Dorota Michalska

Roman Stańczak: The Underworld of Capitalism

Roman Stańczak’s artistic practice can be seen to express the multi-layered degradation processes experienced in some Polish regions with the advent of capitalism and the country’s entry into the global market at the turn of the 1990s. The neoliberal reforms in Poland — as compared to other Eastern European states — brought about particularly dramatic consequences leading to an exponential increase in income inequality, unemployment rate and the share of population living below the minimum subsistence level.[1] On the rise throughout the 1990s and reaching its peak in the 2000s, the degradation suffered by some social groups adopted a complex character: both material and psychological, social and class-related. Stańczak’s performances and sculptures, with their depictions of ruined bodies and objects, closely correspond to that reality, which for a long time remained outside the scope of interest of Poland’s neoliberal governments and the young generation of artists debuting in the early 1990s.[2]

What is more, not only does the artist’s work convey the specific post-communist condition, but it may also be considered in a broader perspective as an illustration of the degradation of the human subject that occurred on the global peripheries, which suffered the crisis of the 1980s and entered the global neoliberal circulation in the 1990s. In this context, the time spent by Stańczak in Mexico City in 1993 becomes highly significant as it opens up the possibility to draw meaningful parallels between his artistic practice and the realm of gore capitalism — the capitalist management of death that characterises late capitalism in the countries of the broadly understood Global South.[3] This aspect makes itself manifest in Stańczak’s work, which challenges the binary divisions between life and death, animate and inanimate matter, performance and sculpture. Contrary to previously formulated interpretations, undermining these categories does not result solely from the individual artistic strategy with its roots in the artist’s biographical experience, but it may also be viewed as an effect of the capitalist machine at work, whose dynamics, among its other manifestations, blurs the above enumerated dichotomies.[4]

The prism through which I discuss the relation between Stańczak’s works and the capitalist reality is the category of Surrealism, although it may at first seem far-removed from the social and class perspective adopted in this text. Historically, Surrealism was one of the main targets of post-war leftist criticism both in the West and in Poland under communism (in texts by theatre critic Jan Kott, among other figures) as a manifestation of “bourgeois” aesthetics, focussed on individual experience. Yet, my intention is to follow a different understanding of that avant-garde tendency as proposed by Michael Löwy in his book Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism (2010). The French-Brazilian philosopher and sociologist situates Surrealism in a transnational and transhistorical perspective that transcends hitherto delineated geographic, temporal and gender-related frames.[5] For Löwy, whose interests concentrate primarily on the history of Marxism in Latin America, Surrealism was, on the one hand, a result of a shrewd analysis of the capitalist reality, while on the other hand — a tool of resistance against that reality. The author outlines the dynamics that develops between the acknowledgement of one’s position as a victim of the neo-colonial economic system and an attempt to formulate a critical stance. I believe that the perspective proposed by Löwy offers the possibility to meaningfully situate Stańczak’s work against the backdrop of the global transformations that occurred in the 1990s, both in Poland and in other peripheral countries of the neoliberal system.



Among the works created by Stańczak during the first half of the 1990s, I distinguish a group of pieces that may be defined as “degraded sculptures”. They originate from the period of the artist’s studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (1989–1994) and the following two years of intensive creative and exhibition activity (1994–1996). This group comprises such pieces as Cabinet (1990–1991), Chair (1992–1994), Couch (1995) and Shelving Unit (1996). They all share the artistic strategy that consists in removing the outer layer of objects. Stańczak used his chisel as a sort of scalpel with which he tore off the surface to reveal the inner structure. The remnants of that process — shavings, sawdust, springs, scraps of fabric — are usually scattered around the works. The hitherto formulated interpretations most often concentrated on the metaphysical aspect of that sculptural gesture, which offered an insight into the essence of things and the possibility to discover their inner workings.[6] Stańczak himself declares that his works can be perceived as an “exercise in dying”, which consists in uncovering and exploring the negative side of reality. When asked about what turning things inside out means, the artist responds: “It’s a preparation for death; it’s waiting for the death of certain people. … I’m waiting for the death of my mother, the death of my father, my siblings, I’m waiting for the death of the Pope. … By reversing everyday situations, I can show people the world from another angle.”[7] This statement clearly orients potential interpretations towards an idiomatic existential experience. Yet, the above enumerated works can also be situated in the context of the 1990s. Such perspective lends a historical dimension to Stańczak’s artistic practice and allows us to shed light on the relation between his works and the socio-political realm.

Against the expectations of politicians and the society, the initial years of the new political regime in Poland brought about a rapid economic collapse and a profound social crisis, whose origins date back to the second half of the 1980s.[8] The most significant phenomenon of the early 1990s was a marked rise in unemployment rates ushered in by the mass closure of state enterprises, the deindustrialisation of entire regions and the dissolution of the network of State Agricultural Farms (PGR).[9] Those processes caused a traumatic shock that left a profound mark on a segment of the society. They grew more and more intense throughout the 1990s in order to reach their peak at the beginning of the 21st century.[10] The tension was partly eased only after Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004, which made mass economic migration possible. That multi-aspectual socio-economic crisis, which led to a genuine collapse in some of the country’s regions, was described by anthropologist Tomasz Rakowski in his book Hunters, Gatherers, and Practitioners of Powerlessness. An Ethnography of the Degraded in Post-Socialist Poland. Rakowski describes a reality “after a catastrophe”, which experienced a sudden regression to a pre-modern social, economic and infrastructural realm. Instead of participation in the modernisation process, those regions suffered a civilizational collapse, which forced their inhabitants to seek alternative sources of income, such as gathering and hunting. The world depicted in the book brings to mind a post-apocalyptic reality, where mankind struggles to survive on the ruins of the old world.

The notion of “degradation” aptly describes Stańczak’s sculptural strategy deployed in such works as Cabinet, Chair, and Shelving Unit.[11] By removing their outer layer, the artist deprived them of their function, while their material disintegration undermined their identity and place in a given category of objects. The sculptures provide an example of a “negative transformation”, which manifests itself as an experience of loss and painful rupture. Thus, they resonate strongly with the material and infrastructural situation of some Polish regions — a world of devastated industrial plants, houses, buildings and public spaces, initially abandoned, and later destroyed and plundered. That act of destruction bears connotations that pertained both to social class (as a testimony to extreme poverty) and to history (as an embodiment of the rapid transformation process).

The artist’s works portray transformation as a time when things lose their former meanings. They cease to docilely satisfy people’s expectations. They become unruly, unclear, fleeting. Such a vision of the everyday object closely corresponds to the message conveyed by André Breton’s text Crisis of the Object, which accompanied the exhibition of Surrealist objects at the Charles Ratton Gallery in May 1936. Breton writes: “Our primary objective must be to oppose by all means the invasion of the world of the senses by things which mankind makes use of more from habit than necessity. Here, as elsewhere, the mad beast of convention must be hunted down. … With this new focus, on the contrary, the same object, however complete it may seem, reverts to an infinite series of latent possibilities which are not peculiar to it and therefore entail its transformation”.[12] Breton’s essay reveals similarities to Stańczak’s artistic approach. Both artists pursue the goal of extracting the object from its natural circulation and subjecting it to transformation processes that reveal its different meanings.

Stańczak’s sculptures depict a dark face of the capitalist transformation, which adopted the form of “ruining modernisation” in some regions of the country. In order to shed more light on this aspect, it is worth turning to the experience of the inter-war Surrealist avant-garde. In his groundbreaking book Compulsive Beauty, Hal Foster argues that the Surrealist artists and writers were the first to capture the dialectical nature of history, which frequently manifests itself as “regressive progress”.[13] The inter-war period witnessed a moment of a rapid industrial, technological and infrastructural acceleration: the 19th century — with its culture and architecture — was falling into oblivion in a flash. Surrealists observed up-close that historical dynamics, which made itself manifest through the double image of a “progressive ruin”. Their turn towards the ruined reality formed part of their complex strategy of seeking to undermine the seeming obviousness and naturalness of the capitalist order. Therefore, their interest in the bygone historical eras was motivated by their willingness to harness them for the sake of resisting the storm of “now”. This perspective allows us to grasp the temporal dimension of Stańczak’s work: his sculptures exist beyond the linear vision of historical progress; they rather belong to the world in which “one ruin forces out another ruin before it ultimately destroys it”.[14] This aspect gains particular relevance in the context of the 1990s, an era dominated by the belief in the one and only possible direction of development: towards neoliberal democracy.[15]



The above discussed processes were not experienced solely by post-communist countries, but belonged to a broader global tendency of an increasing economic polarisation within the capitalist system.[16] In 1993, Stańczak — still a student of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw — left for Mexico for six months, during which he travelled extensively and earned a living mainly from private artistic commissions. When asked if he was active as an artist at that time, he responds: “I was more absorbing. Although I was meeting some artists. I was invited to lead a studio at the UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico]”.[17] That episode from Stańczak’s biography is particularly significant as it situates the artist’s work beyond the post-communist realm, as an element of global art history, which enables a comparison between the experiences of Eastern Europe and Latin America. This postulate is in line with the concept put forward in the last book of the recently departed art historian Piotr Piotrowski in which he formulated the scholarly, artistic and political appeal: “The peripheries of all parts of the world — unite!”[18]

For that matter, it is worth highlighting the considerable economic and social similarities between Mexico and Poland at the beginning of the 1990s. The turn of the decade in Mexico witnessed a rampant socio-political crisis. In order to overcome the financial collapse aggravated by an escalating debt, at the beginning of the 1990s President Carlos Salinas de Gortari introduced a range of neoliberal reforms aimed primarily at privatisation and opening the country to international investors.[19] Those reforms met with violent resistance of a vast part of the society, which culminated with the rebellion of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.[20]

The same period in Mexico saw the emergence of a new generation of artists who directly addressed the extreme class and gender-related violence haunting the streets of the country.[21] At the beginning of the 1990s, Teresa Margolles, then member of the SEMEFO collective (acronym of the coroner’s office in Mexico) created a series of sculptural and photographic works devoted to the bodies of brutally murdered residents of Mexico City: mainly women, homeless persons, children. Her practice responded to an exponential increase in violence levels in the country at the beginning of the 1990s, caused by growing inequalities, political conflict and the expansion of the drug cartel network.[22] Spanish activist and researcher Sayak Valencia defined the Mexican reality of the 1990s and 2000s as “gore capitalism”, a new economic and cultural formation based on the laws of necropolitics — management of death and deriving profit from it. Valencia sees that phenomenon as a response to the neoliberal reality of late capitalism, in which the body becomes the ultimate commodity.[23] The scholar emphasises the “turn towards death” that occurred at the beginning of the 1990s in Margolles’ work.

The notion of gore capitalism may also be evoked in the context of Stańczak’s degraded sculptures that bear traces of violence. The juxtaposition of his works and those by Margolles (and Santiago Sierra, among other artists) demonstrates that all of them form part of a certain global condition of peripheral countries which entered the free-market economic system in the 1990s. Although the process obviously adopted a much more dramatic course in Mexico than in Poland, the common denominator between the two countries was the phenomenon of the degradation of the human subject, its class-related and bodily ruination.

Stańczak’s time spent in Mexico acquires additional meanings in the light of a reference to Surrealism. Latin American countries — particularly Mexico, which André Breton considered “the surrealist country par excellence” — were an object of avid interest and a frequent travel destination of Surrealist artists.[24] The neo-colonial aspect of those journeys, which made itself manifest through the exoticisation of the local reality, the imposition of Western interpretations, and proclivity for perception of the local art and culture in the categories of primitivism and orientalism, is currently subject to critical analysis.[25] All these reservations notwithstanding, it is worth highlighting the truly international character of that movement, which — in line with Löwy’s observations — made one of the first attempts to establish a global artistic map that went beyond Western Europe and North America, founded on a staunchly anti-colonialist political stance. It was Surrealists who challenged the traditional division between the centre and the peripheries: apart from Paris, key locations on the map of Surrealism also included Prague, Buenos Aires and Cairo.[26] With hindsight, this internationalist aspect of the inter-war avant-garde emerges as one of the most important achievements of the movement — as a point of reference for the formulation of modern-day research methodologies with regard to art and its history.



In 1994, Stańczak returned to Warsaw and completed his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. The same year, the a.r.t. Gallery in Płock hosted an exhibition of diploma works by the Academy graduates. Stańczak presented his earlier pieces and staged a new performance Untitled (1994). This work opens up yet another perspective on the links between his artistic practice and the new (both Polish and global) reality of the turn of the decade. The preserved footage that documents the action shows the artist lying in a bathtub facing the bottom. He then begins to alternately immerse himself and emerge out of water; we can clearly hear him breathing as he tries to inhale as much as air as possible before the next immersion. The artist’s movements remove more and more water from the bathtub. Towards the end of the performance, Stańczak leaves the bathtub having put on a red perizoma.

Untitled can certainly be seen as an expression of the artist’s idiomatic experience with a religious and emotional underpinning. Such interpretation is founded on Stańczak’s statements, in which he frequently emphasised the spiritual aspect of his artistic practice and the fundamental role played by Catholicism in his life as a teenager.[27] Beyond doubt, the performance from 1994 is deeply rooted in Christian iconography through the references to baptism and the red perizoma — the draped loincloth of crucified Christ. Yet, such understanding does not exhaust the potential meanings of the piece, which can also be situated in a broader historical and social context. Such perspective opens up the possibility to outline a profoundly materialist aspect of his practice, which has so far been overlooked by art historians.

In order to shed more light on the materialist context of Stańczak’s performance, we need to refer once again to Surrealism and the phenomenon of reification: blurring the borders between life and death. Hal Foster remarks that a key experience for Surrealists consisted in undermining the borders that separated animate from inanimate matter.[28] That traumatic experience of uncertainty — am I dead or alive? — lay at the foundation of their practice, in which they also frequently questioned the dichotomic differentiation between the subject and the object. That phenomenon, Foster argues, had double historical roots. On the one hand, it came as a direct response to the trauma of World War I, while on the other hand — to the expansion and consolidation of global capitalism. That latter experience, based on the close relation between Surrealism and the dynamics of the capitalist system, becomes particularly relevant in the context of Stańczak’s work. In Western Europe and North America, the inter-war economic crisis brought into sharp relief the paradoxical and profoundly unsettled nature of the global free-market economy.[29] The accompanying slump in production and the marked increase in poverty and unemployment levels fully demonstrated the social exploitation behind the processes of capital accumulation. According to Foster, Surrealists’ work became a direct response to the phenomenon of the reification of the human subject, as a result of which “The act (or result of the act) of transforming human properties, relations and actions into properties, relations and actions of man produced things which have become independent (and which are imagined as originally independent) of man and govern his life. Also transformation of human beings into thing-like beings which do not behave in a human way but according to the laws of the thing world.[30]

According to Marx, such transformation process — in which the subject becomes the object — results from the vampiric power of capitalism, which “sucks” living labour out of people in order to transform it into accumulated capital. Thus, production cycle exerts a profound influence on the very division between the living and the dead. Marx writes: “Capital is dead labour, that vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him”.[31] The circulation of capital relies on absorbing living human labour and harnessing it for the purpose of the ongoing stimulation of capital, which betrays an essentially parasitic nature. That is why critics wrote about a peculiar kind of necromancy inherent in the writings of the German thinker, who framed the activity of developed capital as a process of putting the subject to death in order to bring the commodity to life.

This context sheds a different light on Stańczak’s performance at the a.r.t. Gallery in Płock in 1994. During the action, the artist constantly moved in the space between breath/life and suffocation/death. Although Stańczak’s statements suggest that the performance addressed spiritual experiences, it is worth noting its potential materialist and historical connotations. The border which Stańczak’s body crosses does not belong exclusively to the religious or existential sphere, but it may also result from the changing economic field at the turn of the 1990s, which undermined the hitherto ontology of the body. Those transformations gave rise to a new vision of the subject as “animated corpse”, whose vital energy is constantly sucked by the structure of the capitalist economy. That is why the motif of death in Stańczak’s work can be perceived not only through the prism of existentialism, but also as an embodiment of a specific moment in history. The binary division between life and death, animate and inanimate matter, was also challenged at the level of the artistic medium: after the performance, the artist transformed the bathtub into a sculptural object. It was heated with an industrial furnace and later turned inside out with a hammer. What occurred was a “disintegration” of the performance into other artistic media and a transformation of the artist’s subject into a sculptural object.



Let us now make a temporal leap forward. In October 2016 — just before the Day of the Dead in Poland — Stańczak carried out his performance 29.10.2016. at the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. The action began inside the museum: the artist changed his black t-shirt and jeans for a red perizoma. He then went outside and lay down in a previously dug pit, assuming a foetal position. His assistants began to fill the pit with the extracted soil, covering entirely the figure lying on the bottom. They levelled the soil with a shovel and scattered apples on the grave. Only after a longer while did the soil begin to move and Stańczak slowly emerged to the surface. Having left the pit, he first started to play noughts and crosses on the museum window and later smashed a bottle of vodka hanging under the ceiling.

The “resurrection” performance acquired a special meaning in the context of the artist’s biography. In 1996, after his major show Sixty-Three Kilos at the Ujazdowski Castle and the smaller-scale exhibition Objects in 1997 at the Biała Gallery in Lublin, Stańczak vanished from the art scene. The artist explains in interviews that his disappearance was caused by a range of factors: burnout, alcohol addiction, pursuit of a different kind of experience.[32] Throughout the next 17 years, until 2013, Stańczak remained outside the art world and took up different jobs, such as sculpture renovation, carpentry or stonemasonry. Meanwhile, his colleagues from the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, such as Paweł Althamer, Artur Żmijewski and Katarzyna Kozyra, established themselves as artists and gained international recognition. Leading to Stańczak’s comeback to the Polish art scene in 2013 was, on the one hand, the re-discovery of his artistic practice from the 1990s, and on the other hand — the creation of his new piece Guardian Angel at the Sculpture Park in the Warsaw district of Bródno and his exhibition at the Stereo Gallery in Warsaw.

Let us now compare the performance 29.10.2016 with the action at the a.r.t. Gallery in Płock 22 years before. The two pieces share manifold similarities and may even be recognised as each other’s mirror reflection. Both revolve around the motif of resurrection: immersion in water, burial in the ground, followed by a return to the surface; both even feature a red perizoma. They may be seen as two chapters that, respectively, open and close a certain stage in Polish history. The year 2014 witnessed the celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the collapse of communism and the advent of neoliberal democracy. Yet, they were tainted by the awareness of an escalating social, economic and political conflict in the country, which led to the parliamentary election victory in 2015 of the right-wing Law and Justice party, which questioned in many respects the hitherto adopted direction of the country’s economic development.[33] The key political question of that period concerned the assessment of the transformation process, whose evaluation changed fundamentally during those 25 years: the initial enthusiasm shared by many social groups at the turn of the 1990s yielded to bitter disappointment over — and, in some cases, even rejection of — neoliberal democracy.[34] Stańczak’s figure emerging from the grave incarnates not only his individual biography and inner struggle, but also refers to the moment of crystallisation of a specific historical experience; the figure stands as a metaphor for the last 25 years in Poland, bearing the traces of both individual and structural violence, returning from the underworld of the “shock therapy” of the 1990s.

Seen from such perspective, Stańczak’s figure appears as “remnants” of a wounded and marked body, which bring us into direct contact with history. What occurs is a temporal glitch: the past meets the present, what was supposed to be dead and forgotten comes back to life. Stańczak’s biography acquires a special meaning in the context of the Polish transformation and the influence of that historical stage on the lives and work of artists. In the 1990s, many artists of the young generation managed to both establish their careers and achieve financial success, thus living out the dream of the possibilities offered by the neoliberal system. Others, in turn — such as Stańczak — did not come to terms with the new reality and were relegated to its margins.[35] That is why the artist’s return in 2016 can be seen as settling accounts with the past and a realisation of the damage done in the 1990s. Not only does Stańczak’s figure embody his own — at times dramatic — biography, but also a broader image of the Polish historical experience that is fundamental for the understanding of the current situation.



In many ways, Stańczak’s inside-out aircraft at the Polish Pavilion in Venice marks a continuation of the previous themes and strategies present in the artist’s practice. The very idea of tearing the aircraft apart, turning it inside out and putting together again was mentioned by Stańczak already in the 1990s. Yet, the scale of the sculptural object makes it stand out from among his earlier project. Since the studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, the artist’s practice concentrated primarily on objects of everyday use that form part of human daily life. Such intimate character of his works resulted, on the one hand, from the biographical dimension of Stańczak’s practice, while on the other hand — from the specificity of the historical period: the transformation process ushered in a radical change in both the micro- and macro-structures of social and everyday life. The artist managed to capture that situation by depicting the changes experienced by ordinary objects such as a bathtub, a kettle or a cabinet. Now, however, such modest household equipment was replaced with a massive aircraft exhibited at the Polish Pavilion. How can we understand this artistic gesture?

Above all, we need to highlight the symbolic dimension of the inside-out aircraft. A ship, an airplane, a spacecraft — they all represent hope for the future, ambition to go beyond the familiar horizon, to challenge the laws of gravity. Since the era of geographic discoveries, these machines have embodied the faith in progress and the positive role of technology. That is why the images of their catastrophes often stand as a metaphor for broader processes: the end of historical epochs, disappointed hopes, profound crises or the internal rupture and defragmentation of the self.[36] Seen in this light, Stańczak’s inside-out aircraft pursues further the profoundly anti-utopian dimension of his sculptural practice, which first came to light in the pieces from the early 1990s. Yet, the project at the Polish Pavilion in Venice not only marks a continuation of that theme, but also shows the expansion of the modern-day degradation process that embraces even broader spheres on a hitherto unimaginable scale. Thus, Stańczak’s sculpture acquires a “total” dimension, which may refer to the devastation of even greater segments of reality. The piece does not give this diagnosis in a straightforward way; it rather results from a peculiar nexus of Stańczak’s artistic practice and a specific historical reality. It is only this connection that reveals the full potential of meanings inherent in the artist’s works — meanings hitherto overlooked due to the dominant position of interpretations that highlighted the existential character of his practice. I discuss this complex relation between the individual and the social dimension of Stańczak’s work through the prism of Surrealism, which allows me to grasp the tension between the irrational dimension of his practice, with its roots in the sphere of dreams and spirituality, and the historical-materialist context of his sculptures and performances. This category also sheds light on the piece exhibited at the Polish Pavilion — a “found object” turned by the artist into a deformed sculpture devoid of its functionality. The object deprived of its original meanings embodies the fears of the escalating degradation, both of the human subject and the entire reality. Stańczak’s inside-out aircraft formulates a correct diagnosis of the contemporary times at many levels of human experience: in its material, psychological, class-related and social dimension.


[1] That transformation was initiated with a series of market reforms between 1985 and 1988, and sealed after 1989 with the implementation of a neoliberal reform package; see: Jan Sowa, Ciesz się, późny wnuku! Kolonializm, globalizacja i demokracja radykalna (Kraków: Korporacja Ha!art, 2008), 414–418.

[2] See: Wyparte dyskursy. Sztuka wobec transformacji i deindustrializacji lat 90., ed. Mikołaj Iwański (Szczecin: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Akademii Sztuki w Szczecinie, 2016), e-book: https://issuu.com/mikolajiwanski/docs/wyparte, accessed April 20, 2019.

[3] Sayak Valencia, Gore Capitalism (South Pasadena: Semiotexte; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2018).

[4] James Tyner, Dead Labor. Toward a Political Economy of Premature Death (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), vii–xvi.

[5] Michael Löwy, Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situationism, Utopia (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009).

[6] Roman Stańczak, Life and Works (Rome: Nero Press, 2016), 70–78.

[7] “Burdened with a Howl from the Heavens. Roman Stańczak in Conversation with Łukasz Gorczyca and Artur Żmijewski,” in Artur Żmijewski, Trembling Bodies. Conversations with Artists, trans. Søren Gauger, Maciej Głogoczowski (Bytom, Berlin: CSW Kronika, Berliner Künstlerprogramm/ DAAD), 314–315.

[8] Tomasz Rakowski, Hunters, Gatherers, and Practitioners of Powerlessness. An Ethnography of the Degraded in Post-Socialist Poland, trans. Søren Gauger (Oxford and New York: Berghahn Books, 2016).

[9] See: Katarzyna Duda, Kiedyś tu było życie, teraz jest tylko bieda. O ofiarach polskiej transformacji (Warsaw: Książka i Prasa, 2019).

[10] According to Statistics Poland: https://stat.gov.pl/obszary-tematyczne/rynek-pracy/bezrobocie-rejestrowane/stopa-bezrobocia-rejestrowanego-w-latach-1990-2019,4,1.html, accessed April, 20, 2019.

[11] I discuss this aspect of Stańczak’s practice in more detail in the article “Rzeźby zdegradowane. Twórczość Romana Stańczaka wobec transformacji ustrojowej po 1989 roku,” Miejsce, no. 4, 2018, 88–107.

[12] André Breton, Crisis of the Object, in Surrealism and Painting (London: McDonald and Company, 1972), 279.

[13] Hal Foster, Compulsive Beauty (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993), 165.

[14] Benjamin Péret, “Ruines: ruine des ruines,” Minotaure, no. 12/13, 1939, 58.

[15] Boris Buden, “When History Was Gone,” in The Long 1980s. Constellations of Art, Politics and Identities (Amsterdam: Valiz Press, 2018), 314–322.

[16] Eric Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes (1914–1991) (London: Abacus Press, 1995), 570–575.

[17] Stańczak, Life and Works, 5.

[18] Piotr Piotrowski, Globalne ujęcie sztuki Europy Wschodniej (Poznań: Rebis, 2018).

[19] See: Mexico in Transition: Neoliberal Globalism, the State and Civil Society, ed. Gerardo Otero (London: Zed Books, 2013).

[20] Neil Harvey, The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy (Durham–London: Duke University Press, 1998. The Zapatista Army of National Liberation postulated: granting autonomy to the indigenous population, resignation from neoliberal reforms, acceleration of agricultural reforms, and introduction of direct democracy.

[21] Coco Fusco, “The Unbearable Weightiness of Beings: Art in Mexico after NAFTA,” in The Bodies That Were Not Ours. And Other Writings (London: Institute of International Visual Arts, Routledge, 2001).

[22] See: Amy Sara Carrol, REMEX. Toward an Art History of the NAFTA Era (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2017).

[23] Valencia, Gore Capitalism.

[24] The artists who visited Mexico included Antonin Artaud, André Breton, Luis Buñuel, Leonora Carrington, Benjamin Péret, and Wolfgang Paalen, among other figures. See: Melanie Nicholson, “Surrealism’s ‘Found Object’: The Enigmatic Mexico of Artaud and Breton,” Journal of European Studies, vol. 43, no. 1, 2013, 27–43.

[25] Louise Tythacott, Surrealism and the Exotic (London–New York: Routledge, 2003).

[26] See: Sam Bardaouil, Surrealism in Egypt. Modernism and the Art and Liberty Group (London–New York: I.B. Tauris, 2017); Derek Sayer, Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century. A Surrealist History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013).

[27] Stańczak, Life and Works, 13.

[28] Foster, Compulsive Beauty, 1–19.

[29] Hobsbawm, The Age of Extremes, 85–109.

[30] Gajo Petrović, “Reification,” in A Dictionary of Marxist Though (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983), 411–413.

[31] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy (New York: Dover Publications, 2011), 257.

[32] Stańczak, Life and Works, 16–17.

[33] See: Michał Sutowski, Rok dobrej zmiany (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Krytyki Politycznej, 2017).

[34] Duda, Kiedyś tu było życie.

[35] See: Wyparte dyskursy. Sztuka wobec transformacji i deindustrializacji lat 90.

[36] See: Hans Blumenberg, Shipwreck with Spectator. Paradigm of a Metaphor for Existence (Cambridge, Mass., and London: MIT Press, 1997).