Photographer: Jacek Fota (Warsaw, Poland)
Publisher: Fundacja Centrum Architektury, Warsaw, Poland 2015. Co-financed by the Capital City of Warsaw
Essays: Introduction by Agnieszka Rasmus-Zgorzelska / Interviews by Milena Rachid Chebab
Language: English (English edition, 430 copies); there is also a Polish edition.
Hardcover book with 112 pages, not numbered; 70 color photographs numbered and captioned in the appendix; sewn binding; cloth cover, printed and bound in Poland
Photobook Designer: Ania Nałęcka, Tapir Book Design
PKiN is the abbreviation of the Polish name (Pałac Kultury i Nauki) for the Palace of Culture and Science in the country’s capital, Warsaw. This huge building containing in excess of 3200 rooms was a gift from the Soviet Union under Stalin to the people of Poland and was created between 1952 and 1955. Construction elements include some of the finest workmanship by craftsmen from Poland and the Soviet Union. This beautifully printed volume of photographs and ten pages of personal notes based on staff interviews shows an embossed replica of the so-called “frog” diagram of the ventilation system of this impressive edifice on the cover as an introduction to the myriad of details inside.
Jacek Fota’s 70 images delve behind the scenes of this magnificent structure as it exists today. In the words of Krzysiek, one of the Palace staff members interviewed, “Now there is much less going on and one can feel that the palace has been neglected.” Fota’s distanced views evoke a sense of the range of public responses – awe, respect, and perhaps even some resentment of this overwhelming structure, with all its elements and all its history. Fota states that his goal was to document how the palace functions on the inside, “to convey the mysterious, surreal ambience” which the Palace exudes.
And sure enough, the administrators and caretakers of the palace are depicted as relatively small elements of the photographs in which they appear. The general impression of the viewer is one of distance, which enhances the mysteries of what is shown. The viewer also feels overcome by the sheer number and size of the many magnificent structural elements, as they mix with items neglected or in disrepair, mere reflections of the “glory” of former times. One can let one’s imagination take a journey, thinking of events that once gave even more luster to the structure than may be the case today. The images of this astute photographer are well composed and sequenced, and it is a pleasure to wander through the volume from beginning to end.