Ideal City

The experience of Nowa Huta’s unfinished utopia goes along with an equally multilayered visual archive representing a number of simultaneous policies on working with the image.


photographs by Henryk Makarewicz and Wiktor Pental

Ideal City employs instrumentally the phenomenon of Nowa Huta (Poland), a town imagined and made concrete from above, as a holistic urbanistic and social experiment, aimed at outlining prospective scenarios for the evolution of the concept of city. 

The case of Nowa Huta is altogether exceptional because the experimental concept of the city created for the purposes of social engineering accumulates an infinite number of previous urban scenarios, universalising in this way the experience of city in the broad sense.

The experience of Nowa Huta’s unfinished utopia goes along with an equally multilayered visual archive. Although it only has two authors [Wiktor Pental (1920–2013) and Henryk Makarewicz (1917–1984)], their photographic practices occurred on diverse planes, thus representing a number of simultaneous policies on working with the image. As a consequence, the mutually complementary and discursive character of specific narratives or single images constituting the collection makes it a perfect instrumentarium to be used in the investigation process of what the city is today or may be in future.

Therefore, Ideal City juxtaposes two experiences: a city designed from scratch—a laboratory not only in urbanist and architectural but chiefly in social terms, and its representation. Apparently a coherent whole, it is still based on a number of a number of overlapping views: strictly documentary, humanistic, propagandist, private, more or less directly involved in the sphere of art, frequently constituting afterimages of concurrent visual trends. Deconstruction of such multilayered and equivocal collection of photographs dedicated to the city, a product of intersecting views from above, private convictions and synchronic aesthetic regimes, gives rise to a laboratory where prospective scenarios for how the concept of citymay evolve are drawn, but this time from the grassroots perspective.

Ideal City is an open proposition, and merely a leaven for a broader progressing discourse. Bordering on a display or a publication at first, it provides a platform for further research offering a living repository for interested researchers/artists to delve into within the framework of the website/exhibition, and suggest new ways of interpretation.

about the photographers:

Henryk Makarewicz (1917-1984)

Photographer, cameraman for the Polish Film Chronicle. He documented Nowa Huta from the very beginning of its existence. His recognizable and elegant style may be compared to Henri Cartier-Bresson: always there at the heart of events, waiting for the ideal moment, when all the elements he needs form the flawless whole. In the works of Makarewicz it is the perfection of form, the search for the ultimate shot.

Wiktor Pental (b. 1920)

Photographer and construction worker from Nowa Huta. In the humanist tradition, he is close to man, much warmer. Much like Robert Doisneau, to whose photographs Pental’s may be compared, the images concentrate on one theme. All of his photographs are about Nowa Huta, and the people that make up the fabric of the town. Pental always treats man with lightness and humour, never par distance.

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