Krakow Photomonth Festival 2020
As planned, the 18th edition of the Krakow Photomonth Festival, one of the most important European photography festivals, is set to begin on 21 May, 2020. This year’s edition, which will be inaugurated in the virtual realm, is being undertaken in the face of unprecedented impediments and shifting circumstances — a challenge which the organisers have accepted as an opportunity to adapt the festival’s format in response to this unfolding moment in history.
Each year, the organisers’ ambition is to articulate a statement pinpointing the most pertinent phenomena of the day, and to create a space in which artists can enter into open and critical dialogue with the festival audience. The Covid-19 pandemic, and its social and economic impact, has drawn attention to issues of acute interest to the curators and artists invited to participate in this year’s festival: the climate crisis and eco-anxiety about an uncertain future; social alienation and the radicalism it can engender; and image manipulation, to name just a few pressing topics.
In response to circumstances dictated by the volatile situation in which we find ourselves, the festival’s programme has been reformulated. Some exhibitions will assume new and unexpected forms: a book, a website, a series of artistic interventions carried out by artists in their places of residence. Traditional exhibitions will, if and when the situation allows, open gradually in museum and gallery spaces, as they become available and with necessary precautions being taken to ensure the well-being of all involved. Accompanying events such as lectures, meetings, presentations, and workshops will be held virtually. Set to last for four months, this will be the longest and most innovative Krakow Photomonth in the festival’s history.
‘This novel situation, in which we as a global community find ourselves, has brought to the surface deep-seated feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, which inhabitants the world over now find themselves beset by,’ says Photomonth director Joanna Gorlach. ‘This state of being increases a sense of loss, spurring feelings of rebellion, even bitter regret. We sense that we missed something, that we ignored it until it was too late. Artists have long alerted society to the fact that something was amiss, that systemic change was overdue. Each shock to the system provides an opportunity for regeneration, reorganisation, and the implementation of new scenarios.’ Continues Gorlach, ‘The concept for this year’s programme, as well as for subsequent editions of the festival through 2022, has been developed around the need for personal responsibility and change; an inevitable imperative which affords us a chance to develop new values. We have approached this challenging moment with openness, curiosity, and the awareness that it is only ourselves and our efforts that will determine what tomorrow will look like for creators, organisers, and the public at large.’
Innovative Exhibition Format
For the group exhibition Wonders in the Heavens and on the Earth, curators Sebastian Cichocki and Jagna Lewandowska selected artists who in their work have prophetically grasped and foretold the potentially irreversible changes to which nature has been subjected. The exhibition will now unfold as a series of performances collected in the format of a publication. The duo of Lena Dobrowolska and Teo Ormond-Skeaping will present the results of their long-term artistic-research project Future Scenarios, comprising a set of speculative climatic scenarios for twenty-first-century Earth. And in the group exhibition I Do Not Share with Anyone, curated by Adam Mazur, artists will address the inadequacy of pictorial communication when it comes to conveying emotion. The exhibition will take place in an experimental virtual space devised from scratch.
The representation of emotions will also be explored by Weronika Perłowska, the winner of last year’s Photomonth Portfolio Review, in her exhibition Anger Detracts from Her Beauty (Nośna Gallery); and by Karolina Gembara, a member of the Sputnik Photos collective, who took a close look at individuals who have embarked on migrations, in Bow: Exercises in Hospitality (Razem Pamoja Foundation). And tapping into the revered tradition of Polish documentary photography, Dyba and Adam Lach will present their project Wounded Birds Are Wary, the result of several months spent on the road traveling through multiple Polands in a time of sociocultural fissuring.
Finally, evidence that phenomena afflicting the modern world have been previously investigated and described by the classics of postwar Polish art can be found in the presentation of photographs drawn from the archive of Zygmunt Rytka (To Whom Does the Cosmos Belong?). The exhibition’s curator, Karol Hordziej, will highlight, among other deep dives into the archive, a selection of works from Rytka’s monumental Photovisions cycle, through which the artist contested the influence wielded by mass media in moulding an image of the world.
The participants in this year’s ShowOFF Section are paying equal attention to realities both close to home and national in scope: from individual struggles with identity within the context of one’s family or local environment and the afterimages of formative childhood experiences, through to the history and traces of Polish–Jewish relations and the enduring cult of a mythologised Józef Piłsudski.
ShowOFF Section exhibitions are the result of cooperation between emerging artists (winners selected via an international competition) paired with curators who act in the role of mentor-supervisor to individual artists seeking a final form for their projects. This format has time and again served as a launching pad for noteworthy artistic careers. Indeed, the last two Polityka ‘Passport’ awards in the category of Visual Arts have gone to ShowOFF alums: Diana Lelonek and Weronika Gęsicka, both of whom have already seen their works enter into the developing canon of contemporary Polish photography.
This year, the section’s curators took the following artists under their respective wings: Andrea Copetti: Domenico Camarda, Oktawian Jurczykowski; Joanna Rzepka-Dziedzic: Aleksandra Nowysz, Agata Read; Joanna Kinowska: Bart Krezolek, Joanna Szpak Ostachowska; and Mateusz Sarełło: Jakub Stanek, Dominik Wojciechowski. The ShowOFF Section exhibitions will, if the situation allows it, be presented one more time in the charming spaces of Tytano.
Given the hard realities of the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme of accompanying festival events, which has grown over the years into an autonomous block of Photomonth’s schedule, has undergone significant changes, and in fact has become foregrounded as the festival shifts into the virtual realm. In a response to the organisers’ question ‘Can photography change the world?’, programme panels will cover topics related to the latest research into visual and media literacy, and will be expanded to delve into the social, economic, and psychological contexts of particular interest to festival artists and curators.
Events will be divided into several thematic bands, with speakers set to include researchers from the Visual Narrative Laboratory, as well as writers, psychologists, philosophers, cultural studies experts, scholars of mythology, and futurologists. The focus of their inquiries and reflections, in the form of lectures, visual essays, and panel discussions, will be photography in the face of disaster; the documentary and rebellion; conversations about collaboration, self-help, and art as a tool for resistance and catalysing change; and a tale of anger, even rage. Anna Bas, Łukasz Lamża, Agnieszka Sural, and Urszula Zajączkowska, among others, have been invited to participate.
Additionally, there will be a series of conversations with some of the most important researchers of contemporary visual culture in the world, beginning with Joanna Żylińska. All events will take place online, where these conversations, along with virtual guided tours of exhibitions and remote workshops, will allow those currently restricted to their homes to partake in this year’s festival offerings and engage in its collective dialogue.
‘Problems of a globalised nature have for some time had a significant impact on the lives of individuals. This has been the case, too, for organisers of cultural events,’ notes Tomasz Gutkowski, director of the Foundation for Visual Arts, which organises Photomonth. ‘The decision not to cancel this year’s edition of Krakow Photomonth was not an easy one. But it was made in solidarity with creators and curators, as well as with the often anonymous specialists—coordinators, technicians, editors, and logisticians—involved in the co-creation of the landscape of contemporary Polish culture. In this way, we also wanted to demonstrate that in times of tumult, culture is one of our most important needs—a conviction that we believe is shared by our audience.’
The 18th Krakow Photomonth Festival will begin on 21 May, 2020 and last at least until the end of September. For the most up-to-date information concerning dates and times for exhibitions and accompanying events, please keep an eye on our social media channels as well as www.photomonth.com. The organisers reserve the right to make adjustments to the festival programme based on changing external events.
Due to the current fiscal situation, many of our online events will be available only in Polish, without supplementary English translation. We apologise for this limitation, and we thank you in advance for your understanding.
The Festival Board responsible for shaping the 18th Krakow Photomonth Festival is composed of Agnieszka Szuścik, Michał Łuczak, Łukasz Rusznica, and Witek Orski, under the direction of Joanna Gorlach, in her first year as Festival Director.
The Krakow Photomonth Festival is co-financed by grants from the City of Krakow and the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage through its Promotion of Culture Fund.
The Krakow Photomonth Festival is organised by the Foundation for Visual Arts, a non-governmental organisation, founded in Krakow, in 2001, with the aim of promoting and popularising the visual arts in Poland. The Foundation’s primary area of interest is photography. Its mission involves seeking new definitions of the medium within the contexts of contemporary art, history, and sociology. One of the avenues for pursuing these objectives is the annual Krakow Photomonth Festival, the Foundation’s most important yearly endeavour. The Foundation for Visual Arts is also responsible for programming a number of other cultural events, runs its own art-book publishing imprint, is involved in the promotion of emerging artists and innovative initiatives, and oversees the digitisation and dissemination of the archives of some of the most significant postwar Polish artists, including Zofia Rydet, Wojciech Plewiński, and Zygmunt Rytka.