This creative portrait from the 1960s conveys the experience of a generation raised under a totalitarian regime.
Marek Piasecki’s photograph featured in The Captive Mind: the Tyranny of the Image in Post-1945 Polish Photography exhibition at Warsaw’s Asymetria Gallery in 2011. Its curators, Rafał Lewandowski and Patrick Komorowski, were inspired by Czesław Miłosz’s book written in exile in the 1950s. The exhibition presented works by artists from generations that had lived through totalitarianism. In reference to the English title of Milosz’s work, The Captive Mind, the curators wrote:
In Miłosz’s terms, a ‘captive mind’ firstly implies something captivating, and only then captivity.
The above work was an exploration into captivity by Marek Piasecki, an artist born in 1935, who grew up during the Second World War and was an adolescent in Stalinist times.
Piasecki would often use found objects in his projects. His friends used to say that he ‘farmed them’, dubbing his studio full of bizarre artefacts a ‘surreal pharmacy’. In an obituary, Jerzy Lewczyński described his work as follows:
It is regrettable that that our milieu regarded his art as extreme, bordering on sickness, misery and solitude. (…) For him, this world of lost and strange objects, as we now call it, was a kind of asylum and a source of moral satisfaction.
For his staged portrait, Piasecki placed a metal cage on the model’s head. She is brightly lit and has been caught with an indifferent expression. The photographer has created a symbolic work depicting a Kafko-Orwellian character; a captive of her times, constrained by ideology.
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.