““You want to play?” said one young girl to her friend. We were standing in front of Konrad Smolenski’s ping-pong table at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw. Smolenski’s “Ping Pong Amplified” also featured aural captation by experimental Warsaw-based musicians Mazut, which was set up so that the more people played, the more music was created. The piece was an homage to Smolenski’s time as a student at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, where he had challenged the rector to a table tennis duel in the lecture hall. It also played on a joke between Smolenski and Institute curator Ewa Borysiewicz about how pingpong was the most amenable sport for artists. As Smolenski put it, “Tall and slim persons in black from head to toe, wearing glasses do not have to change their image, carefully designed over the years, in order to hit the ball over the table. The possibility to maintain a relatively static posture, and to smoke during the match, makes table tennis the only discipline truly acceptable by artistic communities.” To mix fun, drinks, music, and competition: an art world dream.

The table was the first installation I saw at the 7th Warsaw Gallery Weekend (WGW) in late September, and would come to typify what Warsaw had to offer that weekend. With more than thirty shows and parallel events across town, the event proved to be an intriguing distillation of Warsaw’s spirit, despite the grim weather. Held concurrently with Warsaw Gallery Weekend was the “Not Fair” at the neo-gothic Palace of Culture and Science downtown. “The whole idea was to create something between fair and exhibition”, explained Agnieszka Tkaczyk, the co-founder of Piktogram (who were responsible for organising the event). The 23 participating galleries were asked the propose solo projects exclusively, and to engage with the monumental and eclectic space of the Palace of Culture and Science. With a reasonable exhibition fee on offer, Not Fair allowed the participants to present emerging practitioners and new ideas. Among the finest of what Not Fair had offer was a wooden floor by Kinga Kielcynska from her project Bialowieza named after the last European primeval forest, which remnants now span across Poland and Belarus. The artist acquired the processed timber from existing wood, and the installation (that is not for sale) stands as an anti-monument for the commodification of the forest.“