This article was originally published on December 1, 2021
TIFF Festival is one of the most important and influential photography events in Poland. It is held in Wrocław since 2011 and it has been dedicated to widely defined photography from the beginning.
This year’s edition took place in September and its theme was the phenomenon of the picture as an object. The one you can touch or even the one printed in such a big format that is impressive to see.
One of the main program’s most interesting exhibitions was the State of Exception. The whole concept, divided into a few sections, touched on different social topics. How to be the ideal woman, how to be the ideal citizen, how to perfectly meet social expectations? As a whole, it seems to touch the problem of division between the ‘ideal life’ presented in ads and the real people, real problems and, simply, reality.
The exhibition, designed by Łukasz Rusznica and Agnieszka Olszewska, is based on creating tension between the content presented on big format pictures and specific photo books dedicated to each section. One is commenting on another. The outcome of this dialog gives us the uncomfortable feeling of what happens when social roles are not perfectly performed. It gives us the tension that seems more realistic than the concept of the ideal life proposed by society.
In the COVID-19 era, one could visit the State of Exception and experience the books only by wearing plastic gloves. From the beginning, we experience an abnormal, uncomfortable situation that reminds us of the circumstances we live in. This common safety measure matches the topic touched by the exhibition and is a perfect comment on the State of Exception itself.
The exhibition seems to comment on issues that we struggle with in Poland nowadays. Women’s rights, the LGBTQ+ community situation, the migrant crisis. It forces us to rethink what is a norm on every level.
On a different extreme, there is an exhibition of Jacek Fota. Here we are, exposed to the photographs taken from the tram window: people standing by the kiosk, calm images from the fields, season changes. The photographer takes us on the journey of ordinariness. In contrast to the State of exception, the images of Fota are comforting. They showcase the meditative aspects of ongoing life. Despite the change of circumstances, life goes on. And it leaves the visitor with a feeling of peace.
The last particular TIFF exhibition I would like to mention is the photo book Yaga. Agata Kalinowska, the artist behind the photos, is guiding us through her personal diary. She is inviting us on a journey of joys and sorrows of her intimate life. In a courageous way, she shows her day and nightlife as a woman in their raw state.