Obecność prac humanisty. O Mieczysławie Porębskim w 2013
Mieczysław Porębski in 2013, or the presence of the humanist's work
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Mieczysław Porebski is considered to be one of the greatest Polish humanists. The history of his undertakings makes us reflect on the permanence and appraisal of intellectual work in Central European culture in the second half of the twentieth century. That is why in this essay I pose questions regarding whether Porebski’s studies still have a presence in contemporary academic circles, the reception of his art criticism, and the lasting effects of his selected curatorial activities. Methods of dissemination and potential continuations of his key projects were taken as the starting point. Comparing the publishing history of Mieczysław Porebski’s major texts and their presence in contemporary reading lists indicates that art studies are not the only areas drawing on the author’s legacy. For his writings are used equally often by literary scholars and representatives of humanism, which are reintegrated under the banner of cultural studies. Comparing their publishing history (the order of editions, the re-editions, the print runs), with their contemporary functioning in academic circulation, shows that the lifespan of works published as books ranges from about 30 to 40 years from the date of the last edition. From more or less the 1990s, Porebski’s scattered texts in the fi eld of art criticism have mainly been referred to in the context of research on the cultural life of the period. Among the mentioned publications, the most important in terms of the author’s reception today seems to be his Iconosphere (Warsaw, 1972, Belgrade 1978; translated by Peter Vujicic, afterword by Rodoslav Doluc). It is a work in which Porebski, in response to the reflections of semiologists of the time, attempting to get to the basics of visual communication, analysed the latter through the category of space and described the differences between the structure of language and the structure of the world of images. Thanks to Porebski, the term “iconosphere” became widely accepted in contemporary Polish humanities. I believe that the author was one of the fi rst to use it in the fi eld of art history, as early as the mid-1960s (the term was probably coined by the philosopher/existentialist Jean Wahl). The publication of the work evidently gave the “iconosphere” durability, at least in the realms of Slavic linguistics. From these observations, we can also draw valuable conclusions as to the lifespan and importance of the museologist’s work in contemporary Polish culture. The effect of Mieczysław Porebski’s curatorial activities, related to the creation of permanent exhibitions of Polish art at the National Museum in Kraków, faded away only recently. In the mid-1970s, his version of the Gallery of Nineteenth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Cloth Hall took shape. Porebski also realized the Gallery of Twentieth Century Polish Art in the early 1990s. In both exhibitions, he juxtaposed works according to problems, assuming that they are linked by the room space. He thus created sophisticated structures, confronted masters, and willingly referred to places – events from the history of artistic life, grouping works in accordance with major exhibitions. These exhibitions played an important role in their time in defi ning the canon of Polish art of the past two centuries. Their duration was essentially restricted by external factors: the need for restoring the museum interior and stricter standards of copyright law. In the years 2005-2010, both expositions were remodelled by introducing new narratives and, to a varying degree, redefi ning the vision of history earlier proposed by Porebski. On the other hand, a good example of the continuation of his exhibiting concepts was a reconstruction of his private studio, completed in 2011 in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, under the name Mieczysław Porebski’s Library. Its creation marks a new chapter in the dissemination of the scholar’s work.
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