All posts by GaleriaLabirynt

Piotr Puldzian Płucienniczak (Bread Resolution collective) “The Server as a Community of Bread”

Communion in its holy incarnation is delivered as a piece of dough, whereas its secular variation adopts the form of the classic communist battle cry, “Bread and work!” Polish custom has it that a loaf of bread is marked with a cross, dropped on the ground, kissed while it is picked up, and later fed to a stork. A fundamental task of the community is the acquisition and provision of bread in its various forms—there is no question about it. In the Holy Scriptures, such an act is called “feeding the multitude,” which means an allocation of nutritional units across the matrix of a given community. In a secular and technical form, it would thus be a “bread resolution,” with bread distributed akin to pixels across a digital image.

Yet the social sciences do not define communities through the prism of the distribution of staple foodstuffs, but through shared values and norms that combine in a certain way to form the identity of a given community. Another important factor is the individual awareness of affiliation within a larger supra-individual entity, and the willingness to sustain that affiliation. The building material thus belongs to the realm of ideas, even though it is also extremely practical as it manifests itself in activities, ways of spending time, and topics of conversations. Here, the same blow should be dealt that Hegel suffered from Marx: if we recognise that ideas are more important than matter, we lose the possibility to investigate their foundations. We do not know if they are deep, well-laid, frost- and waterproof, etc. Forgetting the material dimension of the community—the fact that it should be based also on the distribution of goods (of various kinds)—is a mistake: if not theoretical then certainly practical. The community-based sharing of values cannot last for very long if we all lose access to things.

The connection between the virtual and material community is invariably recognised by the political right wing. It uses its own characteristic ways to stigmatize and exclude those who are not in possession of slices of bread for various reasons: the unemployed and the poor are driven “to work” using threats of moral discipline or a kick in the back. Those in possession of alimentary provisions are attacked from a different side: immigrants and outcasts are beaten or spat on for their alleged crimes against ideas. The fate of those excluded from the community in both these dimensions is nothing to be envied. The chauvinism of the welfare state—the persistent illness that troubles our times—is synonymous with the political right wing: The exclusion from the community as a distribution network of symbolic values, and as a distribution network of alimentary values, is merged into one. Help is denied due to the culture of the needy, whereas culture is rejected due to the needs of those who represent it. In the face of crisis and the threat to a community’s well being, the right wing does not respond by forming stronger networks of distribution, but by narrowing them, tightening control and supervision.

Somewhat surprisingly, the rituals which encircle communities are also practiced on the other side of the political no man’s land. For a long time, the attention of those who pursued a rational transformation of the world concentrated on the ways of organizing the most horizontal communities possible. They generated reflection on the various ideal forms of direct or participatory democracy, the manner by which to manage diversity and protect difference, as well as the opportunity to equal chances to access power and to disperse responsibility. They also vociferously criticized the habits of non-equality, which we do not in the least want to bring into our shared house like mud on the soles of our shoes. They considered the egalitarian internal purity of the community as a light that would proselytize the unfaithful and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land. They referred to revolutionary communes or remote tribes uncorrupted by capitalism. It is difficult not to notice that such a style of building a utopia is thoroughly conservative. First, it models itself on historically ephemeral entities. Second, it tries to organize such ephemeral entities around itself. For the flame of democratic revolution is not turned towards the world, but instead towards one’s own people, towards those who are already convinced. This situation gives rise to obvious problems with attempts at an expansion: potential recruits are not in possession of an adequate system of norms and values, and therefore it is difficult to burden them with the responsibility of the community. When the founding group weakens, and there are no equally devoted successors, the entire project collapses. The problem of expanding the network and lowering the entry threshold might be one of the gravest political problems of our twisted times: regardless of whether it applies to states, nationalities, local communities, trade unions, or other avant-gardes.

Obviously, I am not negating here the social adventure offered by temporary autonomous zones. Taking into consideration the poor longevity of our existence, those might be the only moments of truly free entertainment. A momentary community is better than no community at all, as it is proved by the popularity of the Sunday séances organized by the Catholic Church and its homologues on other days of the week.


It is hard not to notice that Polish culture is not arranged in a way that particularly favors community. Hierarchy and unequal access to culture are our proverbial daily bread. The Polish state is not particularly cultural, but still we should be thankful that some public institutions still exist instead of being privatized and transformed into discount shops. Management pursued by the religious authorities consists in establishing borders and entry thresholds, rather than expanding the borders of what is shared. Inequalities in access to culture perpetuate ideological divisions. Exclusion from material circulations breaks the circulations of norms and values, while norms and values serve the goal of cultivating class identities instead of providing a stimulus for democratization. Turning culture into a tool of distinction—building barriers—is part of the problem rather than a solution. The cold war for a bread roll between art and society is fortunately yielding a place to other forms of contact; numerous exchanges take place at the toll gates, but unfortunately the channels of distribution are still not unobstructed enough. What can we do about it? The answers are manifold. The practice of Resolution of Bread hints at several ways of ploughing that guarantee with relatively abundant crops.

Ideology manifests itself particularly insidiously in form: democracy and levelling inequalities in access to culture cannot therefore form merely the content of the work, but may equally well (or even better) express themselves in how the work is presented. Bread Resolution likes to deliver data on a magnetic disk of a hard drive or on the cold plate of a memory card. Our goal is to achieve success understood rather in the categories of a volume of prepared and distributed meals than in elaborated quality norms. Attachment to egalitarian forms of distribution releases us from the obligation of obsessive checking if the distributed content is politically adequate (whatever it means). I think it is.


Of the plethora of divisions that trouble the people of the Polish land, the antagonism between the faction oriented towards the import of values and the faction oriented to domestic and traditional produce is particularly acute. For various reasons, the former tends to embrace people from the higher social strata. It also includes outstanding artists and intellectuals, who find it difficult to interact with locally produced goods. It is all too easy to identify the “Polish people” with being unpleasant and unfit for the community in which we would like to have fun. A pilgrim’s cursor should be carried across the country to indicate the files and applications that merit downloading. Although the LCD screen separates us from a material pilgrimage through the North European Plain Lowland, we are connected with connectivity and the pilgrimage takes course via a router. The router becomes a bakery. Transferring the Pope onto the LCD screen does not flatten his papal figure, but we may even say that it adds new dimensions. On the Internet, the Pope becomes the Pope even “more,” since the gesture of a raised hand—previously directed at a specific community—now becomes a gesture directed at a population of anything, at the Internet of things, at any form of social life that wishes to become plugged. Blurring the differences between “them” and us” is difficult. Therefore, it is much easier to do it in the presence of alimentary products whose undisturbed distribution makes it easier to enjoy the mutual presence without grievances about appropriate data transfer.

Beyond a small community of bread that we share between us when we hold hands there is also a large community of bread, which we call, culture. A conservative strategy consists in closing communities, limiting distribution, increasing the costs of participation. A progressive strategy consists in facilitating exposition, levelling mounds and cavities, searching for new cultural ecosystems and cultivating the existing ones according to the norms of the BitTorrent network: to each according to their needs, from each according to their ability. In the vision described here, a well-configured server (a word that also denotes a person who serves us something) is a device that merits imitating. It is not a post-political vision in the literal sense, but rather a post-human vision in the Latourian sense: treating the universe as points which can potentially, and with effort, become connected to form ties and sets (set phrases, for instance), which we have never had a chance to experience before. The goal is not homogenization, but a multiplication of surprises.

In the borough (in Polish: gmina, from the German Gemeinde, meaning “commune” or “community”) where I come from, the bakery was located between the cemetery and the rubber shoe factory. One could feel tempted to draw a conclusion that the Bread Resolution is a space between labor and the grave, yet I will refrain from such a conclusion.


Piotr Puldzian Płucienniczak is an artist, cultural animator, recipient of a PhD degree in sociology. Member of the Bread Resolution collective.

Szymon Maliborski, Łukasz Mojsak “Communis—Renegotiating Community”

The exhibition “Communis—Renegotiating Community” focuses on contemporary Polish identity, in which religion and spirituality often determine the vision of the national community. The show aims to enquire: How do art works and various activities that emerge from the crossroads of artistic practice and spirituality engage in a dialogue with the community? How do they problematize the community’s vision of its own self? And how do they blur the categories in which the community sees the world?

We concentrate on the Polish reality and its inherent tension between modernity— understood as an emancipatory pursuit by rational means—and religion and spirituality, which claim the right to appropriate various areas of life, because—as their adherents argue—they are either everything or nothing. Such a situation is ever more relevant in Poland, where religious practices and their impact on social reality has evolved to become one of the main topics of contemporary public debate.

Yet the exhibition “Communis” is not devoted to spiritual remnants or post-secular residues in a country where the collective body seems to follow religious emotions rather than assigns them a place in the public sphere by means of rational arguments. We are interested in the strategies used by artists who work to develop a language of collaboration with what we have thus understood as community in the current social and political realm. At a time when the Polish public sphere seems to witness an ebbing of emancipatory pursuits based on rational methods, which are part and parcel of the project of modernity, we ask about the possibility of a dialogue that draws on the sphere of the irrational, on religion, spirituality and affect. Can art serve to problematize the social chasm and profound rift that nowadays haunts the Polish community? Is it possible to delineate the spheres of social life that could be renegotiated? Does the artists’ engagement with the major elements of Polish identity—spirituality and religion—offer a chance to expand the social imaginary and increase the level of acceptance of ethnic, social, or sexual otherness?

The title of the exhibition Communis borrows from the “compositional group activities,” pursued by artist Zygmunt Piotrowski at the Dziekanka student house and art venue in Warsaw in the 1970s. At the beginning of that decade, Piotrowski (the artist behind the spectacle Think Communism, among other projects) was one of the artists, alongside Zofia Kulik, Paweł Kwiek, Anastazy Wiśniewski, and others, who firmly embedded their artistic activity in a sociopolitical frame and proposed art that was intended to open the possibility of rethinking the dominant political doctrine and its underlying ideology. Piotrowski concentrated primarily on the question of community, pursuing a reflection on its nature and conditions. The above-mentioned activities under the banner “Communis”—run in the spirit of alternative education with students of Warsaw universities within Piotrowski’s Art and Research Studio—became an artistic emanation of the artist’s postulates concerning community. Attention was paid primarily to communication and the empowerment of the individuals who were to build the community through conscious interactions and negotiations—as if they formed an artistic composition, whose every element fitted perfectly with the whole but at the same time preserved its distinctive character. Piotrowski argued that community needs to be built from the bottom-up, otherwise when it is decreed in a top-down fashion the result is coercion and a lack of authenticity. Such top-down communities are shown in KwieKulik’s film documentation series Manifestations from the period 1979 through 1982. The film footage created by Kulik portrays public gatherings of diverse character: political, religious, and sporting events (the breadth of their ideological spectrum is striking). Community as understood by Piotrowski differed significantly from such gatherings formed under the pressure of the state authorities or strong symbolic appeal of religion and sports. The artist’s postulate: A bottom-up community formed through interaction between conscious and empowered members opens up the perspective of renegotiation—the key theme of the exhibition at the Labirynt Gallery.

The aforementioned artists, who at the beginning of the 1970s engaged in a dialogue with the social and political contexts, are evoked here due to their approach characteristic of this era. Beyond a doubt, their art was critically charged, yet, and importantly, they also identified with the object of their critique. The activities of these artists were not targeted against communism, but consisted in attempts at enhancing the system by exercising the declared values that lay at its foundations; they were supposed to bring about a more comprehensive implementation of those values. The critical edge of such projects turned out to be complex, since it did not simply operate at the level of firm rejection. The goal was renegotiation.

It is in a similar spirit, although obviously in a radically different political and social context, that we perceive many of the approaches represented by the artists included in the exhibition “Communis.” These artists also bring together art and social reality, yet the reality they currently face is an “enchanted” one—remaining under a spiritual and religious spell. Importantly, the presented works once again bring the question of community to the fore, while the artists themselves often speak as insiders. They attempt to establish a dialogue with the community and participate in its formation in order to reformulate the community’s vision of itself.

The exhibition gathers a number of distinctive artistic practices, characterized by a particular visual language and a need to renegotiate in various ways the notion of community. Some of the presented works focus on collective identity, combining the language of economics and popular culture with forms inspired by religious practices and rituals, whereas others feature direct references to such practices.

An example of a creative practice engaged with spiritual and political communities is Daniel Rycharski’s projects created in collaboration with such organisations as the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union “Solidarity” and the informal group Faith and Rainbow. The artist goes beyond the field of art in his involvement in building a trade union identity and attempting a bottom-up transformation of the Catholic Church—in the spirit of openness of the LGBTQ community. His actions originate from existing movements that pursue the goal of rethinking Christianity—and result from a need to initiate a collective examination of the conscience of the community, which should accept its new hitherto excluded members.

The question of atonement also appears in the work by Michał Dobrucki, titled “Confession.” From the artist’s perspective, such practice is indispensable to the admission of an individual into the Church community.

The juxtaposition of these two approaches to penance generates an interesting tension: the confrontation of opinions as to who should actually show contrition.

An important theme of the exhibition is the question of form and the manner of artistic expression. In the discussed context, the use of realism, or borrowing from popular culture, surfaces as an interesting strategy aimed at developing a visual language accessible to the community—a code that is as close as possible to everyday experience. Such experiments deliberately adopt forms commonly recognized as conservative. It could be said that one of the distinctive features of such an aesthetic in the Polish context is a combination of the language of religious images with the visuality of identity-related realist motifs—a combination that generates a particular visual code of national realism. Artists including Daniel Rycharski, Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk, Stach Szumski, and the collective Rozdzielczość Chleba, find different ways to tap into such a code, but their practices seem to be underpinned by a similar goal: work with national identity forms. Although in many cases this visual code is used ironically, its presence does not result merely from aesthetic appropriation, but also seems to mark an attempt at a dialogue with the community.

A similar strategy is implemented by Ada Karczmarczyk, who performs under the nickname ADU as a singer and pop evangelizer. One of the elements of her artistic approach consists in the use of social media, popular culture, and music videos to generate a larger audience—namely, with religious people who see the need to modernize the form of preaching the gospel. Interestingly enough, such practices, distinguished as avant-garde conservatism, are often meet negatively by their target audiences.

Elements borrowed from popular culture are also present in the work Whosoever Possesses the Holy Lance, Holds in his Hands the Destiny of the World by Małgorzata Malinowska/Kocur. The work was commissioned as a decoration of a church altar. It emanates openness—characteristic also of the earlier work by the duo Kijewski/Kocur—to the mysticism of capitalism. The work brings to mind traditional church illuminations, which stand as a symbol of spiritual enlightenment, while it also flirts with the easily accessible language of modern-day religious art, which verges on kitsch. We may also draw a parallel with the work of artists who in the 1980s collaborated with the Catholic Church in Poland. In turn, Milena Korolczuk proposes her own way of experiencing the sacred, based on trance and rapture in dance.

Other works on display that investigate community-building processes shift the focus from the aesthetic and material sphere to the question of the force that binds the collective body through the energy of common experience. After all, community is not consolidated only by its rational choices, but it also draws on affective forces. Select examples illustrate the strategies of revealing the affects that bind the social tissue. Tear Dealer by Alicja Rogalska and Łukasz Surowiec is an archive-collection of materialized social lamentation. The work actualizes the Catholic devotion of Bitter Lamentations (Gorzkie Żale), which is a distinctively Polish devotion sung during Lent and deeply embedded in Polish culture; presented here, the only difference is that the community of the faithful is replaced with one arranged by the artists. A community formed around compassio—commiseration in suffering—a secular ritual involving the joining in misery and shaking of sorrows through the act of crying. The work by Rogalska and Surowiec reveals one of the forces behind a temporary collective body—whose development and existence is underpinned by a similar emotion. It also refers to certain mental clichés, and the habitual perception of “Polishness” as an identity founded on suffering. Przemysław Branas follows a similar trope in his reflections on society in the work Hyena, which can be interpreted as a commentary on the Polish problem with the process of mourning that has not yet been completed by the society, which thus witnesses eternal returns of national martyrs from the dead.

In turn, Paweł Althamer’s practices rely on a subtle game between the mundane and the extraordinary character of situations of everyday life, eliciting both charm and a spiritual dimension. The exhibition illustrates this approach with a project produced through the co-creation of the sculpture Paradise with the residents of the Warsaw high-rise residential estate Bródno. Building a fragment of the garden of Paradise in a municipal park resembles an attempt at establishing a secular holiday, forming a community around an object that provides an opportunity to meet and act together. A photograph showing the group of people involved in building the garden later became part of the decoration of a parish church. In this case the strategy of “enchantment” profited from the aura and authority of the Church.

A similar role of facilitation is played by an art space in the presented work by Piotr Wysocki, who invited the members of the Ingush and Chechen communities to perform zikr—prayer in a ring—at the Królikarnia Palace in Warsaw, which houses the Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture. The rotunda of the palace became home to a community united through religious experience and a traditional ritual, the more so special that it gathered Ingush and Chechen people from migrant environments across Western Europe.

The dark side of community marks the focus of Huber Czerepok’s neon sign Foe Is Born. The artist identifies the process of forming community on the foundation of hostility to the Other. Czerepok warns us against a situation where the need to defend values deeply rooted in tradition and religion compels community members to view the Other as an enemy.

Piotr Wysocki

B. 1976 in Kostrzyn nad Odrą. Lives and works in Warsaw. Graduate of the painting studio of Professor Jarosław Modzelewski and the audiovisual space studio of Professor Grzegorz Kowalski at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Works with video installations, documentary films, and performance art. Wysocki has presented his works at individual shows (such as “Aldona,” Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, 2007; “Practices,” Museum of Sculpture at the Królikarnia Palace, Warsaw, 2013) and numerous groups shows. Awarded with the prizes Samsung Art Master (2006) and Eugeniusz Geppert Award (2009), shortlisted for the “Views” Award in 2011. The artist mostly creates film portraits of excluded individuals and groups in which he presents their psychological and social condition with great sensitivity.


Piotr Wysocki, Zikr, 2012, video, 6’50”

The film documents an event which took place upon the artist’s initiative at the Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture at the Królikarnia Palace in Warsaw during the exhibition “SKONTRUM Evolutions” in 2012. In the rotunda of the palace, members of the Ingush and Chechen ethnic minorities celebrated the Islamic devotional act of Zikr, which comprises a ritual meal and a prayer. The essence of the ritual consists in evoking the name of Allah amidst a mystical trance that engulfs the faithful, united by a sense of communion with God.

The participants prayed for peace in the Caucasus and for their return to their homeland—the ceremony gathered Ingush and Chechen migrants living in Western Europe. Their encounter was made possible by contact initiated by Piotr Wysocki. Thus, the artist established an ephemeral community whose members were united for a brief time by a traditional ritual and a profound spiritual experience.

What is more, by calling such a community into being within an art project, Wysocki opened up the possibility to scrutinize the challenges posed by an encounter with the Other, embodied here by the praying Muslims. The rules of the ceremony did not conform to European standards of secular public space (the women who prepared the ritual meal were excluded from the ritual itself). They also required an adjustment of the interior by veiling figural sculptures, which are forbidden in Islam. The ceremony initiated by the artist revealed the difficulties, challenges, and negotiations involved in the process of accommodating people and groups from other backgrounds in a given reality.


Stach Szumski

B. 1992 in Gdańsk. Holder of a Bachelor’s diploma from the Painting Space Studio of Professor Paweł Susid, Faculty of Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Visual artist, cofounder (alongside Karolina Mełnicka) of the Nomadic State project, developed since 2015. Between 2013 and 2016 Szumski was affiliated with the Warsaw-based gallery V9 and the Vlepvnet foundation. The artist has created numerous projects in Poland and worldwide (India, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine). His major group shows include “DE-MO-CRA-CY” at the Labirynt Gallery, Lublin, “Assembled/Disassembled” at the Zachęta Project Room, Warsaw, and “Tajsa” at the BWA Gallery, Tarnów.

Stach Szumski

Stach Szumski, Corporgonite, 2015, object: aluminium, pyrite, crystals, organic resin

Orgonite serves to transform negative energy from the environment (electrosmog, geopathic radiation, underground water courses, mental energies) into beneficial vital energy. According to the founder of the theory of orgone, Wilhelm Reich (an Austrian psychologist and psychiatrist), it is energy present in all living organisms throughout the entire universe.

Corporgonite is the first offensive orgonite that serves to paralyse negative energy generated by the rampant growth of corporate culture. It was created in collaboration with Andrzej Jarmułowicz, orgonite manufacturer from Zabrze, at his studio located in an abandoned office building.



Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk

B. 1987, sculptor, action, and installation artist. Graduate of the Faculty of Sculpture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk, works in the Tri-City and in his hometown of Lidzbark Warmiński. Cofounder of the Rokosz Group, which provides education programs for impoverished rural areas. Szumczyk is interested in the elements of common history that stir strong emotions for various reasons (from nostalgia to repression) and the way they resonate in a contemporary context. An example of such works, whose presentation becomes a performance in public space, was the sculpture “Komm Frau” in Gdańsk, and the project “S.O.S.,” which was presented and blocked during the opening of the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk.


Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk, Lisowczycy (Polish Elears), 2016, intermedia project, photo by Michał Szlaga

In the popular social imagination, a concern with and pride in the past—especially one that rests upon the country’s military strength during the period of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth—is a key sphere revealing a collective perception of history. In his project “Lisowczycy” (“Polish Elears”), Jerzy Bohdan Szumczyk brings to the fore similar imagery that deeply resonates in its social context.

The artist seeks a contemporary form for his protagonists to materialize and become embedded in today’s reality. The project involves a group of inmates from a male prison in Iława, who assume the role of soldiers of a light cavalry unit—the eponymous “Polish Elears,” notorious for their brutality in war. Wearing masks (they are banned from showing their faces) and traditional garments of the Polish nobility, designed together and produced out of tracksuits, the participants stage the moment in which an attack is mounted. The project is indicative of the artist’s strategy in creating works that stir turbulent social emotions, but at the same time escape unambiguous judgement.

In an era marked by the ubiquity of patriotic visions debated in public, and the consequent flattening of such meaning to the inevitably simplistic perception of history, Szumczyk does not deploy a straightforward critique, but instead appropriates elements of the same imagery. The artist uses this visual language as a tool to disarm “grand” history and also concludes a participatory project with the view to renegotiate the community’s vision of the distant past.

The presented work does not focus on history and the way it is understood. It is an operation pursued with a social vision of the way by which imagination shapes the perception of history. In comparison with traditional reenactments and stagings of historic events—which petrify widespread historical beliefs—Szumczyk’s projects act as a vehicle of imagination designed to complicate the image of the past and to review it through the prism of popular culture and contemporary contexts.


Łukasz Surowiec

B. 1985 in Rzeszów. Interdisciplinary artist, sculptor, author of video works as well as actions in public space, situations, and interventions based on the investigations of social relations. Surowiec is a graduate of the Faculty of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, and Universität der Künste in Berlin. The artist has presented his works in several individual shows, such as “Happy New Year,” CCA Kronika in Bytom, 2011/2013, “Forefathers’ Eve,” Bunkier Sztuki, Kraków, 2013, “Nobody Is Afraid to Die,” CCA Ujazdowski Castle, 2014, “Waiting Room,” CCA “Signs of Time,” Toruń, 2014. Participant in numerous group shows, including “As You Can See: Polish Art Today, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2014; “Air de Pologne,” De Garage, Mechelen, Belgium, 2012; “Critical Juncture,” Kochi Muziris Biennale, Kochi, India 2013; “Polish Art Today,” Kunsthalle, Bratislava, 2014; and “7th Berlin Biennale,” KW, Berlin 2012, with his project Berlin-Birkenau, which was also presented at the Whitechapel Gallery in London and in Hongkong. Lives and works in Kraków.


Łukasz Surowiec, Alicja Rogalska, Tear Dealer, 2014, video, object

As an artistic project, a tear dealer operated for five consecutive days in a rented commercial space located one a street in downtown Lublin. Renovated and operational, the space matched the character of other such venues and neighbouring shops such as a  greengrocer’s and numerous pawnshops. The interior decoration flirts between the pure white interior of a cosmetic studio and an outlet of a loan shark. It was a place where one could deposit one’s tears in exchange for real money—100 zlotys for 3 ml of tears.

The project investigates community-building processes that shift the focus from the sphere of rational choices to the forces that bind the collective body through the energy of common experience. After all, community is not consolidated only by its rational choices, but it also draws on affective forces and emotions. “Tear Dealer” by Alicja Rogalska and Łukasz Surowiec is an archive-collection of materialized social lamentation, common tears cried to a single glass vessel.

The work actualizes the Catholic devotion of Bitter Lamentations (Gorzkie Żale), which is a distinctively Polish devotion sung during Lent and deeply embedded in Polish culture. Presented here, the only difference is that the community of the faithful is replaced with one arranged by the artists. A community formed around compassio—commiseration in suffering—a secular ritual involving the joining in misery and shaking of sorrows through the act of crying.

The work by Rogalska and Surowiec reveals one of the forces behind a temporary collective body—whose development and existence is underpinned by a similar emotion. It also refers to certain mental clichés, and the habitual perception of “Polishness” as an identity founded on suffering. The project was also an attempt to understand contemporary economic mechanisms as well as a radical application of the economic theory of purposelessness.


Jana Shostak

B. 1993 in Hrodna, Belarus. Graduate of the Faculty of Intermedia at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków (BA). Shostak is pursuing a Master’s degree at the Academies of Fine Art in Warsaw and Kraków. Interested in site-specific art, crowd psychology, and Conceptual art, among other fields. Currently in love. Participant in Biennale Wro, Wrocław, 2015; Manifesta, Zurich, 2016; Pastificio Cerere, Rome, 2014; Sziget Festival, Budapest, 2014; Independent Art Fair, Stockholm, 2015; among other events. Shortlisted for the Młode Wilki ’15 award.


Maria Olbrychtowicz, Jana Shostak, Who Is Your Pope?, 2016, banner, film documentation

During this year’s World Youth Day, the artists replaced one of the flags installed for the occasion at the Main Square in Kraków (presented in the exhibition) with a flag featuring the image of Pope Francis, created by emulating the visual identification of the event. Although the action of the artists had not been agreed upon with the organizers, as World Youth Day volunteers the artists did not face any obstacles, and they even received help to install the banner from firefighters who happened to be working nearby. The new banner remained in the Market Square for the duration of the event.

In the lead up to the event, the artist’s noticed an apparent omission of Pope Francis from the World Youth day promotional activity. This work was their riposte. Despite explanations from representatives of the Church that John Paul II appeared on flags in the Main Square as a patron of the event (alongside St. Sister Faustina), Olbrychtowicz and Shostak were not alone in the impression that the Polish organizers of the World Youth Days wanted to spotlight above all the “Polish” Pope. Similar comments appeared after an invitation to the event—which was read aloud in churches across Poland—failed to mention the visit of Pope Francis to Kraków, whereas the name of John Paul II featured twice.

Such “repression” is indicative of the attitude of a section of Catholic milieus in Poland towards the pontificate of Francis, which is recognised as groundbreaking in terms of the Pope’s praise of openness, tolerance, and modesty. The Catholic hierarchs in Poland and their political allies may sometimes find it difficult to reconcile the declarations and appeals of the Pope with their own promoted views. Hence the perception of Pope Francis in Poland is not always uncritical and his authority as the head of the Church is sometimes subject to relativisation.
As a mass event that attracts worldwide media attention, the World Youth Day provides an excellent opportunity for a variety of manifestations outside the official program. Jana Shostak not only replaced the flag in the Main Square, but also appeared at the internationally televised meeting between the Pope and volunteers with a banner “PAPA CALL ME!” and her phone number. Activities pursued during the World Youth Day by the artists, and by the group Faith and Rainbow (also present in the exhibition) are characterized by a critical edge that originates from within the community. The artists and activists wanted to become rightful members on the community’s own territory, which they “used” in a creative way. Their goal was not to negate the community or to demand a revolution, but to negotiate concessions, which they see as a more realistic pursuit if tangible change.

Daniel Rycharski

B. 1986 in Sierpc, lives and works in Kurówko and Kraków. Works with film, multimedia installations, and site-specific objects; active as a cultural animator. Rycharski creates public projects in rural space, designed to engage local communities. Between 2005 and 2009, member of an artistic group with Sławomir Shuty. In 2009, the artist decided to return to his home village of Kurówko. Inspired by tales of fantastic creatures that inhabit the nearby forests, he created a mural with a hybrid animal on one of the houses in the village. The project resulted in several dozen paintings popularly known as rural street art.

Rycharski’s artistic practice draws inspiration from the sacral sphere and folk beliefs, as exemplified by the installation Chapel Gallery, which served as a venue for art presentations. In 2012 Rycharski was awarded the title “Culturist of the Year” care of Polish Radio Three. Rycharski is lecturer at the Multimedia Department of the Pedagogical University of Kraków.

Participant in numerous individual and group exhibitions, such as “Making Use: Life in Postartistic Times,” Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2016; “Into the Country,” Salt Ulus, Ankara, 2014; “As You Can See: Polish Art Today,” Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2014; “Street Art in the Countryside,” Wozownia Art Gallery, Toruń, 2012.



Daniel Rycharski, There’s No Justice without Solidarity, 2016, sculpture

The history of how the work came into being immediately situates it in a sacral context. Created on the bottom of a dried pond—the artist’s temporary studio near his home village—the sculpture replaced an old chapel devoured by a swamp. It combines references to the debate on the current state of the Church community with themes of intimacy and carnality, brought to mind by the form of the work. The worn out bed covered with white bedsheets and pierced by an old grave cross also marks a rewriting of such works as “My Bed” by Tracey Emin and “A Couple” by Leszek Knaflewski through the artist’s own experience.

Rycharski’s work on the sculpture was inspired by his interest in the social problem of solitude, which is commonplace in rural areas. It can be understood both literally—as the lack of a close relation with another human being—but also as solitude within a community—the inability to find one’s place and a lack of acceptance. It is particularly acute in its pertinence to a broadly understood notion of otherness and marginalized queer identities. The theme is highlighted in the title of the work: “There’s No Justice without Solidarity.” A community of faith may become united not by building its identity on exclusion, but by engaging in a historic act of justice that would consist in admitting wrongdoing and ushering in a new period of openness. Apart from a longing for acceptance, the artist also seems to denounce the lack of such acts in contemporary culture.

Rycharski wants his sculpture to function as a votive offering with the intention of change, a monument to a non-existent ritual of unity. The pursued change also involves an act of penance: it is not the sinner that is supposed to confess, but the community which has long rejected groups of the faithful and denied them the status of rightful members. Honest atonement consists not only in a review of one’s deeds and regret, but also in a will to compensate. In this case, the latter should become an act of inclusion and acceptance of the hitherto rejected faithful, which tangibly transforms the identity of the Catholic Church and the community around it.

Rycharski’s sculpture could be recognized as the first example of a Polish monument to contextual theology, which pursues the goal of understanding the truths of faith in the context of the changing world. The work can also be understood as a voice of liberation theology, which vocally calls for a restoration of social justice. Casting light on these aspects of theological thought provides a chance of invigorating the debate on the role of the Church in Poland.


Daniel Rycharski, Footage from the LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven during the World Youth Days, 2016, video

During this year’s World Youth Days, the LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven operated for several days in an area of Cracow. Set up by a grassroots movement, the initiative formed part of an alternative program of activities and discussions that accompanied the official ceremonies. Tapping into a surge of media interest prompted by the visit of the Pope, the Haven caught the attention of news outlets worldwide.

Such a gesture—akin to a takeover of the official event—performed as an attempt to speak from within the community of pilgrims (together, but still apart) and is recognized in the artistic field as characteristic of a high coefficient of art. Yet at the heart of the project was a need to create a space for a group of people who share a sense of common faith and the desire to propagate it.

The footage shows a fragment of a Holy Mass, immersed in secrecy, organized at the aforementioned Haven. A multinational community becomes united by the energy of a joint prayer. The camera mostly shows the feet of the gathered faithful in an attempt to avoid portraying people’s faces—when it does happen, the faces are masked and covered. Rycharski’s footage reveals a tension between the overt and the hidden; the tension between the lack of social acceptance of an inclusive understanding of faith and the friendly interest of the media.

The situation animated by the movement Faith and Rainbow serves as an example of reinterpretation work in the spirit of contextual theology. Such activities, underpinned by a willingness to become part of the community of faithful, are pursued as attempts at a tangible change of the Church and its approach to the acceptance of otherness.


Daniel Rycharski, St. Expeditus, 2016, banner / St. Expeditus (rainbow version), 2016, print on fabric

The idea to create a banner with an image of the Christian martyr from the era of the Roman Empire originated from a series of protests known as the so-called “Green Town.” Last year, for 129 days a group of farmers occupied the site in front of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister in Warsaw in a makeshift protest camp, which served as a spatial emanation of a conservative revolution.

Assuming the role of an artist-ethnographer, Daniel Rycharski took many days to observe the situation, engaging in a plethora of conversations and art practices. His activities led to an official request issued by a unit of the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union of Individual Farmers “Solidarity” regarding the production of a banner that would serve both as a trade union identification and a tool of protest should such a need emerge.

The resulting “St. Expeditus Banner” is not only an attempt to modernize dated iconography, but also a politically charged image, which builds a community identity on the basis of visions of fortitude and courage derived from the Catholic imaginary. The commissioners of the banner wanted it to revive the forces of the spirit, while the represented saint is intended to offer support in hopeless matters. The original banner was officially handed over to the farmers in May 2016 in Warsaw.

For a similar reason—the need of support in a difficult cause—the banner also became one of the symbols of the movement Faith and Rainbow—an informal organization that gathers members of the LGBTIQ community marginalized by the Church. Dedicated to that community, various forms of the composition in its rainbow version have graced the movement’s events on several occasions. Also in this case, the strong appeal of the image (self-portrait of the artist who partly identifies with both communities) can be used as a symbol of common identity.

The fact that one motif created by the artist was adopted by two different communities reveals a search for symbols vested with a unifying power. It is also an interesting example of visual awareness—an attempt to develop a visual language with reference to the broadly understood realist idiom, especially popular in contemporary religious art. This work proves how a seemingly conservative form may acquire a political edge through the context of its use.





Rozdzielczość Chleba

The name of the publishing house “Rozdzielczość Chleba” (Resolution of Bread), established in December 2011, bears reference to the first act of piracy—described in the New Testament—committed by Jesus Christ himself, who multiplied bread for the needs of the people gathered around him. The blasphemous interpretation of the events from the shores of the Sea of Galilee—marking an analogy between the Son of God and the activity of an anonymous Torrent user—has strong appeal with online users who propagate it by means of anonymous memes and images. The artists state: “Succumbing to the power of the emerging heresy, we want to imitate Jesus—He, the first pirate, who copied food beyond its mainstream circulation. We hereby undertake the obligation to provide you with the fresh bread of literature, baked at possibly the highest resolution”.


Leszek Onak (Rozdzielczość Chleba), John Pegasus II Dropped Short Statuses, 2015–2016, installation

John Paul II is on Facebook and posts frequently about solidarity on the web and hunger for aesthetics; he greets all users from the Polish territories and endorses the website “Knees that look like babies.” This text generator, which is the result of experiments by the collective Rozdzielczość Chleba (Resolution of Bread) with the #ZUSwave aesthetic, marks an attempt to define the ethics of the web community. The virtual Pope warns against egoistic web moderation, preaches respect for users without a profile image, and encourages subscriptions.

Let us take in his homilies, deeply moving, and allow ourselves to be guided through sceneries of snow-white fanpages, domains showered with flowers, and manifold likes and online streams that adorn the web of our fatherland.

On another level, the project examines the public presence of John Paul II, providing a character radically different from the omnipresent monuments as well as squares and primary schools named in honour of the Pope. The presented text generator operates on likely the only dimension of the Pope’s legacy that remains open to reinterpretation and updates his postulates to the needs of the ever-changing world.


Alicja Rogalska

Alicja Rogalska creates video works, installations, performances, and situations that relate mainly to social issues. Her practice is based mostly on research into specific contexts, collaboration, and participation. The artist addresses the political character of daily life and offers a reflection on the potential alternatives. Fine Art graduate at Goldsmiths College, and in cultural studies from the University of Warsaw. Rogalska has created many educational projects (for TATE, the University of Edinburgh, and Modern Art Oxford, among other institutions) and projects in public space. Awarded a scholarship from Artsadmin in London (2016–2017) and participant in the program Visionaries in Residence at MeetFactory in Prague (2016).

Rogalska has taken part in projects including “Social Design For Social Living,” National Gallery, Jakarta, 2016; “All Men Become Sisters,” Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2015–2016; “Myth, Artisterium, Europe House,” Tbilisi, 2015; “Rehearsal,” National Museum in Kraków, 2015; “No Need For References,” Kunsthalle Exnergasse. Vienna, 2015; “Critical Juncture,” Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kochi, India, 2014; “Dream Revolution, Avantgarde and Socialist Realism,” Nowy Teatr and Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2014.


Łukasz Surowiec, Alicja Rogalska, Tear Dealer, 2014, video, object

As an artistic project, a tear dealer operated for five consecutive days in a rented commercial space located one a street in downtown Lublin. Renovated and operational, the space matched the character of other such venues and neighbouring shops such as a  greengrocer’s and numerous pawnshops. The interior decoration flirts between the pure white interior of a cosmetic studio and an outlet of a loan shark. It was a place where one could deposit one’s tears in exchange for real money—100 zlotys for 3 ml of tears.

The project investigates community-building processes that shift the focus from the sphere of rational choices to the forces that bind the collective body through the energy of common experience. After all, community is not consolidated only by its rational choices, but it also draws on affective forces and emotions. “Tear Dealer” by Alicja Rogalska and Łukasz Surowiec is an archive-collection of materialized social lamentation, common tears cried to a single glass vessel.

The work actualizes the Catholic devotion of Bitter Lamentations (Gorzkie Żale), which is a distinctively Polish devotion sung during Lent and deeply embedded in Polish culture. Presented here, the only difference is that the community of the faithful is replaced with one arranged by the artists. A community formed around compassio—commiseration in suffering—a secular ritual involving the joining in misery and shaking of sorrows through the act of crying.

The work by Rogalska and Surowiec reveals one of the forces behind a temporary collective body—whose development and existence is underpinned by a similar emotion. It also refers to certain mental clichés, and the habitual perception of “Polishness” as an identity founded on suffering. The project was also an attempt to understand contemporary economic mechanisms as well as a radical application of the economic theory of purposelessness.