Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Anna Smolak (born 1976) is a curator. She graduated from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, faculty History of Art as well as Cultural Diplomacy Postgraduate Studies at the Collegium Civitas and Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw. From 2004 working for the Contemporary Art Gallery Bunkier Sztuki in Krakow. Before she had run private “Sito” Gallery promoting young artists. Co-curator of the TRANSKULTURA project (2006-2008). In 2008 she organized international conference accompanying European Year of Intercultural Dialogue entitled “Transkultura: Art and Fluid Reality of the XXI Century”. She is the co-curator of the “Follow the White Rabbit” exhibition exploring the bounds of children’s perception of contemporary art (2010). She took part in the International Summer Seminar for Art Curators “Post Socialism and Media Transformations: Strategies of Representation” (AICA; Yerevan, Armenia, 2007) and “Galicia. Historical region of Europe” seminar (International Cultural Center; Krakow-Lviv, 2001). She is particularly interested in projects that involve different disciplines. 
Contemporary art has a characteristic which makes it particularly close to children: it invites interaction. It shortens the distance between the work and the audience, causing the spectator to become a part of the work. Paradoxically, it is much harder for us grown-ups to find ourselves in such a situation. Burdened with the memory of the felt slippers worn in museums, we shilly move around the gallery, confronting our knowledge about the world with forms which are difficult to understand. We often remain helpless, when faced with the offering of the most recent art... However, children - thanks to their spontaneity - find it much easier to meet the expectations of contemporary art; they are capable of entering a symbiotic, extraordinarily dynamic relation between the audience and the work. What can art offer in exchange? The necessity for children to participate in art seems obvious. When in contact with a work of art, we become enriched with new experiences, and each experience, digested into a reflection, brings another piece of self knowledge. 
Art teaches abstract thinking, through which it develops our perceptive and interpretative powers. Because art uses motives and visual means present in everyday life, it makes it easier for children to name it and to understand it. At the same time, by selecting phenomena from an infinite number of stimuli, it teaches concentration and critical thinking.  
In her talk at  Center of Contemporary Art - Tbilisi (CCAT) Anna Smolak focused on an exhibition for children Follow the White Rabbit!, which took place during 09.-10.2010 at Bunkier Sztuki Contemporary Art Gallery, Krakow. The exhibition was organised to meet the tremendous demand for encouraging active participation in culture by children. Talk pointed out three main issues, which where important for this exhibition: curators role, importance of educational practice in term of mediating contemporary art and purpose/ intention of an artwork.
Anna Smolak's research project and residency stay at GeoAIR was supported by: Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the European Cultural Foundation (ECF) in collaboration with the Open Society Institute (OSI) through the STEP beyond Travel grants.