September 30 – December 4, 2016
BWA Sokół, Nowy Sącz

Julie Chovin, "Fences", 2013

Intermarium is a project on fantasies and images used by Central European countries to define their position towards Western Europe and other countries of the region. Łukasz Białkowski and Piotr Sikora 10—12 11 The project took as its starting point Ziemowit Szczerek’s Rzeczpospolita Zwycięska. Alternatywna historia Polski [The Victorious Republic. Alternative History of Poland], a book that tells a different story of the Second World War. Szczerek based his narrative on authentic plans for the development of Poland, drafted in the interwar period by politicians, urban planners, and economists. Referencing the economic situation and geopolitical conditions of the period, Szczerek constructs a vision of Poland that joins forces with the Allies in 1939 and wins the September Campaign. Subsequently, Poland becomes a leader in the region. It joins with Slovakia into one state, and then constructs a confederacy together with the Czech Republic and Hungary, Lithuania, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Thus, Poland creates a political entity that sentimentally re-enacts the Golden Age of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the Intermarium, a country that stretches “in-between two seas”.
This federation of countries, with Poland as its leader, functions for some dozen years and then spectacularly collapses. The imperial dream turns out to be a mere illusion, proves Szczerek in his brilliant novel. The idea of the coalition, confronted with “general impossibility”, proves too weak to unite a number of countries of this part of Europe. This “impossibility”, as well as the reasons for the decline of the political fantasy of the Intermarium, provoked us to create an exhibition about the potential of our region described with tongue in cheek.
The project attempted to sketch the specificity of each of the countries in the region through the prism of their self-image, their role and position towards other European states, as well as their aspirations, contradictions, and common interests. We also traced the changes of perception of the Central-Eastern European community across several generations of artists.
The timeframe for reflection on artistic identity of the countries of Central Europe was set by research conducted, among others, by Piotr Piotrowski and Zdenka Badovinac. The problem of Westernisation and reference to Western standards was widely discussed by art critics and explored by artist active on the art scene of the region in the 1990s.
In the hands of artists of the region, art often becomes a tool for research on issues related to history and national identity. Our exhibitions presented examples of aesthetics verging on art and propaganda, typical for totalitarian systems. Radicalism of artistic groups taking part in the exhibition stemmed from the need to move outside the still ardent conflict between the East and the West. The awareness of the clinch of Central Europe returns as a desire to rework totalitarian symbols, national authorities, dreams of power, and history seen as a sphere of manipulation of the present and construction of visions for the future.
Has the issue of regional identity fallen into oblivion together with both fading and unwanted memories of the common coexistence under en eye of Big Brother? Employing the figure of Intermarium, a phantasmatic empire in-between two seas, we spun visions of the lost or perhaps never-existing community whose nature is aptly expressed by the work made by IRWIN group:Now is the time for a new state. Some say that this is where you will find happiness.
Throughout the year 2016, we organized four exhibitions – in Prague, Budapest, Žilina, and Nowy Sącz. Even though all exhibitions stemmed from the same idea, they varied. Basing on local contexts and specificities of both particular countries as well as venues, for each, we chose different artists and different works.

Łukasz Białkowski, Piotr Sikora

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