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WAM’s latest exhibit: “We Are Working All the Time!”

The major survey exhibition highlights years’ worth of work by multimedia artist Piotr Szyhalski.
Image by Shalom Berhane
Piotr Szyhalski’s exhibition “We Are Working All The Time!” is now open at the Weisman Art Museum until Dec. 31.

“We Are Working All the Time!” marks the first time that work from the breadth of multimedia artist Piotr Szyhalski’s career has been displayed. The exhibition includes poster designs, web projects, mail art, paintings, installations and public performances. Additionally, Szyhalski will be present at WAM for in-person “office hours” on select Fridays throughout the exhibition’s run. During these sessions, which are a nod to his role as a professor of design and media at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Szyhalski may be found performing, working or simply conversing with guests.

Born and trained in Poland, Szyhalski’s career as a multimedia artist has spanned the last few decades. He’s produced a wide range of work that includes posters, digital art, large installations, sound art and public performances.
How does one condense thirty years’ worth of work across varied mediums into a singular, cohesive exhibit? For senior curator Diane Mullin and Szyhalski, it took a fair amount of time to piece together the works before arriving at what Mullin believes to be a “powerful selection.”

The exhibition has been carefully woven together based on proximity as opposed to a chronological timeline of Szyhalski’s work. He said he hopes that presenting the work in this manner will allow for the career-spanning themes to emerge more clearly. For example, Szyhalski’s work includes a multi-decade examination of the complexities of human agency and labor.

“I often try to be very mindful of how each new project relates to the previous work that I’ve done, and part of it is me thinking that all of it really is kind of one work anyway,” Szyhalski said. “I can point to something that I’ve done 15 years ago, and something that I’ve done last year, and there would be a very direct line that I can draw between certain aspects of those two projects, even if they’re executed in very different media.”

Noteworthy aspects of the exhibit include Szyhalski’s daily pandemic chronicles — the “COVID-19: Labor Camp Report” — which garnered attention from major outlets like the New York Times in 2020. Others include his performance videos, particularly with Minneapolis-based choreographer Pramila Vasudevan.

“As soon as you walk in, you can’t take your eyes off the walls,” said Jacqueline Zaviska, a student at Northland Community & Technical College. After visiting the exhibit with a friend, Zaviska described having felt a sense of validation from the works included — particularly when it came to Szyhalski’s depictions of the pandemic and labor.

“Logically, I know I’m not the only person in the United States that detests the idea of working till I die, but I rarely see people talking about it, so I felt very seen,” Zaviska said. “I think it’s absolutely something people should see.”
According to Mullin, the shared hope for what visitors may take away from “We Are Working All the Time!” is a renewned sense of attention to the world around them.

“In general, I think the idea of paying attention is a fundamental skill for the artist. And when I say paying attention, I mean to everything… that happens around you, to your immediate context, to a larger extended context of your family or your community, [to] the socio-political context, historical context..,” Szyhalski shared. “We have to understand where we are in relation to all of those things.”

“We Are Working All the Time” will run until Dec. 31.

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