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Pure Nonsense in the collages of Wisława Szymborska


Pure Nonsense in the collages of Wisława Szymborska

Michał Rusinek, former secretary to Wisława Szymborska and president of the Wisława Szymborska Foundation, introduced us to her multifaceted mind, generous heart and charming sense of humor.

Over the years Wisława Szymborska made many postcards using collage, which she sent to her friends on various occasions. Like her poetry, Szymborska’s collages have powerful punch-lines and are characterized by a surrealistic sense of humour.

The vernissage – a selection of several dozen collages, out of more than one thousand made by the poet – is particularly interesting as a kind of endnote to her literary oeuvre: the postcards allow an insight into Szymborska’s creative imagination, and also offer a rare opportunity to show her from a different, lesser known angle. The poet’s collages are displayed together with our students’ works, which are themselves inspired by her artistic creativity. The exhibition will be open until 21st October.


Photo gallery

One didn’t need too much: a small rectangular piece of cardboard – blue or cream, a decent paper glue, a pair of scissors, things to cut out and, of course, Wisława Szymborska. Out of all of the mentioned things, in the People’s Republic of Poland era – which was when Szymborska started making her collages – the only element one could be certain of was Szymborska herself.

There were no cardboards around at the time and so those who could, would bring them for her from their overseas trips. Most often the glue did not stick things together, so, I gather, she must have had a special method for making it do so and that did not, of course, guarantee the durability of the enterprise… She knew how to fight the bluntness of the scissors: looking at these collages one does not sense any war either with the tool or with her own body. She herself would find the materials to cut out: they were the headlines from newspapers and magazines, photo reproductions or old postcards. And she would invalidate them. They did retain the original characteristics of their own, one could still recognize them for what they were before, but – cut out of the context- they built entirely new worlds: a bit surrealist, full of warmth, humour and freedom. Contrarily, they have been freed of their place of origin, written into Szymborska’s world and so they were no more attached to the newspaper, the magazine, the photo or the postcard of their origin – they were now taken out of their hitherto necessity.

She would send them to her friends, to the people that were dear to her, and there were so many of them that making the collages must have taken her lots of time. She knew her friends were waiting, especially at the end of December, for such and no other New Year wishes and she almost never let them down. She also remembered the special occasions of importance to each of her friends and she commented on them by the means of the collages. She would sign them with her initials, name and surname or just the name. With the characteristic “W” which looked more like a “V”. With straight, small but legible letters.

These collages are works of art. That is certain. They are also Wisława Szymborska’s signature. It is however truly worthwhile to give attention to the most important thing about them: they are the proof of friendship and a call to it.

Prof. Leonard Neuger (Stockholm University), translated by Agnieszka Grochowicz

The lecture was preceded by a silent charity auction, organized by the Foundation of Wisława Szymborska.

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