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Venice: Biennial

June 6, 2014 - November 23, 2014

The Polish Pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2014
Giardini, Venice 


7 June–23 November 2014




Polish Pavilion Commissioner: Hanna Wróblewska
curatorial team: Institute of Architecture — Dorota Jędruch, Marta Karpińska, Dorota Leśniak-Rychlak, Michał Wiśniewski
artistic concept: Jakub Woynarowski
assistant commissioner: Joanna Waśko

organiser of the exhibition: Zachęta — National Gallery of Art, Warsaw


Polish participation in the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in Venice was made possible through the financial support of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland. Exhibition partners: Adam Mickiewicz Institute; National Digital Archives, Poland

Created at the Polish Pavilion by the Institute of Architecture and Jakub Woynarowski, the exhibition Impossible Objects deals with the relations between modernism and politics in the context of building a modern nation state. The show’s highlight is a natural-scale replica of the canopy over the entrance to the burial crypt of Marshal Józef Piłsudski, the Polish political and military leader, created in 1937 at the Wawel Cathedral in Kraków according to a design of Adolf Szyszko-Bohusz. Several alternative variations of the canopy presented by the architect illustrate the process of arriving at a modernist form: from historicising loftiness to modern simplification. This is a literal stylistic absorption of modernism within a single object of small scale but complex symbolism. Embedded in the local context, the canopy is also an example of the self-contradictions characteristic for the European nation states that emerged after the First World War, torn, as they were, between an ambitious striving towards modernity and a rootedness in the rituals and myths of the past. The canopy showcases elements of official leader-cult propaganda, which has analogies in various European countries in the 1930s. Informed by the period’s classicising monumental modernism, the object’s style evokes the suffocating, xenophobic atmosphere of late-1930s Europe as it headed towards another devastating conflict.

The canopy is accompanied by large-scale drawings, created by Jakub Woynarowski, explaining the object’s specificity. The show’s narrative is also complemented by iconographic material depicting — through examples of the 20th century’s monuments, mausoleums and tombstones — the concatenation of power, modernism, and death.

The exhibition is accompanied by an English-language catalogue, designed by Jakub Woynarowski, with essays by the Institute of Architecture curators as well as David Crowley, Dariusz Czaja, Jan Sowa, and Jean-Louis Cohen.