The Hidden Decade: Polish Video Art 1985-1995

The Hidden Decade: Polish Video Art 1985-1995


The Hidden Decade is a selection of works that are crucial to the history of Polish video art. The ten-year period from 1985 to 1995 was a remarkable era in Polish art: an era when new artistic approaches were taking shape – an era full of social, political and cultural transformation. It started with dissent against the realities of Communist Poland, especially after the repressive martial-law period; it lead to the emergence of a forerunner of the art scene as we know it today. It started with individual explorations by a few scattered artists using a new medium – the electronic image – outside the boundaries of the established art institutions of their day; it ended with video art being recognized as a major field of contemporary fine arts.

The seriously flawed, unstable, static-ridden electronic technology available in the 1980s made video a startlingly appropriate medium for conveying a sense of what Poland was like in that era: The quality of the images accurately reflects not only the repressive obsoletism and enforced ordinariness of the period following martial law, but also the energy of the protest movement and the social ideals of the alternative activities taking place. This is particularly clear in video works that capture everyday life in combination with the artists’ avant-garde activities.

Video art from this period is remarkable for the rapid changes it goes through, the strongly-defined attitudes it represents, and the combination of extreme individualism with the formation of alternative communities.The Hidden Decade includes works from the formative years of videoperformance, as well as collective works created by artistic microcosms. Private personal reflections and explorations of the body are juxtaposed with artistic provocations carried out in urban space. Experiments in image processing are accompanied by the plainest possible representations of the surrounding reality. There is evident dissent against propaganda in the media – not only against the political propaganda of the Communist period, but also against capitalist-era consumerist pressures.

The Hidden Decade exhibition, presenting a cross-section of this colorful watershed period, is a resulf of a long-term research/publishing/curatorial project by the WRO Art Center focused on video works and early digital explorations by Polish artists.

The Hidden Decade project also includes:

– a bilingual publication consisting of a book of essays and a set of four DVDs

– an archive of about 400 works that can be accessed at the WRO Art Center Media Library


Video art rules! That’s why The Hidden Decade is an important project – it’s a big chunk of the history of Polish art. The collection includes documentation of performances and street actions, animations, short features… formal experiments and works protesting the violently changing realities of the times.
Newsweek Poland

70 video works that shook a decade.
The era when was still new is well worth revisiting.

Gazeta Wyborcza daily newspaper

Full of crackles and strange spots, sincere, civic-minded and delightfully coarse – such are the videos collected in the wonderful collection entitled The Hidden Decade. (…) A new look at the realities of the Polish art scene in the 1980s and ’90s.

The WRO team has done an outstandingly sensitive job, selecting close to 70 works from [the 400 in their collection] and arranging them into a robust and artistic “inside look” at an era.
Dziennik daily newspaper

In almost every work you can see some joy over the creative potential offered by the new technology.

The exhibition (…) displays around 30 video screens lit in a sombre fashion that expresses isolation. “Video was power” on both sides of the Iron Curtain.
Giuseppe Sedia, The Krakow Post