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The Warsaw Voice » Society » December 21, 2011
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Pulling Down the Iron Curtain
December 21, 2011   
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A cold store before World War II, the Kuehlhaus in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, took on a new role Nov. 24, becoming an intriguing setting for an exhibition of Polish art entitled Pulling Down the Iron Curtain.

Organized by the Paryż Foundation in Katowice and curated by Piotr Szmitke, the exhibition closed Dec. 10. It was held under the auspices of the Polish presidency of the EU as part of the Polish Culture Festival. Artists invited to take part in the exhibition included Ewa Zawadzka, Henryk Waniek, Jerzy Kalina, Jacek Rykała, Marta Deskur and Robert Konieczny.

According to the organizers, “The new postcommunist order in Europe not only uncovered a new haven of energy and talent, isolated behind the Iron Curtain until recently, but has also generated creative potential by removing interpersonal barriers and setting artistic expression free from censorship.”

The two decades that have passed since the artificial border between Poland and Western Europe was lifted might seem like a long time, but Polish artists of different ages and at different stages of their artistic careers still draw on the experience of the collapse of communism. Are these attempts at revisiting what is long gone justified? And when something is gone, does that mean it no longer has an impact on us? Or does the very fact that we remember help us be better equipped in tackling contemporary challenges. This is what some of the works on display seem to suggest. The works include a film entitled Granica (The Border) by Marta Deskur, Kuba de Barbaro, Edi Deskur and Michał Gorczyca. Documenting cases of people trying to illegally cross national borders, the film exposes the cogs in the machine that constrains human freedom.

Along with the pursuit of freedom, another pronounced theme in a society once under the yoke of totalitarianism is the craving for a sense of security. This aspect is tackled in architectural designs by Robert Konieczny which have for years enjoyed well-deserved acclaim in Poland and abroad.

The most direct reference to the title of the exhibition is a humorous and ironic work by Jerzy Kosałka entitled Lechu wróć (Lech, Come Back!), which depicts Lech Wałęsa jumping over a wall.

Michał Andrzejczak
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