Antoni Zdebiak. Musical Collaborations

What was it like to work on the iconic record covers of the 1980s? What was the creative process behind the photographs used for records and posters of such bands as Republika or Budka Suflera? Antoni Zdebiak collaborated with the most popular musicians of the 1980s, including Brygada Kryzys and Majka Jeżowska. The exhibition presents unpublished material from the photographer’s photoshoots, making it a perfect opportunity to trace his artistic inspirations.

All the photographs shown in the exhibition come from the archives of the Archeology of Photography Foundation, which for years has been engaged in research and study of the work by Polish photographers, including that of Antoni Zdebiak. Zdebiak was a versatile, total artist; he worked as a fashion, reportage and documentary photographer, actor, performer, camera operator, and theatre set designer. Each of these artistic manifestations is reflected in the covers he authored, as well as in photoshoots for posters and documentary photographs from concerts. In the 1980s, he collaborated with bands such as: Republika, Osjan, Siekiera, Dezerter, Tilt, Brygada Kryzys, Lombard, Budka Sufler, but also with several singers, for instance with Urszula, Majka Jeżowska, and Andrzej Rosiewicz. 

The works presented in the exhibition are associated with six record covers: ‘I Ching’ (1983; collective project), Morawski Waglewski Nowicki Hołdys ‘Świnie’ [‘Pigs’] (1985), Budka Suflera ‘Ratujmy co się da!!’ [‘Let’s Rescue What We Can!!] (1988) and Republika ‘Nowe sytuacje’ [‘New Situations’] (1983), ‘Nieustanne Tango’ [The Endless Tango’] (1984), „82-85” (1993). The exhibition offers visitors the perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the lesser-known covers, but also to reconstruct the creative process behind the most important photographs related to these projects. 

Releasing an album in the 1980s Polish People’s Republic was no easy task. Sometimes vinyl and paper were not available on the market for months and when they finally appeared, the printing process proved to be full of errors and shortcomings. The production costs of a record cover had to be cut to the limit and printing photographs has always been a particularly challenging process. The ‘I Ching’ record cover, for example, was designed to be a perforated puzzle, the pieces of which viewers/listeners could detach and then put together themselves. However, with technologies available in Poland at that time, there was no chance to implement such an idea. Simultaneously, as Mateusz Torzecki noted in the catalog accompanying the exhibition ‘Polska okładka płytowa’ [‘Polish Record Cover’], the 1980s was a time when musicians usually wrote their own lyrics and wanted to have, if not control, then the greatest possible influence on the entire process of a record production. To quote Torzecki: ‘All of this gave us contact with a more profound artistic message. Shifts in approach to music and lyrics were also visible on the record covers.’

Zdebiak worked hard and with passion. His notebooks are filled with metaphorical descriptions of emotional states, complemented by witty drawings, accounts of his dreams full of vivid ideas, including those for a nail polish commercial or various video clips. His archive contains numerous sketches associated with different projects. The line between his personal artistic experiments and commissioned works seems to be blurred. In the 1980s he was interested in staged photography, self-portrait, happening, and performance. He experimented extensively with photosensitive materials, liked to color his prints and made dozens of photocopies of his works with Xerox to test the then-new technology in Poland.

He was also a talented portraitist. It is sufficient to look at the covers of records like ‘Świnie’, ‘I Ching’ or ‘Ratujmy, co się da!!’ to notice his artistic fascinations. One of the hundreds of self-portraits he produced in the 1970s and the 1980s made it onto the cover of ‘Świnie’. ‘Ratujmy, co się da!!’ constitutes a record from a thoroughly planned and multi-stage artistic action organized and carried out in Mięćmierz. At the time, the landscapes of Mięćmierz located on the Vistula often served as a set for his performances as well as a model of his staged photographs. On the other hand, the effects of portrait photoshoots taken in the homemade studio arranged in Zdebiak’s living room ended up on the record covers of Republika. There, artists and friends would often pose on the white background made of a bedsheet stretched between a stove and a ladder. And that was exactly where Zdebiak created one of his most poignant projects which later complemented the record ‘Czas czekania, czas olśnienia’ [‘Time of Awaiting, Time of Enlightenment’] by Budka Suflera.

Every single record cover presented in the exhibition is the result of the artist’s different interests and various creative processes. Also, the forms of his collaboration with musicians vary. Each of them, however, reflects a dialog that photography enters into not only with the title of a particular record and its musical content but also with Antoni Zdebiak’s other artistic activities. 

Exhibition opening: March 24, 2022, 7 p.m.
The exhibition will run from March 26, 2022 to April 30, 2022

Curator-guided tour: April 12, 2022

Archeology of Photography Foundation / Social Center for Photography
20 Chłodna St., Warsaw
Opening hours: Tue.: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.;  Wed., Thu., Sat., Sun.: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Curator: Marta Szymańska
Collaboration: zespół FAF (Jan Anderman, Anna Hornik, Kamila Kobus, Ewa Jadacka, Marta Przybyło, Kate Smuraga)
Text editing and proofreading: Maria Sokołowska
English translation: Aleksandra Szymczyk
Ukranian translation: Dmytro Dmytruk
PR: Maja Sztenke (Steinke Comunnications)
Exhibition installation: Mateusz Wierzbicki (Willow Service)
Conseravtion and maintanance: Michał Kożurno
Pre-press: Karol Bagiński / FOTO-GRAFIKA


The project co-financed by the City of Warsaw.

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