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Foksal Gallery and the Notion of Archive: Between Inventory and Place

On 21 January 1967, Tadeusz Kantor sent an extraordinary message to Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, the full meaning of which has perhaps not yet been deciphered. Nevertheless, since the day of its transmission it has exerted a continuing influence on the artistic experiments that have taken place at Foksal Gallery and the direction of the theoretical discussions that developed within its milieu…


On 21 January 1967, Tadeusz Kantor sent an extraordinary message to Foksal Gallery in Warsaw, the full meaning of which has perhaps not yet been deciphered. Nevertheless, since the day of its transmission it has exerted a continuing influence on the artistic experiments that have taken place at Foksal Gallery and the direction of the theoretical discussions that developed within its milieu. The gigantic letter, measuring 2 by 14 metres, was carried by eight postmen through the streets of Warsaw. Accompanied by photographers, the men departed from the post-office building and arrived in the small gallery space, where the letter was received by a expecting crowd. Pre-recorded audio reports describing the letter’s progress were played out loud at the gallery during the event, in order to increase the emotional temperature of the public. Tadeusz Kantor, the ‘Man in the Black Jacket’, orchestrated the components of the happening, steering cautiously towards its prescribed conclusion – the collective destruction of the letter.

Described in an extant script as its ‘formal catharsis’, the final chapter of the happening proposed a new concept of art object.01 The idea challenged and progressively undermined the theoretical premises that grounded the new model of art presentation promoted by Foksal Gallery, which had opened just a few months before, in June 1966. Formulated by Mariusz Tchorek in a poetic mode in ‘Introduction in a General Theory of Place’, these initial premises posited the model of exhibition-as-work in response to the most recent developments in art, and served from that moment on as a reference point in Polish art criticism and exhibition practice.02

The aim of this text is to describe the dialectical tension between the principles of the theory of place and the ideas of Kantor, based on his practice of happenings. This mutual dependence evolved at the end of the 1960s in the form of a latent conflict inscribed in the gallery practices. Ultimately gaining ascendancy by the 1970s, Kantor’s ideas influenced the gallery’s decision to promote an analytic model of Conceptualism, thus endowing Tchorek’s theory of place with the status of unfinished project. My aim also is to reflect on the way in which both Kantor’s ideas and Tchorek’s principles of a theory of place influenced the artistic and curatorial practices that developed in the gallery milieu around the notion of archive.

The decisive turn in Kantor’s oeuvre, marked with his Letter happening, emerged as a consequence of his stay in New York in 1965. Confronted with the artistic phenomena he discovered there, ranging from Neo-Dada to Pop art and Minimalism, he developed an idea for exhibition display in the storage rooms of the US Postal Service: ‘Not only pictures were to become “exhibits”, but also “ready” objects usually found at a post office, like parcels, packages, a mass of packs and sacks.’ 03 In addition to attempting to take the work out of the art institution, the project’s aim was to demonstrate the condition of objects that ‘exist for some time / on their own, without an owner, / not belonging anywhere, / without a function, / almost in a void, / between a sender and an addressee […]. This is one of those rare moments when an object escapes its destination.’ 04Kantor hesitated to comment upon the project in terms of an exhibition, and instead wrote: ‘This was a situation […], like a negative of reality.’ 05

These ideas of the ‘object’s vanishing’ and of display as a negative imprint of reality seem to stand in contrast to the conception of ‘place’ announced by the founders of Foksal Gallery in 1966. Tchorek outlined the principles of such an idea of place in a text he wrote, in consultation with Wiesław Borowski and Anka Ptaszkowska, titled ‘Introduction to a General Theory of Place’, a theoretical statement that assumed the unpredictable character of the experience of place and its essential opaqueness, making it possible for the viewer to adopt an engaged attitude within its range. The notion of place as understood by Tchorek surpassed the limitations of art theory; it was philosophical in its character and embraced a vast array of referents. It described not only an event of art presentation but also a sacred space, or even signified an unexpected encounter between people. As Tchorek wrote: ‘The PLACE is not transparent. What it is, is the actual presence. There are no criteria of better or more valuable filling of the PLACE. It may even be empty but its emptiness must be conspicuously present.’ 06

The ‘Introduction’ emphasised the need to challenge the ossified institutional ways of presenting art that were prevalent at the time. It recognised conventional modes of art exhibition as parasitic to the advanced forms of Modernist art, painting in particular. According to the principles of the theory, the exhibition inscribes artworks – understood as places themselves – in the rigid order of display, neutralising their impact and submitting them to institutional demands. Spurious in its claim to transparency and neutrality, the exhibition acquires in this manner an autonomous status, and imposes on the viewers a contemplative mode of experience. The ‘Introduction’ argued that this model of art presentation has to be rejected and substituted by a more egalitarian and open structure based on the idea of participation: ‘It is only in the PLACE, and not outside of it, that “art is created by all”. The PLACE cannot be mechanically fixed up but it must be incessantly perpetuated.’ 07 Consequently, the ‘PLACE cannot be bought or collected. It cannot be arrested. It cannot be an object of expertise.’ 08

Kantor objected to the ‘Introduction’. The grounds for this objection, firstly, was that it took the form of a manifesto, and thereby assigned its signatories – Tchorek, Ptaszkowska and Borowski – more relevance than it did actual artistic practices. However, his argument contradicted the goal behind Foksal Gallery’s experiments in 1966 and 1967, which Ptaszkowska has described as creating a ‘platform of cooperation between artists and critics, bringing about benefits to both parties and being decisive for Foksal Gallery’s distinct profile’. 09

The location of Foksal Gallery’s financial and administrative offices within Pracownie Sztuk Plastycznych (Plastic Arts Studios) – a state-run organisation responsible for organising different kinds of public events, from May Day demonstrations to congresses by the governing Polish United Worker’s Party and visits by international politicians – offered the possibility of using the studios’ whole range of facilities and materials to produce experimental art. This paved the way for a new gallery model, one focused on revealing the intricacies of creative processes rather than presenting works of art in their final form. The introductory note inserted in the catalogue for the first exhibition at Foksal Gallery, which opened on 1 April 1966, stated that:

Two aspects will be emphasised in the exhibitions organised by the gallery. In the first place it will attempt not so much to show works as ‘finished’ products, but to reveal certain particular conditions and circumstances surrounding their creation. Secondly, the gallery proposes to treat these conditions and circumstances as organic elements in the display of artworks. What we vote for is disturbing the sanctioned division between two isolated domains of artistic activity: a studio, where a work is created, and an exhibition space, where it is displayed. 10

This concept of the exhibition as an organic unity, no longer of a secondary character in relation to the work of art and an ‘artistically active form’ in itself, provided a broad theoretical space for a number of projects presented at Foksal Gallery in those first two years. This concept was not implemented by means of artistic orthodoxy; on the contrary, it seems to have initiated a free play of artistic ideas that were reflective of different aspects of the idea of place and enriched it with unexpected connotations. It is worth emphasising the formal aspect of the notion of place: rather than prescribing the direction of art’s development, it reflected on the very conditions of possibility of an ‘artistic fact’ (a notion coined by Ptaszkowska in the ‘Introduction’).

Projects realised at Foksal Gallery during that period can be divided, roughly, into three categories. The first one would comprise exhibitions inferring the principle of spatial arrangement from the actual dimensions and proportions of the gallery space. This was the case of installations created by Henryk Stażewski and Zbigniew Gostomski, both in 1967. The second category would comprise shows which renounced a static spatial arrangement and opted instead for a certain degree of interaction with the work. These would include a series of five quasi-musical events realised in September 1966 by composer Zygmunt Krauze and three visual artists: Grzegorz Kowalski, Henryk Morel and Cezary Szubartowski. Finally, the third category reflected on the trans-individual character of perception, and included projects by Włodzimierz Borowski and Edward Krasiński. In his ‘Second Syncretic Show’, presented at Foksal Gallery in June 1966, Borowski prevented visitors from accessing the exhibition space, confronting them with spiky objects suspended from strings across the entrance. In addition, he blinded the visitors with a light flashing at regular intervals, and displayed a red-lit sign on the wall that read ‘Silence’. Hiding inside the exhibition space, Borowski observed the onlookers via rectangular mirrors suspended from the ceiling. Initiating a process of exchange of glances, he effectively exposed the relations of power inscribed in institutional strategies of art presentation. Krasiński’s exhibition, which opened in December 1966, included a number of fragmentary objects immersed in modulated light, creating effects of dramatic rupture. Despite this, the exhibition produced an effect of coherence due to a spectacular ‘serpent’ form – a swirling piece of thick cable running from the back wall of the gallery to the entrance of the adjacent room – hanging parallel to the floor, and pointing towards to the neighbouring office. This form was supplemented by the disrupted construction placed at the entrance of the exhibition space – a partly painted welded iron sculpture – and two others in the main exhibition space, in which the vertical arrangements of table-tennis balls produced an effect of animated movement. The complex structures of both Borowski’s and Krasiński’s installations involved a multiplicity of viewpoints, echoing Tchorek’s ideas about perception proposed in the theory of place. In another text, ‘The Disclosed Picture’, published in spring 1967, Tchorek related the experience of place to the viewer’s unexpected recognition of his or her own presence within a space of display. Referring to the artistic tradition of the mise en abyme (in this case the depiction of paintings within pictures), Tchorek suggested the need for adopting an alternative point of view – the one implied by the depicted painting – in order to renounce the imaginary bond between a viewer and the pictorial qualities of a work. ‘A painting within a “picture”,’ Tchorek wrote, ‘is a flash in which we may grasp the otherwise inaccessible way of our grasping of painting; its presence may scare us, it may be a warning, a frustration of our calmness, at last it can mean the loss of confidence in the legitimacy and competence of the faculty of sight concerning the art of painting.’ 11 In other words, in order to actively be in a place, one has to reflect on one’s own perception.


In 1972, Kantor criticised in retrospect the exhibitions that took place at Foksal Gallery in 1966 and 1967 as ‘camouflaged Constructivist shows’ that followed the conventions of ‘artistic shaping’ still rooted, according to his view, in the Modernist legacy of Constructivism.12 In contrast, he emphasised the anti-Contructivist character of his own work, its ‘tendency towards dematerialisation’ and its ‘strong connections with Marcel Duchamp’.13 He seems to have understood the concept of place developed within the Foksal Gallery milieu as an artistic programme in a strict sense, which he then confronted with the idea of an ‘active environment’ coherent with his own artistic practice. Kantor disregarded the formal nature of the theory of place and its lack of instruction, which could influence particular artistic decisions; what it suggested was simply an attitude to be adopted by artists. 14

There are, however, more fundamental reasons for Kantor’s disagreement with the theory of place. He associated his own project of critically reassessing the exhibition-as-work with processes of degradation he had employed in his work since the early 1960s. His ‘Popular Exhibition’ at Krzysztofory Gallery in Krakow in 1963 seems to have played a crucial role in this project, as it was then that Kantor decided to submit his own artistic output to a process of degradation. The show included 937 elements that did not claim the status of artworks in the traditional sense of the term. Among these were various ‘marginal’ manifestations of artistic activity, such as drawings, designs and theatre costumes, as well as objects related to the artist’s everyday activities – notebooks, calendars or newspapers – arranged in an alternative manner to conventional art displays: drawings were hung from clotheslines and objects were arranged in the space without any apparent plan, producing a general effect of overload.

By assigning fragments of his own life and work the status of a readymade, Kantor aimed to shift artistic practices to the ‘field of imagination’, and the content of the exhibition ‘presented itself not as material for constructing’ – in a reference to Constructivism – ‘…but as a room into which objects from my own past were falling, in the form of wrecks and dummies … strange, banal, schematic, accidental, mixed up with important ones, valuable and trivial facts, letters, recipes, addresses, traces, dates, meetings. It was an inventory deprived of chronology, hierarchy and localisation.’ 15

Kantor’s interest in processes of degradation that reveal a negative side of objects – what could be called his version of the dematerialisation of the art object – coincided with Wiesław Borowski’s conception of the nature of art’s transformations throughout the twentieth century, which he described in terms of progressive ‘elimination of art from art’. Published in 1967 under the same title in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, Borowski’s text diagnosed an effective neutralisation of Modernism’s impact and of its conventions for making and looking at art. ‘A sort of deserted area, a void is produced,’ he wrote. ‘It is not a negative void, but one most real and meaningful. Elimination and negation in art is by no means an artistic tendency: otherwise it would have reached its aim long ago. It is an opening of artistic possibilities not accessible by a simple offering of all potentialities existing within the art industry.’ 16

Kantor strongly emphasised the dependence of his practice on the form of the happening. The idea of elimination and negation in art proposed by Borowski seems to have coincided with premises which stood behind not only the Letter happening, but also the Panoramic Sea Happening that took place on 23 August 1967, under the auspices of Foksal Gallery. In this event the boundaries of location suddenly expanded to include the beach and sea at Osieki, Poland. During the happening, different activities took place such as conducting waves, ‘spreading the stickiness’ of sand mixed with tomato sauce using female bodies, ‘planting’ rolled-up newspapers in the sand, staging a tableau vivant of Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa(1818-19) and, lastly, sinking a box containing the Foksal Gallery archive into the sea.

The change of parameters proposed by the Panoramic Sea Happening questioned the static and self-contained environment typical of contemporary art. It forced the work of art into confrontation with a boundless, unrepresentable or ‘impossible’ domain, giving it the status of something ‘FORMLESS, / DEVOID OF AESTHETIC VALUES, / DEVOID OF ENGAGING VALUES, / PERCEPTION-LESS, / IMPOSSIBLE, / i.e. POSSIBLE ONLY THROUGH CREATIVITY’. 17


Reflected in the compartmentalised structure of Kantor’s happenings is the idea of work as inventory. The very act of sinking the gallery documentation, illustrative of Kantor’s method of ’embalming’ objects – hiding or ‘wrapping’ them and producing their negative imprints – signalled a shift, within the Foksal Gallery milieu, to artistic and curatorial practices focused on the notion of archive. This is not just the case of projects investigating the ‘perception-less’ condition associated with the idea of archive, but also of several exhibitions which subscribed to the idea of work as social event. These projects involved a multiplicity of viewpoints and initiated an interplay of glances, which reflected the initial principles of theory of place.

As early as 1968, by including photographs of earlier works in his spatial constructions, Edward Krasiński gave his works the status of photographic documentation, inscribing them into the repetitive structure of consecutive recordings, and subjecting them to an impersonal process of documentation and archiving. In the series Interventions, which he began in the beginning of the 1970s, this is applied to the whole exhibition space, as the horizontal line created by Krasiński’s blue strip turns the gallery space into the subject of a photographic representation. In a way, these later installations have also been ‘pre-assigned’ an archival status.

In his second solo exhibition at Foksal Gallery, which opened on 8 March 1968, Krasiński presented a number of spatial constructions addressing the ‘geometrical’ question of the relationship between the volume of space contained within a cylindrical section of a pipe and the length of a continuous line of wire coming out of its interior. 18 The exhibition consisted of a number of cylinders of diverse diameters with flexible wires that, like insects’ antennae, seemed to inspect the space. Krasiński displayed the works on large pedestals. Following the labyrinthine pattern of pedestals arranged on the gallery floor, the viewer was expected to trace the course of the wires running along their surfaces, providing Tchorek with another occasion to develop the principles of the theory of place. Tchorek emphasised the works’ unusual scale, through which the institutional conventions of display were exposed. According to Tchorek, Krasiński’s linear constructions from the second half of the 1960s reflected on the nature of perception; they did not impose strong ‘visual constraints’ on the viewer, and this way questioned their own visual status. They instead worked as models of perception, the wire serving as an equivalent of the viewers’ intentions, and the pedestals as an object of perception that ‘resists’ that intention. 19

Accidentally or not, Tchorek’s allusion to institutional constraints emerged in the context of the 1968 political events in Poland, and it may have marked an impulse to undermine the coherence of the image of reality promoted by 1960s political propaganda. Grzegorz Kowalski, in an installation entitled Pocket (which was conceived in the aftermath of the March ’68 student riots in Warsaw and opened at Foksal Gallery on 1 June 1968), linked the transindividual aspect of experience of place, as staged earlier by Włodzimierz Borowski with the notion of archive. He stressed the distinction between a passive observer and an active participant, suggesting at the same time – in contradistinction to Borowski – an exchange of roles between the two. A semi-transparent screen dissected the gallery space in the spheres of ‘action’ and ‘observation’ with ‘well-known images’ (as the note in the exhibition catalogue says) of historical events and persons projected onto its surface from one end of the room, and silhouettes of entering visitors projected onto it by flashes of spotlight from the other.

The choice of projected images in Kowalski’s work was determined by the thematic criterion of collision between human individuals and twentieth-century political systems, including representations of total submission and destructive social energy. A veiled political comment, Kowalski’s Pocket reflected on the dialectic nature of historical processes and the impossibility of escaping them.


Some members of the Foksal group saw Kantor’s happenings and the March 1968 events as a challenge to the principles of the theory of place, and began to reformulate them. Coupled with Borowski’s ‘elimination of art from art’, Kantor’s idea of a work escaping space and time determinations prompted a new attitude of gallery self-criticism, explicit in a programmatic text from December 1968 titled ‘What don’t we like about the Foksal PSP Gallery?’. Insofar as the ‘Introduction to a General Theory of Place’ called into question the traditional notion of the art exhibition, the new declaration, signed simply ‘Foksal PSP’, questioned the traditional model of the gallery – its rules for organising exhibitions, its attachment to a particular place and its techniques of promotion and criticism. The text referred to artistic manifestations linked to the notion of activity, happening within the ‘NOW’ and ‘EVERYWHERE’. The exclamation ‘Let’s look for undefined places!’ 20 broke with the notion of artwork as an environment, and gave it a much more dynamic and active nature. The question is whether these formulations marked an expansion or a narrowing down of the initial meaning of the notion of place. Significantly, Assemblage d’hiver, the project organised by Foksal Gallery to accompany the declaration on 18 January 1969, took the shape of a happening of indefinite duration. As a matter of fact, it continued, with breaks, until the end of April that same year. In her description of the project, Anka Ptaszkowska associated it with a Situationist idea of intervening in the homogeneous space of spectacle: ‘Assemblage d’hiver was initiated in January 1969. Each artist conducts an independent action within its structure. He or she undertakes it in an arbitrary moment in time, or abandons it, acting alone or in public. Assemblage d’hiver is not subject to any time coordinates, as this would link the happening with a spectacle; it is a permanent and secular action. Assemblage d’hiver is not limited to a particular place. It takes place within the gallery space and outside of it. It may expand into the streets, take possession of the façade, become suspended in the air, etc.’21 Inspired by Kantor, the project embraced such actions as Zbigniew Gostomski’s covering of the gallery windows with packing paper, Maria Stangret’s painting of the gallery thresholds and the trees outside of it, Jerzy Bereś’s guarding the ‘Easter eggs’ (field stones), or Krasiński’s unrolling a coil of ‘endless’ blue cable along the streets of Warsaw.

Kantor’s contribution to Assemblage d’hiver included an action that focused on the idea of work in a state of suspension between the sender and the reciever, already suggested in his Letter. On the first day of the project, he performed the action The Typing Machine with Sail and Steer. Surrounded by the public, he typed his ideas about the nature of art onto sheets of paper, which he then rolled up and locked in a cylindrical container which he suspended on chains. During the action he inscribed a definitive statement on the gallery wall: ‘The end of so-called participation’. The history seemed to have completed a full circle at that point. With his announcement, Kantor questioned Tchorek’s notion of place and, what is more, he seemed to force a theoretical split in the Foksal Gallery milieu by making it choose between a disengaged model of art as an isolated message and a formal idea of place as active participation. The nature of the problem consisted in his reception of an idea of place as an artistic concept.


It is difficult to weigh the effects that Tadeusz Kantor’s interventions had on Foksal Gallery. One thing is certain: his ideas and artistic proposals contributed greatly to the new direction in the gallery’s activities, which around the year 1970 turned towards Conceptual art, exemplified in the ideas developed at that time by Zbigniew Gostomski. On the occasion of the Artists’ and Scientists’ Symposium in Wrocław in 1970, Gostomski proposed the Fragment of the System – also known as It Begins in Wrocław – a key work of Polish Conceptualism. It consisted of a fragment of the city map – with the symbolic scheme of cartography imposed on it – and a verbal statement locating in the city of Wrocław three types of constructions identified with the symbols ‘O’, ‘/’ and ‘Ø’. The work does not define the form of the constructions, but points out where they are situated. The system itself is the basic idea of the project, and is limited only by the starting point: ‘It begins in Wrocław. It could start anywhere. / It begins in a definite area, / but it need not end there. / It is potentially endless.’ 22 In this way, Gostomski proposed a model of a work as an ‘absolute environment’.

Wiesław Borowski associated both Gostomski’s and Kantor’s practices with an ‘a-pictorial strand at the Foksal PSP Gallery’. In Borowski’s article of that title from 1971, he discussed a new idea of abstraction in art characterised not as a ‘visual (sensual) qualification of a work’, but as its ‘capability to embrace the whole of the creative process, as a capability of thought and an attribute of consciousness’. 23 Adhering to a disinterested model of art, promoted by Kantor in his ‘1970 Manifesto’, Borowski neutralised the role of perception, and privileged the artwork’s function instead. ‘These works are not addressed to any viewer,’ he wrote. ‘They assert a constant presence of illegitimate and disinterested actions, not demanding the necessity of justification, at present or in the future, without an indispensable need for preserving them with help of any means. These actions are immediate, one-off, neither tied to a place or material, nor to time.’ 24 In short, the works under discussion became, in a way, placeless.

The idea of ‘placelessness’ of work was positively sanctioned in two texts published by the Foksal Gallery in August 1971. Authored by Wiesław Borowski and the young art critic Andrzej Turowski, these statements formulated a utopian postulate of preserving a work endowed with the status of an ‘isolated message’ in a virtual state, not intoxicated by operations of delivery and reception. Employing a metaphor taken from Kantor, they referred to a work functioning in a ‘negative’ form beyond the realms of expression and perception. The first text, titled ‘Documentation’, quoted a passage from the script of the Panoramic Sea Happening, which described the drowning of the Foksal Gallery documentation, and was accompanied by a photograph illustrating the event. It critically assessed institutionalised conventions of preserving various forms of art documentation, which turns it into a fetishised art form. As the declaration reads: ‘Without our notice, the DOCUMENTATION became identical to the museum and collection, assuming their forms and manners.’ 25 The second text, titled ‘The Living Archives’, proposed a programme of reformulation of the gallery principles which would make it possible to recognise a work ‘as neutrally present’, disentangled from everyday life conditions of creation and interpretation. 26 It proposed the idea of a work as a trace of a living thought recognised in its past condition: ‘The LIVING ARCHIVES marks the past condition of thought vis-à-vis its presentation.’ 27 ‘The Living Archives’ implied yet another modification of the gallery model. Various documents sent by a number of artists at Borowski and Turowski’s request were presented twice – in September 1971 and from June to September 1972 – in the gallery’s exhibition space, arranged in the form of a reading room. The first display was accompanied by a statement inscribed on the gallery wall denying its status as an ‘art show’, and associating it instead with a new kind of institution – one responsive to the nature of new artistic facts. The display was also characterised in terms of its intervention ‘in the mechanism of the institution’s functioning’ and as a ‘break in presenting artistic activities’.

When asked in 1998 whether the notion of work as an ‘isolated message’ coincided with his understanding of Conceptual art, Andrzej Turowski emphasised the general character of this idea, reflective of a range of new attitudes manifest in exhibitions or events such as ‘January 1-31, 1969’, ‘Op Losse Schroeven’, Prospekt 69 and ‘When Attitudes Become Form’. 28 His idea of Conceptual art was altogether different from the one anticipated and tested by Kantor and Borowski. In his text ‘Remarks on the Definition of Art’, published in the Foksal Gallery bulletinOne in April 1972, he linked Conceptual art proper to a tautological activity, one located on the meta-level of reflection rather than on a nominative level. The latter he identified with acts of identification of an object as art, exemplified by Kantor’s Conceptual Emballages (1970). ‘Conceptual art’, he wrote, ‘must refer to a concept which is contained in or entailed by a concept, i.e. it must be meta-art with respect to art defined in terms of concepts.’ 29 In other words, he subscribed to an analytical model of Conceptual art, which aligned the artwork with a theoretical statement. Turowski’s ideas emerged, however, apart from the predominant practices in Poland at the time. Even if it were possible to distinguish theoretical elements in the work of artists cooperating with the gallery, such as Zbigniew Gostomski, Stanisław Dróżdż, Jarosław Kozłowski and Krzysztof Wodiczko, the analytical model of Conceptual art is not a distinct phenomenon in the Polish context. It reflects the ‘global’ dimension of Conceptual art, rather than the specific form of ideologically neutral (dystopian) and iconoclastic reductionism prevalent amongst local practices. What hopefully has become clear by now is that it did not cohere with the initial notion of place. Had this notion been sufficiently developed, it could have linked the development of Polish Conceptualism with a theorisation of the nature of perception. In the face of increasing political restrictions at the end of the 1960s, the social dimension of theory of place was silenced, but today remains a possibility.

– Pawel Polit


  • Tadeusz Kantor, ‘List. Partytura’, Metamorfozy. Teksty o latach 1938-1974, Krakow: Cricoteka, 2000, p.389. All Polish citations are translated by the author.
  • Mariusz Tchorek publicly presented the ‘Introduction’ in August 1966 on the occasion of the Artists’ and Scientists’ Symposium in Puławy.
  • T. Kantor, ‘Idea wystawy na poczcie’, Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.342.
  • T. Kantor, ‘Poczta’, Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.343.
  • T. Kantor, ‘Uwagi Tadeusza Kantora dotyczące Galerii Foksal, adresowane do Wiesława Borowskiego i Andrzeja Turowskiego niedatowane – prawdopodobnie lato 1972 r.’, in Małgorzata Jurkiewicz, Joanna Mytkowska and Andrzej Przywara (eds.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal SBWA, 1998, p.410.
  • Mariusz Tchorek et al., ‘An Introduction to the General Theory of Place’, in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1967, n.p.
  • Ibid.
  • Ibid.
  • Anka Ptaszkowska, ‘List Anki Ptaszkowskiej do Grupy Foksal (na ręce W. Borowskiego) Warszawa, 17.09.1970’, in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, op. cit., p.400.
  • Statement published in Zbigniew Gostomski, Edward Krasiński, Roman Owidzki, Henryk Stażewski, Jan Ziemski (exh. cat.), Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1966, n.p.
  • M. Tchorek, ‘The Disclosed Picture (1)’, in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, op. cit.
  • T. Kantor, ‘Uwagi Tadeusza Kantora dotyczące Galerii Foksal, adresowane do Wiesława Borowskiego i Andrzeja Turowskiego niedatowane – prawdopodobnie lato 1972 r.’, in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, op. cit., p.408.
  • Ibid.
  • As the ‘Introduction’ reads: ‘The PLACE is neither a construction nor a destruction. It comes into being as a result of a careless decision. The PLACE has no sufficient reason in the world. It is in the artist that this reason subsists. It is he that calls forth the PLACE.’ M. Tchorek et al., ‘An Introduction to the General Theory of Place’, op. cit.
  • T. Kantor, ‘Okolice zera’, Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.246.
  • Wiesław Borowski, ‘Elimination of Art from Art’, in Program Galerii Foksal PSP, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1967.
  • T. Kantor, ‘Manifest 1970. Cena istnienia’, Metamorfozy, op. cit., p.493.
  • The opening coincided with the suppression of student demonstrations by the security forces and what the official propaganda called the ‘labour activists’ – groups of Warsaw’s factory workers – in the area of the University of Warsaw and the Academy of Fine Arts at Krakowskie Przedmieście Street. This was the moment when the art world was taken by surprise: the pristine whiteness of the display and the fragile character of Krasiński’s works contrasted with the violent character of the events occurring only several hundred metres away.
  • See M. Tchorek, Edward Krasiński (exh. cat.), Warsaw: Galeria Foksal PSP, 1968.
  • Foksal PSP Gallery, ‘Co nam się nie podoba w Galerii Foksal PSP?’, in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor z Archiwum Galerii Foksal, Warsaw: Galeria Foksal SBWA, 1998, p.422.
  • A. Ptaszkowska, ‘Happening w Polsce(3)’, Współczesność, no.11, 1969, p.8.
  • Zbigniew Gostomski, ‘Fragment of the System. It begins in Wrocław’, in Paweł Polit and Piotr Wozniakiewicz (ed.), Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art: Experiences of Discourse 1965-1975, Warsaw: Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, 2000, p.83.
  • Wiesław Borowski, ‘Nurt apikturalny w Galerii Foksal PSP’, Poezja, no.5, 1971, p.104.
  • Ibid.
  • W. Borowski and Andrzej Turowski, ‘Dokumentacja’, in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor, op. cit., p.424.
  • Wiesław Borowski and Andrzej Turowski, ‘Żywe archiwum’, in M. Jurkiewicz, J. Mytkowska and A. Przywara (ed.), Tadeusz Kantor, op. cit., p.425.
  • Ibid.
  • See P. Polit, ‘On Conceptual Art. Interview with Andrzej Turowski’, in P. Polit and P. Wozniakiewicz (ed.), Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art, op. cit, pp.211-13.
  • Andrzej Turowski, ‘Remarks on the Definition of Art’, in P. Political and P. Wozniakiewicz (ed.), Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art, op. cit., p.244.