18 September 2015 Literature and art at the Conrad Festival

Just as in previous years, we invite our participants to expand their festival experience by taking parts in exhibits along with the accompanying vernissages.

The “Against the Current” edition of the Conrad Festival, held on 19-25 October, is a space where literature transcends rigid boundaries and encounters other areas of culture, especially art.

This year, they will include Hannah Arendt: Trust in Humanity, Unrecounted: Jan Peter Tripp, PENSIONERS, WAR!, A Portrait of Literature: An Exhibition of Photographs by Gisèle Freund, and an exhibition of paintings by Ewa Mańkowska. Each of these events will carry an emotional and existential charge (this year, many works are dedicated to writerly individuality and memory), exposing other areas close to literature and including it in the artistic game.

Trust in Humanityat the Goethe-Institut will be composed of small by important objects, and will tell story of Hanna Arendt, one of the most important intellectualists of the 20th century. The exhibit will provide the opportunity to see many boards with photos and documents that will show not only the thinker’s works but also her relationships with renowned philosophers and writers: Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Herman Broch, Randall Jarrell and Uwe Johnson. An integral part of the exhibition is the film recording of Günter Gauss’ interview with Arendt.

Hannah Arendt. New York, 1972 (Photo Jill Krementz)

The exhibition Unrecounted at the Galeria Pod Baranami is an opportunity not only to take a look at the work of German hyperrealist Jan Peter Tripp, but also to encounter the project he prepared jointly with W.G. Sebald. Thirty-three engraving prints of the eyes of such figures as Francis Bacon, Jorge Louis Borges, Samuel Beckett or Truman Capote, illustrate Sebald’s poetic words (it is difficult not to mention the images of eyes the artist included in his novels Vertigo and Austerlitz). Jan Peter Tripp completed work on the book that was the result of an artistic-literary dialogue after his friend’s sudden death.

Samuel Beckett

PENSIONERS. Let us imagine that Tadeusz Kantor meets Bruno Schulz, and a moment later, they are joined by a few more members of the Krakow Group. But – attention! – they are all mannequins. PENSIONERS is an intermedia installation by Anna Kaszuba-Dębska, inspired mainly by Schulz’s The Pensioner. The project is a continuation and expansion of another of the artist’s project – the famous Projekt Szpilki (The High Heels Project).

Presented on the square in front of Cricoteka, the PENSIONERS collection will be a public space installation, inspired by happenings, emballage and Kantor’s Teatr Informel, in which the actor is stripped of their role, equated to an object and left subject to fate.

WAR! will take place at the club-gallery Pasaż. The exhibition will be the presentation of 25 exceptional comics panels by Polish illustrators Krzysztof Gawronkiewicz and Mariusz Sołtysik, who, along with their excellent writers, took on the drama of World War II in the still-fresh, pop-culture form of the graphic novel. Most of the works originally appeared in three albums illustrated by Gawronkiewicz. Each one deals with the subject of the war, but portrays it in a different way and from a different perspective – we have the story of an old Jewish man, who survives the Holocaust by escaping a German transport; there is a fantastic, alternative history of Poland after World War II; and finally, there is the unusual story by Marzena Sowa about occupied Warsaw just before the uprising, seen through the lens of the microcosm of one of the local residential buildings.

The second part of the exhibition are panels from the graphic novel Naród Zatracenia (Nation of Perdition) illustrated by Sołtysik and written by Maciej Świerkocki, set in the ghetto of Łódź. The story is narrated by an orphaned Jewish boy, Dawid, who will say, “War! How exciting was this word, which I’d only known from the Old Testament and textbooks”. The monochromatic drawings, accented with red, tell the shocking story of the realities of armed conflicts. On the day of the vernissage, the 20th of October, a discussion with the mentioned authors has been planned.

During the A Portrait of Literature exhibition at the National Museum in Krakow, Festival attendees will have an opportunity to face off with the work of one of the most important photographers of the 20th century, Gisèle Freund. Her portraits of writers and intellectualists have not only entered the history books of art, but also literature, as widely known images of renowned authors (although as she has said, most of them were created “for [her] own pleasure”), including André Gide, Anna Seghers, Bertolt Brecht, James Joyce, Walter Benjamin, André Breton, Paul Éluard, Jean Cocteau, T.S. Eliot, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, Colette, George Bernard Shaw, Vladimir Nabokov and Borys Pasternak (and many others). The exhibition will gather 290 photographic prints that document the Parisian bohemian circles of the 1930s. However, a meeting with Freund is above all a meeting with the unique personality of the artist, whose fascinating biography is interwoven with the history of literature.

In her publications on photography, the artist wrote “A good photographer has to read a face like a book, has to catch everything that happens between the lines, has to feel and understand the form to convey its spirit through light and shadow. Bringing people closer – that is the most valuable task of photography for me”.

Gisèle Freund, Walter Benjamin at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris, 1937

Krakow’s Lokator will host an exhibition of paintings by Ewa Mańkowska – a cycle of portraits of people from the world of literature: poets, novelists, editors, critics and booksellers. The artist’s canvasses feature Marcin Baran, Wojciech Bonowicz, Ryszard Krynicki, Irek Grin, Maciej Malicki, Edward Pasewicz, Grzegorz Jankowicz and others.

Over the years, several dozen portraits have been created. The cycle – which is continually updated with new paintings – has been shown in such cities as Budapest, Mikołów, Lublin and Wrocław, both as a separate exhibition as well as an event accompanying literary festivals.

Ewa Mańkowska

This is just some information about our exhibitions. The exact dates (including the accompanying openings), additional information and helpful context can of course be found at www.conradfestival.pl. More news about what you can experience at the Festival is coming soon.


Until next time!

The Conrad Festival Organisers