Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute




Katarzyna Kobro and Debora Vogel as “Composers of Space”

This event was held virtually as a Zoom webinar and streamed via YouTube Live.

Please join the East Central European Center at the Harriman Institute for a presentation by Michalina Kmiecik (Jagiellonian University in Kraków). This event is part of the event series East Central Vanguard: New Perspectives on the Avant-Garde.

The role of female artists in the Polish avant-garde movement is still not recognized. Many of them were silent organizers of artistic life (as Iwona Boruszkowska calls them: midwives of the avant-garde), editors of magazines, literary critics, reciters, translators, etc. Michalina Kmiecik’s presentation will highlight several characters who actually gained some recognition in the avant-garde period and took part in theoretical debates, sharing interesting and innovative ideas. Kmiecik will focus on the discussion between Katarzyna Kobro and Debora Vogel concerning the problem of space, architecture, and sculpture. In 1933, Vogel, a poet and theoretician, reviewed ideas presented by Kobro and her husband Władysław Strzemiński in their famous essay Composition of Space. She also published commentaries on modern living and design. Her ideas were strongly inspired by modern media and their abilities. What Vogel tried to develop in her theory and also in her writing (by concentrating on the montage technique and tracking inner dynamics of the artifact) is also present in Kobro’s abstract sculptures and her fascination with “composing space”. Comparing theoretical work of these two women may open a debate on dynamic approach in spatial and architectural studies, and the role of female artists in popularizing it among Polish avant-gardists.

Image caption: Kobro and Strzemiński’s “Composition of Space.” The front cover.

Michalina Kmiecik works in the Chair of Literary Theory and in the Centre for Avant-Garde Studies at the Faculty of Polish Studies at Jagiellonian University in Kraków. She published two books on the Polish and European avant-garde: Oblicza miejsca. Topiczne i atopiczne wyobrażenia przestrzeni w poezji Juliana Przybosia (Aspects of Place. Topical and Atopical Images of Space in the Poetry of Julian Przyboś, Universitas, Krakow 2013), Drogi negatywności. Nurt estetyczno-religijny w poezji i muzyce awangardowej w XX wieku (Paths of Negativity. The Aesthetic-Religious Tendency in Avant-Garde Poetry and Music in the 20th Century, Jagiellonian University Press, Krakow 2016). From 2012 to 2015 worked on a project Central and Eastern European Avant-Garde: Innovation or Repetition?; in 2016 started (together with Iwona Boruszkowska) a project Modes of Avant-Garde Behaviour financed by the National Center for Science in Poland. She organized and participated in several lectures and discussions about Polish and foreign avant-garde practices. Presented her findings during conferences and in Polish scientific journals.

East Central Vanguard: New Perspectives on the Avant-Garde

2021 Lecture Series

The East Central European Center is pleased to host a webinar series on interwar art and culture. This series focuses on artists from East Central Europe whose art practices and contributions to various local and international avant-gardes have attracted less or no critical attention within Modernism Studies.

The avant-garde demand for crossing aesthetic boundaries within the domain of everyday life does not necessarily nullify the modernist right of art to its autonomy, but seeks to understand art as a practice accessible to all and based on the belief in its power to fundamentally change and improve social conditions. The avant-garde replaced the modernist perception of the uniqueness of the work of art that yields aesthetic pleasure isolated from practical life, with the direct call for “Art into life!” The repercussion of efforts to abolish the distance between art and life is characterized, above all, by the fact that we no longer speak of avant-garde texts or objects in the categories of literary work or aesthetic artwork, but in the categories of literary, or rather, avant-garde manifestations. The East Central Vanguard webinar series is devoted to an investigation of artists from East Central Europe whose lives and art practices deserve to be credited amongst such avant-garde manifestations.

FEBRUARY 23, 2021
Off the Page: In Search of the Romanian Avant-Garde Outside its Publications

Alexandra Chiriac (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

MARCH 16, 2021
Katarzyna Kobro and Debora Vogel as “Composers of Space”

Michalina Kmiecik (Jagiellonian University Kraków)

MARCH 23, 2021
Many Masks: The Radical Politics and Performance of Míra Holzbachová

Meghan Forbes (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

MARCH 30, 2021
Radical Women: Jolán Simon and Other Female Artists in Hungarian Avant-Garde Periodicals

Gábor Dobó (Kassák Museum – Petőfi Literary Museum Budapest)

APRIL 6, 2021
The Zenithist Woman

Žarka Svirčev (Institute for Literature and Arts, Belgrade)

Event Video