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The Right to Look 2018-01-26


The Right to Look

Participants: Krzysztof Gil, Delaine Le Bas, Andrzej Mirga, Małgorzata Mirga-Tas

Curators: Wojciech Szymański, Delaine Le Bas

Opening: 1 Fabruary, 9 pm.


Towards the end of the 1970s, Andrzej Mirga, a Polish Romani and then a student of ethnography at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, took a number of black-and-white photographs which documented the life of the Romani communities from Czarna Góra and other villages and small towns from the southern part of Lesser Poland. This photographic reportage, now over forty years old, which comprises the images of the mountain landscape of the Tatras, vernacular architecture, genre scenes, and above all the portraits of the male and female Romani, is a unique, priceless and highly interesting record from the visual archive of the past. 

Being both a student of ethnography and a member of the portrayed group, Mirga took photographs of the Romani communities of the Spiš and Podhale regions and, while doing so, he employed the method of documentation characteristic for such fields as ethnography, ethnology and anthropology. In case of Mirga, one is entitled to talk about an act of reclaiming the medium that has been previously used to produce the image of the object by the discourse of ethnography. By means of this operation, a member of the Romani (and thus far subjugated by ethnographers) community reclaims for his people their own image and turns them into the subject. In the photographs by Mirga (a soon-to-be ethnography graduate), ethnography, anthropology and ethnology, namely the disciplines whose history is irrevocably and organically linked with the imperial gaze, become performatively deconstructed. In this sense, Mirga’s photographic record, which he began in 1978, the very same year in which Zofia Rydet started her Zapis socjologiczny [Sociological record], makes it possible for the subaltern to gain a new and fair right: the right to look.

Mirga’s photographs have become an important point of departure for two contemporary Romani artists. During her artistic residency at Czarna Góra in 2016, the Romani-British artist Delaine Le Bas repeated, in a sense, the gesture of Andrzej Mirga. Małgorzata Mirga-Tas uses the images by Mirga as visual models and archetypes for her works – the pieces on the threshold of painting, sculpture and installation that defy any clear-cut classifications.

Organizator: ERIAC - European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture



Partner: Fundacja Grey House Szara Kamienica

Exhibition is part of European Roma Institute for Arts and Culture (ERIAC) International Cultural Outreach Program. The Outreach Program is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.









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