Łódź Kaliska's members, the same since its foundation, include Marek Janiak, Andrzej Kwietniewski, Adam Rzepecki, Andrzej Świetlik, and Makary (Andrzej Wielogórski).
Łódź Kaliska's members, the same since its foundation, include Marek Janiak, Andrzej Kwietniewski, Adam Rzepecki, Andrzej Świetlik, and Makary (Andrzej Wielogórski). The arts group was formed in 1979 during a time of scandal, as a neo-avant-garde formation aiming to study photo-media-type seeing and registering, originating from the tradition of conceptualism, chiefly through photography, experimental film, and performance art.
The arts group was established in 1979 under a cloud of scandal, it was a neo-avant-garde formation aiming to study the photo-media-aspect of seeing and registering, originating from the tradition of conceptualism, chiefly through photography, experimental film and performance art. In 1980-81 the group changed their artistic programme to something more Dadaistic happenings and a message of Surrealist anarchism, attacking and ridiculing the Polish neo-avant-garde and presenting the absurdities of living in People's Poland (under socialism). During this time, Kwietniewski and Janiak wrote a great many manifestos, among them was Janiak's manifesto on "Embarrasing Art" which became important in the 1990s.
From 1982 to 1988 the Łódź Kaliska group was part of the Kultura Zrzuty (Whip-In Culture) movement. Its artistic life was concentrated round Łódź's independent galleries, the most important being Strych Łodzi Kaliskiej / Łódź Kaliska's Attic. Whip-In Culture brought together their waning photo-media and conceptual interests with the dominant Dadaistic and scandalising activities, often of a non-artistic nature because the intention was to merge art with life. The group attacked and ridiculed the communist structures of the "war state" as well as the paintings of the "new primitives" and patriotic "church-affiliated art". They did this through the "Kroniki Strychu" / "The Attic Chronicles" and then in the independent journal "Tango".
The group emerged from the artistic underground in the late 1980s. Their participation in the exhibition "Polska fotografia intermedialna lat 80-tych" / "Polish Inter-Media Photography of the 1980s" (BWA, Poznań 1988) ended in scandal but also artistic success; the works on display included erotic re-enacted photographs and the film Freiheit, Nein danke!. The group's first muses appeared in the 1980s: Zocha (Zofia Łuczko-Fijałkowska) and Pynio (Małgorzata Kapczyńska-Dopierała). In 1989 Łódź Kaliska changed its name to Muzeum Łodzi Kaliskiej (or Museum of Łódź Kaliska), in which a Dadaistic stance "became mixed" with an interest in post-modernism, and the distinctive feature was "staged photography" and films that were made as pastiches of famous paintings and films.
From the late 1990s the style of Łódź Kaliska's photography continued to be grotesque, sarcastic, and never-ending fun was the goal of their artistic projects. Formally speaking, their photos began to bear references to modernist photography from the turn of the 20th century, involving a comprehensive analysis of the recording of motion in the late 19th-century scientific photography of Edward Muybridge and the Italian futurists (Świetlik's concept). In the group's projects, religious and social themes as criticism of Polish reality appear as one of many topics. In the early 1980s Łódź Kaliska attacked superficial Polish religiousness and the Polish notion of patriotism. Later these topics were treated in a more playful and ludic way, like many other themes undertaken as a study of exploring the history of culture in terms of a comical "warehouse of forms", from which one can draw freely because the division between the world of the sacred and the profane has been blurred or even forgotten.
Since the late-1990s, along with others, thanks to film productions (the triptych Pamiętam, pamiętam, pamiętam..." / "I Remember, I Remember, I Remember…) Łódź Kaliska joined the establishment of mass media and politics. However, everything from their artistic work, including the artists themselves and their muses (models), became an element and a subject of never-ending humor carrying a hedonistic message. In 1998 the group's members were arrested in Florence after an illegal photo shoot organised in front of Sandro Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus at the Uffizi Gallery.
The group celebrated their 20th anniversary in 1999. To mark the occasion, the artists chose a out-of-order toilet at the Museum of Art in Łódź as the location for their installation Czysta sztuka" / "Pure Art, designed by Janiak. In the same year the group published a commemorative album, unique in many ways (including its graphic aspect), on their own history, entitled Bóg zazdrości nam pomyłek" / "God Envies Us Our Mistakes. Several government institutions were afraid to publish it. In 2001 they took part in the exhibition "Irreligia" / "Irreligion" in Brussels curated by Kazimierz Piotrowski. The year 2003 saw the first show of works designed to express the ideas of New Pop - a trend promoted by Janiak, touching upon various aspects of the latest icono-spheres, including advertising. In 2004 their widely publicised photo shoot for "Playboy" which rightwing circles interpreted as offending the emblem of Poland - the crowned eagle.
In 2004 the group, who in the 1980s had anticipated many trends from the subsequent decade as far as overstepping boundaries and scandalising was concerned (Zbigniew Libera, Sławomir Belina, the Azzorro Group, Łyżka Czyli Czyli, the "Raster" Gallery and periodical in Warsaw), began celebrating their 25th anniversary. The group's works can be found at the Museum of Art in Łódź and the National Museum in Wrocław.
By: Krzysztof Jurecki, Museum of Art in Łódź, March 2004.