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By Katarzyna Bojarska
Polish artists - those born before the war, those who survived the Shoah and its witnesses alike - produced several works pointing to both the presence of war trauma and the impossibility to represent it by means of traditional imagery. Nevertheless, art did not dissolve into silence, nor did culture disappear by the mid 20th century. Attempts at the artistic representation of reality and at overcoming both the lack of Holocaust iconography and the decline of mimetic representation have not vanished. What Eleonora Jedlińska2
and many other authors call "the end of man" was taken up by many artists and in many ways, although - let us put it directly - it has not at all been the only subject of postwar art. It is not easy to give priority to one manner of depicting this historical phenomenon, and it seems obvious that particular generations of viewers and artists favoured different tendencies. The tone which seemed to be dominant for quite a long time was serious meditation connected with lamentation and the limiting of means of visual expression, on the one hand, and screaming associated with the imperative to testify, on the other. War experience gave birth to a conflict between the desire to tell the truth, to testify, and the awareness of the unsuitability of traditional visual conventions as well as of the insufficiency of the hitherto existing language of art.
Zbigniew Dłubak, series "Wojna / War"
courtesy of the Museum of Art in Łódź, photo: Piotr Tomczyk
After the war it seemed that on the terrifying phenomenon of dehumanised mass death, one could either scream or cease to speak.
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