Cartoonist and satirist, also a painter, poster artist and set designer. He was born in 1959 in Warsaw
Raczkowski studied at the department of Interior Design of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He debuted as a cartoonist at the Obserwator Codzienny (Daily Observer) in 1992, he later worked for Życie Warszawy and Życie. Since 1993 for almost a decade he co-operated with the weekly magazine Polityka. Since 2003 he has been the staff cartoonist for the weekly Przekrój. He is the laureate of the Grand Press Award (2003) and the Polish Culture Foundation Award (2004). He lives and works in Warsaw.
Marek Raczkowski is currently the most popular satirical cartoonist in Poland. Some say he has even surpassed Sławomir Mrożek. He has created his own distinguishable and unique style for both illustration and the type of humour his works express. His early illustrations were worked out in detail, later they became more synthetic. Today he operates a thick stroke and creates simple characters. Juliusz Ćwieluch has written that "From characters that were elaborated to an extreme, [Raczkowski] shifted towards the most simplified shape of a person with a big nose".
Another substantial element of his cartoons is the text, which sets the tone for his drawings. These are typically short, simple comics in a few frames with a concise message contained within a thought cloud. His humour is engaged politically and in an uncompromising critic of the absurdities of the Polish reality - or just plain stupidity. The artists himself refers to the controversial Jerzy Urban:
Urban is a sage. He makesmy world. Every week I await his column. I read my own thoughts in his columns.
Raczkowski's satirical cartoons published in Przekrój are publicly discussed and distributed in the internet. They often relate to the current events and media's hot topics in Poland. They often present a more insightful commentary than whole articles published in the press.
Poles look at Raczkowski's cartoons as they see themselves. And it is not a completely false mirror. When in the summer of 2010 the nation fought over the cross placed in front of the Presidential Palace, Raczkowski published a cartoon in which a character wearing a traditional Cracovian hat kneels before a sign containing a "+" symbol (which looks like a cross) from the sum "2+2=5" written on a wall. Another cartoon shows two friends talking at a bar: "I returned to Poland in search of work, but I really miss the UK." Another scene at the bar: "Tell me, Stefan, when will the time come when one doesn't have to drink so much in this country?" Raczkowski himself said in an interview:
We are a nation that all the time, out of our own stupidity, wastes any chance for normalcy.
Another of his cartoons shows a radio announcing:
Public opinion in Poland is again shaken by series of events that make no sense.
Raczkowski often relates to the issues of politics, tolerance (or a lack thereof), and Polish religiousness. More often than specific politicians, his cartoons show God who, for instance, says to Jesus sitting on his right side:
I don't really like the Poles, but your mother keeps on standing up for them.
Raczkowski speaks of the current issues, like in vitro fertilization procedures criticized by the Catholic Church. He draws a Native American child in a wigwam asking:
'Dad, can I go and play with Lucky Test-Tube?' and his father responding, 'I'd rather you play with somebody else, Broken Rubber'.
Raczkowski juxtaposes a dysfunctional society with an ill-understood patriotism that looks like a caricature of the romantic and insurgent myths. As the satirist's alter ego appears a man behind a rostrum:
I would like to express my appreciation for the 75% of Poles who are ready to sacrifice their lives for the motherland and assure them that, should this ever happen we, the cowardly minority, will make sure their sacrifice wasn't made in vain.
In March 2006 Raczkowski became a centre of a mini-scandal when, on the air of TOK FM Radio during a debate about the freedom of speech (where Jerzy Urban was also present), Raczkowski gave an account of an activity he was to engage in, along with an artist Agnieszka Brzeżańska. They wanted to draw attention to the fact dog owners don't clean up after their dogs. Raczkowski claimed that together with Brzeżańska, he placed 70 white and red mini flags in the dogs' feces all over Warsaw (he later denied having done so and said it was an idea that never reached the execution phase). The National Broadcasting Council filed a report with the public prosecutor's office about the profanation of the national flag. The case was discontinued. The culprit himself recalled later:
I believe that artistic provocations will not work if they are premeditated. My provocation with the flag stuck in the excrements was done with pure intentions and a belief that I was not doing anything wrong. I was surprised people took it the wrong way. I still cannot understand it.
The most frequent topic of Raczkowski's cartoons are the current political issues. There is no leniency for politicians. In fact, on the contrary. His funny drawings become a serious voice in the political debate. The satirist mercilessly describes the politicians (President of Poland, then Lech Kaczyński, cutting out with a penknife on the presidential table 'I was here') and about their electorate (at the ballot-box: 'Excuse me, I am illiterate, which one is Kaczyński?'). The words of a toast 'Let's drink to peace' are wrongly interpreted by a politician with no knowledge of English as 'Wypijmy za PiS' ('Let's drink for PiS' - Law and Justice, national conservative party).
During the presidential campaign in 2010 Raczkowski made an illustration for Platforma Obywatelska (The Civic Platform, the liberal conservative party). 'It was just like an order from an advertising agency - the client is always right, unfortunately', he recalled in an interview.
About the new President Bronisław Komorowski he said:
It scares me that I contributed to him being elected a president. The longer I look at him the more I see that this is a man who is completely predictable, who will not surprise you with an interesting answer.
The whole situation was better portrayed in a cartoon in which he depicted himself:
I am a satirist. Yesterday I came up with an exceptionally accurate, ruthless and offensive joke about Platforma Obywatelska. I would like to publish it because I hate Platforma Obywatelska. But I am afraid that with those kinds of jokes I would contribute to the return of PiS, which I hate a great deal more.
Raczkowski presented his drawings at several exhibitions, at the Galeria Pies in Poznań in 2008 ("Dzień bez masturbacji" - "A Day Without Masturbation") and at the Museum of Caricature in Warsaw 2009. He co-operated with an artist Agnieszka Brzeżańska, i.e. with her "Warsaw for Amateurs" project (Galeria Kordegarda, 2006).
Author: Karol Sienkiewicz, December 2010. Translated by Jagoda Zieleźnik, December 2010.
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