Rationed Modernity. Modernism in the Polish People’s Republic

Temporary exhibitions

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  • Friday, November 17, 2023 - Sunday, April 14, 2024

Exhibition focuses on the determinants and limitations of modernisation processes in Poland after World War II. They were both economic and organisational in nature, as well as politically related to the functioning of undemocratic authorities that imposed ideological restrictions on culture.

Importantly, however, the issue of the limitations of modernism in the times of the Polish People’s Republic is not presented in the exhibition in terms of the contest between artists and the political authorities for artistic freedom. In a metaphorical shortcut, rationing means limitations of various nature: an impoverished selection of action options, activity variants, inspirations, and ways of implementation. It may result not only from externally imposed circumstances and determinants, but also from the self-limitations of the entity engaging in the modernisation processes. In this sense, the exhibition abstracts from the widespread myth equating the functioning of modern art in the Polish People’s Republic with the fight for the spiritual and political freedom of the individual. Submitting to this myth cuts off modernism from its historical basis and moves us away from understanding the complications of the modernisation of the Polish People’s Republic and its connections with artistic creativity. The exhibition therefore firstly highlights the tension between modernist visual languages and the war experience; secondly, the effects resulting from ideological pressure on the modernist imperative of the social function of art; and thirdly, the phantom nature of the modernisation of the Polish People’s Republic and its dependence on adopted modernisation patterns contrasted with the deformations of modernist projects characterising everyday life in the times of the PRL.

All this makes the Rationed Modernity exhibition – the third show in the 4 x modernity series – not so much an attempt at an encyclopaedic presentation of the artistic achievements of a given period, but a statement on the shape and fate of the next stage of modernism in Poland after the interwar period.



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