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Laboratory of Space – The Past in the Present

The exhibition presents the most significant achievements of the European theatre, starting with its antique origins until the explorations of the contemporary stage. Its composition is based in the concentric arrangement of two subsequent rings: in the first one, mock-ups and historical visualisations demonstrate the transformations of theatre space, the second presents examples of the use of historical models in the Polish theatre.

Encouraging the viewers to actively participate in the exhibition, we offer an infinite number of possible tours around it. A reference to laboratory activities was used to attempt to attract the viewer’s attention and arouse  their imagination in many ways. Models of theatre spaces located in the middle of the exhibition portray the basic changes in the relationship between the stage and the audience. Multimedia presentations forming the exhibition inner circle contain historical facts complemented with selected cultural issues. The collected archival material presents the development and transformation of the theatre space, they also provide the characteristics of man as an author, participant and recipient of the show. The designs, sketches and drawings, as well as costumes and mock-ups, reveal the contemporary view on constructing theatre ideas.  

The over 800 square metres exhibition area contains works by the most outstanding scenographers in the post-war history of the Polish theatre, such as: Józef Szajna, Jerzy Gurawski, Andrzej Kreutz Majewski, Zofia Wierchowicz, Jerzy Skarżyński.

Zenobiusz Strzelecki (1915–1987), The Frogs by Aristophanes, 1963, bristol board, tempera
In accordance with the idea by Zenobiusz Strzelecki, the autor of the decorations for the comedy The Frogs, the scenography was to correspond to the ancient Greek theatre. The plot was set on a wooden dais, characteristic of marketplace comedy performances, supported by fragments of a column – on three sides, the scene was enclosed by curtains with three entrances painted on them, corresponding to the openings in the ancient skene-building.  

Andrzej Stopka (1904–1973), Historyja o chwalebnym Zmartwychwstaniu Pańskim (The Story of the Ressurrection of the Lord) by Mikołaj from Wilkowiecko, bristol board, tempera
In his design, Andrzej Stopka  draws on the tradition of the medieval mystery and morality play. It was fitted into the form of a nativity shed, taken from folk tradition.


Andrzej Sadowski (1925–2009), Wesele (The Wedding) by Stanisław Wyspiański, cardboard, mixed technique
The design for the set for Wesele is an example of a symbolic space making use of quotations embedded in the tradition of the Polish theatre. The composition of the stage cabinet reminds of the structure of a wooden shed present in the play. It also draws on Stanisław Wyspiański’s scenography, while the symbols used go back to the roots of his stage revolution and national theatre ideas, based on the foundation of Jan Matejko’s historicist painting. The modern form of space constructed with light and colour evokes the surrealist mood of the play.

Lidia (1920–1994) and Jerzy (1924–2004) Skarżyński, La clemenza di Tito by Wolfgang Amadeusz Mozart, 1978, bristol board on cardboard, guache
In keeping with the convention of the times, Lidia and Jerzy Skarżyński designed a decorative space with much ornamental detail, in the tones of crimson and gold. Owing to the perfect use of perspective and architectural elements in order to enhance the spatiality, the Skarżyńskis achieved an illusion of depth, creating an illusory opera house world enclosed inside the walls of box stage.

Józef Szajna (1922–2008), Replika IV, 1973, MDF board, emulsion paint
Set prepared for Replika IV, performance, which was first staged in Teatr Studio in Warszaw in 1973. The idea for this theatre space was rooted in the image of the deconstruction and collapse of the world, which was then reconstructed by the actors at the audience’s very eyes. The artist also used dummies of wrecked human beings and figures symbolising the destruction of an individual by a totalitarian system.
Exhibition curators: Sylwia Ryś, Agnieszka Kołodziej-Adamczuk