Category Archives: Warsaw

VOLVO 240 Transformed into 4 Drones

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Zuzanna Janin, VOLVO240 Transformed into 4 Drones, 2014. Photo: lokal_30 Gallery Warsaw

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Zuzanna Janin, VOLVO240 Transformed into 4 Drones, 2014. Photo: lokal_30 Gallery Warsaw

Just what the title says, really. Here’s what the official description of this work by Polish artist Zuzanna Janin says:

This sculptural installation VOLVO240 Transformed Into 4 Drones comprising four elements is the artist’s latest work, in which the old family Volvo 240 is changed into four smaller vehicles of various types: drones recalling military equipment used for killing, but also for observation, navigation and surveillance, vehicles used to save lives. The artist once again sensitises us to the “in-between” zone – on the boundary of the era described by technological achievements and accelerated cultural changes, in the era of control and of uncontrolled observation of the world around us.

Janin is represented by the lokal_30 Gallery in Warsaw. I visited the gallery a few weeks ago when they had a solo show of video art pioneer Józef Robakowski. Part of the exhibition showed 1980s recordings of rather vigorous music concerts, especially of the punk group Moskwa. Robakowski got to know the members of the group, made promotional photos for them that were quite edgy and radical at the time but still look like the kind of images that fashion photographers attempt to shoot nowadays. He also did music videos for the band. These videos are raw and fascinating. Because it might have been tricky to shoot a punk video in the streets of Poland at the time, the artist shot them directly from TV footage by placing his camera right in front of the screen.

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Józef Robakowski, Moskwa, 1986


Józef Robakowski, Moskwa performing

I was planning to write about Robakowski’s show and Polish punk from the ’80s but then i spotted the car turned drones in the catalogue from the gallery and there was no turning back: i had to publish the photos of Janin’s sculpture on the blog.

A Subjective Atlas of Modern Architecture

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Nicolas Grospierre, Multi-function Hall, House of Culture, Lubartow, Poland, 2002. From the series Void

This year, like each and every year at this time, i’m doing my best to publish something outstanding but as un-christmassy as possible.

My let’s-pretend-it’s-not-that-time-of-the-year-again post will feature a few photos from Nicolas Grospierre‘s portfolio. I met him last month while i was spending a few days in Warsaw. If you’re looking for the new Berlin, Warsaw is your place. Wait till you see the street art in Warsaw story i’m preparing! But i digress. Grospierre is one of the very few photographers who can portray architectural relics of communist countries without falling into the judgmental, the over-hyped and the easy. Maybe that’s because he is an artist with a background in Political Science and Sociology. Or maybe it’s because he is a French who has been living in Poland for many years. All that i know is that Grospierre has a rare talent for producing images that deliver a sharp and unexpected commentary on utopias that have lost their spark and on architectures that fascinate less for their intrinsic elegance than for the collective memories that still inhabit them.

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Nicolas Grospierre and Olga Mokrzycka, Mausoleum. Installation at the Palace of Culture in Warsaw

I wanted to share some of the works i discovered in his book Open-Ended but i couldn’t find online the images i wanted to use for this post. In particular the ones that illustrate Mausoleum, an intriguing project which reproduced on a life-size scale the private collection of stuffed animals accumulated by a hunting enthusiast who shot and stuffed them all by himself. Grospierre and Olga Mokrzycka discovered this collection of 700 animals in a huge and otherwise empty underground commercial complex in Tblisi, Georgia. Grospierre and Mokrzycka later turned the images into a 15 metre long photographic frieze that they hung on the walls of a forgotten underground club-lounge below the Tribune at the foot of the Palace of Culture in Warsaw, where the Communist dignitaries used to preside over military parades.

Open-Ended was published a couple of years ago but Grospierre has a new book in the works based on his relentlessly fascinating A Subjective Atlas of Modern Architecture tumbr account. There’s a show and a talk scheduled at the Architectural Association in London for next year. Keep your eyes peeled for these two events.

And now for some more photos with little to no comment:

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Nicolas Grospierre, Hydroklinika, 2003

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Nicolas Grospierre, Balneological Hospital, Druskinninkai, Lithuania, 2003

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Indoor swimming pool, at Balneological Sanatorium in Druskininkai, Lithuania, 2003

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Nicolas Grospierre, Hydroklinika, 2004

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Nicolas Grospierre, Hydroklinika, 2004

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Nicolas Grospierre, Hydroklinika, 2004

Grospierre documented the gloriously bizarre remains of the health spa in the town Druskinnikai in Lithuania, just before it was destroyed to make way to a water-amusement park.

Built in 1976-81 by architects Romualdas and Ausra Silinskas, the swanky complex offered thermal baths, mud baths, underground pool, etc. Its architecture followed a ternary plan, with each element repeated three times. Many of the photographs thus appear to show the same place several times while they were actually documenting three different parts of the building.

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Nicolas Grospierre, Ciech building, Warsaw, 2010. From the series The Glass Trap

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Nicolas Grospierre, Detailed view of the installation, Warsaw, 2010. From the series The Glass Trap

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Nicolas Grospierre, view of the installation, Warsaw, 2010. From the series The Glass Trap

Grospierre juggles the conceptual and the documentary in both his photo and installation works. The Glass Trap project is a site specific work that brought an island of luxuriant life into an otherwise desolate, absurdly ugly and abandoned 1980’s office building. Grospierre installed a winter garden inside the lobby and let it thrive for a few days before the building was destroyed.

The glass cube was not only filled with plants but also with mirrors that gave the illusion that the green space was infinite.

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Nicolas Grospierre, Europejski Hotel lobby, Warsaw, Poland, 2005

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Nicolas Grospierre, Institute of Cybernetics, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, 2007

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Nicolas Grospierre, Recreation hall, “Kadr” House of culture, Warsaw, Poland. 2008

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Nicolas Grospierre, Chiburiekarnia, Bakhchysarai, Crimea, 2006. From the series Void

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Nicolas Grospierre, Beach platform, Ministry of the interior Sanatorium, Alupka, Crimea, Ukraine, 2012

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Nicolas Grospierre, Housing Estates, Sankt Petersburg, Russia, 2010

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Nicolas Grospierre, Cinema, Evpatoria, Crimea, 2005

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Nicolas Grospierr, Housing estate, Warsaw, Poland, 2003

And i’ll just add this one. It’s not in Eastern Europe but in Liège, my home town. I used to walk by that building, completely unaware that there was anything remarkable about it:

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Nicolas Grospierre, Thin skyscraper, Liège, Belgium, 2011

Check out his tumblr: A Subjective Atlas of Modern Interiors and the hypnotizing A Subjective Atlas of Modern Architecture.
Also in Warsaw: Zofia Rydet, the old lady who wanted to photograph the inside of every single house in Poland.

Zofia Rydet, the old lady who wanted to photograph the inside of every single house in Poland

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Zofia Rydet was 67 years old when she set herself the herculean task of photographing the inside of every single house in Poland. From 1978 until her death in 1997, she would frantically travel by bus or foot over the country, have people sit in their interior, straight in front of her, and shoot them using a wide-angle lens and flash.

As if the self-assigned task of portraying individuals and families at home in Poland wasn’t formidable enough, Rydet also added numerous sub-categories of photos to the series. Some focused on tv sets inside the home, others on kitchen windows seen from the inside, photos and objects celebrating Pope John Paul II, women on doorsteps, disappearing professions, etc. Rydet gave a title to her obsessive catalogue of people and objects, she called it Sociological Record.

The artist was interested in the ties that connected people with objects and architecture, as well as the way individual aesthetic preferences, political and religious views manifested themselves through the arrangement of private space. “The house … is a reflection of the society, civilisation, and culture, from which it originates, there are no two similar people or two similar houses,” Rydet used to say.

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When Rydet died in 1997, the series counted some 16,000 negatives, most of them had never been printed. As a result, only a modest portion of her work has been exhibited. The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw has developed these negatives, made a selection of them and exhibited the photos in what is probably the most popular show in town at the moment. Zofia Rydet. Record, 1978-1990 not only presents works never seen before, it also follows Rydet’s own ideas and suggestions on how to set up an exhibition of her works.

The curators of the show, Sebastian Cichocki and Karol Hordziej, dropped the first half of the title of the series because they believed that the work pertains less to the scientific study of social behavior or society and more the tradition of intuitive artistic atlases and catalogues.

What i found most fascinating in this exhibition is that it’s both always the same and always different It’s row after row of Polish interiors (or of women on doorsteps) but it never feels too repetitive nor trivial. Not let’s give the floor to the images…

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Kopia cyfrowa: Fundacja Lablab Skaner: Hasselblad Flextight X5

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Zofia Rydet photographs Stanisa Solocha. Photo Maciej Plewiński / Forum

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View of the exhibition space

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Sociological Record 1978–1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978–1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Pre-Record 1956-1977 / Prezapis 1956-1977
Pre-Record, 1956-1977

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Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

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Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

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Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

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Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

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Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

Sociological Record 1978-1990 / Zapis socjologiczny 1978-1990

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Tadeusz Rydet, Zofia Rydet during one of her outdoor trips 1978-1990

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Zofia Rydet: Record 1978–1990 was curated by Sebastian Cichocki and Karol Hordziej. The show remains open at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw until 10 January, 2016.