WGW 2016: IRENA KALICKA | It’s Hard To Slay The Dragon, But You Must Try.

opening: Friday, September 23rd, 2016, 5 pm – 9 pm

other days of Warsaw Gallery Weekend: Saturday – Sunday, September 24th-25th, 2016, 12 noon – 7 pm

The exhibition is on view through November 5th, 2016.

From the It’s Hard to Slay the Dragon, but You Must Try, 2016

Irena Kalicka continues her 2015 project The Horse You See is the Horse You Get in her latest series of works. The staged photographs illustrate an 18th-century vision of the world of New Athens as seen through the eyes of Father Chmielowski. In reaching for a publication fraught with superstition and prejudice, which is nonetheless widely touted as the first Polish encyclopaedia, the artist takes a subversive stance in stacking stereotypes and playing with banal associations. The imagination, feeding off phantasmagorical imagery, is enlivened with a medieval dance macabre performed by frenzied football fans dressed in the white-and-red of the Polish flag. The extravagance of these strange figures and their crude behaviour is combined with various cultural codes and references to works of art of yesterday and today in a way that is characteristic of the artist.

From the It’s Hard to Slay the Dragon, but You Must Try 2016


Delving into the text of New Athens, Kalicka doesn’t pursue the genealogy of the themes that are served up, dance macabre and ars moriendi are played out by figures that inscribe these performances into a contemporary narrative. The work, dating several centuries back, strives to illuminate the world through topics in the areas of contemporary culture, visual arts and popular culture, through images that absorbs the rhetoric of post-colonial discourse, gender studies, queer theory and increasingly overt narratives of nationalism, gender roles and racism, much like our everyday language does. Nationalist revivals take on a grotesque form on a photograph of a hussar in fishnet tights and exaggerated makeup, the pride of the Res Publica in the guise of a queer masquerade.

From the It’s Hard to Slay the Dragon, but You Must Try, 2016     

Kalicka’s eclectic mise-en-scènes, photographs of men and women in traditional highlander dress, a recidivist and his piety, football fanatics and ethnic minorities, set the scene for a range of inclinations to play out – folklorization, exotization, demonization – along with a sentimental replaying of notions prevalent in the arts. The perfectly staged still lifes are not only a photographic re-enactment of archetypes of painting. The artist refers, rather, to the perception that is drawn from visual memory, to the imagination that is the result of reception, a frame of seeing, its spectacularization and subjectification. An outwardly “neutral” work of a still life shows its dragon’s claw, punishing the eye with the sharp cultural constructs of visual visibility.

Bożena Czubak


Graduate of The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź, where in 2010 she received her bachelor’s degree in the studio of Grzegorz Przyborek, and in 2013 her master’s degree in the studio of Józef Robakowski.

She lives and works in Cracow.

Solo exhibitions:

The Horse You See is the Horse You Get, F.A.I.T, Cracow, 2015

Goosebumps, Profile Foundation, Warsaw, 2014

I did not have sexual relations with that woman, SKI, Cracow, 2014

Self-portrait, Pauza Gallery, Cracow, 2012 Totalizator, AS Gallery, Cracow, 2012

Group exhibitions:

Artists from Krakow. Generation 1980-1990, MOCAK, Cracow, 2015

The Increased Difficulty of Concentration, City Surfer Office, Prague, 2015

Exquisite corpse of Polish Photography, BWA Wroclaw-Galleries of Contemporary Art, Wrocław, 2015

Roots&Fruits, Wroclaw Contemporary Museum, Wrocław, 2015

Biennale WRO, The National Museum, Wrocław, 2015


Future Condition – from reality to algorithm, Photokina Academy, Cologne, 2014

2M2 OF FASHION, Lookout Gallery, Warsaw, 2014

Estrus and Promiscuity, CCA Project Room Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, 2013

There Will Be A(rt)ction! The 2013 Collection, Contemporary Art Gallery Bunkier Sztuki, Cracow, 2013

Art of Exchange, Collection of Józef Robakowski, Profile Foundation, Warsaw, 2013

Mum I Just Really Need to Focus on My Art Right Now, Arsenal, Poznań, 2013

Tribute to Robakowski, Lokal_30 / Lokal_transfer, Warsaw, 2013

In the Matter of In/visible Things, Photokina Academy, Cologne, 2012

Fairy Tale Element, Museum of Contemporary Art, Wrocław, 2012

In the Matter of Things, Západná terasa Bratislavského hradu, Bratislava, 2011

Disconnected Images, BWA, Bydgoszcz, 2011

A n i m a l i a, Gabriele Senn Galerie, Vienna, 2011

Come on Come closer, Skwer – Department of Art Centre, Fabryka Trzciny, Warsaw, 2011

Come on Come closer, Ośrodek Propagandy Sztuki, Łódź, 2011

The Belly of Atlas, Atlas Sztuki, Łódź 2010

IN OUT, Galeria FabrySTREFA, Łódź, 2010 Animalia, Zbiornik Kultury, Cracow, 2010