Humor can be understood as the propensity toward fun and laughter, but also as a reflective and independent view of the world and surroundings – expressed in an artistic and/or intellectual form. Humor – when put this way –is an indispensable tool of a satirical artist as a means of looking at human and non-human issues with an insightful perspective and the sharpest of optics. Without emphasis, humor is a fully identified, personal I: conscious, sensitive and talented – or: the workshop of a satirist. Of a good one at that.
Zbigniew Ziomecki, Untitled, Satyrykon 1980 Poster – Satyrykon 1984, by Janusz Kapusta Andrzej Legus, Untitled, Satyrykon 1996
Satire – if it is not examined from the point of view of aesthetics or poetics – is actually a worldview that is skeptical, doubtful, characteristic of a rationalist with the temperament of a utilitarian, sometimes characteristic even of a moralist, but not the one in Tartuffe’s robes. As for the satirist? He is a ‘wariat’ (madman) – a thinking one. A human variant (from the latin word varius – different), who sees, hears, understands d i f f e r e n t l y that which others look at, talk about and seem to think they know something about. The human varia(n)t which thinks differently – a hellish combination!
A true satirist undermines even the long-standing truths; negates that which has already been negated; looks at the dark side of the moon while others look at its bright side; he sees the darkness in the brightest, crystal-like personas and in the Polish Republics: open, secret and androgynous.
Humanity changes ‘itself’, evolves and develops ‘itself’, while the satirist keeps going on about the same old stuff – about stupidity, injustice, hypocrisy, about the violence of the state and law. Humanity clones ‘itself’, enriches ‘itself’ at the expense of (sic!) the not-rich; kills faster and more efficiently (with unmanned devices); starves gracefully on CNN’s colorful headlines and in the slums, with a view of ghettos and execution walls, in prisons with sensual electrocutions… – humanity is making progress, while the satirist does not believe it to be so. Thus he pulls out some evidence, of an entirely questionable nature, showing that it is the other way around. The scope of good and evil – still the same. But human misery – more miserable than ever.
Is the satirist, however, a sheer idealist? Perhaps he is merely a cynic who, unlike his colleagues-tragedians, bets on a winning horse, i.e. on the security of a lifetime job? Straying about the stupidity and hypocrisy he would never be hungry. Stupidity and hypocrisy are forever – and will last ‘forever’.
Jozef Wilkon, the artist outstanding and individual (the juror of Satyrykon 2004): Satire is undoubtedly the art of sharp perception. It is the process of unmasking. Goya and Daumier knew it. But perhaps satire is primarily about the amusement? About the sense of comicality, the sense of humor, or the ridiculing of human vanity that tastes like candy. (…) Since the devil has taken up residence in the human, whether permanently or temporarily, the satirist should have plenty of work. This is evident at Satyrykon.
The International ‘Satyrykon’ Exhibition in Legnica comprises all the intellectual and artistic qualities (aesthetical and formal) that guarantee the highest level of the presented humor and satire.
A flaw – because Satyrykon cannot count on an enormous audience (popularity), on the generosity of commercial sponsorship (profitability) and the airtime in – pardon the expression – public television (the ratings). These criteria – ratings and popularity – are today’s measures of “profitability” of the artistic culture, its creators and organizers. Such an appraisal – from the point of (non-)view of accountants and bankers – is irrelevant to the value of culture eo ipso.
Therefore: the measure of Satyrykon’s merit and prestige is its valuelessness on the popular culture market. And this non-value of Satyrykon, varius of satire and satirists ought to be guarded like the oxygen breathed in by the country’s remaining intelligentsia… on the domestic exile.
Nota bene – the first commercial television to broadcast Satyrykon in a fair form was TVN, namely the feature program ‘Szkło kontaktowe’, broadcasted from the studio in Legnica in June 2010.
Jiří Slíva (CZ), Chaos, Satyrykon 1997 Marek Michalski, Untitled, Satyrykon 1981 Ehrt Rainer (D), Global Warming, Satyrykon 2010
Tadeusz Kantor used to say fervently that it is not the political or economic change, but the artists that make the nation persevere – and allow us to add: the culture perseveres – and within it, we all do. Culture equals human – thus its only valid measure are humanistic values, not – for example – payments mediums… of mass destruction.
This is the virtue – because the festival is a meeting space for the artists and the audience, aware of the conventions. They understand each other without words. They communicate by intellect and laughter. And this helps to uphold aesthetic, intellectual and, partly, utilitarian values.
Satyrykon is a thinking festival, but there is no shortage of ludic, gargantuan laughter.
Rumen Dragostinov (BG), Untitled, 2008 Aleksandr Gatto (I), Almost Evening, 2011 Gerhard Gepp (A), Information, 2002A brief history… of the thirty-six-year old Satyrykon
In 1977, Andrzej Tomialojc and Robert Szecowka organized the exhibition of Wroclaw’s satire drawers, presenting over 250 works. A year later, Satyrykon would became a national contest – and since 1985 – an international one.
And so it began – the era of Satyrykon in Legnica, the city under special supervision of the PRL authorities. Since 1945, in the closer and further vicinity resided – unwelcomed – combat squads of the Red Army – the ‘peace’ missiles of Kremlin, whereas the city itself was inhabited by several dozen thousand (who knows how many?) members of the Soviet Armed Forces. Legnica was soon nicknamed the “little Moscow”, much to its citizens’ dismay.
However, in a satirical twist of fate, not without the participation of Thalia – the most intelligent of the muses, Legnica (from where the Soviet Empire was ready to attack Western Europe, of course in ‘defense of peace and friendship’) became the habitat for the intelligent, anarchy-inclined, international and – as horrible as it may sound– cosmopolitan community of lovers and creators of satire and humorous absurd. And?... The era of Satyrykon is in full swing – and the only remains of the Red Army’s presence are the ruined barracks and memories, sometimes tragic and dreadful (vide: the film 'Mała Moskwa', 2008 based on real events).
Krzysztof Grzondziel, Untitled, 1984 Lex Drewinski (D/PL), Patterns, 1995 Nikolai Arnaudov (BG), Untitled, 2004
Between 1979 and 1981, the satiric magazine 'Szpilki' was a partner of the festival. At that time, Satyrykon gathered the most outstanding representatives of satire and humor, classics and avant-gardists, anarchists and conservatives – led by the prominent graphic artists clustered around this magazine in order to remember Andrzej Dudzinski, Andrzej Czeczot, Andrzej Krauze and Andrzej Mleczko.
Not only was the festival a prestigious competition but also a kind of living room, a space where one could polish the ideals of humorous art and unusual satire of the highest caliber – Legnica’s republic of freedom, at least while Satyrykon lasted.
The martial law (1982-1983); the discontinuance of the process of political and economic emancipation initiated by the Solidarity movement; the economic, political and – to some extent – artistic moral decay also had an influence on Satyrykon's program in 1983-1989.
The political changes (1990) offered the organizers the opportunity for a deeper and wider program – they enriched the festival with new forms of exhibitions, concerts, meet-the-author sessions and happenings.
In the competition, various artistic forms, apart from drawing, clearly marked their presence, for example: photography ('Fotożart' – a competition of comical photographs), small sculptures, collage and others. Currently, the Satyrykon archives contain ten thousand works of artists from Europe, Asia, Australia, North America and South America.
The 'Satyrykon Gallery' has been operating in a tenement near the Rynek 36 Street in Legnica for three years. In this gallery, regular exhibitions are organized all year round. One can also buy posters, catalogs of exhibitions and other festival prints. The gallery's program was inaugurated in December 2010 with the exhibition of graphic arts of Marcin Bondarowicz, the author of the visual setting of Satyrykon 2011.
The Satyrykon's program
Each year Satyrykon is announced by a poster designed by an outstanding graphic artist such as Zygmunt Januszewski, Stasys Eidrigivicius, Janusz Kapusta, Eugeniusz Get-Stankiewicz, Jerzy Czerniawski, Wiktor Sadowski, Wieslaw Walkuski, Wiesław Rosocha, Rafał Olbinski, Mieczyslaw Gorowski, Jan Lenica, Waldemar Swierzy, Andrzej Krauze and others.
The main event of Satyrykon is an international and open competition in two formal categories: humor and satire. In accordance with the rules, 'original drawings, graphic arts and other artistic and photographic works made by means of various techniques constitute objects of the competitions' (the format should not be bigger than A3). Normally, the works are judged by the international jury before the end of February.
In some editions of the competition, the organizers provide the thematic framework. Over the past years, these were such artistically intriguing and inspiring topics as ‘Circus’, ‘Woman’, ‘Sin’, ‘Cellphone and Internet’ or ‘Devil’.
The jury values highly the social satire, surrealistic humor and form - aesthetics and quality of workmanship. Jozef Wilkon, the head of the jury at Satyrykon 2004 (illustrator, graphic designer, painter, stage designer, sculptor), wrote reflectively after the competition: On the way to Satyrykon by Warsaw-to-Legnica train I was overwhelmed by dark thoughts... That the satirical drawing would surely die, just like poster, book illustration, cabaret did, just as everything has died that is called a work of a highly understood form. Also the art of irony and humor. When I arrived, I saw that not only was the satirical drawing alive, but it was doing very well in view of contemporary conditions. I saw over three thousand works. Many of them were of outstanding and fascinating forms and techniques.
There is something characteristic about the Polish output in this field. Just as illustration and poster had been tearing down barriers demarcated for the commonly understood usefulness, so is satirical drawing no longer just a caricature but becomes an independent work, with its own artistic formula derived from painting, from the art of picture.
Michel Granger, jury at Satyrykon 2012 (French painter, graphic artist, poster artist), commented: Polish posters and satirical drawings are well-known and respected around the world. When I was beginning my artistic endeavors in Paris many years ago, the Polish posters were seen as the standard. It remains so to this day. You can feel at Legnica’s Satyrykon the spirit of that which is related to the so-called “Polish school”. Artists around the world are aware of the Satyrykon’s renown. And of its prestige. This is because there are many satirical competitions in the world, but none is as prestigious as Satyrykon.
Satyrykon’s second part – the first decade of June – is a three-day long festival of humor and satire written out for many parts: an exhibition of the competition’s laureates (together with other participants nominated for it by the jury panel), carefully selected monographic exhibitions, authorial meetings, cabaret concerts, literary song recitals and… social and improvised events.
Since 2010 – on the initiative of Professor Zygmunt Januszewski from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw – art students present their works at Satyrykon. So far – students from Academies of Fine Arts in Warsaw, Gdansk and Wroclaw. Student exhibitions, gathered under the collective title: Skłonności do ostrości (Aptness to sharpness) are among the important events in the festival’s program. Elżbieta Pietraszko, Satyrykon’s Artistic Director: Nowadays, there is little patronage over young artists. They have a hard time promoting themselves. That is why it has become our mission to support them. Now is the best moment. We want to put them out there while they are unfettered, while they are creating without restraint and looking back on others.
In Satyrykon’s program there has always been a space reserved for displaying the works of the classics. Since 1979 there have been exhibitions of such Polish masters as: Eryk Lipinski, Szymon Kobylinski, Stefan Papp, Zbigniew Jujka, Andrzej Mleczko, Edward Lutczyn, Slawomir Mrozek, Roman Cieslewicz, Janusz Kapusta, Andrzej Czeczot, Janusz Stanny, Andrzej Krauze; as well as foreign artists: Gerhard Gepp (Austria), Jiri Silva (Czech Republic), Borislav Stanković (Serbia) and Mikhail Zlatkovsky (Russia). And this is still merely half of the list.
Stefan Papp, Socialist Realism, 1963 Lex Drewinski (D/PL), One, two, three… Depardieu, 2013 Stefan Papp, Economy, 1963
Being the third most significant part of the festival, the International Satyrykon Exhibition travels to European institutions, presenting this field of artistic culture (museums, galleries) – but also displays its resources in the Eryk Lipinski Museum of Caricature in Warsaw. Wojciech Chmurzynski – an expert in the history and aesthetics of satire drawing, also the director of the Museum of Caricature until 2011 – was an outstanding curator of those exhibitions for years.
Satyrykon awards – Szpile
The year 2013 marked the first time when Szpile Satyrykonu were awarded. It is a special award dedicated to the laureates in recognition ‘of activities that move the collective intellect, for interpreting the world with a sharp thought and irony, for going upstream of the superficial correctness and questionable normality.’ The laureates – Maria Peszek (actress and singer) and Marek Raczkowski (satire drawer) – were chosen by the Kapituła Szpili Satyrykonu, i.e. the jury composed of: Artur Andrus, Rafal Bryndal, Mikolaj Lizut, Grzegorz Miecugow, Andrzej Pacula and Grzegorz Szczepaniak. The bronze statuette – shaped like a pin heel shoe (szpila) and weighing nearly a quarter kilogram – was designed by Leszek Michalski.
The jury of Satyrykon 2013: David Hughes (GB), the head of the Jury – graphic artist and illustrator; Marco de Angelis (I) – graphic artist, cartoonist, illustrator; Florian Doru Crihana (RO) – graphic artist, illustrator, winner of numerous Satyrykon awards; Elzbieta Piertaszko (PL) – artistic director of the Satyrykon; Reiner Schwalme (D) – graphic artist, caricaturist; Bogna Otto-Wegrzyn (PL) – graphic artist, painter and designer; Grzegorz Szumowski (PL) – graphic artist, caricaturist, illustrator, the laureate of the Satyrykon Grand Prix 2012; Zenon Zyburtowicz (PL) – photography artist, reporter, traveler – have rated 2118 works, 585 artists from 53 countries. .
Satyrykon 2013 laureates:
• Grand Prix (+ 8000 PLN) – Malgorzata Lazarek (PL) – Untitled
• Section I: Joke
• Gold Medal (+ 6000 PLN) – Lech Frackowiak (PL) – Arc 2
• Silver Medal (+5500 PLN) – Stoyko Sivrilov (BG) – Abroad
• Bronze Medal (+ 5 tys. zł) - Vladimir Abroian (Armenia) - Psychiatrist
• Bronze Medal (+5000 PLN) - Vladimir Abroian (Armenia) - Psychiatrist
• Honorable mention: (+ 4000 PLN for each): Włodzimierz Staszczyk(PL) Cosmodrome and Andrea Pecchia(I) Siren and tuna.
Malgorzata Lazarek, graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice (department of graphic art, the atelier of Prof. Tomasz Jury), creates graphic designs, paintings and drawings; she exhibits her works in Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and Hungary; she is the laureate of drawing contests around Europe and a multiple-time laureate of Satyrykon.
Section II: Satire
• Gold Medal (+6000 PLN) – Lukasz Bogda (PL) - Homo Laptopus
• Silver Medal (+5500 PLN) – Jerzy Gluszek (PL) – Wanderer
• Bronze Medal (+5000 PLN) – Klaudia Kost (PL) – Primer
• Honorable mention: (+ 4000 PLN for each): Lex Drewinski (D/PL) – One, two, three… Depardieu! and Michal Tatarkiewicz (PL) – Non justice
David Hughes, the head of the Jury: The deliberation was stormy. This was because the members of the Jury come from different cultures, different countries. And we have been literally buried under a tremendous number of works! First they needed to be sifted through and then we continued to select works from those selected initially. The better ones and the best ones. When I saw the work that eventually won, I knew at once that this was it! I saw a work of art in it. I am not Polish, but this piece appealed to me as a distinctively Polish situational joke. And it is great overall!
Zenon Zyburtowicz, also a juror of Satyrykon 2013, comments on the level of this year’s contest and its reception: I’m impressed how greatly Satyrykon has evolved and by the level of competition. I know that artists from different countries, who have already won all possible awards in various contests, dream of being awarded at Satyrykon. It’s because this contest is of significant importance in the world. Perhaps it’s even more important around the world than in Poland. I find this regrettable.
Jerzy Gluszek, Wanderer, Satyrykon 2013 Maciej Fronczak, Ecoroad, Satyrykon 2013
Satyrykon organizers: Legnica Culture Centre, Director Grzegorz Szczepaniak, www.lck.art.pl; Cultural and Social Foundation Satyrykon, Chairwoman of the Board Elżbieta Pietraszko, www.satyrykon.pl