(above)Robert Kusmirowski, The Collector's Massif. From the Collections of Robert usmirowski and the Sosenko Family, 2009. Installation view at Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow 2009. Courtesy The Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow. © Rafal Sosin.
Exhibition Review: Robert Kusmirowski – Bunker, The Curve, Barbican Art Gallery, London until January 10 2010.
The Curve Gallery at the Barbican is being transformed into a World War II era bunker courtesy of Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski and his team of engineers. For his first UK solo show, they have been painstakingly applying the finishing touches to the replica bunker before it opens to the public in full on October 15.
Even though it is still a work in progress, the space already seems eerily realistic. From a bare bunk bed to the specially made soldiers’ toilets, it is designed to bring the audience back in time. Even the lighting, sounds and smells have been taken into consideration.
Many of the items have been shipped in from other countries. Cabinets have come from Poland, and a cart, complete with tracks which run for the whole length of the space, were sourced from Wales. But many other pieces were found in junkyards or even amongst the Barbican’s storage.
“We found a control board in the basement,” says Lydia Yee, one of the curators. “It came complete with dust, and looks just like something that would be found in a bunker. Don’t write your name in the dust though – that’ll be another day’s work to re-dust it!”
Robert Kusmirowski. Image courtesy the artist
Re-dusting may sound like a pointless job, but these are the lengths Robert and his team of artists will go to in order to create that authentic bunker environment. A polished metal staircase has been rusted using salted water and walls have been sprayed grey to resemble brick.
“Everything, right down to the bolts on the walls, have been crafted to look as genuine as possible,” adds co-curator Dominik Czechowski. “Thousands of bolts have been made out of plaster. We’ve probably blown the budget on just the bolts!”
The Curve is a particularly poignant venue as the area was bombed during World War II, but that is not the reason Robert decided on the ambitious piece. “Bunker was an idea Robert had in his mind for a number of years,” says Dominik. “When he saw the Curve he knew it would be a challenge, and he thought of several ideas for an installation in the space. He just felt the bunker was the perfect choice.
“The fact it is happening at the anniversary of World War II is a coincidence, really. We never planned for it to happen at this time,” he continues. “Besides, it does not necessarily have to represent a bunker from World War II. He has taken anything out which could indicate a particular year or place. It’s not designed on any particular bunker he’s seen; just a metaphor which lots of different audiences can relate to.”
Robert Kusmirowski, The Collector's Massif. From the Collections of Robert Kusmirowski and the Sosenko Family, 2009. Installation view at Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow 2009. Courtesy The Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow. © Rafal Sosin.
Bunker isn’t just a piece of art, but a glimpse into Kusmirowski’s mind. The artist’s fascination with historical detail and his passion for creating replicas is due in part to his turbulent childhood. Growing up in a state of political unrest to a poor family, he would often have to improvise when making toys.
“All my family were creative,” says Kusmirowski. “I’d say to my mother ‘I want this toy gun’ so she’d send my father to make one out of wood.”
The public have the opportunity to view Robert’s fascinating way of working for the next two weeks, as the Gallery will slowly be unveiling each room before the entire project is complete. A sneak peek will just keep you yearning to see the finished piece, which, if it is anything like Kusmirowski’s previous work, will no doubt be spectacular.
You can view the transformation by visiting the curator’s blog.