Literature and Art at the Conrad Festival

The “Against the Current” edition of the Conrad Festival on October 19-25 is a space where literature transcends narrow boundaries and encounters other areas of culture, especially art. Just as in previous years, we invite our participants to enhance their festival experience by taking part in exhibits along with the accompanying vernissages.

This year, they will include: Hannah Arendt: Trusting Humanity, Unsaid: Jan Peter Tripp, WAR!, A Portrait of Literature: An Exhibit of Gisèle Freund’s Photos as well as an exhibit of pictures by Ewa Mańkowska. Each of these events is emotionally and existentially charged (this year, many works are devoted to the writer’s individuality as well as memory), showing other areas close to literature and including it in the artistic game.

Trusting Humanity in the Goethe-Institut will consist of small but significant objects that will constitute the story of Hanna Arendt, one of the most important female intellectuals of the twentieth century. The exhibit will provide an opportunity to see many boards with photographs and documents that will bring back not only Arendt’s works, but also her relationships with outstanding philosophers and writers: Martin Heidegger, Karl Jaspers, Hermann Broch, Randall Jarrell and Uwe Johnson. An integral part of the exhibit is a film recording of Günter Gaus’ interview with Arendt.

The Unsaid  exhibit in the Pod Baranami Gallery is an opportunity to not only take a glance at the work of the German hyperrealist Jan Peter Tripp, but also to encounter his project prepared jointly with W. G. Sebald. Thirty-three prints of the eyes of such figures as Francis Bacon, Jorge Luis Borges, Samuel Beckett and Truman Capote visualise Sebald’s poetic words (it is difficult to not mention here the images of eyes that the writer included in his novels Vertigo and Austerlitz). Jan Peter Tripp finished work on the book, which was the result of artistic-literary dialogue, after his friend’s sudden death.

PENSIONERS. Imagine that Tadeusz Kantor meets Bruno Schulz, and a moment later a couple members of the Krakow Group join them. But – attention! – they are all mannequins. PENSIONERS is an inter-media installation by Anna Kaszuba-Dębska inspired above all by Schulz’s text “The Old Age Pensioners.” The project is the continuation and development of another of this artist’s installations, the famous “High Heels Project.”

The PENSIONERS collection presented on the square next to Cricoteka will be a public installation inspired by happenings, emballage and Kantor’s Teatr Informel, in which the actor is deprived of his or her own role and is equated with an object, becoming dependent on fate.

WAR! will take place in the Pasaż club-gallery. The exhibit will be a presentation of 25 unique comic strips by the Polish artists Krzysztof Gawronkiewicz and Mariusz Sołtysiak, who along with their excellent writers have dealt with the drama of World War II in the still fresh pop culture format of a graphic novel. Most of these works originally appeared in the three albums illustrated by Gawronkiewicz. Each of them deals with the topic of war, but presents it in a unique way from diverse viewpoints: we have the story of an old Jewish man who survives the Holocaust by fleeing from a German transport; there is a fantasy alternative history of post-World War II Poland; and, finally, an unusual story written by Marzena Sowa about occupied Warsaw on the eve of the Warsaw Uprising shown through the perspective of the microcosm of one of the capital city’s tenement buildings.

The second part of the exhibit consists of comic strips that are part of the Nation of Perdition graphic novel illustrated by Sołtysik and written by Maciej Świerkocki, whose plot takes place in the Lodz Ghetto. The narrator is an orphaned Jewish boy, Dawid, who shouts: “War! How exciting that word, which I only knew from the Old Testament and textbooks, sounded!” The monochromatic drawings, enhanced by crimson, present a shocking story of the realities of armed conflicts. On October 20, the day of the vernissage, a discussion panel with the aforementioned artists will take place.

During the Portrait of Literature exhibit in the National Museum in Krakow, the festival participants will have the opportunity to deal with the work of one of the most important photographers of the past century: Gisèle Freund. Her portraits of writers and intellectuals have become classics not only of art history, but also of literature. They are commonly known images of illustrious artists (although, as she herself has noted, she did most “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 as well as Boris Pasternak (and many more). The exhibit will concentrate 290 prints of photos forming a documentation of the milieu of the Paris bohemia of the 1930s. However, the meeting with Freund will above all be an encounter with the artist’s unusual personality, whose fascinating life was intricately linked with the history of literature.

In her publications about photography, Gisèle Freund wrote: “A good photographer has to read a face like a book, capturing everything that is found between the lines. She must feel and understand form in order to evoke its spirit through light and shadow. For me, coming closer to people is the most valuable purpose of photography.”

Krakow’s Lokator will host an exhibit of Ewa Mańkowska’s photos. This will be a cycle of portraits of people from the world of literature: poets, novelists, editors, critics, booksellers. The artist’s canvases will feature Marcin Baran, Wojciech Bonowicz, Ryszard Krynicki, Irek Grin, Maciej Malicki, Edward Pasewicz, Grzeogrz Jankowicz and many more.

Over the past years, several dozen portraits were created. The cycle – which is continually expanded to include new paintings – was shown in Budapest, Mikolow, Lublin and Wroclaw, among others, both as an individual event and as one accompanying literary festivals.

This is just some information about our exhibits. Exact dates (including those of the accompanying vernissages), additional information and helpful contexts can be found, of course, on  www.conradfestival.pl. Soon, there will be more information about what you will be able to experience at the festival.

We hope to hear from you soon!

The Organisers of the Conrad Festival


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