Zdzislaw Pacholski

Zdzislaw Pacholski, Pogled na mentalno periferijo / A View to the Mental Periphery, 1983
Zdzislaw Pacholski, Pogled na mentalno periferijo / The View of Mental Periphery, 1983

Requisites Attributes

Opening: 6 June at 7 pm

6–30 June 2014

ZVKDS, SVC-Gallery, Ljubljana

WHERE: Trg francoske revolucije 3, Ljubljana

Zdzislaw Pacholski’s photographs titled Requisites Attributes mostly date back to the 1980s and therefore it is easy to suggest that, given the background and context of Poland’s martial law period and the ongoing façade of normalization in the years leading up to Poland’s breakthrough year of 1989, they can be called photo-comments.

Most of these photographs could, however, be just as well called socio-political photo-posters which were intended to reassure the public, spur them on, to resist unwanted authority, but also protect the public from themselves by pointing at the numbing effect of vertical and horizontal layers of conformity, shaking them awake and out of their collective complacency set in over-simplified diagnoses of reality and simplistic notions of (and therefore high) self-esteem, warning them against dangerous consequences of feigning a “moral-political unity”.

Such dual criticism of Pacholski’s photography had resulted in, from the very beginning, in their double “removal from circulation”. It is clear that Pacholski‘s pictures could not win the censors’ approval (though most likely many of the officials would be only too happy to hang these photos on the walls of their offices treating this gesture as a self-deprecating comment on their own censorial work). The problem is that Pacholski’s photographs, in fact, did not fit in well either with the Post-Dada movement atmosphere of Łódź and Warsaw’s Pitch-in Culture (hey were not lucid and derisive enough) or with the conventions of art created in the martial law years and shortly afterwards “to lift up the heart” (as they were not sufficiently uplifting).

I stand behind Pacholski’s photographs and encourage that they should once again be exposed, published and looked at for one simple reason: they have retained their relevance. Paradoxically, photographs – as commentary on the social and political situation of the early 1980s – are understood presently just as well as they were when Pacholski showed them for the first time, however, this time they are not associated (most likely by younger viewers) with the martial law, but for example, with Polish provinciality and at times with its distinct postcolonial face, with the conformism of corporate careerists, with the epidermal nature of socio-cultural transformations beneath which, without great effort, you can still find the old complexes of the Poles, in the clumsily covered-up ugliness of everyday life, in the illusion of many of the declared values.

One may also be struck by the fact that Pacholski’s “old photographs” fit in surprisingly well with the new photographic convention, the bitterly clownish photography that fills today’s portals such as demotywatory.pl. It would seem that the irony and piercing sarcasm incorporated in them is what speaks best to young and very young people, for whom taking pictures is another “mobile phone feature”, whereas photographs, are yet another pretext for maintaining/preserving social relationships mediated by the Web.

Rafał Drozdowski