Umělec magazine 2004/4 >> Kitsch and Ken’s Aunt A Portrait of Polish Contemporary Art List of all editions.
Kitsch and Ken’s Aunt  A Portrait of Polish Contemporary Art
Umělec magazine
Year 2004, 4
6,50 EUR
Send the printed edition:
Order subscription

Kitsch and Ken’s Aunt A Portrait of Polish Contemporary Art

Umělec magazine 2004/4


Marta Smolińska-Byczuk | poland | en cs

Poland’s political breakthrough in 1989 brought no significant breakthrough in art. News was widespread in the nineties of a critical art directing its sharp point at Democles and deconstructing the reality of a country freshly freed from the Communist regime. Communism was replaced by consumer society and the worship of eternal youth. Artists called attention to the fact that in 1989 Poles did not achieve that sought-after freedom—in place of Communist censorship, a repression of a completely different sort appeared.
The work of Zofie Kulik who works with the analyses of the rhetoric, symbols and gestures of Communist power somehow outgrew this context and the de-masking mechanism of any kind of power. Zbigniew Libera, on the other hand, was dedicated to hunting for eternal youth and the fashion of thin bodies. Along with Barbie and Ken, Libera introduced Ken's Aunt, an elderly version of a Barbie doll.
In terms of criticism, Alicja Żebrowska a Katarzyna Kozyra touched on problems associated with sexuality, body awareness and stereotypes that endure in tradition and in Poland’s Catholic society.
Artists of that wave, who often drew inspiration from the Viennese Actionists, used the naked human body in connection with religious symbols. They were radical, and radicalism has a quality that is very rapidly exhausted. That happens with criticism that gradually, as if naturally, all by itself extinguishes, goes silent, or fades away. The court hearings and judgment on Dorota Nieznalska, who exhibited masculine genitalia on a cross in the context of exercise machinery (The Passion), brought her quick fame, but also brought suspicion that young artists regardless scrupulously use scandal as a fast track to fame.
Discussion that evolved out of these events concentrated on the question of artistic freedom and censorship within the conservative Catholic camp. Lacking was any reflection on artistic values of the work. Grzegorz Klaman, a frappante author, whose work depicts human organs locked up in iron and glass reliquaries, filmed an attack the attack on society by Dorota Nieznalska. Critical art was transformed into publicity stunts.
In the second half of the nineties, a trend increased that was dedicated to the problem of the holocaust. Other than Jósef Szajn, who addresses his own real experience as a prisoner in his work, emphasizing the traumatic experience, even authors of the younger generation work with the subject. Bundles of hair, scarves, glasses, shoes that almost every Pole saw on school outings to Auschwitz, and the incessant discussion concerning Polish-Jewish relationships, has focused the attention of the artists who are now exploring the subject as one of the heaviest aspects of Polish history.
Work associated with this wave can be divided into three basic groups: In the first belongs to works whose objective is to bring to mind the fading traces of people who once lived among us (Rafał Jakubowicz); the second group defines mechanisms of contemporary society in which everything—including the holocaust—is for sale (“Lego.” Zbigniew Libera); the third group consists of work that attempts to be rid of those cursed places associated with the Holocaust—with the assistance of entertainment; or they follow the manner in which nature expansively intervenes, covering green places where a thousand people were exterminated (Berek of Artur Żmijewski, Winterreise Mirosława Bałek).
In terms of contemporary polish art there is also a Renaissance in painting. The traditional painting, hung on a wall, has returned triumphantly. Whether the paintings incorporate the language of photography or parodies, these paintings rely on the esthetic. What are young Poles painting? Simply put, they paint notations of surrounding experiences: The Polish family, athletes, politicians (Marcin Maciejowski), new habits (Maciej Kozłowski), and also the world of young women ((Paulina Ołowska) and still lives (Marek Firek).
The secret of the painter’s language in a studio continues to allure artists whose work is concentrated on traditional questions: What is a picture? What are its limits? What potential is inherent? (Jan Berdyszak, Tomasz Ciecierski, Piotr C. Kowalski, Paweł Łubowski). A young group of artists is also associated with this group (Kamil Kuskowski, Zbigniew Rogalski) who examine the contemporary world.
In what direction is Polish art headed? Towards an esthetic of kitsch beautiful such as what has been deliberately and pointedly propagated lately by Piotr Uklański? Or perhaps toward intelligent games with spaces such as those of Monika Sosnowska whose work includes a sequence of smaller and smaller doorways leading nowhere? It’s a puzzle for now.



There are currently no comments.

Add new comment

Recommended articles

Intoxicated by Media Déjà-vu / Notes on Oliver Pietsche"s Image Strategy Intoxicated by Media Déjà-vu / Notes on Oliver Pietsche"s Image Strategy
Goff & Rosenthal gallery, Berlin, November 18 - December 30, 2006 Society permanently renegotiates the definition of drugs and our relationship towards them. In his forty-five minute found-footage film The Conquest of Happiness, produced in 2005, Oliver Pietsch, a Berlin-based video artist, demonstrates which drugs society can accommodate, which it cannot, and how the story of the drugs can be…
African Vampires in the Age of Globalisation African Vampires in the Age of Globalisation
"In Cameroon, rumours abound of zombie-labourers toiling on invisible plantations in an obscure night-time economy."
An unsuccessful co-production An unsuccessful co-production
If you know your way around, you might discover that every month and maybe even every week you stand the chance to receive money for your cultural project. Successful applicants have enough money, average applicants have enough to keep their mouths shut, and the unsuccessful ones are kept in check by the chance that they might get lucky in the future. One natural result has been the emergence of…
The Top 10 Czech Artists from the 1990s The Top 10 Czech Artists from the 1990s
The editors of Umělec have decided to come up with a list of ten artists who, in our opinion, were of crucial importance for the Czech art scene in the 1990s. After long debate and the setting of criteria, we arrived at a list of names we consider significant for the local context, for the presentation of Czech art outside the country and especially for the future of art. Our criteria did not…
04.02.2020 10:17
Where to go next?
out - archeology
S.d.Ch, Solitaires and Periphery Culture (a generation born around 1970)
S.d.Ch, Solitaires and Periphery Culture (a generation born around 1970)
Josef Jindrák
Who is S.d.Ch? A person of many interests, active in various fields—literature, theater—known for his comics and collages in the art field. A poet and playwright foremost. A loner by nature and determination, his work doesn’t meet the current trends. He always puts forth personal enunciation, although its inner structure can get very complicated. It’s pleasant that he is a normal person and a…
out - poetry
THC Review and the Condemned Past
THC Review and the Condemned Past
Ivan Mečl
We are the fifth global party! Pítr Dragota and Viki Shock, Fragmenty geniality / Fragments of Charisma, May and June 1997. When Viki came to visit, it was only to show me some drawings and collages. It was only as an afterthought that he showed me the Czech samizdat publication from the late 1990s, THC Review. When he saw how it fascinated me, he panicked and insisted that THAT creation is…
To hen kai pán (Jindřich Chalupecký Prize Laureate 1998 Jiří Černický)
To hen kai pán (Jindřich Chalupecký Prize Laureate 1998 Jiří Černický)
birthing pains
Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?
Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?
Zuzana Štefková
Expanding the definition of “mother” is also a space for reducing pressure and for potential liberation.1 Carol Stabile The year was 2003, and in the deep forests of Lapák in the Kladno area, a woman in the later phase of pregnancy stopped along the path. As part of the “Artists in the Woods” exhibit, passers-by could catch a glimpse of her round belly, which she exposed especially for them in…
Books, video, editions and artworks that might interest you Go to e-shop
Limited edition of 10. Size 100 x 70 cm. Black print on durable white foil.
More info...
75 EUR
91 USD
From series of rare photographs never released before year 2012. Signed and numbered Edition. Photography on 1cm high white...
More info...
220 EUR
267 USD
The Gun, sketch - inkwash, 2011, 33 x 25 cm
More info...
460 EUR
558 USD
"Slavíček vánoční (Little Chrismas Nightingale) is a part of the Bridel Creche....he picked out a medieval composition called...
More info...
7,85 EUR
10 USD


Divus and its services

Studio Divus designs and develops your ideas for projects, presentations or entire PR packages using all sorts of visual means and media. We offer our clients complete solutions as well as all the individual steps along the way. In our work we bring together the most up-to-date and classic technologies, enabling us to produce a wide range of products. But we do more than just prints and digital projects, ad materials, posters, catalogues, books, the production of screen and space presentations in interiors or exteriors, digital work and image publication on the internet; we also produce digital films—including the editing, sound and 3-D effects—and we use this technology for web pages and for company presentations. We specialize in ...

Citation of the day. Publisher is not liable for any mental and physical states which may arise after reading the quote.

Enlightenment is always late.
CONTACTS AND VISITOR INFORMATION The entire editorial staff contacts



Arch 8, Resolution Way, Deptford

London SE8 4NT, United Kingdom
Open on appointment


7 West Street, Hastings
East Sussex, TN34 3AN
, United Kingdom
Open on appointment

Ivan Mečl, +44 (0) 7526 902 082

Kyjov 37, 407 47 Krásná Lípa
Czech Republic
+420 222 264 830, +420 602 269 888

Open daily 10am to 6pm
and on appointment.


Potsdamer Str. 161, 10783 Berlin
Germany, +49 (0) 1512 9088 150
Open on appointment.



Divus New book by I.M.Jirous in English at our online bookshop.