Five Polish graphic designers and five Brazilian ones were each asked to design two posters, one promoting Poland, and the other – Brazil. What would the Poles have to say about Brazil, and the Brazilians about Poland? What do they know and what ideas do they have about their own countries? The results of this experiment can be seen at the Design Dialogue: Poland – Brazil exhibition in the Museu de Arte Moderna in Rio de Janeiro, which features icons of Polish and Brazilian design.
‘Posters Polska / Brasil represents the scenery of two countries arranged from the letters making up their names in their native language. The set of two similar, abstract shapes of letters creates two different landscapes: Poland and Brazil – Poland a green plain and the Brazilian coast with islands emerging from the ocean and the city on the hills,’ explains Robert Czajka in the catalogue of the exhibition Design Dialogue: Poland – Brazil.
‘Optimization, an economical term referring to maximizing profits and minimizing costs, defines and describes the present relationship of man and the animals (except the love for pets, which are often assigned the status of a family member). There is a gap between the attitude towards pets and other animals. I expressed this dualism in the treatment of animals in the juxtaposition of two recognizable silhouettes: a wild cat – the black jaguar, a resident of Brazil and a wild dog – the grey wolf, a Polish citizen. Both of these species are endangered and strictly protected. The works complement each other, but do not explore of course, the complex issue of “man’s relation to animals” and its many aspects – political, economic, psychological, and above all ethical.
‘On the territories of Poland and Brazil, we can find many endangered species of animals. This anthropocentric attitude legitimizes treating other species, non-human animals, objectively and discriminating against them in the most important field – the right to life and freedom’, writes Małgorzata Górowska.
‘It's hard to find and capture in one graphical motif such subjects as Poland and Brazil. It seemed to me that it might be expressed in some light form. Poland and Brazil are words with a very broad meaning, so I narrowed them to one situation – one man from Poland and one from Brazil. Or a bird, if you prefer. Curiosity is typical for children. If we manage to save it, we are able to understand more. And we are, after all, the summary of our experiences. Or perhaps we are not? The birds are interested in each other, because they are different. But are they really that different?’ explains Marta Ignerska.
'Brazil has a statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro. The monument (not including the pedestal) is 30 metres tall. Only 30! The residents of the Polish town of Świebodzin decided that this was a very poor result and took action. The statue of Christ cannot be only 30 metres tall! Therefore, Jesus Christ the King of the Universe, as the title says, is 33 metres tall! And has a golden crown. He overlooks the Polish villages and fields. Finally, we can breathe a sigh of relief. We beat the world record for the tallest statue of Christ! Thank you Świebodzin!' writes Tymek Jezierski.
‘It was very hard for me to find a common point between Poland and Brazil. The only association that occurred to me was the similar, almost fanatical approach to football. Since I still don’t know what “offside” is, I decided that using the motif of football would be fraud on my part. Eventually, I focused on topics that could be much more interesting graphically. In the case of Poland I used the figure of Lajkonik . I wanted to refer to the poster by Henryk Tomaszewski from 1966, which is also part of the exhibition. The Brazilian poster represents a street musician, accompanied by a toucan, a bird symbolic of Brazil’, explains Dawid Ryski.
‘Poland is a country that has preserved its cultural heritage and meddled with nature in a more harmonious way. This is visible in its historical buildings surrounded by lots of natural space. The lush scenery sometimes verges on the fantastical and appears almost unreal. This perception is exaggerated in my composition of geometric shapes, depicting both the architecture and the surrounding nature.
‘Brazil, a giant country that grew in a disorderly fashion, abounds in landscapes and natural environments. Perhaps because of this abundance of natural resources, human intervention often does not respect and preserve nature in its original form. Beautiful beaches surrounded by buildings are a typical facet of the Brazilian scenery. Furthermore, there are disadvantaged communities and visible social inequality’, writes Grande Circular.
‘Travelling and seeing new places nurtures memories and reminiscences. When I first visited Poland in the late 1970s, I was a young man in love with Polish posters, and bought several of them at fairs in Poznań and Warsaw. I was delighted to see that they were accessible to my eyes, hands, and wallet. The Christ the King Statue in Świebodzin, Poland, and Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro invite both pilgrims and tourists with open arms. These are giant-format postcards that resemble each other and compete in majesty, size, weight, and wingspan. Symbols of the two countries, landmarks in foreign tourists’ imaginations – both invite people to visit their countries!’ explains Rico Lins.
‘This pair of posters uses graphics, text, and national symbols from both countries, critiquing aspects that the artist wants to bring to our attention. The Polish poster depicts the recent conservative political shift. It uses the eagle from the Polish national emblem, but turns it to face the right, with one side covered and blindfolded. The poster on Brazil criticizes the country’s deep social inequality, represented by their own national flag. The stars are unfairly distributed in the skies, which the poster depicts as worm-eaten and scratched. The work also contains text taken from the national anthem, addressing poor income distribution and historical privileges’, writes Fabio Lopez.
‘The Vistula River, which bisects the country, pumps the lifeblood of a beating heart. With its history of struggle and resistance and the various expressions of its rich culture, Poland also brought historic graphic designers and their posters to the world, with their deep, rough, and probing sensibilities. The layers of grey and dark background broken by the strong red focus on the present, like the gaze of Wisława Szymborska. The awareness of the Polish gaze is world renowned. All we can do is admire it.
‘It is always there. Sometimes shy, a bit innocent, somewhat worn out, and usually wide open. Rarely hidden. The smile, always full of hope, is perhaps is our iconic symbol. Brazilians smile at new arrivals, cry for those who go away, and dance without a care for the future. They become emotional about everything they come across. Besides the harsh reality of the foreground, there is always room for dreams of the coming horizon. Optimistic by nature, the Brazilian dreams in words’, explains Estudio Mola.
‘Brazil and Poland: The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence. This means that we don't know our neighbour as well as we should. Although I actually have a couple of dear Polish friends, my perception of their country, their people, and their culture is filled with clichés – most of them probably incorrect and, in many ways, “greener”. I'm sure they look at Brazilian people and culture in the same manner. So that's how I see us: people looking at someone else's culture and thinking it's greener. However, the greenness of their grass decreases – becomes more real – as we learn more about each other, and I think Design Dialogue: Poland Brazil is a beautiful effort in that direction’, writes Bruno Porto.
Editor’s note: The best place to learn more about Polish poster art is the Poster Museum at Wilanów. A division of the National Museum of Warsaw – founded in 1996, with the launch of the International Poster Biennale – it preserves and presents works which have been collected since before the Second World War. The museum offers about 10 exhibitions per year in Wilanów, a beautiful district in the south of the Polish capital, as well as numerous resources available online – and is the oldest poster museum in the world! Check out their website here.
Compiled by AS, 8 Jun 2016, updated by LD, Jun 2020