An important member of the first generation of Polish conceptual avant-garde artists, Ewa Partum has been creating installations and performance pieces since the early 1970s. Born in 1945 in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Poland, Partum studied at the Higher School of Fine Arts in Lódz from 1963 to 1965 and at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw from 1965 to 1970. Early on, Partum developed an interest in the relationship between text and image and explored the topic of poetry as art.
In one of her early pieces entitled The Legality of Space
(1971), Partum created an installation in an empty outdoor lot consisting of traffic signs and handwritten posters covered in nonsensical phrases. Through her work, Partum commented on the severity of Polish socialism, and increasingly began to address feminist issues as well. In her performance entitled Change
(1974), Partum challenged the standards of feminine beauty by painting half of her face aged while leaving the other half natural. In a second rendition, makeup artists painted the entire half of Partum’s nude body over a two-hour period while she spoke on the representation of women in the arts and media. Partum’s decision to use nudity in her work was a radical gesture that attracted disapproval and censorship from the Polish government. This criticism further fueled Partum’s determination, and she declared that she would continue to perform nude until women could create their own art. Partum was also actively involved in mail art, a movement in which artists exchanged ephemera through the postal system. She maintained mail correspondence with New York Fluxus artist Dick Higgins as well as hundreds of others in the West. In 1972 Partum founded Galeria Adres in Lódz where she exhibited mail art and Fluxus group documentation and organized performances and discussions.
After martial law was imposed in Poland, Partum moved to Berlin in 1982 where her work continues to address economic, political, and social issues. Most recently, Partum conducted an interactive performance called Pearl
(2006) which commented on the phenomenon of illegally employed charwomen. Until recently, Partum’s work has remained insufficiently examined in scholarship on conceptual art in Poland; however, recent retrospectives such as the 2006 exhibition at the Wyspa Institute of Art in Gdañsk, Poland have brought critical attention to her contributions.
Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland (1965-1970
Higher School of Fine Arts, Lódz, Poland (1963-1965)
wife of and collaborated with Rolf Werner
friend of and collaborated with Dick Higgins
friend of Wolf Vostell