Wojciech Wilczyk is a photographer, poet, author of essays and art critical texts, and curator of exhibitions. Wilczyk was born on 4th January 1961 in Kraków, where he also lives and works.
Wojciech Wilczyk graduated from the Polish Philology department of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków in 1986. He has been active as a photographer since 1988. His texts have been published in such magazines in Poland as Tygodnik Powszechny, Opcje, Obieg, Fototapeta, and FA-art. His photographs have appeared in magazines (Machina, XL, Tygodnik Powszechny, Pani) and on book cover (Czarne Publishing House and Oficyna Literacka). He has co-authored three books of poetry and photography: 20 Unforgettable Hits and 10 Cult Photographs (20 niezapomnianych przebojów i 10 kultowych fotografii, 1996 – in collaboration with Marcin Świetlicki), Tanero (1998 – with Marcin Baran), The Capital in Words and Images (Kapitał w słowach i obrazach, with Krzysztof Jaworski), and 3 books of poems: Steppenwolf (1997) and Eternit (2003), as well as The Anthology (Antologia, 1999), featuring a selection of poetry and prose written by twenty-one authors who were born in the 1960s, alongside eighty photographic portraits. Between 2002-2003, he collaborated with Krzysztof Jaworski on the online publication Hiperrealizm. In 2003, he curated the exhibition Photorealism (Fotorealizm) at the Zderzak Gallery in Kraków. He has been the member of the Association of Polish Art Photographers (ZPAF) since 1997. He received the Scholarship of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in 2001, and of the Ministry of Culture in 2005.
Wojciech Wilczyk is one of the most prominent Polish art photographers in his age group. Soon after finishing university, he started creating reportage photos, illustrations and covers for books, as well as theatre photographs and portraits of his acquaintances, including poets and writers from his generation. In the early 1990s, he published his poetry in the Brulion magazine, associated with a literary trend later described as the Polish O’Harism. He belongs to the environment of so-called photorealists who first appeared on the art scene during the exhibition Photorealism (Fotorealizm), organized in 2003 at the Kraków-based Zderzak Gallery. By re-defining documentary photography, the photorealists aim at constructing a kind of visual archive of contemporary Poland.
Between 1992-96, Wilczyk worked on the photo project Symbolic Landscape (Pejzaż symboliczny), concerned with the Walenty (previously: Wolfgang) coke plant, located in Ruda Śląska, which at the time was being demolished. The series comprises about twenty black and white photographs documenting the four-year-long demolition process, taken at different times of the year. The Walenty coke plant was founded at the beginning of the 20th century and functioned until 1989. What remained of it were enormous, concrete buildings, silos, and towers, which, when put out of use, started dilapidating and turning into ruins. Wilczyk saw them as mysterious buildings that bore symbolic meaning: in his photographs, they sometimes come across as terrifying, or stunning and fantastical.
In 1998-99, Wilczyk created a series of photographic portraits of twenty one authors born in the 1960s (Marcin Baran, Natasza Goerke, Manuela Gretkowska, Paweł Konnak, Jacek Podsiadło, Andrzej Stasiuk, Olga Tokarczuk, etc.), made a selection of their texts, and published them together in a book titled The Anthology (Antologia).
In 1995 he commenced his nearly ten-year-long project, devoted to the participants of the religious ceremonies organized in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, which resulted in the publication Kalwaria (2010).
In 1993-2003, the artist worked on the documentary series Black and White Silesia (Czarno-biały Śląsk), which was published as a book in 2004. The cycle was a documentation of the post-industrial transformation in the Upper Silesia region – covering sites such as residential estates and decaying, defunct mines and industrial plants.
In 2001, Wilczyk presented his photographic series From Above (Z wysokości), which forms part of the aforementioned project Black and White Silesia. Its author was inspired by a Marcin Sendecki’s poem with the same title, included in his debut book (1992). The artist describes it:
A city viewed from the level of the first, second, third, or fourth floor, through the stairway windows, reveals its insides to us, otherwise hidden behind the buildings’ facades. However, it is not the goal of this project to reveal anything. This investigation of the shape of Silesia’s urban development, carried out from such an unusual perspective, also allows – I hope – the very concrete poetry of the industrial cities to come to the foreground.
In 2002, Wilczyk published a book prepared together with Krzysztof Jaworski, titled Capital in Words and Images (Kapitał w słowach i obrazach). It contains poems by Jaworski and selected photographs from the Black and White Silesia cycle. Wilczyk’s photographs did not, however, serve as illustrations for the text, but functioned as an autonomous visual and semantic proposition that bore a complex relationship to the poems.
In 2004, Wilczyk launched two parallel projects, which eventually turned into coherent series: the colour Life after Life (Życie po życiu), about out-of-use cars, and the black and white Postindustrial, documenting the defunct and decaying industrial facilities in Poland and Germany. Life after Life was Wilczyk’s first project realized in colour, which he applied in a very vivid, or perhaps even aggressive, way. Over forty photographs, presented at a 2007 exhibition at the CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw showed cars that were no longer used for transport, but gained completely new roles. “This is actually a project about death”, Wilczyk explained when asked about the series’ theme. Old FSO Syrenas, Trabants, Wartburgs and Fiats 126p, once their owners’ pride, now lead a new life as broken-down wrecks, which Wilczyk turns into the symbols of death and contemporary memento mori figures.
Author: Ewa Gorządek, Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, December 2008. Transl. Ania Micińska, March 2015
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