitations of such an institution, and of the existence of other, non-political 'psychological obstacles' that would have to be recognized in order to find a remedy for the problem of war. Einstein neither accepted economic reasons nor the warmongering of leaders for their own private interest as sufficient explanations. The 'desire for hate and destruction' hidden in a man was a riddle Einstein hoped Freud would help him to solve - thus start an educational process, which would allow eliminating the problem in the future.

In his reply, marked by pessimism and helplessness, Freud delivers some answers but doesn't present any specific explanation. He apologizes for the disappointment his answer must cause referring to it as a 'kind of mythology'. Freud invokes the theory of the death drive he had described already in his 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle' from 1919. This theory has been widely criticized by many theorists and served as an example of a great mind's struggle with new ideas. At the end of the letter, Freud shares his belief that anything contributing to progress of culture could help fight war.

The purpose of  'From a to ∞' is not to find an answer to the question 'Why War?' but to present the problem it implies: the limited nature of knowledge; to challenge such categories as illusion and reality, myth and fact, social and subjective fantasies.

The impossibility to answer satisfactorily and to find a solution to the problem of violence compels to search for an alternative approach to knowledge. One of the possible ways is to put aside the ambition of finding explanations and proving oneself right, 'suspending' the knowledge and trying to look at it carefully as if from a distance. 'The ultimate goal' – i.e. to find answers – is to be abandoned.

In 'From a to ∞' Anna Ostoya focuses on the issue of today's western man consciousness, which is characterized by the lack of direct contact with military violence and military conflicts, constant flow of media information about them, and growing fear of terrorist acts. War's discourse, resulting from patriarchal tradition, defines social structures, where gender roles are only superficially equal. 

'From a to ∞' consists of oil paintings, collages on canvas, sculptures and text works. The formal diversity of the presented pieces and the special relations among them mirror the conceptual assumption of embracing various perspectives and theories at the same time.

Anna Ostoya's oil painting mirrors intellectual effort. 'The ultimate goal' – the ultimate form, cannot be predicted in advance, but is formed during a longer process. The text pieces have been created using quotations – both the artist's own and of others authors. Figuration and abstraction consistently take turns in the artist's work and - according to its subject - investigate the realism/abstraction division.

A book containing reproductions of Anna Ostoya's works, Albert Einstein-Sigmund Freud correspondence and texts by Jacqueline Rose and Stanisław Ruksza is currently being prepared.

Anna Ostoya (*1978 in Krakow) studied at Parsons School of Art and Design in Paris and at Städelschule in Frankfurt am Main. In 2008/09 she participated at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York City. Her work has been presented at Portikus in Frankfurt am Main (2005), Silverman Gallery in San Francisco (2006), Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw (2007), Car Projects in Bologna, Lisson Gallery in London and CCS Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York (2009), at Manifesta 7 in Rovereto (2008) and at the 2nd Athens Biennale (2009). Anna Ostoya lives and works in Krakow and New York City.