CCA Wattis Institute Presents Artur Żmijewski and Philip Zimbardo: A Conversation

The CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts presents world-renowned Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo in conversation with Polish artist Artur Żmijewski on Wednesday, November 30, at 6 p.m. in Timken Lecture Hall at the California College of the Arts San Francisco campus, 1111 Eighth Street.

This special event kicks off an exhibition of Żmijewski's 39-minute film "Repetition" (2005), a documentary recording his reenactment of Professor Zimbardo's 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment. The film screens every hour on the hour at the CCA Wattis Institute's Logan Galleries from November 30, 2005, to February 21, 2006.

Professor Zimbardo's experiment, which isolated groups of graduate students in randomly designated roles of prisoners and guards in a simulated prison, had to be interrupted due to the participants' own abusive behavior.

For "Repetition," Żmijewski hired unemployed Polish men to play the roles of prisoners and guards. Filmed with hidden cameras, their behavior quickly progresses from playacting to acts of seemingly genuine frustration and anger. Confrontations escalate, but just when it seems Żmijewski's experiment will replicate the original, things take an unexpected turn.

The outcome raises questions about individual responsibility and social roles, the similarities and differences between art and science, and whether either can offer convincing conclusions about human nature.

"'Repetition' is not only a conceptually astute investigation of ethics, but also an intriguing and innovative example of narrative art," says Ralph Rugoff, director of the CCA Wattis Institute. "Artur Żmijewski has emerged over the past five years as one of the most consistently challenging, provocative and profoundly thoughtful artists in Europe. His work examines in an unflinching manner complex moral issues that few of his contemporaries ever address."

Born in 1966 in Warsaw, Żmijewski works exclusively with photography and film, often taking the position of an observer of human behavior, provoking and studying unusual situations. His works often reference the aesthetics of violence and segregation and deal with fringe groups and the socially underprivileged.

The November 30 conversation marks the first time Żmijewski and Zimbardo will discuss "Repetition" and the issues surrounding it. The event and exhibition are free and open to the public.