Polish Performance Archive

Description by Filmoteka Muzeum

Józef Robakowski's film documents the exhibition Lochy Manhattanu (The Dungeons of Manhattan), which was organised in Łódź in 1989 upon the artist's initiative.

Robakowski writes: “At the end of the 80s, finally we had succeeded in reviving the old, waiting for the better times, project from 1979 – Sztuka Innych Mediow (Other Media Art). Museum of Cinematography gave the helping hand to the project and on the May 18, 1989 Lochy Manhattanu (The Dungeons of Manhattan) took place in Lodz. The show lasted for a whole month and, this time, its main objective was to break the hegemony of the non-expressionistic painting which ruled Polish official and unofficial painting for over a decade.

This fashionable and de rigeur then 'art of the wild' at one point became intolerable because of the uncritical acceptance and sanctioning by museums (even the National Museum joined in the rush), all kinds of official galleries, art schools (except the Lodz Art Academy), art dealers and the self-proclaimed, so-called art experts. After 1985, the trend became safe, popular, and certainly redundant by comparison to naturally evolving elsewhere new media art. Even worse, the movement as a well understood and accepted phenomena was cleverly incorporated by the official authorities for the use in the so-called 'changes' at the end of the 80s. Although the critique was dressed up in a humorous and carefree sarcasm, full of youthful energy and cockiness, in reality it perfidiously levelled out the entire heritage of the 60s and 70s, accusing it of collaboration with the communist authorities, shallowness of the conceptual novelties, apoliticism, and (sic) cosmopolitanism.

Lochy Manhattanu was a great manifestation of over hundred and twenty progressive artists of various generations and disciplines. It brought back to order the unfortunate state of affairs in the Polish art community.”

Quoted from: Józef Robakowski, Live Gallery, Lodz Progressive Art Movement 1969-1992 (www.robakowski.net).