Artists: Łukasz Korolkiewicz, Paweł Kruk, Patrycja Orzechowska, Włodzimierz Pawlak, Daniel Rumiancew, Tomasz Sikorski, Mikołaj Smoczyński

The exhibition held at Galeria Monopol explores separate, internal microcosms created by artists. The concept behind it refers to the recent lockdown, the emotions and attitudes expressed at that time, and perhaps also in the future if lockdowns recur. However, the works put on display were produced before the pandemic, some of them many years ago, so they do not result from this year’s situation. The pieces describe isolation, retreat into one’s inner life, and the sphere of relative safety as an all-human or personal experience. They sometimes stem from external circumstances, sometimes from a broader trend, or simply the artist’s personality.

The first days of the lockdown can be, obviously keeping the comparison in proportion and bearing in mind all the differences, likened to the final years of the Polish People’s Republic (PRL), especially the time after the introduction of martial law. The existential common denominators include protracted fear for your own life and health and that of your loved ones, the increased presence of death in the infosphere, reduced possibilities of moving around and contacting others except your closest family, lack of reliable news about the course of the crisis and a surfeit of unreliable ones, deep economic insecurity, and a drop in income. Some similarities can be observed between both events also on the political plane. The lockdown in Poland coincided with the dramatic electoral campaign, which is very likely to bring about further degradation of the state, its institutions and social and emotional substance in the coming years. As a matter of fact, we have already noticed the intensification of these processes. The current “Potemkin state”, in a similar way to the late PRL (even if we remain moderate in making comparisons), is a country of ever more intense hatred against those who think differently from the central authorities.

In communist Poland, inner emigration (as well as outer) was a typical survival strategy. To some extent, it also holds true nowadays – and perhaps many people will have to withdraw even further. Those most hated by the right wing, sexual and national minorities, are especially afraid of this prospect. And although the majority of the attitudes shown at the exhibition do not result from political oppression, it can happen that many us will have to practice these “internal” strategies soon. Never before was the private so political as now. All the more we have the right to perceive the artists’ withdrawal “towards themselves” as their mustering energy, defiance by its accumulation, creative and active anticipation of exceeding critical mass, expectation of the potential sufficient for destruction. This is because the walls are not perfect, they have openings, thorough which artists closely observe what is going on, and although they stay inside, they communicate and plot, even if at first glance it does not seem so.

Daniel Rumiancew