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ZAK Berlin : State of emergency – Polish photo art today


Berlin’s ZAK – Center for Contemporary Art at Zitadelle Spandau presents the group exhibition State of Emergency. Polish Photo Art Today. This fascinating look at contemporary photography in Poland presents 26 representatives of the younger and middle generation of Polish photographers and photo artists, many of whom are hardly known or entirely unknown in Germany. This should certainly not be the case, as visitors will discover. Along with several examples of aesthetically and formally innovative documentary photography, the multifaceted exhibition showcases portraits, self-portraits, still lifes, landscapes, and abstract photography. The works are not only shown in classical wall hangings but also as projections and object-like installations.

Notable examples include Straijk by Rafal Milach, documenting protests against abortion legislation passed in Poland in the late 2020s, which makes it virtually impossible for Polish women to have abortions in their own country. Another compelling work is Selfie by Aneta Grzeszykowska, who considers her own body by recreating parts of it out of pig skin. In images by Diana Lelonek from her recent book Wasteplants Atlas, the interdisciplinary artist examines and categorizes plant life growing on illegally dumped trash from the wealthy. Pawel Jaszczuk devotes his series ¥€$U$ to the commercialization of Jesus and Mary in his Catholic homeland.

A reading room with numerous photo books and catalogues by the exhibition participants and on related themes offers visitors the opportunity to delve even deeper into the Polish photo scene, which is gradually gaining a stronger international foothold.

The importance of this outward-looking engagement for Polish photographers becomes clear in the accompanying program of lectures and panel discussions. Held parallel to the exhibition, they address, among other things, the deteriorating working and exhibition conditions for creative professionals in Poland. Many photographers naturally address political topics in their work, such as measures introduced under the current national-conservative government, often in collaboration with members of the Catholic clergy, which weaken legal structures and stoke resentment against minorities such as non-European refugees and LGBT+ citizens, as well as growing nationalist rhetoric. These artists now risk being excluded from grants and other government support, as well as from exhibition opportunities in various government-subsidized museums and institutions.

This exhibition will be the largest show of Polish photography in Germany to date and intends to strengthen German-Polish relations. Germany’s interest in its eastern neighbor and its culture has grown in recent years – this exhibition aims to advance this development.

Jens Pepper is a Berlin-based author, curator, and photographer. For his research on contemporary Polish photography, he spent almost two years in Warsaw in 2016/2017, visiting the country’s galleries, festivals, and collections, as well as numerous artists/photographers, curators, cultural editors, and collectors. One result of his research was the book Gespräche über polnische Fotografie (Talks about Polish photography), published by KLAK-Verlag, Berlin, in late-2017.

Grażyna Siedlecka is a curator, author, and founder of the Fresh From Poland Foundation. She has been researching the Polish photography scene and scouting emerging talents since 2013. Over the past few months, Siedlecka has been analyzing the influence structures within the Polish photography scene to identify figures who are setting new trends and inspiring others. The results of this investigation serve as a conceptual basis for the planned exhibition in Berlin.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book of the same name published by Mitteldeutscher Verlag, with approximately 160 pages in German and English along with an insert in Polish. Price: 25 € (tbc)

with works by Filip Berendt, Kuba Dąbrowski, Karolina Gembara, Weronika Gęsicka, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Magda Hueckel, Pawel Jaszczuk, Irena Kalicka, Anna Kieblesz, Zuza Krajewska, Adam Lach & Dyba Lach, Diana Lelonek, Michał Łuczak, Rafał Milach, Igor Omulecki, Anna Orłowska, Witek Orski, Zosia Promińska, Agnieszka Rayss, Łukasz Rusznica, Michał Siarek, Michał Szlaga, Dominik Tarabanski, Łukasz Wierzbowski, Karolina Wojtas, Piotr Zbierski.


State of Emergency. Polish photo art today
Until January 1st, 2023
ZAK – Center for Contemporary Art at Zitadelle Spandau
Am Juliusturm 64, 13599 Berlin

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