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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 30, 2014
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Icons of the Past
December 30, 2014   
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A new photographic exhibition in Warsaw offers a summary of Polish history by homing in on the most important events and figures of the last 150 years.

In order to stage the exhibition, which is entitled Photoicons in Poland. Searching/Voting, the organizers interviewed 300 ordinary people and experts in the visual arts, asking them what kind of photographs would best depict the most iconic moments in Polish history. The responses were often similar. The exhibition’s curator, art historian Joanna Kinowska, then selected around 40 photographs. Over half of them were taken in Warsaw.

The exhibition, on show at the History Meeting House, starts with a photograph by Karol Beyer showing five people killed in an anti-Russian demonstration in Warsaw Feb. 27, 1861, a time when Poland was under Russian rule. The photograph closing the exhibition shows a right-wing deputy damaging a controversial installation by Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan in 2000. The installation, which at the time was on show at Warsaw’s Zachęta Gallery, depicted Pope John Paul II pinned down by a meteorite.

World War II-era photographs include images of German troops breaking through barriers on the Polish border in September 1939 and the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. Images dating from the postwar communist years include photographs of Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science under construction, West German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneeling before the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in 1970, Pope John Paul II on his first official visit to Poland, and the registration of the Solidarity trade union, which was to become a country-wide movement opposing the communist authorities.

Visitors to the History Meeting House can also see a legendary photograph of an armored vehicle parked outside the Moskwa (Moscow) movie theater in Warsaw in December 1981. With a large sign advertising the movie Apocalypse Now in the background, the picture symbolizes martial law, which at the time had just been imposed to quash the emerging democratic opposition. The featured photographs also show the Round Table Talks between the opposition and the communist authorities that led to democratic changes in Poland, resulting in partially free elections and the first noncommunist government formed by Tadeusz Mazowiecki in 1989. Audiences can also see Danuta Wałęsa, the wife of Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa, receiving the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of her husband.

Many of the featured photographs were taken by renowned photographers such as Chris Niedenthal, Eugeniusz Haneman, Sylwester Braun, Tadeusz Rolke and Jan Morek. The exhibition at the History Meeting House is interactive in that visitors can vote for what they consider to be the most important photograph. You can also vote by going to the History Meeting House’s website at www.dsh.waw.pl


Until Feb. 22; History Meeting House; 2 Karowa St.
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