Exhibitions, film screenings, guided walking tours, workshops, and debates were all part of the eighth edition of the Warsaw Under Construction Festival which took place in Warsaw from 22nd October to 20th November 2016. The theme of this year’s edition was ‘Home at Last: The Polish House during the Transition’.
‘We are home at last. Don’t stop, don’t wait. What can you do? Help!’ cried famous Polish celebrities on television. The motto of this year’s edition of the festival draws on these words which were often heard during Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki’s time in office.
This year, Warsaw Under Construction put a focus on how homes, living environments and the understanding of luxury in Poland changed during its transition from a socialist state to a market economy, as well as how this new model functions in conjunction with global neoliberalism. Jarosław Trybuś, vice-director of the Museum of Warsaw said:
This year the festival takes on habitation. The curators are looking closely at each thing that goes into the process of having one’s own home. For 25 years now, living in a capitalist system, this issue has bothered and intrigued us all. Moreover, it leads to other difficult topics, such as loans, matters of ownership, and models of happiness dictated by pop culture and media.
He added that Home at Last is comprised of a wide range of exhibits. There are pieces of art which comment on social realities, processed data, as well as building materials and furniture. He also emphasised that:
Part of the exhibition is dedicated to how we as a society imagine luxury. This is not an exhibition which explicitly shows things. Its ambition is to show certain phenomena through objects. The objects on display are there to encourage us to think about broader phenomena. The exhibition itself is just one part of a month-long festival, full of numerous lectures, workshops, guided walking tours, and meetings with experts. The range of topics is as broad as the question of habitation, of living.
The Home at Last exhibition, which presented the processes which shaped the Polish home, opened at a former printing house on Nowogrodzka Street on 22nd October. After the fall of communism, many Poles who had lived in blocks of flats or Gierek’s single-family ‘cubicles’ their whole lives, finally had the opportunity to make their dreams about creating their own personal living spaces a reality – often in the suburbs. This process made it easier to implement new financial mechanisms, such as the mortgages and loans introduced by banks. Tomasz Fudala from the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, curator of the festival explained:
This is a story about housing during the transition. About leaving blocks of flats behind that we know from TV shows like ‘Alternatywy 4’ and [movies like] ‘The Polish-Russian War’, where the protagonist goes out onto the balcony of a complex of small manor houses, looks around and says: ‘Now, this is what I like. This I can understand.’ It’s about the aspirations of Poles when it comes to their standard of living – from 1989 until today. About how the understanding of comfort, prestige and home safety has changed.
He underlined that:
The exhibition tells the stories of the living habits of Poles. They are often tragic, and entail taking out loans and losing jobs. Or social housing in steel containers, which can be found in many communities around the country. An inability to buy what you want, an inability to provide for needs that were suddenly awakened by TV shows from abroad. We want to try to encourage Poles to reflect on their living situations. Not everyone has to build a house, plant a tree, or remain in debt until the end of their lives.
The Reconstruction Disputes exhibition, created especially for the 2015 edition of the festival, was awarded in the Sybilla competition for the most important museum event of the year in the ‘historical and archeological exhibition’ category. The exhibition concentrated on the reconstruction of the capital city of Warsaw in the years after World War II and touched upon the issue of property restitution.
The Warsaw Under Construction festival was created in 2009 by the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. Since 2013, the event has been co-organised by the Museum of Warsaw, which is responsible for the production of the exhibition, as well as making objects from its abundant collections available for guests. The festival revolves around design – from industrial design, graphic design to architecture and urban planning. This year’s edition is co-organised by the Architecture Institute.
A detailed programme of the Warsaw Under Construction festival is available here.
Source: PAP, compiled by AZ, 20th Sept 2016, translated by BR