Two stories told by photographers; two cities – Nuremberg and Kraków. The former – almost entirely destroyed during World War II as it was considered “guilty”. One of its main landmarks today, apart from the castle, the St. Sebaldus Church, and the Frauenkirche, is the site of the Nuremberg Rallies – a pharaonic urban project with an area of eleven square kilometres, comprising of party meeting halls, stadiums, marching fields, a grandstand, where Hitler was filmed on numerous occasions – all of it closely tied to Nazi history. Today its remains serve as a Documentation Centre, but the deteriorating buildings and marching grounds serve as a reminder of the city’s and country’s history – history that has been processed, but remains unwanted. The latter city – Kraków, a survivor in a sea of destruction – remained relatively unharmed during World War II. Only during the post-war period, the city started to gradually deteriorate, in a way that was just as precarious as demolition of buildings – the arrival of new authorities and a new political regime, that – in a sense – punished the city by building the Nowa Huta steelworks.
The Collateral (KRK/NUE) exhibition presents the works of photographers associated with both cities. It follows that it is governed by territorial limitations. Images, although quite diverse, actually depict only two small spaces. The varied exhibited works form a palimpsestic story – historical and private, artistic and documentary – of cities that are closely linked not only by the great creator Veit Stoss, but also a network of contemporary cultural associations.
The starting point of the exhibition are photos that on one side present a swastika-decorated stand at the Nazi Party rally site in Nuremberg, on the other – the first post-war May Day march in Kraków. The following photos depict the complete devastation of Nuremberg, which had been one of the best-preserved medieval cities in Europe before the war, and private documents, presenting the city in later years, with intertwined historical orders – for Nuremberg did reclaim its old town, but the reconstructed landmarks do feature the Nazi past, like the Nazi coliseum. The post-war history of Kraków is depicted in the photos of victims of war trauma, taken by Henryk Hermanowicz at the Psychiatric Hospital in Kobierzyn.
Collateral (KRK/NUE) is also focused on space. The photos from the cycle Święta wojna [Holy War] by the eminent Kraków photographer Wojciech Wilczyk expose the graffiti of football fans, full of calls for violence, anti-Semitism, and abuse. This violation of public space has existed for many years, but it remains virtually invisible. Wilczyk focuses on what people are unwilling to see, since it requires effort and counteraction; hateful, but consistent presence. Nuremberg’s Jutta Missbach presents a work created in Kraków, specifically for this exhibition. It is a loose documentation of architecture, a juxtaposition of unwanted communist heritage such as concrete housing projects with the later aesthetic heritage of plastic signboards and inscriptions. René Radomsky deals with city space unburdened with historical heritage; his photos feature mobile images of birds. This attitude is specific to the young generation of Nuremberg creators, who abandon “important” subjects in favour of that which is private.
The private contemporaneity of Kraków is also presented in the photos of the eminent American photographer Michael Ackerman, who spent many years in the city. His dark, acute photos, portraits, and street scenes are visionary images, which utilize a fierce but sensible language. They mainly depict the “night shift” of Kraków, spirits banished to the periphery of official life, unknown people with faces that move those who look at them. Anika Maaß is focused on that which is ephemeral. Her 1440 is a recording of a day in the life of many individuals, a loose documentation of moments that fade away. Here, even the technical side of the works forces the viewer to think about elusiveness – the artist presents small prints, referencing a typically domestic manner of documenting the mostly non-essential matters. Photos of Michael Ullrich are similarly private; the artist is focused on his own life and creating a photo journal.
The work of Kraków artist Łukasz Trzciński, also prepared specifically for this exhibition, serves as Collateral’s coda; its basis is a video shot in Nuremberg. The work, full of historical references, is focused on the inevitable blurring of meanings – historically meaningful gestures become empty, and monuments reminding of sheer cruelty of past generations fade away within the landscape. Trzciński claims it is necessary to forget, even about the things that define us, in order to make room for a new life.
Languages of photography are a subsidiary theme of Collateral (KRK/NUE). It is not a homogenous medium – artistic, private, or documentary. Places and their histories are the basis and the central element here; the manner of their expression is diverse, however, describing the cities from many viewpoints. Mosaic, palimpsest, and a non-linear method of presentation are the basic rules that govern this attempt to juxtapose the two cities that are both close and distant.