Weronika Orłowska

Faculty of Visual Culture

Tomasz Machciński i Ryszard Kisiel – emancipating potential of games with self-image

degree piece


minor degree

The aim of the work is to reconstruct the meanings carried by the performative camera-targeted activities of Tomasz Machciński and Ryszard Kisiel. In my analysis of photographs from the private archives of both artists-outsiders and press and film materials devoted to them, I try to answer the question about the purpose of the artists’ games with self-image, including the creation of the other sex, and also about the role of the categories of play, camp, obscenity and grotesque in their activity.

Ryszard Kisiel and Tomasz Machciński created hundreds of photographic incarnations in the privacy of their homes. These camp plays with identity had an emancipating character: they stressed the individuality of the artists and expressed their objection to the oppressive reality of communist Poland. The visual minor degree Closet that accompanies my thesis is the design of an installation in which the photographic archives of both artists collide with their own comments. By placing a closet in the gallery and encouraging recipients to take a peep through the keyhole, I try to show the duality of the situation of their private archives, in which the most intimate matters – one’s own naked body and sexuality – become public.

Born 1998. Studies: Faculty of Management of Visual Culture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw (2017–2020). Scholarship of the Rector of the Academy of Fine Arts (2018/2019, 2019/2020). She works as a curator of exhibitions and does theoretical research in the field of visual culture and the history of art. Co-curator of exhibitions: 1/11 – Microstories, the Arton Foundation, Warsaw, 2018 and How to slice a lemon?, Salon Akademii Koneser, Warsaw, 2020. Curator of the exhibition Monika Orpik: Blue Zone & Manual of Participation, Autonomia Gallery, Warsaw, 2019. Production assistant of the documentary YYAA – Wojciech Bruszewski directed by E. Kozłowska and produced by the Arton Foundation.

Tomasz Machciński i Ryszard Kisiel – emancipating potential of games with self-image

Tomasz Machciński i Ryszard Kisiel – emancypujący potencjał gier z wizerunkiem

supervisor: dr Marika Kuźmicz

Tomasz Machciński and Ryszard Kisiel, whose artistic activity is the subject matter of Weronika Orłowska’s minor degree, are artists who have been discovered for Polish history of art and culture only in recent years, despite the fact that both of them have been acted both innovatively and consistently for many decades. Such situations are, of course, frequent and recurrent: a separate artist, whose output is difficult to categorise, begins to function in the community’s consciousness (other artists, researchers, museum workers, curators) at a later date, when the peak of their activity has already passed. This pattern of reception, which has repeated itself for centuries, clearly shows that only a certain distance of time allows us to ask adequate questions to these artists and their works. This is one of the roles fulfilled by Weronika Orłowska’s text. The author asks about the role of the emancipating potential of games with images being played by Machciński and Kisiel and about the present-day meaning of such terms as mainstream, professionalism, niche or subversiveness, while at the same time proposing a careful and contextualising interpretation of the activity of both artists.


supervisor: mgr Kuba Maria Mazurkiewicz

Closet is a display for photographs and stories about the art of Tomasz Machciński and Ryszard Kisiel. The closet is a private space where you can hide. Which is why Weronika Orłowska’s piece is an apt symbol of queer and transvestism. The non-normativeness that had to be – and still sometimes has to be – hidden. This furniture is a place for storing – for example, clothes, or a staffage of works by Machciński and Kisiel. Closet combines two functions: a purely utilitarian display of artifacts (photographs, videos) and a symbolic installation matched to the content inside it.