Images of the Collective Body: Notes on the Forgotten Visual Archive of the Solidarity Movement

Thursday, January 23, 2020
Marshall D. Shulman Seminar Room, 1219 International Affairs Building (420 W 118th St)

Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a talk with Magda Szcześniak (Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw).

In this talk, Szcześniak will examine visual materials produced by the Polish Solidarity movement as examples of visual activism, i.e. images employed as means of exercising agency in the public sphere by underrepresented and subjugated groups. Departing from a question about the archive’s disappearance from Polish collective memory, or rather its subsumption under two powerful images (the Solidarity sign and the portrait of the movement’s leader – Lech Wałęsa), she will analyze the ways in which the creators of visual materials within the movement sought to represent the collectivity of the Polish working class. A close analysis of the archive reveals the movement’s complexity and ambiguity, proving that visual culture can be a sphere of productive conflict and negotiation between varying ideas about political action and social movements. It can also document ruptures and provide spaces for the co-existence of values that—at least from a contemporary perspective—might not fit into a single manifesto.

Magda Szcześniak is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Polish Culture, University of Warsaw, and 2019/20 Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the Institute for Critical Theory, Duke University. She is the author of Normy widzialności. Tożsamość w czasach transformacji (Norms of Visuality. Identity in Times of Transition, 2016), devoted to the role of visual culture in the post-socialist transition in Poland She is a recipient of scholarships from the Fulbright Foundation (2010/2011, 2019/2020), the Polish National Science Centre and the Polish Ministry of Higher Education and Science, and the editor of the bilingual, online academic journal View: Theories and Practices of Visual Culture. She is currently working on a book about the politics of representing upward and downward social mobility in socialism.