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Two Sides of the Coin: Endi Poskovic on "Arts & Resistance"

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This year, the University of Michigan’s Arts Initiative presents the Fall 2023 Theme Semester: Arts & Resistance. The campus-wide engagement reflects how creativity and making can arise from oppression and destruction. Arts & Resistance has generated public performances, courses, lectures, conferences, exhibitions, and mini-grants for students. 

One key figure in the semester is Stamps Professor Endi Poskovic, a renowned artist, printmaker, and educator. Poskovic will lead two workshops this fall: DIY Typography Workshop: Exploring Chipboard & Stencil in Printing and Towards Inclusive Practice: Japanese Papermaking Workshop. An exhibition of art glass by Polish 20th-century artists and designers from his personal collection, Modernist Glass from the Polish Past, will also open at Weiser Hall on September 15

Poskovic delves into his interpretation of the themed semester and how his practice plays a role.

Hand-carved woodblock relief print in 15 colors from 4 blocks on Kozo Haini. Text reads "La Revolution arrive"
Endi Poskovic,​“14 Stars and 10 Clouds in Red and Deep Blue with Cadmium Red” (from Majestic Series), 2004. Hand-carved woodblock relief print in 15 colors from 4 blocks on Kozo Haini, 37.5 inch x 51.5 inch. Image courtesy of the artist.

Resistance Embedded in the Creative Process

The arts are often visible in shaping cultural and political narratives in society. Some recent examples include the worldwide reproduction of George Floyd’s likeness on city walls to underpin BLM protests, the boycott of Russian performers in the West after the invasion of Ukraine, and more. Time and time again, creative processes have been used to reveal under-told stories and resist simple narratives. 

But the juxtaposition of arts and resistance” can have more than one side of the coin, according to Poskovic. 

Poskovic says his workshops and exhibitions this semester can offer a different, more nuanced reading of the theme. While many associate arts and resistance with overt political or social statements in art, Poskovic suggests that the very act of creation is a form of resistance in itself. For example, the labor-intensive nature of organic papermaking, including harvesting, stripping, and processing fibers, underscores an essential aspect of resistance. These activities are always closely tied to safely guarding the land, the water, and the communities that have sustained these creative cycles for generations. 

The process of making art is inherently a political act, and that has been true throughout human history,” Poskovic said. A hand-made paper we make might end with some kind of didactically political statement, such as Act Now,’ or Peace to the World.’ Just as posters, prints, and books speak of resistance, the act of making carries complex and subversive messages.”

Poskovic also explains how the creative act transcends time and culture – another form of resistance through art. In Poskovic’s workshop, Towards Inclusive Practice: Japanese Papermaking, participants will make their own hand-made sheets of paper, applying the Japanese nagashizuki method used hundreds of years ago. 

Poskovic conducts a mokuhanga woodblock printing demonstration with students.
Students, Poskovic, and visiting artist Takuji Hamanaka worked together during a mokuhanga woodblock printing workshop.

Collaborative in Nature

With the upcoming workshops and events, Poskovic hopes to emphasize the communal aspect of the creative process. 

Even in a world that is often characterized by rapid change and a growing emphasis on individuality, I think a lot of creative activities are still incredibly fluid and collaborative in nature,” Poskovic said. These workshops will allow for a communal, collaborative environment fostering an inclusive convergence.” 

Poskovic emphasizes the importance of shared resources and spaces in creative communities. Printmaking requires shared equipment. Papermaking relies on specific and rudimentary tools. The same goes for ceramics, woodworking, metals, and fibers, according to Poskovic. 

In Poskovic’s DIY Typography Workshop, participants will make hand-printed posters and prints in a shared space, all through the lens of Arts & Resistance. 

The inclusive nature of the workspace, in which diverse points of view and ideas intersect, is tenacious in its act,” Poskovic said. People will realize how they can become connected through art processes, even when we seem to have limited control in a larger arena. Our connected creative act is a form of resistance.” 

Variety of glass sculptures sit on a table.
A selection of Poskovic’s Polish mid-century art glass which will be on view at Weiser Hall.

Polish Glass Collection

In addition to his workshops, Poskovic is also premiering an exhibition he co-curated with the University of Michigan Copernicus Center for Polish Studies, Modernist Glass from the Polish Past, at Weiser Hall. The collection tells a powerful story of resistance through the beauty and essence of utilitarian objects.

Poskovic and his wife, Julie Anne Visco, began acquiring their collection of rare Polish art glass (Polskie szkło artystyczne) while Poskovic was a Fulbright Scholar and Visiting Professor at the Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow. They scoured flea markets, antique shops, and websites to build the collection.

For my family and I, Fulbright and Poland provided a deeply rewarding experience,” Poskovic said. We were given the opportunity to grow in new directions, make friends, and immerse ourselves in contemporary Polish society while exploring its rich cultural past.”

Glass sculptures on a showcase.
Modernist Glass from the Polish Past, an exhibition of art glass by Polish 20th-century artists and designers, opens at Weiser Hall on September 15.

In his time in Poland, Poskovic remembers becoming fascinated by hand-formed glass sculptures he saw in people’s homes. He began considering the deeper meaning of the unique, colorful, and unconventional sculptural objects often sitting on tables and windowsills. During the period from the 1960s through the 1980s, when Poland was an integral part of the Warsaw Pact, the glass sculptures emerged as beacons of artistry, creative provocation, and hope. 

An art glass stood in front of a window with what could have been a grim reality outside during the 1960s-80s,” Poskovic said. There was limited social and political movement at the time, but by making these beautiful objects with integrity, people could enlighten their everyday moments in the most habitual and equally extraordinary ways.” 

The concept of utilitarian, yet visually stunning everyday objects as a form of political resistance through art completely changed Poskovic’s perception of convergence spaces. He returned to the United States with over 50 crates full of glassworks from all corners of Poland and Central Europe. 

The exhibition will be on view for the remainder of the academic year, starting September 15

Endi Poskovic, "The Listener" (from Dream Series), 2022. Color woodcut in multiple panels.
Endi Poskovic,​“The Listener” (from Dream Series), 2022. Hand-carved color woodcut printed from 15 plates in 11 colors on Kozo Awagami, overall dimension: 54 inch high x 150.5 inch. Image courtesy the artist.

The Semester Ahead

Poskovic looks forward to leading the workshops as a practicing artist and educator. He is ensuring that participants will have pre-cut stencils and prepared materials to make their experience more immersive. 

Poskovic hopes participants see the practices as accessible and something they can execute independently. He points to the political movements sparked through the simple method of prints, posters, and pamphlets before the rise of social media. 

I want participants to know that this is a practice they can do on their own,” Poskovic said. They don’t need to have a lot of resources or equipment to do this on their own. I’m interested in showing them that it’s relatively accessible artwork.” 

Additionally, two Stamps alumni will be welcomed to Poskovic’s ARTDES 348 Japanese Papermaking and Water Printing course. Emily Legleitner (BFA 19) is an artist, printmaker, and curator who will lead workshops on papermaking and water-printing. Amanda J. Lilleston (MFA 12) is an artist, printmaker, and educator who will present a lecture and workshop on applying Japanese Sekishu and Gampi paper in water printing and collage. 

Looking forward to the semester, Poskovic expresses his excitement about the workshops and exhibitions promoting communal, collaborative environments. He envisions these workshops as platforms for individuals to explore the transformative power of art as a form of resistance. As the University of Michigan’s themed semester unfolds, Poskovic aims to expand the understanding of the theme as something with multiple perspectives. 

Check out the following events from Professor Endi Poskovic this semester: 

Story by Katelyn Stuck.