Category Archives: Texts

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.