WARSAW EXPERIMENTERS
Agata Pyzik

The "Warsaw scene" goes as far back as the end of the 19th century, when the city was experiencing an industrial and artistic renaissance. The founding of Warsaw's experimental traditions can be traced back to the figure of Witkacy, the great, multi-talented individualist of Polish art who experimented, from Warsaw - Zakopane - New Guinea, in the fields of theatre (Pure Form), hallucinogenic drugs, philosophy (Individual Existences), photography, collage, mass produced art in the Portrait Company, to cross-dressing, creating a unique life-creation paradigm.
The Warsaw experiment was mainly about groups rather than individuals. In 1904, art education was reborn in the form of the Warsaw School of Fine Arts. It was here that the avant-garde Block Group of Cubists, Supremacists and Constructivists was formed, which comprised of Maria Nicz-Borowiakowa, Teresa Żarnowerówna, Mieczysław Szczuka and Henryk Stażewski. But there were even more committed circles, such as the Phrygian Cap (Group of Warsaw Visual Artists) and the "Szpilki" magazine (Jan Lenica, Eryk Lipiński). Inspired by left-wing artists from LEF nad Proletkult, the periodicals "Dźwignia" (Lever) and "Miesięcznik Literacki" (Literary Monthly) were established at the initiative of Aleksander Wat, Anatol Stern, Brunon Jasieński and Andrzej Stawar. At the same time, during his ten-year stay in the capital (1928-1937), Stefan Themerson and his wife Franciszka
were involved in experimental film, literature, photography and the development of the theory of collage and photo montage. Using innovative techniques they made works including Apteka (Pharmacy), Przygoda człowieka poczciwego (the Adventure of a Good-natured Man) and Drobiazg melodyjny (Melodic Ditty) - referred to as the first Polish video clip, which was used as an advertisement for a haberdashery firm on Nowy Świat. The Themersons' experimentation focused on finding the equivalent of sound and image; for example, they were interested in the possibilities offered by the radio.
After the war, even though the sui generis avant-garde (in which experimentation didn't relate to the propaganda of success, which also infiltrated art) was being reborn during the post-thaw period, artists could take one of two approaches: either engage in the construction of the new state and experiment within that new reality (e.g. the Polish Radio Experimental Studio) or choose internal emigration and remain independent and private. In fact it was in private flats that the most heated debates about art took place. Miron Białoszewski explored his Theatre in Tarczyńska and the Separate Theatre (created along with Ludwik Hering and Ludmiła Murawska), Henryk Stażewski had his workshop at al. Solidarności 62, where the painter Maria Ewa Łunkiewicz lived and where the artist Edward Krasiński gradually transformed the flat into a sculpture - an environment encircled with Blue Scotch tape. Those spaces would become areas for private artistic experimentation, as well as social and emotional life. The group of critics and artists associated with the Foksal Gallery, which included Anka Ptaszkowska, Koji Kamoji and Andrzej Dłużniewski, were also important for the "creative life" of Warsaw. From 1966, Włodzimierz Borowski realized his synchretic shows at the Foksal Gallery. In the Repassage Gallery, Andrzej Partum, the "King of Warsaw", organized concerts in the spirit of Fluxus, created his smell sculpture Smród (Stench) and established the Office of Poetry (to mimic the bureaucracy of communist Poland). Partum was a pioneer of mail-art, performance and "critical art" in Poland. Other artists associated with the Repassage Gallery are KwieKulik,
Krzysztof Bednarski, Krzysztof Jung and Grzegorz Kowalski, who later established the famous studio at the Fine Arts Academy, where many artists representing the critical movement in art hail from.
In literature, the "Współczesność" (Present) generation began to emerge. Henryk Bereza was also a tireless promoter of experimentation; he supported many avant-garde writers, such as Marek Hłasko, Leopold Buczkowski and especially, the novelist and illustrator Mieczysław Piotrowski, who questioned the traditional literary linearity in his books Złoty Robak (Gold Worm) and Cztery sekundy (Four Seconds).
Student theatres were also a source of experimentation in Warsaw. We can mention the Student Theatre, where Agnieszka Osiecka was active, as well as the performers' theatre of the Academy of Motion, established in 1973. The latter, which was half conceptual, half post-Grotowski tradition, was concerned with analysing social processes in communist Poland, placing itself between theatre performance, political manifestation and music (such as the performance of a piece by Maurizio Kagel, Pas deux Cinq, as part of a concert by the group KEW, namely Knittel, Sikora, Michniewski, in the Stodola Club in Warsaw). The Academy also put on plays in galleries and in the streets. In the 1980s, it also took part in samizdat activities. As Wojciech Krukowski described the counter-culture of that time: this formation also believed it had a mission within that movement, a mission that befitted the independent culture, as it was sometimes referred to, but they used their own synthetic means, valuing a certain radicalism of form more than a full, complete literary expression (see also the Academy of Motion).
After 1989, an anarchistic group of intellectualists-activists-ecologists (including Grzegorz Laszuk
and Alina Gałązka), disillusioned with the political transformations, inspired by situationism, avant-garde, modernism and contemporary philosophy, established a left-wing commune theatre in Otwock, where performances would take place alongside workshops and lectures. In 2008, they moved to Warsaw (the Otwock/Warsaw Commune). In the 1980s and 1990s, partly thanks to the artists associated with the periodical "Brulion" (Rough Draft), so-called experimental poetry began to be published in Warsaw. New poets who cannot be considered outside of the Warsaw context, such as Andrzej Sosnowski, also made their debut, communicating telepathically with David Bowie (who visited Warsaw on the way to Moscow in 1976). [agata pyzik]