Historical Connections

Historical Connections

This year marks the centenary of Polish independence, and ongoing celebrations include Calvert 22 Foundation’s, London, critical exploration of domesticity since the end of the Communist period. Turning the lens away from high politics and towards the home, Family Values features the work of six photographers and cinematographers, each of whom offers unique insights into the private sphere.

The exhibition largely focuses on the prolific output of Zofia Rydet (1911-1997) who, at the age of 67, set herself an extraordinary goal. In what became known as the Sociological Record, she attempted to produce a portrait of every single person in Poland. By the time of her death, she had photographed 20,000 people. Selections of this valuable historical record are on show here, including pieces from the People in Interiors category, which often features multiple generations, as well as providing a fascinating glance into personal spaces. This is the first time her work has been seen in the UK.

Other artists featured take a somewhat darker approach. At first glance, everything seems to be normal in Weronika Gęsicka’s sunny snapshots. We quickly realise, however, that she has manipulated mid-century American stock photographs, exposing the absurdity of idyllic portrayals of everyday life. Body parts are replaced with wooden structures (Untitled #14), whilst a woman sits isolated at a perfectly laid dinner table, with male figures eating half-obscured behind a curtain (Untitled #18). Aneta Bartos, meanwhile, poses provocatively in hazy, romantic settings — albeit next to her undressed, body-building father. Disrupting a normal familial narrative, these images are quietly subversive.

More broadly, the organisation aims to open up dialogues between Britain and what they term the New East: Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia and Central Asia. A concurrent programme of events runs throughout the summer and focuses on establishing conversation and discovery, in collaboration with University College London and others. Exploring issues such as the Polish diaspora, these discussions are more crucial than ever in light of Brexit.

Family Values opens 25 May at Calvert 22, London. Find out more here.

Anna Feintuck

1. Weronika Gęsicka, from the series Traces.