The jubilee 20th-anniversary edition of Krakow Photomonth begins 26 May. It will be a focused, inquiring, and researched critical commentary on current political and social phenomena, and one we are pursuing as an expression of solidarity with Ukraine. As per tradition, the festival will promote emerging artists, and through workshops and meetings provide a platform for students to exchange experiences, and to encourage experimentation and an approach of working with images as creative play.
The flagship production of this year’s edition is the exhibition I Was Lookin’ Back to See if You Were Lookin’ Back at Me to See Me Lookin’ Back at You, which is an extension of the international art and research project Why Pictures? Curators Magdalena Kownacka and Anna Olszewska invited individuals engaged with artistic and scientific practice to cooperate in order to examine the mutual relationship between humans, images, and technology. Talking plants, eye trackers, heat maps, a miracle worker’s encephalograph, AI-generated faces of nonexistent people, as well as classic photographs of Nowa Huta and photographic notes by the late Władysław Hasior—and all of this under the roof of the Nowa Huta Museum in the former Światowid cinema.
The exhibition Wasn’t Built in a Day, presented at the Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art, promises to be no less intriguing. It is a story told by artists about the ‘bygone’ Krakow that has hosted Photomonth over the past two decades; and also about the present-day city, for, as Maciej Maleńczuk once sang, ‘Nothing has changed.’ The artists refer to suppressed histories and contemporary symptoms of deliberate effacement, of sweeping under the carpet. At the same time, it is an exhibition about contemporary Poland as a whole, with Krakow an incarnation of the country’s spirit. The exhibition’s curator is Stanisław Ruksza, who is associated with the TRAFO Centre for Contemporary Art in Szczecin. The exhibition will include new works by the likes of Maciej Cholewa, Marta Romankiv, Łukasz Surowiec, and Nagrobki (Maciej Salamon and Adam Witkowski).
The ShowOFF Section is the part of the festival devoted to premiering projects by emerging artists, with the artists chosen via open call. The organisers, in collaboration with a team of invited curators, provide them with mentoring as well as organisational and promotional support. The result of this comprehensive cooperation is the presentation of six project premieres in galleries across Krakow. ShowOFF is an educational and promotional platform with international scope, offering specific insight into the focuses and creativity of artists standing on the threshold of international careers.
The span of themes and creative approaches presented in this year’s ShowOFF Section is, as always, wide-ranging. Tori Ferenc focuses the lens on herself and her family during the first weeks of motherhood in a time of pandemic. Hailun Luo tells an equally intimate story about her grandfather, disabled but full of life and emanating a buoyant spirit. Katarzyna Szweda explores the difficult relationship between history and family roots through the prism of the fate of the Lemkos ethnic group. Chloé Azzopardi, in her performative project, analyses the personal experience of dissociation. At the opposite extreme, Hanna Rozpara’s project concentrates on the formal search for, and abstractness of, images. And Anna Solecka, the youngest of this year’s ShowOFF laureates, tackles the difficult relationship she has with her Homeland—Poland.
The Fringe Section is another opportunity to seek out the accomplishments and inquiries of talented young creators. For the second time, as part of the exhibition 8304, we will see the presentation of some thirty projects by students from leading Polish art academies (the Academy of Art in Szczecin, University of the Arts in Poznań, and the Łódź Film School). The second part of Fringe consists of ten projects, submitted via open call or initiated by the organisers, which combine an experimental approach to form, site of implementation, and theme. The invited artists will show their works in public spaces, courtyards, attics, and studios.
Krakow Photomonth has, together with the Fotofestiwal in Łódź, organised a block of events, in the spirit of solidarity and as a means of direct support, in reaction to Russian aggression against Ukraine and the suppression of freedom in Belarus. In Krakow, we will exhibit the results of artistic residencies of artists from Belarus (organised together with the Sputnik Photos collective and the Staromiejski Cultural Centre); and a group exhibition of artists from Ukraine who will show their works together with members of the Czwartek collective. This year, Łódź will be hosting Odesa Photo Days and Minsk Photomonth, festivals which could not take place under normal circumstances in their respective cities due to the war in Ukraine and the Belarusian regime’s repression. The shared goal for Krakow Photomonth and Fotofestiwal is to support Ukrainian and Belarusian artists.
A slate of educational events will be devoted to the current geopolitical situation, as well as the influence of images on our everyday lives and perception of the world. The war in Ukraine is the first conflict that we are all following live via social media. Topics such as how to react to and handle images of war, how images affect us as individuals and as a community, and whether we can utilise images to impact reality, will set the stage for a series of discussions, workshops, meetings, and presentations.
One event during the festival’s opening weekend will be a conference, organised by the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow, to accompany the release of WELCOME, a publication of which Photomonth is co-publisher. Participants will include Anda Rottenberg and Jarosław Mikołajewski, among others.
This year’s Photomonth programme will additionally be complemented by parallel exhibitions organised by our regular partners: the Nuremberg House (of Ewa Doroszenko and Jacek Doroszenko), the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow (Dominik Ritszel), and a series of events prepared by the Museum of Photography in Krakow (the exhibition Facing Britain and the museum’s permanent exhibition, together with accompanying events).
The opening weekend of the jubilee 20th edition of Krakow Photomonth will take place 26–29 May. The monthlong festival will run until 26 June.