Photoblock | Central Europe in photo books

28 May 2020 - 04 Oct 2020
Museum of Modern Art
The exhibition Photoblock. A little human
A little human

The history of the 20th century narrated through photobooks is amazing and intriguing. The dreams of Central European artists, utopian visions of the future, struggle for independence, and documents of everyday life mix here with propaganda, tragedy, and war. Viewed through the prism of photobooks, Central Europe is both beautiful and brutal, touching and shocking. The new exhibition Photobloc. Central Europe in Photobooks is the first comprehensive display of photobooks from Central Europe that covers over a hundred years of their history focusing on the most ground-breaking, most interesting and beautiful pieces.

Throughout the 20th century, albums, brochures, and photobooks kept track of the tumultuous history of our region. For the last two decades photobooks have attracted academic attention and have by now been often discussed by numerous publications and exhibitions. Although they have been featured at several shows, there have been no attempts as yet to look at this issue in the context of our region.

Photobloc is the first comprehensive and critically aware exhibition addressing the tumultuous history of Central Europe as illustrated by albums, artist books and propaganda publications. A broad international perspective paints a picture of shared fate of inhabitants of this part of the continent. More than a hundred books from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania illustrate how photography reflected the processes of formulation of new identity of societies and young states of Central Europe, shaping their image, ideology, dreams of modernization and the future. “Books on display employ photographs to tell the story of our region, but they are also records of changing social relations, political visions and the obligations of photography and art. The exhibition opens up to the present day, posing questions about identity and future of our part of Europe,” explain Łukasz Gorczyca and Adam Mazur, authors of the concept for the research project on photobooks and co-authors of the exhibition.

Photobooks are an intriguing and still partly undiscovered phenomenon for all those interested in graphic arts, photography, politics, and art. There are albums of artistic photography included by authors such as the Czech master František Drtikol, a renowned Polish photographer Edward Hartwig, a Romanian Heda Löffler, as well as poignant collections of documentary photography. Together, they form a cohesive, cognitively inspiring story of the past and present of Central Europe.

The narrative of the exhibition is divided into six thematic chapters. It takes the viewer through the 20th century from the moment when the first mass printed photobooks were issued, through the period of revived and newly formed states, the trauma of another world war and wide-scale modernisation that intersected with reproduced propaganda images of mass suffering and death. The exhibition also features publications documenting everyday life, social processes and attitudes in the 1960s and ’70s up to the present day, as well as the era of political, cultural, and technological transformation.

The exhibition will showcase popular and collectible photobooks as well as film chronicles, pictures, prints, and art objects. Exhibits will be there to see, but also to leaf through, read and touch. It is perhaps the last chance to directly experience photobooks, since they are increasingly highly valued, collected, and ultimately will also become less available soon.

PHOTOBLOC Central Europe in Photobooks
Exhibition concept: Łukasz Gorczyca, Adam Mazur
Curators: Łukasz Gorczyca, Adam Mazur, Natalia Żak
Research team: Arnis Balčus, Vladimír Birgus, Adriana Dumitran, Eve Kiiler, Bohunka Koklesová, Claudia Küssel, Agnė Narušytė, Tomáš Pospěch, Peter Puklus, Wojciech Wilczyk
Coordination: Štěpánka Bieleszová, Karolina Wójcik
Graphic design: Kuba Sowiński, Vladimír Vaca
Architectural design: Adam Mazur, Michal Soukup
Installation: Vlastimil Sedláček, Filip Šindelář
Promotion: Tomáš Kasal, Lukáš Horák
Translation: Zuzana Henešová, Jan Jeništa

Works from the collections of: Archiv B&M Chochola, Biblioteka Narodowa w Warszawie, Biblioteca Naţională a României (Bucharest), Biblioteka Jagiellońska (Kraków), Filmoteka Narodowa – Instytut Audiowizualny (Warsaw), Galeria Piekary (Poznań), Instytut Sztuki PAN w Warszawie, Knihovna města Olomouce, Latvijas Nacionâlâ bibliotçka (Riga), Ludvig Museum (Budapest), Magyar Fotográfiai Múzeum (Kecskemét), MCK (Kraków), MOCAK (Kraków), Muzeum Narodowe we Wrocławiu, Slovenská národná galeria (Bratislava), Univerzitná knižnica (Bratislava), Uniunea Arhitecților din România (Bucharest), Wojewódzka Biblioteka Publiczna w Krakowie, Vědecká knihovna (Olomouc), Zbyněk Baladrán / hunt kastner (Prague) Arnis Balčus, Vladimír Birgus, Adriana Dumitran, Sabra Daici, Aneta Grzeszykowska, Łukasz Gorczyca, Danuta Hartwig-Saulewicz, Joanna Helander, Eve Kiiler, Claudia Küssel, Zbigniew Libera, Adam Mazur, Rafał Milach, Vlad Nancă, Jüri Okas, Peter Puklus, Valeriu Râpeanu, Ľubo Stacho, Sławomir Smolarek