We’ll manage, of course / Stay Ready
Hubert Czerepok, Monika Drożyńska, Weronika Ławniczak, Slavs and Tatars, Władysław Strzemiński, Mieczysław Szczuka, Piotr Wysocki, Jerzy Ryszard Zieliński (Jurry), Rafał Żarski
Curators: Sarmen Beglarian, Sylwia Szymaniak
“Of sabres there are plenty; all gentry to horse,
Nephew and I shall lead, and – we'll manage, of course!”
This quote from “The Settlement”, the 6th book of Adam Mickiewicz’s epic novel “Pan Tadeusz”, which has been imprinted on the national attitude towards political reality in Poland.
Mickiewicz wrote his great epic in exile, turning towards the idealised image of the past as the start of a better future. Perhaps in this same way he gave a shape to an approach to history and the past as seen through the prism of the past, guaranteeing Poland its journey forward, but always facing the opposite direction. Poles’ experience of history and their reactions to certain events consistently reveal the same traits characteristic of the Polish spirit and their role in the tumult of history.
The works of artists presented in We’ll manage, of course / Stay Ready exhibition at the Biuro Wystaw, are a commentary on Poland’s political reality. These observations take on new meanings for reality at large. They ask questions about the engagement of art and its political nature. In the face of changes in local and global politics that have shaken up the prevailing order, the works of these artists make the viewer conscious of the pendulous movement of history. They say: “Stay Ready”.
“In the Polish perspective of endurance, if it is considered in the context of the jagged recent history of the nation, during which it disappeared from the map of European for over a century, was coined a “romantic paradigm” by Maria Janion. It was meant, rather, more for a time of trouble than of peace. The first dozen or so years following the regime change post-1989 swiftly proved that even though we had entered a time of freedom and peace, the paradigm of national identity has continued to dwell in a deep crisis.
It’s worth taking a closer look at the most significant, in terms of fomenting a sense of identity, Polish national myths, in particular – Sarmatism. From the beginning of modernity, between the 16th and 17th centuries, Polish nobility took on the belief that they were the descendants of Sarmatians – ancient Iranian nomadic tribes. ‘Sarmatism’ as it is understood today was a cultural form that continued to develop up until its demise during the Partion of Poland by neighbouring nations.
Its dominant aspects survived through the culture of Polish Romanticism, which insisted on preserving the traces (greatness) of its culture through its period of nonexistence. Along with serving as a so-called “manorial myth” in the latter half of the 19th century (rooted in literature – its historical genealogy founded by the popular ‘Sarmatian’ tales by the Nobel Prize-winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz, most of all by his archetypally nationalist, quintessentially Polish ‘Trilogy’) and following the reclaiming of independence in 1918 (close to 1/3 of the population declared themselves of manorial heritage). The Sarmatian character, having given way to mutations and transformations (post WW2 it was paradoxically easier for the “classless” world society to identify with the “greatness” of nobility in opposition to the imposition of Sovietism) continues to define Polish mentality today.”
“Poles on the whole don’t understand their contemporary history and experience it in a groggy state, leaning in a logical way away from consequential circumstance and against a clash with reality. As a slumbering subject, they dwell in a sentiment of (permanent) innocence, a sort of schizophrenic divide from reality, and of forced (pleasurable) passivity that can’t be broken despite momentary episodes of clarity (as in the time of Solidarity). This is why the question of who robbed Poles of their history, particularly at times when they feel they have been fooled yet again, should be answered with: ‘They did it to themselves. It was their own dream’.”
Excerpt from Agata Araszkiewicz’s “A Somnolent Whirl, or The Polish Plait”, first published in the exhibition catalogue for “Bitter this Bread of Polishness” for the BWA Gallery in Jelenia Gora in 2014.
The exhibition is a part of 6th edition of Warsaw Gallery Weekend (23 – 25 September 2016).
This project is a continuation of “We’ll Manage Somehow / Polish Elections in Poland 2005 A.D.”, which was shown at Piotr Nowicki’s Gallery in Warsaw in 2005.
• works of Weronika Ławniczak: courtesy of Czułość Gallery
• works of Slavs and Tatars: courtesy of Raster Gallery
• works of Władysław Strzemiński and Jerzy Ryszard Zieliński (Jurry): Piotr Nowicki Collection, courtesy of Polish Modern Art Foundation