Summer 2009

– Summer 2009

Contextual Essays

Artists

Events, Works, Exhibitions

Foksal Gallery and the Notion of Archive: Between Inventory and Place

Pawel Polit

I.

On 21 January 1967, Tadeusz Kantor sent an extraordinary message to Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, the full meaning of which has perhaps not yet been deciphered. Nevertheless, since the day of its transmission it has exerted a continuing influence on the artistic experiments that have taken place at Foksal Gallery and the direction of the theoretical discussions that developed within its milieu. The gigantic letter, measuring 2 by 14 metres, was carried by eight postmen through the streets of Warsaw. Accompanied by photographers, the men departed from the post-office building and arrived in the small gallery space, where the letter was received by a expecting crowd. Pre-recorded audio reports describing the letter's progress were played out loud at the gallery during the event, in order to increase the emotional temperature of the public. Tadeusz Kantor, the 'Man in the Black Jacket', orchestrated the components of the happening, steering cautiously towards its prescribed conclusion - the collective destruction of the letter.

Described in an extant script as its 'formal catharsis', the final chapter of the happening proposed a new concept of art object.1 The idea challenged and progressively undermined the theoretical premises that grounded the new model of art presentation promoted by Foksal Gallery, which had opened just a few months before, in June 1966. Formulated by Mariusz Tchorek in a poetic mode in 'Introduction in a General Theory of Place', these initial premises posited the model of exhibition-as-work in response to the most recent developments in art, and served from that moment on as a reference point in Polish art criticism and exhibition practice.2

The aim of this text is to describe

Footnotes
  1. Tadeusz Kantor, 'List. Partytura', Metamorfozy. Teksty o latach 1938-1974, Krakow: Cricoteka, 2000, p.389. All Polish citations are translated by the author.

  2. Mariusz Tchorek publicly presented the 'Introduction' in August 1966 on the occasion of the Artists' and Scientists' Symposium in Puławy.

  3. T. Kantor, 'Idea wystawy na poczcie', Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.342.

  4. T. Kantor, 'Poczta', Metamorfozy, op. cit.

    , p.343.

  5. T. Kantor, 'Uwagi Tadeusza Kantora dotyczące Galerii Foksal, adresowane do Wiesława Borowskiego i Andrzeja Turowskiego niedatowane - prawdopodobnie lato 1972 r.', in Małgorzata Jurkiewicz, Joanna Mytkowska and Andrzej Przywara (eds.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal SBWA, 1998, p.410.

  6. Mariusz Tchorek et al., 'An Introduction to the General Theory of Place', in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1967, n.p.

  7. Ibid.

  8. Ibid.

  9. Anka Ptaszkowska, 'List Anki Ptaszkowskiej do Grupy Foksal (na ręce W. Borowskiego) Warszawa, 17.09.1970', in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, op. cit., p.400.

  10. Statement published in Zbigniew Gostomski, Edward Krasiński, Roman Owidzki, Henryk Stażewski, Jan Ziemski (exh. cat.), Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1966, n.p.

  11. M. Tchorek, 'The Disclosed Picture (1)', in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, op. cit.

  12. T. Kantor, 'Uwagi Tadeusza Kantora dotyczące Galerii Foksal, adresowane do Wiesława Borowskiego i Andrzeja Turowskiego niedatowane - prawdopodobnie lato 1972 r.', in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, op. cit.

    , p.408.

  13. Ibid.

  14. As the 'Introduction' reads: 'The PLACE is neither a construction nor a destruction. It comes into being as a result of a careless decision. The PLACE has no sufficient reason in the world. It is in the artist that this reason subsists. It is he that calls forth the PLACE.' M. Tchorek et al., 'An Introduction to the General Theory of Place', op. cit.

  15. T. Kantor, 'Okolice zera', Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.246.

  16. Wiesław Borowski, 'Elimination of Art from Art', in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1967.

  17. T. Kantor, 'Manifest 1970. Cena istnienia', Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.493.

  18. The opening coincided with the suppression of student demonstrations by the security forces and what the official propaganda called the 'labour activists' - groups of Warsaw's factory workers - in the area of the University of Warsaw and the Academy of Fine Arts at Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. This was the moment when the art world was taken by surprise: the pristine whiteness of the display and the fragile character of Krasiński's works contrasted with the violent character of the events occurring only several hundred metres away.

  19. See M. Tchorek, Edward Krasiński (exh. cat.), Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1968.

  20. Foksal PSP Gallery, 'Co nam się nie podoba w Galerii Foksal PSP?', in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal SBWA, 1998, p.422.

  21. A. Ptaszkowska, 'Happening w Polsce(3)', Współczesność, no.11, 1969, p.8.

  22. Zbigniew Gostomski, 'Fragment of the System. It begins in Wrocław', in Paweł Polit and Piotr Wozniakiewicz (ed.), Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art: Experiences of Discourse 1965-1975, Warsaw: Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, 2000, p.83.

  23. Wiesław Borowski, 'Nurt apikturalny w Galerii Foksal PSP', Poezja, no.5, 1971, p.104.

  24. Ibid.

  25. W. Borowski and Andrzej Turowski, 'Dokumentacja', in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor, op. cit., p.424.

  26. Wiesław Borowski and Andrzej Turowski, 'Żywe archiwum', in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor, op. cit., p.425.

  27. Ibid.

  28. See P. Polit, 'On Conceptual Art. Interview with Andrzej Turowski', in P. Polit and P. Wozniakiewicz (ed.), Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art, op. cit, pp.211-13.