A Matter of Things

‘A Matter of Things’ presented ten everyday items, from a camp bed to a manhole cover, and explored why they resonate so strongly in the Polish psyche.

Poland’s installation displayed objects that appeared meaningless but were loaded with emotional weight. “Sometimes they gain significance almost by accident, by their supporting role in an event or phenomenon,” explained curator Małgorzata Wesołowska.

Ten objects were selected that were strongly connected to emotionally charged events in recent Polish history. They ranged from a manhole, a symbol of the Warsaw Uprising, during which the sewer network was vital for moving Resistance troops and equipment – to a camp bed, which as a makeshift shop counter came to embody the black market boom of the 1990s. “The items chosen resonate strongly with the Polish psyche, but as emblems, not necessarily obviously or rationally linked to the events they accompanied,” said Wesołowska. “The installation tells international viewers why these everyday items arouse strong feelings and explains their association with collective Polish euphoria, joy, anger or despair.” Each object was presented as a generic model, given the status of a cultural symbol. They were reminiscent of prototypes awaiting the final touches, such as texture, material and colour. Moodboards put these objects into historical context, combining comic-book-style drawings, archival photographs and stills from films.

The curator hoped the exhibit would spark interest in Polish history and the ways in which we use emotions, stories and objects to illustrate these events. “I hope that visitors will understand how our cultural and economic perspectives affect the way we perceive things,” said Wesołowska. “Today, in an era of intercontinental migration, it is still – and perhaps increasingly – necessary to decrypt the meaning of things in order to be familiar with the cultural codes of a given community or nation.”

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Photography: Ed Reeve


Administering Body:

The Adam Mickiewicz Institute


(Exhibition and Object Design) Szpunar Studio, Noodi Design, (Illustrations and Graphic Design) Michał Loba


Małgorzata Wesołowska

2018 Exhibitors