BIRDS FLY OFF TO WARM SILESIA

Wladyslaw Hasior "To those who fought for the Polish character and freedom of the Pomerania region", Koszalin, 1980.

Taking Hasior out of the Szczecin region.
Bold artistic demonstration in Wroclaw. A pair of artists: an ex-resident of Szczecin, Andrzej K. Urbanski, and an ex-member of luxus group Jerzy Kosalka, placed a tin bird in the courtyard of Art Exhibition Hall (BWA) in Wroclaw. It is a fragment of Wladyslaw Hasior's sculpture from the Kasprowicz park in Szczecin. And though the Sczecin Artwork Conservationist accuses them of theft, the artists are in fact saving Hasior's work from total destruction.

Hasior - an extraordinary sculptor.
Wladyslaw Hasior, who had died few years ago, was both an artist and a person fascinated by the provincial, church fete material culture. He belongs to a group of artists who had been abandoned by Polish culture about two decades ago. The value of his works has been called into question when some pointed at Hasior's sculptures in which the legend of people's power lived on. Perceived as an artist from the "ancien regime", a star peculiar to the art of Polish People's Republic. He slid (was put in fact) into the shade on the Polish art scene. That simple, or rather simplistic, histo-cultural mechanism had worked perfectly for yet another time, causing a factual harm. As Hasior, and his, to some point insane, works deserve to be treated absolutely seriously nowadays. The label of a dusty museum relic is somewhat too trivial while referring to works that have had shaped the Polish landscape (both mental as well as physical) with verve and imagination. Apart from numerous, though not necessarily displayed, works in museums (we recommend Zakopane and Wroclaw) Hasior left a number of works in public space, primarily monuments. Ranging from plain stone works (like the monument of the Tatry Mountain Rescue Team in Zakopane), to impressive sculptures incorporating water and wind (monuments in Kuznice and Czorsztyn), to experimental forms like Monument of the Shot Hostages in Wroclaw - cast in concrete in moulds dug directly in the ground and then set on fire. Fire was also the favorite element used by the artist in his "processions" and other, ephemeral, projects in public space. It was also fire that had appeared in Szczcin in 1975, when on the slopes surrounding the castle Hasior "unveiled" his new work "Firebirds". This impressive and prodigious installation made of iron and sheet metal remained in Szczecin for good. After a few moves in the 90's it eventually landed in Kasprowicz park on the outskirts of city center. That was the moment when its slow but gradual degeneration began.



Wladyslaw Hasior "Firebirds", Szczecin (photo taken in 1996)

projekt Andrzeja K. Urbańskiego i Jerzego Kosałki pt. "Fragment rze?by W. Hasiora..."Szczecin's trouble is Wroclaw's concern.
Its current condition was described in detail by Mrs. Malgorzata Jablonska - the Artwork Conservationist in Szczecin - in an interview she gave for Gazeta Wyborcza: "Six birds and two minor linking elements are missing". In the meantime, one of the "firebirds" appeared in the courtyard of BWA gallery in Wroclaw. Here, the official opening of the project entitled "A fragment of W. Hasior's sculpture...", prepared by Andrzej K. Urbanski and Jerzy Kosalka will take place in mid-October. This very fragment comes from Andrzej Kukorowski, painter living in Szczecin. Few years ago, he had recovered two fallen "firebirds" from a puddle of mud in the park and brought them to his studio in a tenement house. One of them was eventually stolen, the second was taken to Wroclaw by Urbanski. Here, the tin bird was fixed to a 3,5 meter high pipe, and two armchairs put on the ground nearby. In authors' commentary, the artists state their intention: "In the course of two year long move of the sculpture, [Szczecin] city authorities nid not bother to properly secure it and let it lay in a muddy pit unattended. The effect of this negligence was such that the sculpture has been vandalized, and now stands incomplete [...] Authorities had shown no interest when the found pieces were presented to them. Unfortunately, this lack of interest entailed a risk of a total destruction of the left elements [...] The project [in Wroclaw] was meant to be a gesture, an attempt to relocate a work, that had been demoted to junk status, back to the artistic space." Meanwhile, the Conservationist, who had been informed of the whole event by Gazeta Wyborcza, described the situation in short words: "It is a theft, by all means". Wroclaw artists assure that as soon as Szczecin claims its bird and agrees to provide proper care, they shall return the taken piece. The situation is spiced up with the fact that the project consisting of pieces of Hasior's work has gained support of Wroclaw City Council. In addition, the Council has allocated some funds for conservation of the Monument of the Shot Hostages, which is currently in (poor) care of the Architecture Museum - until not long a go one of the figures had been lying on the lawn.

And so, the artistic kidnapping of the Szczecin bird may - though doesn't necessarily has to - have solely good consequences - congratulations to artists from Wroclaw on an undertaking marked by unusual awareness and expressing concern for Hasior!). The issue, eagerly discussed by local department of "Gazeta Wyborcza", has already reached the
Conservationist's as well as Szczecin City Council Office. It would be logical for those officials to agree on prompt conservation of the devastated work of Hasior. Recently, thanks to a public money collection, the gathered funds made possible the triumphant return of a XIX cent. replica of Colleoni's sculpture, which had been standing in the courtyard of Warsaw Fine Arts Academy. It is even said that the money is in surplus - just right to take care of equally charming XX century monument. Regrettably, the question of how to successfully preserve such works in public space, in a society suffering from poverty and crime, is a totally different issue. How to explain - to ourselves, as well as to officials and politicians - that a modern sculpture in a park deserves respect and attention. In the meantime, instead of taking care of what has been build not so long ago, there is a rush for novelty in the country - more and more teams of politicians aim at building new sculptures "in memory of". Symptomatic of this situation is the fact that a work similar to "Firebirds", namely Hasior's composition in Koszalin, enjoys a good health, for the simple reason that it is such a monument ("To those who fought for the Polish character and freedom of the Pomerania region"). As you can see, the worst thing that could happen to you if you were to be born an artpiece is being an abstract composition.


A postcard from Elblag from the beginning of the 70's.
zniszczona forma przestrzenna Henryka Morela (Elbląg, lata 90.)Elblag - the untapped potential
Modern sculptures, monumental metal forms placed in city space or in parks park are, just like electricity poles, a perfect target for the junk collectors. A few years ago in Elblag those people looted a large part of the famous piece by Henryk Morel, which overlooks the city from a nearby hill. It is one of a few dozen of works made within the framework of the Biennial of Spatial Forms, held in Elblag in the 60's. In many ways this event was pioneering on a global scale, what is more, it all resembled a utopia that came true. The Biennial was realized under the patronage of ZAMECH, the local industrial plant, and artists had worked along with plant workers building their works from scrap material. In the center of Elblag one can still see numerous modern sculptures by leading Polish artists of the 60's. Their condition is fairly good - obviously they are being repainted every now and then. Yet for the time being, not only junk-collectors but Elblag officials as well, may call this situation "the untapped potential". While this unique collection could be easily turned into both tourist and artistic attraction. And the effort is nominal: to prepare a comprehensive catalogue (each year, about a hundred young people graduate in Art History in Poland), print leaflets and town maps including itinerary, and conserve the sculptures. One could organize a special art project and invite contemporary artists to dust the beautiful, modernist Elblag utopia.

Spatial forms in Elblag: Andrzej Matuszewski (to the left) and Stanislaw Sikora. (photo taken in 2000)
Lodz - a decayed museum and decaying unism
And now instead of theorizing, let us take a quick look at Lodz, namely the local Art Museum. This place hides one of the most precious treasures of our art - a magnificent collection of paintings by Wladyslaw Strzeminski. One day, when I took a yet another stroll in the corridors where the permanent collection is located, and as I was having yet another look at one of Strzeminski's "unistic compositions", I noticed a small splash of paint. A tiny, though important, piece of paint in the shape of an oval was missing. On the painting, in place of the oval a piece of canvas was showing through. Instinctively I looked at the floor and - indeed - the oval piece had fallen down and broke into pieces. Apparently the damage was quite recent. I took the fragments and placed them on the frame of the painting. Next, I paid a visit to the museum office and reported on that sad accident to one of the curators. My complaint had been received with proper attention. More or less a year had passed since my next visit to the museum. When I went there and stood in front of the unfortunate painting I didn't notice the piece of paint I had left on the frame anymore - yet the empty spot on the painting remained unchanged. And now the question - how on earth one can expect hooligans, politicians or officials to look after works of modern art, if those who are educated, elected and duty bound to it apparently cannot? The mentioned story happened a few years ago and - what we would like to stress - may have had a happy end by now. We wish it were so!

[28.09.2003]


raster home