No 3 (95) 2013
July - September

The TEO\\ZBNC – Intervention

Wiktor Skok, the Łódź underground artist, applied in the collage form communist photographs of Teofilów, exhibiting them in the  subway of Łódź-Żabieniec railway station in May 2013.

Krzysztof Jurecki

B. in 1960. Art historian, AICA member. Lecturer at the Łódź Academy of Arts and Design.

Krzysztof Jurecki

TEOFILÓW IS A LARGE WORKING CLASS DISTRICT, today considerably socially diversified, that he knows from firsthand experience. The artist has approached photographic material in quite unceremonious manner. He has taken interest neither in who made original pictures, nor in their artistic quality. He has been probing, as an artist/ anthropologist the "frozen" lasting of history registered by a trivial propaganda medium which, nevertheless, offers not only various historical nuances, but the power of the Corbusier concept of reality rationalization and subject orientation. After the 1989 breakthrough, under "new policies" Teofilów sank into oblivion. Wiktor Skok has been observing graduał degradation of the district. Living nearby, he saw the construction and opening of the subway, and then its decline and fall. Skok wished to achieve the impossible - to organize and bring harmony to the motives that he had carefully selected, acting in an immediate and direct manner (strong constructivism tradition), as well as prophetic (surrealism). The dominant construction and submissive to it imagination are two distinguishing features of the installation in the "dead" space of the city.

In the 60's and 70's of the 20th century Teofilów boasted modernistic skyscrapers, huge stores, a culture center and industrial plants. Development of this gigantic district has never been completed, and after 1989 it fall victim to commercialization of public space. This has been the retained, and paradoxically piled up, historical message which functions in this reality as the "found picture", used in a completely different narration to reconcile old "communist" times with the new "capitalistic" lasting without any hope. The TEO\\ZBNC project intends to bring back the forgotten and worn out pictures, to make tchem more iconic, to show the violent damage that took place in the new times, when a social utopia was replaced with rootless pragmatism. Skok has been a member of the so called industrial culture that puts a particular focus on this type of space, considering the latter its own natural environment. The mentioned exhibition is a unique independent action on a national scale; totally self financed, and organized without any official permission.

An interesting concept of the Łódź show can be viewed in reference to the idea of the "third road" according to Joseph Beuys, presented in a famous Appeal for an Alternative. Further, it can be compared to the photographs from the Wounded Tibet series (2009) by Wolf Kahlen, who used "amateur" pictures of Tibet and marked them with a kind of stamp burnt directly onto photo prints.

Skok has made an attempt to integrate through specially designed large graphic logos made of Styrofoam that carry symbolic meanings expressed, among others, by ideograms: flags, people, compasses and other deeper symbols. This is a worthy, responsible idea combined with an excellent concept of display in the subway of the railway station that ceased to exist a couple of years ago... while its former building has been turned into a synonym of new liberal games and tricks.

Is the new re/ integration of Teofilów district possible in the real world? In the nearest future, it certainly is not. Nevertheless it can happen in an artistic sense. The artist has marked the road how to use effectively the found photography, how to search for new, integrating signs and new artistic form where collage and montage serve as a starting point, as it was the case of a number of projects by Krzysztof Wodiczko. A conscious artist like Wiktor Skok takes an interest in the future, as Władysław Strzemiński did after World War 2nd (the text Function Oriented Łódź, 1947), so as the future does not turn a mirage, or a complete defeat of the government, namely the degradation of the place, history, and finally local inhabitants.