Artur Zmijewski

Artist and activist; Director of next year's Berlin Biennale

Not known for creating pleasant viewing experiences, Zmijewski is a first-order political artist and a crucial figure in Warsaw. Through his art and activism (he is involved in the Krytyka Polityczna – Political Critique – movement), the artist has considered and analysed the period of uneasy transition from communism – including a period of martial law – to capitalism during which he grew up.

Zmijewski often explores the ways in which social groups psychologically adapt to new conditions, and his discomfiting video works, which include a recreation of the Stanford Prison Experiment and a recording of deaf children singing Bach, have obviously made an impact on the socially engaged, participatory practice of a younger generation of artists including Yael Bartana and Katerina Seda.

This is an artist with a manifesto, no less – ‘The Applied Social Arts’ – which questions what tangible effects art can have on society or activism, and which will be used as a point of departure for his direction of the 2012 Berlin Biennale, for which he invited open submissions (and received 7,500 of them).