On the mor­ning of 1 January 2000, Krzysz­tof Zieliński headed out with a camera to the market square in his hometown of Wąbrzeźno. There, in the grey winter light of the New Year, he created the first pic­tures of what, after three more years of work, would form one of the most intriguing photographic and artistic projects car­ried out in Poland since 1989.


There is little art giving such a deep and timeless expres­sion to social reality. Wąbrzeźno, an ordinary little town star­ting with W, down near the end of the alphabet, in a lan­guage where “w” could stand for wszędzie—anywhere, por­trayed by the photographer after a decade of sys­temic chan­ges up to the eve of Poland’s joining the European Union, became a visual synonym for the creeping transformation.


Wor­king on colour negatives and alluding to the minimalist poetics of topographic photography, Zieliński created an image of the post-​socialist coun­tryside that is the first of its kind, moving and empathetic, con­struc­ted from mist and a thousand and one shades of grey. The region’s sys­temic trans­for­mation, viewed from this per­spec­tive, appears as little more than a fresh coat of paint on the walls of the old stone houses and few new com­mer­cial signs clashing with the sur­roun­dings. The image of economic relations is shops with used clothing and a plastic shop­ping bag from the German discount grocery chain Aldi hauled by a woman in a pink beret. The space yaw­ning between the houses and blocks of flats leads nowhere.


Twenty years after taking the first photos and 16 years after presen­ting Hometown at Warsaw’s Zachęta National Gal­lery of Art, we are again exhibiting an exten­sive selec­tion from Krzysz­tof Zieliński’s series, with a sense of the recur­ring and distur­bing political cur­rency of these images. What 15 years ago seemed a phan­tom of the past, a relic of hard times, today appears to be a fixed element of our iden­tity and a grey trace of unproces­sed history.


Krzysz­tof Zieliński (born 1974) studied photography at FAMU in Prague (obtaining a diploma with distinc­tion in 2001). Since then he has com­pleted ten photographic series and taken part in numerous exhibitions at home and abroad, inc­luding the Bienal de São Paulo and the Prague Bien­nale. Zieliński has had individual shows at such venues at Zachęta in Warsaw (2004) and the Centre of Con­tem­porary Art in Toruń (2009). 2009–2010 he was a visiting profes­sor at FAMU.


Krzysztof Zieliński

Opening 7 March 2020,

12:00 noon – 6:00 pm