Marta Bakowski / Chmara.Rosinke / Patrycja Domanska / Jadwiga Drewinski / Kiryk Drewinski / Lex Drewinski / Drzach&Suchy / Ida Dutka / Aleksandra Gaca / Jan Hendzel / Maria Jeglinska / Mariusz Malecki (Ziben) / Paulina Matusiak / Bartek Mejor / Agata Karolina Niemkiewicz (Studio Agata Karolina) / Michael Okraj / Filip Pągowski / Monika Piatkowski / Justyna Popławska / Kamila Slocinska / Joanna Swistowski / Jo Szczepanska / Agata Wycichowska
The idea of the exhibition was simple – at least at first. We decided to assemble and present Polish designers, but who were unknown in Poland. We wanted to bring them into the local consciousness, and to tell the people from all over the world arriving in Łódź in large numbers, ‘Look! they grew up here!’ An idea which was as simple as it was naïve, and not really a feasible one.
First came the question: who is a Polish designer? Is that an individual who was born in Poland or someone who works in Poland? Is that someone who is known and loved in their own country, or someone recognised in a foreign country as a Polish designer? What does it mean that someone is Polish? Does that even mean anything today?
Then came the doubts, and some apprehension, that the whole thing would come out seeming nationalist and artificial. This was not our intention. We started to study issues relating to the ‘cultural supermarket’, the transmigrant identity, and the like. Fortunately, before we started calling the wisdom of the entire project into question, we made contact with the first designers; they convinced us that this question makes sense, though perhaps we will not be any closer to answering the question ‘What does it mean to be a Polish designer?’ at the end of the project than we were at the beginning. But our AWARENESS will be quite different.
Personalities from borders are fascinating and controversial. But no less interesting are people (especially creators) of complex origins and ambiguous identities, who overcome physical and mental borders. The classic example here would be Veit Stoss, whom the Poles call Wit Stwosz – born in Swabia, educated in Bavaria, who lived between Krakow and Nuremberg, the sculptor whose many works have been preserved in the ancient capital of the Poland, and form the backbone of ‘Polish’ art history.
Today the issue is even more complicated. What is the nationality of an object designed by a French designer for an Italian brand, and manufactured in China? Or by a Polish designer for a German brand, or vice versa, by a German for a Polish producer? Which of these two is more Polish, or more German? Is where the designer lives or is residing of any importance here?
By creating this exhibition, we do not intend to ‘re-Polonise’ anyone by force, nor to look for Polish- and Poland-related elements where they do not exist, although of course, most of the artists here have Polish-sounding names…
Our correspondence with the participants showed that we need not have worried about any accusations of ‘re-Polonisation’ or nationalist zeal. Indeed, most of them were pleasantly surprised that someone had ‘discovered’ them. The designers themselves began to tell us their stories, of their own free will: political emigration, going away to study, better conditions for development, Polish parents, long-term relationships with the country, or the loss of them, or their absence… Although each story is different, we can see clear differences between the generations. The feeling of belonging is in many ways intertwined with the designer’s identity.
While working on the exhibition – trying to reconcile works from various areas of design, by different generations of artists, and also designers with very different experiences, for which the Polish experience is important to different degrees – we realised that this presentation was more about the process, the state of mind of the designer. This confirmed our hunch that saying someone is or is not a Polish designer does not say anything about WHAT KIND of designer he or she is.
So what is the answer to the question ‘Who are you?’
It’s simple: I am a designer.