Gesture Toward Photography

Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
free entry

Gesture Toward Photography. A Performative Symposium
concept / organization: Krzysztof Pijarski

The main focus of the symposium will be to investigate, describe, and above all, to “demonstrate” the visual and practical ways of expressing thought; to “show” the work of an imagination and critical mind that expresses itself in and through photographic images.

To show this imagination at work, one has to break, or at least to transform, the convention of a traditional scholarly conference. Hence the performative nature of the event, which is an attempt at moving away from thinking of such an event as a series of lectures but rather as a series of meetings, interactions. In place of a situation where the speaker, separated from the audience, shares his already prepared knowledge, the performative symposium proposes a meeting of several people – artists and theorists – to discuss specific photographs in any format, books or contact sheets, in order to “discover” or explore them – for each other and for the gathered audience. The process of discovering / exploring the images will be carried out not only through a discussion, but essentially, via the exchange of gestures: by pointing a finger, juxtaposing, cropping, inscribing, outlining, etc. – the whole repertoire of responses to the images which the body has at its disposal. Such a formula is based on the assumption that it is artists who most effectively “think” in and by means of images. This is why it is artists who will be at the center of attention here – not as subject of discourse, but as partners in dialogue, in an exchange of thought while confronting pictures, books, and photographic objects.

What seems crucial in this context, is the setting for such meetings: they will take place at a round table, with a loosely organized auditorium scattered around it (the arrangement of seats will not be pre-determined). The meetings will be recorded by high-quality camera, placed vertically above the table. The camera will not be recording the faces of the participants but above all, their hands and the works that will be the object of discussion. The image will be projected onto a freestanding screen positioned in the hall so that the gathered audience will be able not only to listen to the voices of the participants, but also to closely observe their gestures.

During the symposium, Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga will talk about their series of photographs “Private Archive” / “Archiwum prywatne” with literary scholar, cultural critic and historian, Katarzna Bojarska. Elżbieta Janicka and Wojciech Wilczyk will enter into a discussion about their new project, “Other City” / “Inne miasto” with Waldemar Baraniewski, art historian and expert in Warsaw matters. Michał Kaczyński and Łukasz Gorczyca will participate as authors of the artists’ book, “D.O.M. Polski,” to subject it to contemplation together with Paweł Szypulski, collector of photographic books and curator. The avant-garde director, dramatist and theorist Weronika Szczawińska will reflect on “Colleagues” / “Koleżanki i koledzy”, a series of works by Paweł Bownik in dialogue with the artist, while cultural theorist and philosopher Kuba Mikurda will talk with Nicolas Grospierre about his photographic objects, and the photography curator and historian Joanna Kinowska will discuss with Rafał Milach and Anna Nałęcka their joint work on the medium of the photobook.

Of course, it’s not only about inventing a “new” formula of symposium – attractiveness is not its purpose. Rather, it results directly from the ways of formulating thoughts by the invited artists; is designed both to extract an unacknowledged aspect of our relationship with images and to identify modes of artistic production, which clearly emphasize the physical aspect of the photographic image and go beyond the feedback mechanism (based on reflex) of eye and camera shutter. The “thinking in images” of the invited artists consists, among others, in that they extend the “decisive moment” over the entire process of working on a given picture, so they are able to endow their work with a certain “density” – a density, which is not easily translated into the language of discourse.

After the meeting, the recorded material will be edited to produce a film – a “treatise” of sorts on gesture towards the image. The results of the symposium will be presented in the form of a website. Thus, the recordings of the meetings will be available to a wider audience, including international one (the films will be made available with English subtitles). The materials gathered will be accompanied by a set of essays, reflecting on the assumptions and results of the symposium. In due time, it will be possible to watch the said “treatise on gesture” on the symposium’s website.



  • 15 p.m. – Rafał Milach and Anna Nałęcka / Joanna Kinowska
  • 17 p.m. – Paweł Bownik / Weronika Szczawińska
  • 19 p.m. – Aneta Grzeszykowska and Jan Smaga / Katarzyna Bojarska


  • 15 p.m. – Nicolas Grospierre / Kuba Mikurda
  • 17 p.m. – Łukasz Gorczyca and Michał Kaczyński / Paweł Szypulski
  • 19 p.m. – Elżbieta Janicka and Wojciech Wilczyk / Waldemar Baraniewski

Project Partners:
Zachęta – National Gallery of Art
The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Lodz

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