HISTORY OF THE VILLA
The modernist villa hidden in the wilderness was built by Antoni Moniuszko in the Warsaw quarter of Ochota, on Barska street. A visit to the villa is a real initiation. It is hard to say into what one is initiated, but the atmosphere of a secret place can be felt everywhere. Labyrinth, which is also a way of initiating people, is another expression that the villa put to mind: an entanglement of corridors, numerous secret passages and blind – bricked up – entrances, added new galleries with bizarre stoves in whimsical shapes.
There is no ground floor at the villa. Stairs next to the main entrance go up and down: right now you have to choose if you would go up or down. Down, in the basement chains swing over head – like in a torture room; then the huge room (Club Hall) with a scene and piano: the room with a peculiar glass wall. Thus it is just after noon it is dark everywhere, since creepers and tendril come inside trough the windows and cracks in the pavement and walls. The house has been forsaken since his builder and owner, Antoni Moniuszko died in 2001. For five years the villa lived its own life: as its builder had planned, since he wanted to build a house, which is like a living organism – it sets, breathes. Each room is like a single cell in human body: they perform different functions, but in the same time all together they make a tissue of the house. Numerous recesses, small nooks, narrow corridors and blind door-frames irrefutably put to mind thoughts of mystery in this house: the forsaken house, the house of mystery.
Undoubtedly the source of the mystery is the builder himself, and the only owner of the villa on Barska street. Antoni Moniuszko – a lawyer, mathematician, philosopher, artist and factory owner in one person built this house in 1949, not long after the communist rule came into being in Poland. According to his own idea and project Moniuszko constructed the house. Later, in the 70’s he added a huge gallery (Lounge Bar) in a basement: a room with high and narrow set of windows. Through them can be seen a wall surrounding this part of the house. In this room Moniuszko used to paint his eccentric pictures and – as his grandson claims – play tennis. Before this gallery came into existence, the philosopher in the wintertime used to make in here an ice-rink in order to play hockey with his brother-in-law.
Moniuszko’s paintings can be seen in another room. From the club hall one can get there through a low and narrow passage: here he made the exhibition of his works, private art gallery, where he showed his paintings to his friends visiting him by the way of artistic and intellectual meetings organised at the villa.
For the villa played an important cultural role during the dark period of the communist rule in Poland. It was a meeting place of scientific and artistic circles – the intellectual elite of Warsaw. In these bizarre spaces were in progress half-secret – or at least dubious under authorities’ eyes – meetings. Bizarre space and half-secret, dubious meetings...
Nowadays nobody lives here; nobody takes caree of the house. The garden, where one can enter by the ruined gateway reminds a sort of secret gardens of forsaken houses so well known from movies. Nature came into the villa, what makes the house even more odd and mysterious.
The forsaken house lives as his builder wanted: it still functions like a breathing organism. In the rooms in the basement and in the first floor as well, remained a specific mood of artistic – out of the ordinary – order of the things.
And now forsaken artistic villa will be transformed again into artistic space. Odd, irregular rooms again will perform a function of modern art exhibition – art beloved by Moniuszko who has written numerous writings of art...
ANTONI WINCENTY MONIUSZKO
– owner of the villa
Antoni Wincenty Moniuszko (1915-2001) was born in Sabnie – in the Moniuszko family manor. He was an extraordinary figure in Warsaw artistic and scientific circles. A lawyer by education, a philosopher of passion, an artist of choice, a businessman of necessity. All these activities were combined in the life of one man, making him a real animator of cultural and intellectual life in Warsaw under the communist regime.
He started his studies in law before World War II at the University of Poznań and then continued his education at the Department of Law at Warsaw University, where he graduated in 1937. During the war he fought defending Poland in September 1939, and later as a soldier of the Home Army. After the war he did not want to continue his legal career under the communist rule, so he became a businessman – an extraordinary matter at that time in Poland, when private property was nationalised. In 1944 Moniuszko bought an allotment in Ochota, a quarter of Warsaw, in order to build there a textile pigment factory. Because his private activities stirred the suspicions of the authorities: his business was not tolerated anymore – he had to move his factory out of the city. The only building survived on Barska Street, were he had built the factory, which was his house, a bizarre villa with many secret passages and blind entrances.
Despite difficulties caused by the authorities Moniuszko stayed a businessman. This activity made him independent, basically in terms of finances. Then he started his scientific career: in 1964 he wrote his doctoral thesis on the contemporary directions in the philosophy of mathematics. However he did not become an academic, since he did not want to be an assistant professor. His own business allowed him to be a thinker independent of academic structures. And even more – as a private manufacturer he earned more than his colleagues at the university. Therefore he gave innumerable parties and organised at his villa a cultural salon, where the Warsaw intellectual elite came.
Moniuszko was also intellectually independent of academic structures. He freely philosophised on various themes: he began with theorising on art, as in his book Ciało sztuki [The Essence of Art] published in 1982. Then he dealt with economics publishing in 1994 the book Złotówka i Ecu-dolar [Polish Zloty and Ecu-dollar] and a tractate on the philosophy of politics Prawo człowieka [Human Rights]. At the end of his life he reverted to art. One of Moniuszko’s obsessions was as a dialectic of "insatiability" and "resistance" of human cognition. Human cognition – he writes – is based on experience but it does not explain experience. The contemporary understanding of human experience as such is dominated by two types of thought: atomistic and synthetic. The atomistic approach – Moniuszko claims – can be compared to looking at a heap of separate, strewn out objects. The synthetic approach looks for more meaningful elements in human experience that could present it as a quest of truth and understanding.
Moniuszko painted as well. He learned painting from the priest Jerzy Wolff – a quite well known Polish colourist. He painted a lot and also exhibited his works. He even became a member of the Polish Artist Society. His paintings – while not illustrious – present a bizarre world constructed of obsessive motifs as metamorphosis of a white eagle (the coat of arms of Poland).
At the end of his life he wrote a lot. He left numerous pages of his metaphysical writings. He shaped an idea of the human as a dynamic being, an acting person aiming at cognition against the resistance of the physical world.
Most of his writings are unpublished. Nevertheless the author himself bears testimony to his philosophy: epistemological insatiability, which made him write on so many different subjects such as art, economics, or politics. Furthermore his life as an animator of culture and intellectual life combining so different activities as business, mathematics, law, philosophy, and last, but not least art: writing, painting and sculpting.
He died at the age of 86 in Warsaw.