Biennale of Spatial Forms in Elblag

In the year 1966 the Warsaw National Museum hosted an exhibition presenting works produced by artists on the occasion of the 1st Biennale of Spatial Forms in Elblag, Poland. The show featured 80 photographs taken by Elzbieta Tejchman, a photographer involved with the activity of Group 55 and the Wspolczesna Gallery, and a friend of Marian Bogusz and Zbigniew Dlubak. Fascinated with the theme of urban space Tejchman took a series of photographs of works on view at Elblag’s Gallery EL, as well as the plein-air sculptures produced on the occasion of the 1st Biennale of Spatial Forms in 1965. Among the images is a series of over 30 photographs depicting the mounting of a composition designed by Zbigniew Dlubak.

The Biennale in Elblag was a unique event not only in Poland but also on a European scale. In 1965 Gerard Kwiatkowski, the then director of Galley El in Elblag, in cooperation with Marian Bogusz, launched an attempt at reviving the mid-20th century constructivist idea that called for bridging the gap between art and technology by means of bringing together the artist and the worker, and, as a consequence, the art work and the viewer – the ordinary citizen. Acting as patron, Zamech Mechanical Works agreed to make available their materials and facilities, where the invited artists worked for over a month, in close cooperation with the plant’s staff, technicians and engineers. The final effect was 37 metal constructions which, in accordance to constructivist call for abandoning the gallery for the sake of open space, populated the local cityscape. Gerard Kwiatkowski thus wrote in “Polska” magazine: “We wish that the forms, placed in different venues across the city, will engage the individual, accompanying him and exercising his imagination, refreshing sensitivity – which is of great value nowadays – and stimulating thinking.”

Over 40 artists from Poland and abroad responded to the organizers’ invitation, participating in the event which opened on the 22nd of July – a date coinciding with an official holiday, selected to distract the authorities. The list included outstanding names such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Magdalena Wiecek, Zbigniew Gostomski, Henryk Stazewski, Kajetan Sosnowski, Lech Kunka and Adam Marczynski. Zbigniew Dlubak’s project, produced in cooperation with the Zamech staff (Z. Czarnecki, S. Rusin, S. Szymanski, L. Ciesielski, A. Tazuszel, J. Grden, E. Grzybowski) was placed in the M. Kajka municipal park, near A. Krzyzanowski Street, and captured in Elzbieta Tejchman’s photographs. The seven-meter tall construction comes close to the artist’s painterly abstractions of the time, consisting of two metal sheets, slightly wider in the lower section, which resemble two uprights of the letter A. The sheets were mounted in such a manner so that, while not adjoining each other, seen from a specific angle their upper section seems to form one, providing a visual counterbalance to the lower elements which remained apart. The sculpture constitutes an element of closure for the view from A. Krzyzanowski Street, at the same time serving as a vertical tone for the main park alley.

The subsequent editions of Elblag Biennale took place accordingly in: 1967, 1969, 1971 and 1973. However, already by the the third edition a change was brought about in the program as it gravitated towards conceptual strategies. 1984 saw a return to the original idea, and it was then that the Zamech plant produced a composition according to the design by Katarzyna Kobro. A total of 48 spatial forms which reshaped the Elblag cityscape were realized up to 1987. The importance of the Biennale of Spatial Forms can be gauged by the interest it provoked in the Polish Ministry of Culture and Art, and UNESCO representatives, as well as among Danish artists who, inspired by the Elblag example, set out to organize their own initiative in the city of Aalborg.


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