ART AND TECHNOLOGY IN POLAND: from the Art Nouveau era to technology culture

The relationship between art, science and technology in Poland has its own long and complex tradition, rooted in the experiments of the first wave of the avant-garde.

The interest of artists in technology has always been an important part of the development of art. However, creative practices, which became the main starting point for technological art, developed in the USA and Europe only in the 60s of the twentieth century. Poland was no exception: here new initiatives began to arise at the same time, during the thaw, when the climate for experiments at the intersection of art, design and technological achievements was more favorable. This was the time of the creation of the works of the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio and the appearance of artistic practices concentrated around the workshops of Mieczysław Porebski on the relations of art, science and technology (including Ryszard Vinyarski, Felix Falk and Grzegorz Kowalski participated in the workshops)

Art and technology were combined in some of their joint works by members of the Kinoforma Workshop group; this aspect was also present in the individual work of prominent Polish artists such as Krzysztof Wodicko or Zbigniew Rybczynski.

Technological art during the thaw

After years of Stalinist terror and an emphasis on mechanization methods, the moment came to return to man himself and his needs. One of the main issues facing the ruling elites was the reloading of human-technology relations. The time has come for experiments and the creation of scientific and art laboratories. Porebsky’s idea, voiced in the late 40s, which had almost no response before, was finally able to become embodied in art.

The rise lasted more than 10 years. It was during this period that unusual works by Krzysztof Penderetsky and Eugeniusz Rudnik appeared, which were created, among other things, in the Experimental Studio of the Polish Radio. “Syncretic displays” appeared by Wlodimierz Borowski, in which the artist watched the reaction of the public, which underwent visual and sensory experiments, experiments of Wojciech Brushevsky and Grzegorz Kowalski began.

The end of the decade is the work of Krzysztof Wodicko, Ryszard Vinyarski, Ryszard Vaska and electronic antinomies Jerzy Poloma, implemented in collaboration with engineers and programmers.

This is also the avant-garde work of Zbigniew Rybczynski. An important element of the creativity of the 60s and 70s was the attempt to appeal to scientific concepts, the language of mathematics and computer science, the experience of neurology and cognitive psychology, to new solutions from the field of ergonomics and physics. Many artists experimented with the audiovisual form, new possibilities in recording and recording reality.

An important space in which technology intersected with art was industrial design. Polish projects were characterized by exceptional quality and were often used not only for their intended purpose, paving the way for new artistic practices.

The Art Research Institutes (1954-1977) of the Faculty of Interior Design of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts made a special contribution to the development of Polish industrial design. Here, under the tutelage of Jerzy Soltan and Oscar Hansen, experiments were conducted at the intersection of artistic disciplines and engineering.

In the early 60s of the twentieth century, under the leadership of Andrzej Pavlovsky, the first in Poland faculty of industrial technology began its activities at the Academy of Fine Arts. Pavlovsky first of all tried to create conditions for transdisciplinarity.

He believed that the designer should collaborate with engineers, expand knowledge in the field of sociology, economics, processing technology, automation, security, and also take public responsibility for his work5.

The border of the 60s and 70s in the United States was marked by the emergence of conscious artificial scientific practices that sought to use military technology for public purposes and to take a critical look at the relationship between nature, man and technology. In Poland, interest in these topics began to fade.

The events of 1968 marked the beginning of new propaganda and the tightening of censorship. Tanks returned to the streets. The attitude of society towards technology has worsened. Scientists and artists were disappointed in their expectations from the interaction of art and technology: this can be explained by the loss of public faith in the possibility of changing the elements of the system, which seemed possible after the death of Stalin.

Toward the end of the 70s, the artists of the Film Studio in Lodz (1970-1977) tried to implement the idea of ​​combining art and science: Jozef Robakovsky, Pavel Kvek, Wojciech Brushevsky, Zbigniew Rybczynski. The constructivist tradition, the work of Frantishka and Stefan Temerson, the ideas of Strzeminsky and Kobro were important for them: their understanding of abstraction, their approach to scientific research, art as a form of education. The hostility to classical kinoform contributed to the fact that the creators, each in their own way, moved to the level of metafilm. Their artistic statements are a test of the story not so much about the world, but about new ways of perceiving, recording systems and technological recorders of reality.

The 80s

In the 80s it was difficult to talk about favorable conditions for the development of new experimental artistic phenomena at the intersection of art, science and technology. Because of this (and also because of the poor availability of new technologies in Poland), technological art has practically not developed. Many artists, including Krzysztof Wodicko, Miroslav Rogalya and Zbigniew Rybczynski, left Poland to continue their activities abroad. Today they are one of the most famous artists in the world associated with technological art.

When the whole Western world entered the era of conscious forms of cyberculture, hacking and the art of new media, there was no impulse in Poland to develop computer culture and technological art, free from the supervision of state structures. Polish computer science of that time boasts outstanding achievements: take at least the AKAT-1 computer project, completed in 1959 by Jacek Karpinsky, who won the UNESCO competition for young cybernetics. However, these projects did not find implementation.

90s and the new millennium

Together with political changes and progress towards democracy, Poland is entering a new cultural reality. The most notable phenomenon in Polish art of the nineties was, undoubtedly, critical art, which commented on the capitalist transformation “live”. However, with the spread of access to digital technology, the influence of art using technology has increased. Already in 1989, WRO hosted the first electronic art festival WRO in Wroclaw – at first it was called the Festival of Visual Near Musical Implementations, then it became the WRO Biennale, and in 2008 it became the WRO Contemporary Art Center. Today, the Center is engaged in the popularization of various forms of media art.

The need for public dissemination of knowledge influenced the development of tactical media, bio- and nano-art, hacktivism and other popular trends. Today, art draws inspiration from technologies and scientific strategies and leads a dialogue with them, becoming an intermediary between the post-modern society, the scientific system of data transfer and the world of advanced technologies.