Montages. Debora Vogel and the New Legend of the City



ms2, Ogrodowa 19


27.10.2017 - 04.02.2018


Andrij Bojarov, Paweł Polit, Karolina Szymaniak

27.10.2017 - 04.02.2018

The idea behind the exhibition is threefold, combining in itself three concepts, or dimensions, intertwining and contrasting with each other. The first is montage, widely understood as one of the most important avant-garde practices - the practice of combining, compiling and contrasting, which encompasses a variety of projects,  such as cubist collages, constructivist installations, surrealist works and photographic or film experiments.

This project is embedded in the context of Debora Vogel‘s (1900-1942) aesthetic concepts and our fascination with her work.  Today Vogel  is being  rediscovered as an avant-garde writer, critic and theorist of art; and  so are her links with the avant-garde practices of the interwar  period, primarily in Poland - with the works of the Lviv group "artes" , Krakowska Group, and individual artists, among them  Leon Chwistek and Władysław Strzemiński. Befriended by Bruno Schulz and Witkacy, Debora Vogel was not only an indefatigable promoter of new concepts of art, an artist who appreciated the theory of montage and photomontage, but also an author of revolutionary attempts to translate the visual experience of avant-garde practice into literary language of Polish and  Yiddish.

The third dimension is a modern city, its heterogeneous spaces and its iconosphere - understood as a source and experience generating modernist reflection on the act of perception and the associated practice of montage. It is also a stage where various spectacles are played, with the tensions and conflicts of modernity, traced, pulled and pointed out by Vogel and other representatives of modernism from her circle of artist-friends.

Paradoxically, Lviv, where Vogel lived, though situated peripherally, is the centre of the exhibition and in a way a centre of her own ‘private geography’. It was where she created the most important works, it was where she exercised  the ‘matronage’ over  artes, the club which was a cradle of one of the most original phenomena in Lviv – photocollage  and photomontage. I t was also where she would embark on a journey to the ‘metropolis of modernity’ from.  Finally, it was where she was murdered during the liquidation of the Lviv ghetto in August 1942.

Lviv at the exhibition is a place that generates images processed in Vogel’s and the “artes’s” practices, as well as a place of implementing and performing aesthetic theories. It becomes a kind of third space, where main categories of art and philosophy are subjected to critical dismantling and re-mounting, where identities, and transgressed dichotomies - aesthetic, ethnic, and of gender are negotiated. A place where an image, clichés, patterns of behaviour and perception collide, and from this collision the possibility of their reconfiguration emerges. So is Vogel’s art and thought, which are moving in a liminal space, between different languages, cultures, groups and places.

But Vogel's interest led her far beyond Galicia. Although for the writer New York was ‘the essence of all cities’, it was undoubtedly Paris which was the main focus of this map of real and intellectual travels. The inspiration came from the shop windows and mannequins by Pierre Imans, which strongly captured the imagination of Vogel and the Lviv painters, to Fernand Léger and his Académie Moderne, to which a large group of Lviv artists went to study in the mid and late 1920s.  It was the “artes” group who in the early 1930s transferred to the Lviv region a visual range of Parisian artistic ideas from the absorbing local motives of primitivism to cubist colorism and the original version of surrealism. One of the members of the group, Henryk Streng (Marek Włodarski), was an illustrator of Debora Vogel's texts (Tog-figurn, 1930, Acacias Blien, 1935, Acacias in Bloom, 1936). Other important cities in the biography of the author are Berlin and Stockholm, where her family lived. Łódź for her was the city of Constructivism and Strzeminski. New York – a place of Yiddish experimenters and their magazine "Inzich"

The layout and form of the exhibition will correspond to the most important themes of Debora Vogel’s artistic creativity and theoretical ideas, but most of all, to the principle on which the installation technique is based - both in its literary and visual meaning. Another point of reference will be the concept of ‘continuous transformation of forms’ in art and in life events. In this way the layout of the exhibition will combine the synchronic and diachronic aspects of Vogel's intellectual biography - reflecting the problematic structure of her aesthetic reflection, and also showing the stages of her philosophy in direct connection with the project’s foundations and the practices of the artists of that time. The layout of the exhibition is planned as a combination of places, scenes and cities with which Deborah Vogel's life and her creative development were connected. It will offer the experience of moving in an urban space, while proving the validity of the dimension of Vogel's theoretical reflection.

The exhibition will show the spectrum of artistic phenomena from the mid and late 1920s and 1930s, from the examples of abstract art inspired by the Légerian version of constructivism, through the aesthetics of street surrealism, to the painter's experiments that led to social realism. These works will be compiled with documentary photographs and artefacts - representations (and traces) of the world of Lviv commercialisation and the emerging consumerism of that time. The visual aspect completes the sound in an attempt to reconstruct the avant-garde phonosphere. The exhibition will include the recordings of the outstanding Lviv composer Joseph Koffler, an early dodecaphonist from the Lviv Music Academy. The atonal music will be represented by Leopold Lewicki's "Musical Composition". These experiments, in turn, will be contrasted with the fragments of the then contemporary popular music, street music and jazz, which fascinated the artists presented at the exhibition and permeated their works. The whole idea is intended to create the effect of multifold montage composed of maps, places, various types of aesthetics, images and sounds.

Artists: Alfred Aberdam, Sasza Blonder, Janusz Maria Brzeski, Leon Chwistek, Eugène Deslaw, Otto Hahn, Jerzy Janisch, Maria Jarema, Katarzyna Kobro, William Klein, Józef Koffler, Aleksander Krzywobłocki, Fernand Léger, Leopold Lewicki, Ludwik Lille, Stanisław Osostowicz, Andrzej Pronaszko, Margit Reich-Sielska, Aleksander Riemer, Walter Ruttmann, Roman Sielski, Henryk Streng [Marek Włodarski], Władysław Strzemiński, Stanisław Teisseyre, Ludwik Tyrowicz, Eugeniusz Waniek, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Mieczysław A. Wysocki

Coordinator: Martyna Dec

Architecture: Piotr Bujas, Małgorzata Burkot (BADR - Bureau of Architecture, Design- Research)

Exhibition organised as part of the celebrations of 100th Anniversary of Polish Avantgarde

The Honorary Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda

and the auspices of:


The exhibition is one among events commemorating the 100 years of regaining independence

Media patron

The main partner of the year of avantgarde at Muzeum Sztuki

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