“Intermarium” is an exhibition addressing phantasms and images employed by Central European countries when they wish to define their position towards Western Europe and other countries of the region.
The project took as its starting point Ziemowit Szczerek’s “Rzeczpospolita Zwycięska” [“The Victorious Republic”], a book that tells an alternative story of the Second World War. Szczerek based his narrative on authentic plans for the development of Poland drafted in the interwar period by politicians, urban planners, and economists. Making references to the economic situation and geopolitical conditions of the period, Szczerek constructs a vision of Poland that joins forces with the Allies in 1939 and wins the September Campaign. Subsequently, Poland becomes a leader in the region. It joins with Slovakia into one state, and then constructs a confederacy together with Czech Republic and Hungary, Lithuania, Romania and Yugoslavia. This way, Poland creates a political entity that sentimentally re-enacts the Golden Age of the Jagiellonian dynasty, the “intermarium,” a country that stretches “in-between two seas.”
This federation of countries, with Poland as its leader, functions for some dozen years and then spectacularly collapses. The imperial dream turns out a mere illusion, proves Szczerek in his brilliant novel. The coalition of Intermarium falls into pieces very quickly, while its idea, when confronted with “general impossibility,” proves too weak to unite number of countries of this part of Europe. This “impossibility,” as well as the reasons for the decline of the political phantasm of Intermarium, provoked us to create an exhibition about the potential of our region described with tongue in cheek.
The project attempts to sketch the specificity of each of the former Eastern block countries through the prism of their image of themselves, their role and position towards other European states, as well as their aspirations, contradictions, and common interests. We also trace the changes of the perception of the Central-Eastern European community across several generations of artists.
The timeframe for reflection on artistic identity of the countries of Central Europe was set by research conducted, among others, by Piotr Piotrowski and Zdenka Badovinac. The problem of westernisation and reference to Western standards was widely discussed by art critics and explored by artist active in the artistic scene of the region in the 1990s.
In the hands of artists of the region, art often becomes a tool for research on issues related to history and national identity. The exhibition presents examples of aesthetics verging on art and propaganda, typical of totalitarian systems.
Radicalism of artistic groups taking part in the exhibition stems from the need to move outside the still ardent conflict between the East and the West. The awareness of the clinch of Central Europe comes back as a wish to rework totalitarian symbols, national authorities, dreams of power, and history as a sphere of manipulation of the present and construction of visions for the future.
Has the issue of regional identity fallen into oblivion together with both fading and unwanted memories of the common coexistence under the surveillance of the Big Brother? Employing the figure of Intermarium, a phantasmatic empire in-between two seas, we spin visions of the lost or perhaps never-existing community whose nature is aptly expressed by the work made by IRWIN group: Now is the time for a new state. Some say that this is where you will find happiness.