Photobloc. Central Europe in Photobooks

22 November 2019 - 1 March 2020

Photobloc. Central Europe in Photobooks

Place International Cultural Centre, Rynek Główny 25, 31-008 Kraków, POLAND
Organizer International Cultural Centre
More info https://mck.krakow.pl/fotoblok-europa-srodkowa-w-ksiazkach-fotograficznych

The exhibition is part of the two‑year project Photobook Bloc. Central Europe in Photobooks (20th–21st century). Financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the Multi‑annual Program NIEPODLEGŁA 2017–2022.
The history of the 20th century narrated through photobooks is amazing and intriguing. The dreams of Central European artists, utopian visions of the future, struggle for independence, and documents of everyday life mix with propaganda, tragedy, and war. Viewed through the prism of photobooks, Central Europe is both beautiful and brutal, touching and shocking. The new exhibition organised by the International Cultural Centre, Photobloc. Central Europe in Photobooks, is the first comprehensive display of photobooks from Central Europe that covers over a hundred years of their history focusing on the most ground-breaking, most interesting and beautiful pieces.
By the end of the 19th century a new genre of printed book emerged. Narrative function was transferred from the text to the photograph. Throughout the 20th century, albums, brochures, and photobooks kept track of the tumultuous history of our region. For the last two decades photobooks have attracted academic attention and have by now been often discussed by numerous publications and exhibitions. They have been featured at several shows, represented primarily by German or Russian publications; however, there have been no attempts as yet to look at this issue in the context of our region. In order to be able to think in terms of such a broad panorama it was necessary to collect and analyse Central European photobooks within the frameworks of one international research project, which culminated in this exhibition.
Recently, the popularity of photobooks has been on the rise among public museums, publishers, collectors and artists. The trend has reached Central Europe and Poland to a certain degree. Books by authors from the region win awards and have long been appreciated yet mostly by Western institutions and individuals, occasionally also in Russia. However, no study has been published or exhibition staged as yet to recapitulate the subject of photobooks in retrospect, or examine the condition of the photobook culture today. The idea behind the current research program, exhibition and synthetic publication is to consolidate knowledge dispersed among researchers and artists across this part of Europe. The project will trace the similarities and differences between the societies and young states of Central Europe in how photographic publications reflected the process of shaping their new identities, and thus affected their image, ideology and dreams of modernisation and future.
Photobloc is the first comprehensive and critically aware exhibition addressing the tumultuous history of Central Europe as illustrated by albums, artist books and propaganda publications. A broad international perspective paints a picture of shared fate of inhabitants of this part of the continent. More than a hundred books from Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania illustrate how photography reflected the processes of formulation of new identity of societies and young states of Central Europe, shaping their image, ideology, dreams of modernization and the future.  
The narrative of the exhibition is divided into six thematic chapters. It takes the viewer through the 20th century from the moment when the first mass printed photobooks were issued, through the period of revived and newly formed states, the trauma of another world war and wide-scale modernisation that intersected with reproduced propaganda images of mass suffering and death. The display will also feature publications documenting everyday life, social processes and attitudes in the 1960s and ‘70s up to the present day, as well as the era of political, cultural, and technological transformation.
The exhibition will showcase popular and collectible photobooks as well as film chronicles, pictures, prints, and art objects. Exhibits will be there to see, but also to leaf through, read, and touch. It is perhaps the last chance to directly experience photobooks, since they are increasingly highly valued, collected, and ultimately will also become less available.