The artist was interested in exploring what lies beyond heterosexual norms.
In the title, Pustoła plays with the double meaning of the word ‘darkroom’. He intertwines associations with photographic darkrooms and areas for uninhibited sex in gay clubs; and photographs the latter. The darkroom process of developing new images from previously exposed plates is combined with phenomena that are absent from the dominant discourse. The photographer has captured spaces without people which show vestiges of their presence – dented pillows, moist stains on the walls, and used condoms.
The artist was drawn by different perspectives, or, more broadly – perception. Like in his other projects, he delved into the boundaries of the visible and invisible. In one interview, he stated:
These works contain a specific light and shade, colours and density […] that are completely abstract. Nevertheless, we continue to believe what we see.
In the same interview, Pustoła mentioned that the works evoked many contradictory reactions in viewers: disgust, aggression, sadness, joy, interest, or excitement. As it turned out, looking at the pictures led people to confront their own beliefs regarding social norms and morals.
In his book The Decisive Moment, Adam Mazur recalls the critics’ comments following the exhibition at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw:
While some attacked it for alleged homophobia, others considered it a sort of coming-out.
With no prudery or sense of mission, Pustoła has revealed something deeply concealed, and, therefore, largely unspoken and susceptible to stereotyping and exclusion. Darkrooms is a tale of sexuality and attitudes, suspended between the private and political spheres.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 2018
This text is part of the project Metaphors of Independence: Poland In 100 Photos.
To coincide with the centenary of Poland regaining its independence, we have created a selection of photographs that allow us to understand both yesterday and today. A hundred photographs but so much more. Find out more.