Entering the inner courtyard of Galeria Jabłkowskich in mid-July 2009, I immediately got the strange feeling of crossing the very thin line between dreams and reality. Mannequins — and almost solely mannequins — are virtually everywhere, in every single photograph. Some of them smiling mysteriously or, with hostility? Bizarre grimaces, faces looking dazed, absent; others almost transparent or invisible and desperately staring ahead. All of them inhabited somewhat unspecified mysterious places: empty streets, decadent cafés, stylized shop displays, bourgeois lofts, modish ateliers. Looking at them, one had the impression of being placed in a kind fin de siècle era, decadent, melancholy, with an air of deep uncertainty. But what is in fact the idea behind the exhibition?
“The Cinnamon Shops – Mannequins” is a cycle of photographs inspired by the writing of Bruno Schulz and depicting, as is characteristic for his prose, his almost obsessive motif of mannequins. The exhibition presents a surrealistic world of creatures whose behaviour is at best undecided and at worst highly dubious: they symbolize life but are at the same time stiff and motionless, the first clearly contradicting the second. According to Schulz, they symbolize a human spirit imprisoned in his own flesh or even worse than that: a human being downgraded to the role of an object. Nonetheless, the mannequins inhabiting the Street of Crocodiles symbolize not only callous sensuality, but also modern commercialism, in which despised modernity becomes the object of adoration and cult whereas its symbols, such as junk, dolls and, naturally, mannequins, play the role of a fetish.
The authors of the photographs belong to Pictorial Team, a group established by Mieczysław Wielomski, an inspiring photographer whose numerous works were often prized both in Poland and abroad. The artists of Pictorial Team are keen on interdisciplinary photography and frequently combine their works with different forms of art.
I was invited to this event by my friend Małgorzata Korzec, an inspiring and extremely talented photographer whose artistic compositions are part Pictorial Team’s exhibit. I took advantage of this connection to ask Małgorzata some questions.
Why did you decide to choose Schulz as the source of inspiration?
It was Mieczysław Wielomski’s idea. Bruno Schulz has recently become much more popular. I should stress that Pictorial Team is a young group, still in the process of formulation. Schulz constituted a real challenge for us. At the beginning, we had to carefully study his writing and only then depict the impression we got . Every work constitutes in fact a reflection of a given scene of his work or a part of his life. We have to remember that Schulz was not only a writer, but also a very sophisticated painter. His paintings and drawings are influenced to a large extent by his way of seeing the world.
What are you trying to show in your photographs?
Schulz’s literature is like a painting. First, I read a given story. Schulz’s style is extremely expressive, figurative. In front of my eyes I always see a picture. This picture penetrates into my mind and I try to construct an image by taking proper photographs. The result is not always satisfactory, but creating such a photograph is like literature.
Where did you take photographs for the exhibition?
I took most of them close to Nowy Sącz and Stary Sącz, Bielsko-Biała, Bytom. I tried to find places evocative of Schulz’s time. The idea was to depict the spirit felt by Schulz himself which is extremely difficult to find today as everything is reconstructed, refreshed, repainted… I tried to show a world which barely exists today.
What kind of difficulties can one encounter while watching “The Cinnamon Shops – Mannequins”?
I think that not every viewer can truly feel the spirit of this exhibition because the photographs are not straightforward, not easy to interpret. These works are more demanding because they require some background in advance – one cannot forget that the source of this exhibition was literature.
Do you anticipate more exhibitions and if yes, where will you seek inspiration?
I think the best source of information will be our Internet site: http://www.wielomski.pl/ where you can find a detailed portrait of Pictorial Team and its future developments.
The exhibit is open till 18 August 2009.
- Małgorzata Korzec: Manekin i Demiurg
- Małgorzata Korzec: Nocna Ulica
- Beata Bajno: Manekiny