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May 19 – December 29, 2013
The Gallery of Art in Koziniec
Zakopane, Droga na Koziniec 8
open: Wednesday - Saturday 10:00 - 17:00, Sunday 10:00 - 16:00
In this exhibition entitled “Journey of Discovery: Among the ideas of the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane”, we invite you for a walk through space and time along the cultural path designed by Stanisław Witkiewicz in his book “Na przełęczy. Wrażenia i obrazy z Tatr” [ “On the pass. Impressions and images from the Tatra Mountains”]. This book, published in 1891 in Warsaw, is sometimes called the gospel of the Tatra Mountains, and has played a major role in the creation and popularisation of an important phenomenon in Polish culture – the ‘discovery’ of the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane.


Witkiewicz presents us with a picture of the heroic beginnings of this period. Though the ‘world’ depicted in this book has since passed away, Witkiewicz’s presentation remains more than just a historical record. Some of the archetypal elements recorded in this book have returned again and again in other stories about this place, thus creating its popular cultural image. History has changed the people but not the essence of the place. First the Way - towards the Tatra Mountains and back leading to life in the lowlands. The road, which in Zakopane turns into a street, in the mountains turns into a path and high up into a rocky trail. Then there is the human settlement at the foot of the mountains – Zakopane and its specific ways of life. This comprises location, climate, architecture, highlanders and visitors. Finally the Tatra Mountains – powerful Nature, “the altar of freedom”, a place of strong aesthetic experiences, intense, indeed extreme physical and spiritual experiences. All of these material elements which build the “Tatra Mountains and Zakopane” are immersed in a bizarre aura that is briefly described in the term “the season”. It indicates transience, impermanence; it highlights the obviousness of the passing. It is beautiful, strong, and different but only for a moment. Disappearing places, ways of life, the people, are they past or completely lost?

Any journey begins with the consent to suspend daily routine, certain beliefs, and some obvious reflections. It is the hope for a meeting with what is new, different, unknown. The Tatra Mountains confront us with extraordinary Nature, with a human culture which is again and again inscribed in it, with the ways of life in this demanding reality. It is an attempt, an effort to meet the challenges posed by such a meeting. It is not only and, above all, a physical one. You have to see it first, to interpret, to try to understand it, to be able to respond adequately. It is also a meeting with those who have already made such attempts, with the traces, signs and ducts left by them. Ideas shine in them, shedding new light and allowing us to see things from a different perspective. The multitude of traces, multiplicity of shining, the constant need for deliberation, choice – which also means resignation – make this journey difficult and fascinating at the same time. We not only learn about the mountains, but also much more about ourselves.

The celebrated 20th century Polish writer Bruno Schulz claimed that even something as small as a shard can contain the whole world. With this in mind, this exhibition presents the Tatra Mountains and Zakopane and the ideas which it inspired as a prism with which to see the culture of the region. We hope that by wandering along the trails leading through the rooms, corridors, stairs and basements you will once again experience this journey of discovery which we hope might inspire you to look more carefully and thoughtfully so that you yourself might discover in this region some strange new flower or unnamed star. That – according to the teachings of the Polish Nobel-prize-winning poet Czesław Miłosz – there is hope, or at least it occasionally happens.


         fot. Jan Wierzejski          

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Translated & edited by: Joanna Holzman, Adrian Smith, Anna Wende-Surmiak