By the end of the 19th century a new genre of printed book emerged. Narrative function was transferred from the text to the photograph. Throughout the 20th century, albums, brochures, and photobooks kept track of the tumultuous history of our region. For the last two decades photobooks have attracted academic attention and have by now been often discussed by numerous publications and exhibitions. They have been featured at several shows, represented primarily by German or Russian publications; however, there have been no attempts as yet to look at this issue in the context of our region. In order to be able to think in terms of such a broad panorama it was necessary to collect and analyse Central European photobooks within the frameworks of one international research project, which culminated in this exhibition.
The ICC focuses on the history of Central Europe, which we narrate through a variety of media, including photography. “Photobloc” is a unique show because it was developed by an international team of experts. We are aware of the novelty of this topic, so we are happy that Łukasz Gorczyca and Adam Mazur, the leading scholars of photobooks in Poland, agreed to partner with us in this research project on the Central European canon of photobooks – explains Agata Wąsowska-Pawlik, the ICC director.
Photobloc was the first comprehensive and critically aware exhibition addressing the tumultuous history of Central Europe as illustrated by albums, artist books and propaganda publications. A broad international perspective paints a picture of shared fate of inhabitants of this part of the continent. More than a hundred books from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania illustrate how photography reflected the processes of formulation of new identity of societies and young states of Central Europe, shaping their image, ideology, dreams of modernization and the future. – Books on display employ photographs to tell the story of our region, but they are also records of changing social relations, political visions and the obligations of photography and art. The exhibition opens up to the present day, posing questions about identity and future of our part of Europe – explain Łukasz Gorczyca and Adam Mazur, authors of the concept for the research project on photobooks and co-authors of the exhibition.
Photobooks offer an intriguing and still partly undiscovered field for all those interested in graphic arts, photography, politics, and art. The genre offers works ranging from albums of artistic photography by authors such as the Czech master František Drtikol, a renowned Polish photographer Edward Hartwig, a Romanian Heda Löffler, to poignant collections of documentary photography. Together, they form a cohesive, cognitively inspiring story of the past and present of Central Europe.
The narrative of the exhibition was divided into six thematic chapters. It took the viewer through the 20th century from the moment when the first mass printed photobooks were issued, through the period of revived and newly formed states, the trauma of another world war and wide-scale modernisation that intersected with reproduced propaganda images of mass suffering and death. The display also featured publications documenting everyday life, social processes and attitudes in the 1960s and ‘70s up to the present day, as well as the era of political, cultural, and technological transformation.
The exhibition showcased popular and collectible photobooks as well as film chronicles, pictures, prints, and art objects. Exhibits was there to see, but also to leaf through, read, and touch. It was perhaps the last chance to directly experience photobooks, since they are increasingly highly valued, collected, and ultimately will also become less available.
The exhibition was on show from 22 November 2019 to 1 March 2020 at the International Cultural Centre Gallery, at Rynek Główny 25.
For a programme of related events visit: HERE
Organised by: The International Cultural Centre
Concept: Łukasz Gorczyca, Adam Mazur
Curators: Łukasz Gorczyca, Adam Mazur, Natalia Żak
Research team: Arnis Balčus, Vladimír Birgus, Adriana Dumitran, Eve Kiiler, Bohunka Koklesová, Claudia Küssel, Agnë Narušytė, Tomáš Pospěch, Peter Puklus, Wojciech Wilczyk
Exhibition design: Damian Nowak
Coordination: Karolina Wójcik
Support: Dorota Kosiec, Anna Śliwa
Graphic design: Kuba Sowiński
Partners: SPHINX Restaurants, Slovenská Národná Galeria (Bratislava), Biblioteca Naţională a României (Bucharest)
Media partners: „Dziennik Polski”, „SZUM”, „Lynx Magazine”, Fotopolis.pl
The ICC media partners: TVP 3 Kraków, Radio Kraków Małopolska, „Karnet”, „In Your Pocket”, „Herito”, AHICE
The exhibition is financially supported by: The Ministry of Culture and National Heritage
Pieces featured at the exhibition and in the catalogue were kindly made available by the following institutions and persons:
- Archiv B&M Chochola, Biblioteka Narodowa w Warszawie, Biblioteca Naţională a României (Bucharest), Biblioteka Jagiellońska (Kraków), Filmoteka Narodowa – Instytut Audiowizualny (Warsaw), Galeria Piekary (Poznań), Instytut Sztuki PAN w Warszawie, Latvijas Nacionâlâ bibliotçka (Riga), Ludvig Museum (Budapest), Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum (Kecskemét), MCK (Kraków), MOCAK (Kraków), Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, Slovenská národná galeria (Bratislava), Univerzitná knižnica (Bratislava), Uniunea Arhitecților din România (Bucharest), Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna w Krakowie, Vědecká knihovna (Olomouc), Zbyněk Baladrán / hunt kastner (Prague)
- Arnis Balčus, Vladimír Birgus, Adriana Dumitran, Sabra Daici, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Łukasz Gorczyca, Danuta Hartwig-Saulewicz, Joanna Helander, Eve Kiiler, Claudia Küssel, Zbigniew Libera, Adam Mazur, Rafał Milach, Vlad Nancǎ, Jüri Okas, Peter Puklus, Valeriu Râpeanu, Ľubo Stacho, Sławomir Smolarek
The exhibition is part of the two‑year project titled Photobook Bloc. Central Europe in Photobooks (20th–21st century). supported by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the NIEPODLEGŁA Multiannual Program for 2017–2022.