Marek Piasecki
Józef Robakowski
Breaking Through Photography
24th june 2017
to 15th july 2017

Marek Piasecki (b. 1935) and Józef Robakowski (b. 1939) belong to a generation of artists affected by the catastrophe of World War II. The former moves to Kraków after the fall of the Warsaw Uprising, when his family home is destroyed; the latter, following the death of his cavalryman father (in the Battle of Bzura), grows up in an orphanage where his  mother is employed. Both biographical orders intersect somehow.

Piasecki, who as a youth gets involved in subversive political activism, is sentenced to jail in 1952, but eventually transferred to a sanatorium due to poor health. There he makes his first darkroom prints.

In the orphanage’s darkroom Robakowski makes his first heliograms, his early artistic gestures, which he refers to as “boys’ play.” Years later, he will tell Hans-Ulrich Obrist that he chose being an artist to be free.

Piasecki, who will later work as a photographer for various magazines and produce poetic photo-essays, from ca. 1955 focuses artistically on heliographic experiments – graphic designs on light-sensitive paper.

Robakowski presents his early photographic experiments during his Film School exam in 1958 – and is flunked. The examiners expect propagandistic realism, but they are also surprised by the works’ unique character, suggesting they could not have been produced by someone so young.

Both artists remain highly independent in their choices.

Piasecki moves to Sweden in 1967 (in the 1970s, the Polish government revokes his passport and he never returns to his home country). Robakowski, participating in the artistic life of People’s Poland, pursues his projects in “special, unusual spaces, outside official distribution.”

The two artists’ biographies indicate – literally and metaphorically – a situation of disinheritance, where the cultural and economic order of good old Europe is irrevocably lost.

As Giorgio Agamben writes, “And the more gestures lose their ease under the action of invisible powers, the more life becomes indecipherable.”

Are the two artists’ non-camera yet photographic gestures not an attempt to regain the lost language which constitutes not only abstract chemical painting, but also produces non-normative contents, the image of which reinstates in art the meaning of what, to paraphrase Agamben, historically has slipped through mankind’s fingers.

 As a technicization of art, photographicness changed its aura from a place of memory to a place in memory. Restoring photographic paper with the function of touch, the artists regain the possibility of influencing the gesture, which changes the order of reality; they enable themselves to affect historical contents no longer permitted.

Breaking through photography means here overcoming such an image of the world  whose documentary sphere has become at least unsatisfactory. Breaking through photography means producing such a shape of the world that through art becomes more real for the artists.

/-/ Rafał Lewandowski

19.06.2017 12:34:56

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Marek Piasecki
Heliography
1957
13×18 cm
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Józef Robakowski
From the series "Photo-thermograms"

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