Monday, August 13, 2007

On my walls

The date of the first draft of this post is August 21, 2004 — almost 3 years ago.

I meant to share with you one of my "collections," as many people were doing at the time. I year or so later I meant to resurrect that draft, to share with you, as many people were doing at the time, what's on my walls. I'm reinspired to share.

My walls have changed since then. But the things on them are not so different; although, wall space being limited, some of these images are in rotation.

Currently on my walls:
Bal, Andrzej Pagowski (above left)
A Passage to India, Wiktor Sadowski (left)
The Bear, Mieczyslaw Wasilewski (below)
Trzynasta Narzeczona dla Ksiecia, Andrzej Pagowski

In my closet, waiting their turn (pictured throughout):
The Captive Mind, Stasys Eidrigevicius
The Dogs of War, Waldemar Swierzy
Don Juan, Wiktor Sadowski
Wherever You Are, Stasys Eidrigevicius
Zycze Wewnetrzne, Andrzej Pagowski



The first Polish poster I bought was to decorate my room in residence at university. (The Dogs of War, Waldemar Swierzy.) I paid $8. It's worth considerably more than that now, though it's been sitting in my closet for about 18 years. I don't exactly know what the appeal was; this particular image seemed to hold a bit of antiestablishment shock value, but beyond that I recognized in it an ineffable Polishness I wanted to connect with.

Somewhat curiously, I have not seen a single of these movies. I have no sentimental draw to any of them beyond that inspired by the poster art itself. (Some of these, however, were not my first picks for acquisition, but rather served as consolation prizes in eBay auctions that didn't go my way.)

The Art of the Poster
American films have always been very willingly watched by the Poles not only because of their quality but also due to the role that USA played in the consciousness of an average Polish citizen living in a communist country. Many went to see American movies to become acquainted with the country that was meant to counteract, both culturally and politically, the Soviet Union. These were the times when only few people were allowed to travel, so western films and American in particular, showed different patterns of social and cultural behaviour. They influenced fashion, the choice of music and provided an instant trip to a different world. The attitudes caused by American films raised the concern of the communist establishment, to such an extend, that for almost ten years/1949-1957/American movies disappeared from Polish screens. In the late fifties/the era of political metamorphosis set off by Stalin's death/American films were back, this time to stay for good. We have a great pleasure in presenting these posters to you. They were made in the period 1947-1992 and they are a part of "The Art of Poster's" collection consisting of over five hundred American films' titles from the period 1947-1999.


(Above left, a poster by Stasys Eidrigevicius for The Captive Mind, a theatrical presentation of the work by Czeslaw Milosz. This is neither film nor American, but it is certainly the most political representation to be found in my closet.)

Others call this bullshit.

A lot of patronizing drivel had been written about the 'Polish School' of poster design being a 'product' of a 'resistance to Communism' or some such (and by extension, of an overwhelming desire to breathe free under the learned guidance of a Bushmonkey-on-a-cheney). That view, espoused by Western writers who don't know any better, and Polish ones (who should know better) has been omnipresent lately. No matter that the idea of art as an expression of political circumstance is par excellence a classic communist one.

In fact, quite the opposite seems to be true : free from commercial stranglehold, these artists produced brilliant works over an extended period of time. A lot of talented people found themselves in the right place at the right time. Like any artistic movement (or 'school'), it had its own dynamics, peaks and valleys. Indeed, some of the most accomplished works were political (pro-socialist). And now the fact that Polish film poster is dead (and had been so since 1989 when the film distribution was privatized) is further evidence of that.


Resources
Freedom on the Fence — a digital documentary project

The Art of Poster
Classic Polish Film Posters
Kinoart.net
Polish Poster Gallery
Polish Posters Shop

Andrzej Pagowski — official website. (I haven't consciously favoured any one artist over another, but a survey of my likes and dislikes gives Pagowski an edge.)

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