The project selected for the Polish Pavillion will reproduce the canopy of the grave of Marshall Józef Piłsudski, Poland's leader in the early 20th century. The project was commended for its clear, subtle form and sophisticated approach to the Biennale subject matter, reflected in both the aesthetic and intellectual aspects of the project and lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations.
Impossible Figures was chosen by an expert jury to represent Poland in the 14th International Biennale of Architecture Exhibition in Venice has been prepared by the Kraków-based Foundation Instytut Architektury / Institute of Architecture, in collaboration with the draughtsman Jakub Woynarowski.
The theme of the approaching Biennale is Fundamentals. Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014. The idea behind it, as expressed by the curator of the exhibition, Rem Koolhaas, is to reflect on the "the process of the erasure of national characteristics in favour of the almost universal adoption of a single modern language in a single repertoire of typologies", on the 100th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
The concept proposed by the winning curatorial team is based on the canopy of Józef Piłsudski's grave, designed in 1937 by Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz. The grave is located at the Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków.
Józef Piłsudski was a revolutionary and a statesman, he served as the first chief of state of the newly independent Poland established in November 1918. After leading a coup d’état in 1926, he rejected an offer of the presidency but remained politically influential, serving as the Minister of Military Affairs and Prime Minister. Piłsudski implemented the Sanation regime (1926–1939), aimed at healing the Polish body politic, and demonstrating authoritarian tendencies.
Kacper Kępiński, Impossible Figures, visualisation of the exposition at the Polish Pavillion, 14th International Biennale of Architecture Exhibition, photo: Instytut Architektury
The authors of Impossible Figures explain that the canopy is to act as a visual representation of the relationship between modernist architecture and authoritative leadership. In their opinion, the location of the construction is of fundamental importance: Wawel Castle, a royal necropolis, has been treated by Poles as a one of the pillars of the national identity, and more recently as an instrument in political conflicts.
The canopy over the chief of the state’s grave represents the elements of the official propaganda: sacralization of a secular power, cult of a strong leader, neoromantic ideas of revival after years of captivity. Individual elements of the structure had been made out of spolia – trophies after the occupants. The shape of the canopy makes reference to both the classical architecture and to the conservative, reactionary modernism, ever so present in the interwar period. The architects moreover believe that the form of the canopy has the potential to reflect the utopian programme propagated by Piłsudski – within which the cult of the past was juxtaposed with the fervour to modernize, and the international "patchwork" with the monolithic vision of a new nation.
Jakub Woynarowski, a draughtsman and author of experimental comics, will contribute to the project with an art intervention. He will separate the horizontal panel of the baldachin from its lower part, by removing the mannerist supporting elements, and thus making it appear as if it was floating.
The installation will also be supplemented by large-format diagrams by Woynarowski, which will act as illustrations of the specific interpretative contexts of the object.
The Institute of Architecture is a foundation launched in 2011 by Dorota Jędruch, Dorota Leśniak-Rychlak, Piotr Bujas, and Michał Wiśniewski, and supported by Magdalena Petryna (Chair of the Board of Directors) ever since its foundation. The Institute’s projects include: a research and exhibition project ZA-MIESZKANIE 2012. Miasto Ogrodów, Miasto Ogrodzeń (IN-HABITATION 2012. Garden City, Gated City), a project documenting the Cracow’s Modernist Route, and a publication of Juhani Pallasma’s The Eyes of the Skin in Polish.
Jakub Woynarowski is a Cracow-based draughtsman, musician, and independent curator. He creates animations (Grand Prix at the All-Poland Festival of Animated Films OFAFA 2007), videos, objects, installations, and site-specific pieces in public space. He authored several experimental comics (Hikikomori, The Story of Gardens), the book Manggha (Grand Prix at the Polish Competition for Art Catalogues and Albums 2011), and co-authored Wunderkamera. The Cinema of Terry Gilliam.
Polish Pavillion at the 14th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice
7.06 – 23.11.2014
Organized by Zachęta - Narodowa Galeria Sztuki
Curatorial team: Dorota Jędruch, Marta Karpińska, Dorota Leśniak-Rychlak, Michał Wiśniewski
Cooperation: Kacper Kępiński, Iza Wałek, Agata Wiśniewska
Art Direction: Jakub Woynarowski
Sources: zacheta.art.pl, instytutarchitektury.org, komiks.gildia.pl, own materials, ed. Agnieszka Sural, 9.10.2013. translated with edits by Anna Micińska 10.10.2013