The curators of the exhibition, which takes up the sensitive topic of the fates of European Roma, state that the factor most boldly setting up a divide between the minority and the majority is worth exploring through art
Tomasz Tomaszewski, a photograph from the Cyganie (Gypsies) series, 2002, courtesy of the artist
The exhibition at Warsaw’s Zachęta National Gallery presents a collection of photographs, and paintings, created in the 19th and 20th centuries which depict the stereotypical way of looking at Romas in Polish art. In Romano kher. O romskiej sztuce, estetyce i doświadczeniu (On Roma art, aesthetics and experience), a book which accompanies the show, Timea Junghuas writes "The act of colonizing the Romas by a European majority is completed most evidently in the visual sphere."
Borrowing its title from one of Papusza’s poems, the Domy srebrne jak namioty (Houses Silver As Tents) exhibition also brings together new projects from contemporary artists across the world. They depict a possible way of overcoming the established cliches. Their fundamental themes revolve around the ideas of a latent integration vs forced assimilation, the nomadic lifestyle as a social alternative, the idea of “gypsyness”, Romas’ voice in discussing the Shoah. And a common denominator which binds together many of these themes is architecture.
The “idea of gypsyness” is a topic that received much attention. It turns out that the most difficult thing is to comprehend the mechanism behind the reproduction of a Roma identity. The presentation poses key questions, pertinent to this issue:
What does “gypsyness” mean for Poles? How was the image of a Gypsy shaped from the perspective of a mainstream culture? And, in what way did the Roma themselves create their own image, altering it to suit the expectations of their environment as a means of adaptation? Is it possible to retrieve a truth about the Roma ethnic minority from all this? In what way can be discern the marks of a coloniast domination? On what principle were the terms artyczna cyganeria (artistic boheme) and New Gypsy based, and what characteristic did they refer to?
Igor Omulecki & Payam Sharifi, from Gypsies for Real series, 2002
A significant point of reference is also constituted by current events and the contemporary society’s stance towards the Roma minority. The curators of the exhibition state:
The lack of a social, political, and historic commentary on the Polish-Roma relations had been perplexing for a long time, given the amount of pogroms, intolerance and misunderstanding. In 2013, conflicts exploded in Wrocław, where nationalist extremists wanted to burn down a Roma camp. Another incident took place in Andrychów, whose dwellers demanded an expulsion of their Roma neighbours. The Polish context is also interesing because of the way that the artistic milieu in Poland, a circle of people who are usually sensitive to social injustice, has so far failed to address the theme of racist practices present in our times and around us.
Silenced stories carry a much stronger potential with them, than those who have already been told. And this the role that the show in Zachęta is meant to carry out - one of injecting the Roma theme into the mainstream of social, political, economic and aesthetic discourse. By taking it out of the marginal sphere, it aims at breaking with the invisibility and absence of Romas in Polish society.
Marcelina Gunia, Untitled, from the Pełnia wdzięku (Full of Grace) series, 2006
Full list of artists whose works are presented at the exhibition:
Neal Adams & Joe Kubert & Stan Lee, Daniel Baker, Delaine Le Bas, Tadeusz Borowski, Bownik & Marcelina Gunia, Olga Boznańska, Kazimierz Czapiński, Hubert Czerepok, Maria Demiter & Anna Kamińska, Jerzy Dorożyński, Jerzy Ficowski, Wojciech Gerson, Maksymilian Gierymski, Edward Gorazdowski (authorship according to Franciszek Kostrzewski), Wojciech Jerzy Has, Juliusz Kossak, Antoni Kozakiewicz, Jan Krajewski (authorship according to Ludwik Kurelle), Ignacy Krieger, Aleksandra Kubiak, Leon Lewkowicz, Jerzy Litwora, Iain McKell, Aernout Mik, Karol Młodnicki (according to Artura Grottgera), Jana Müller, Franciszek Mrozek, Edward Nicz (authorship according to Józef Brandt), Constant Nieuwenhuys, Igor Omulecki & Payam Sharifi, Antoni Piotrowski, Dorota Podlaska, Jerzy Potrzebowski, Izabella Rapf-Sławikowska, Francis Reisz, Tadeusz Rolke, Marek Rudowski & Mateusz Wiśniewski, Julian Schübeler (authorship according to Franciszek Kostrzewski), Zygmunt Sidorowicz, Władysław Siwek, Jan Styfi (authorship according to Hipolit Lipiński), Tomasz Tomaszewski, Bruce Weber, Alex Wedding (courtesy of Grete Weiskopf) & John Heartfield (courtesy of Helmut Herzfelde), Piotr Wójcik, Andrzej Zajkowski (authorship according to Franciszek Kostrzewski)
Curators: Monika Weychert Waluszko
Zachęta National Art Gallery collaboration: Magdalena Komornicka
consultant: Tomasz Koper
artist in the Aernout Mik piece: Emile Miedema, Martijn Rooker
The exhibition opens on the 14th of October, at 7 pm.
A special screening of the Papusza film directed by Joanna Kos-Krauze and Krzysztof Krauze preceedst the opening at noon.
Domy srebrne jak namioty is on from the 15th of October through to the 15th of December, 2013
Zachęta – National Art Gallery
pl. Małachowskiego 3
tel. 22 556 96 00
fax 22 827 78 86
Editor: Paulina Schlosser, source: Zachęta 15.10.2013