Glasgow is about to host a major season of
contemporary Polish arts. Andrew Burnet went behind the scenes.
We live in a period of fitndamental change. Transitiorzfrom Stalinist communism to — well nobody really knows what. . . Democracy and freedom can only be attained after many years" work .' Solidarity was one ofthe attempts at attaining that. A very important attempt. but it is not the only one available.
(Lech Walesa. The Universal ll'eekly. Poland.an October 1988). Thus the leader ofSolidarity summarises the social. cultural and political mood of the Polish people today. It is a time ofuncertainty and instability on every level. a time of freedom and hope. but also of fear. An illustration came four weeks ago. when the Government was fired by the Party. No one can predict the consequences of this. because there is no precedent.
It is against this background that Glasgow hosts an extensive programme of Polish Arts in the 1980‘s. entitled Polish Realities. and organised by Chris Carrell. director of the Third Eye Centre. with the assistance of experts in each of the fields represented.
nzecszrsroscr POLSKIE: POLISH [HERE—
'I‘he expression 'Polish Reality" is used ironically by the Poles to indicate resigned acceptance of a hopeless situation. Carrell has pluralised it in the season's title to suggest the variety on offer in the season. which took two years to assemble. and spans a whole month with events nearly every day. Donald Pirie. head of the Polish Section at Glasgow University. who helped plan the programme. explains: ‘What‘s significant about a season like this is that we can show the variety that has resulted from the fragmentation of the monolithical culture which existed up to 1980.‘ He goes on to describe the progression of Polish culture since the demise of Stalinism in 1955. after which the three social mainstays of Party. (‘atholic Church and dissenting
Intelligentsia each purveyed a myth of national unity. Not widely questioned until the mid-seventies. this supposedly unified culture — known as the Edifice — was eventually dismantled with the emergence ofSolidarity in 1980. The result. Pirie explains. is a nation unsure for the first time where to turn for guidance. and an artistic intelligentsia stimulated but bewildered by the lifting of censorship.
Carrell has also been aware of Polish artists‘ increased willingness since 1980 to engage social and political issues in their work. a reversal of the fashion for abstract. non-politicist art fashionable during the ‘post-Stalinist status quo‘.
In selecting the programme. Carrell‘s ultimate criteria have been ‘artistic and human integrity.‘ Limited scale and finances have obliged him to make some omissions — notably jazz. rock and some theatre: nonetheless. Polish Realities will be the most comprehensive season of contemporary Polish arts ever. Because of the artists' divergent beliefs and attitudes (the intention here has been to represent all of these fairly and equally). their work would never be gathered into a single programme in Poland.
Continuing the series begun with Carrell‘s Hungarian season in 1985. and building on Scotland‘s links with Poland established during the Second World War (subsequently nurtured in the arts by Richard Demarco and others). Polish Realities is expected to create lasting cultural exchanges— ‘It's an opportunity for artists in all art forms to meet and establish direct links.‘ he says. For example. plans are underway for Glasgow drama students to study in Warsaw; many of the Polish painters and sculptors exhibited will be here to discuss their work: and Scottish musicians have been employed to present Polish compositions. which will duly become part of their normal repertoire.
Finally. the season is intended to break down superficial notions of Polish culture and its inaccessibility.
and demonstrate similarities between cultures. In some areas (especially in the well established sytnbolismofthe (‘atliolie traditioni the work is developed from specier Polish experience. but such references will be interpreted Ill talks. discussionsandcaptions. "In most instances.‘ ( 'arrcll say s. ‘the language is a common one f
‘ln the lack ofeohesion in contemporary Polish cultut e the only thing they (artists 1 can rely upon istheirpersonal sensibility .' says Pirie. in an attempt to account for the boldness and indiy idualfty of the season's visual arts. .-\s an example. he cites .laroslayy Modzelewski's ‘l)ifficulfies in Keeping Balance". in which if! dinaiy citizens are literally unable tostantl upin an unfamiliarenyironment. \n uncertainty about the future also explains the frequent appearance of ‘apocalyptic catastropliism‘. characterised by painful reference to the expressionism of the ivy L'lfltL s andThirties.
Fifteen individual painters and sculptors and one group yy ill be exhibited. besides ten photographers and two y itleo compilations. 'l‘here is also a documentaryexhibition eovering Poland's social and political development over the past decade.
By concentratingon new music for small ensembles. Polish Realities' musicorganiser Donna .\lel )onald has achieved a comprehensiy e selection within the field. yy hich offers twenty-five British premieres. New works ofelectronie music hay e also been commissioned from two Polish composers and one Scot yy ifh Polisii connections. Perhaps the most exciting moment in this unusual programme will be the open rehearsal by the electro-acoustte Paragon Ensemble on Sat 19 November. which will be followed by ‘a composer' forum and. later . by the world premieres of these three and one other work.
l o be show it at the ( il‘il‘. and chosen by its director Ken lngles. the film programme is also designed to show dry ersity. Besides a number ofshorts from l.od/ l‘ilm School (where l’olanskt was once a student l. eight feature films are to be shoyy it. one of yy hicli. \Vaida's llun ()f Iron. has not been approved by the Polish authorities l'ordiplomatic reasons. and is an unofficial inclusion. .\lthough not a classic film in itself. it has been socially and artistically influential and was therefore felt to be worth including. Perhaps the most enioy able and accessible films yy ill be \fat‘c/eyyski's Shit cry (one of tyyo British premieres) and /.aorski's .llother ()1 Kings. both highly emotional studies ofyouth under Stalinism. .v\ll films yy ill be shown \sillt subtitles.
1 his part of the programme is condensed mainly into one long yyeekendf 1" 21' Nov l. beginning
yy ifh a talk by
(toy ernment-employed literary critic \\ aclayy Sadkoyy ski and a one—day conference hosted by l’irie. Six quite different writers will give readings and attenddiscussions. Saturday is selection of four is State-sapproved. but full of contrast. from the hard-nosed. nihilistic
r. .tlfsin ol l‘iustachy Rylski to the pleasant appeal of Kr/ys/tof lloc/koyyski's poetry. Bronislaw Maj and Pay cl lluelle. who appear on the Sunday . are described by l’irie as. respectively. an excellent poet and
8'l'he List 28 Oct — lll Nov 1988