PRINT May 2017

Piotr Uklański


Poland is the future: The nationalist, extreme-right-wing Law and Justice Party swept to power there in October 2015, giving the rest of the world a glimpse of what happens when contemporary populism engulfs a nation and takes hold. This shift announced a crack in the postwar liberal European order, and the results have been as swift as they are terrifying: authoritarian efforts to rewrite the constitution, a draconian attempt to curtail reproductive rights, and the radical defunding of the arts. In this way, Poland can be seen as both a case study and a warning—portending the dire conditions of culture in the age of ultranationalism.

In the pages that follow, Artforum invited a group of distinguished contributors to reflect on art in Warsaw in this political climate. Joanna Mytkowska, director of the city’s Museum of Modern Art, examines the state of the capital’s cultural institutions; curator Natalia Sielewicz writes about advertising, propaganda, and spectacle in Warsaw’s urban spaces; and critic Anna Kats weighs in on architecture and the built environment under siege. Finally, artists Agnieszka Kurant, Monika Sosnowska, Piotr Uklański, and Artur Żmijewski discuss the ways in which the city’s changed circumstances affect their ideas now.

Piotr Uklański, Untitled (The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, Oświęcim), 2015, C-print, 7 1/4 × 11".


In Warsaw: “Men can change their clothes, their politics, their wives, their religions, their philosophies . . . they cannot change their grandfathers.”

“We constantly tend to misuse or misunderstand the term reality in reference to photographs. The photograph itself is the only thing that is real.” “Photography is the product of complete alienation.” “Pleasure originates in alienation.”

Piotr Uklański is an artist based in New York and Warsaw.