• Everything we see could also be otherwise (My sweet little lamb)
    20 September – 11 November 2017

    The Showroom (63 Penfold St, Marylebone, London NW8 8PQ, UK) Curated by: What, How & for Whom/WHW, in collaboration with Kathrin Rhomberg, co-curated by Emily Pethick Preview: Tuesday 19 September, 6.30–8.30pm Exhibition opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 12–6pm The Showroom presents the epilogue of a long-term project which took place over several months in Zagreb (November 2016 to May 2017), which contextualised and rethought the Kontakt Art Collection. It was curated by What, How & for Whom/WHW in collaboration with Kathrin Rhomberg. This final exhibition is co-curated by The Showroom Director Emily Pethick. Taking selected works from the Vienna-based Kontakt Art Collection as its point of departure, including seminal pieces by some of the most prominent artists from Central, Eastern and South-East Europe since the 1960s, the exhibition stages an interplay between these and other historical, contemporary and newly produced works that interpret and critically examine the collection. The project unfolded in six episodes in Zagreb, each iteration influencing, contradicting and reinforcing each other. It took place in a number of smaller art spaces, artists' studios, private apartments and other locations related to artistic production and the broader cultural landscape of the city. This final stage of the project at The Showroom continues to reframe and expand the context of the collection. Interlacing geographically and poetically heterogeneous artist practices, the project attempts to punctuate standardized presentations and interpretations of works that have dominated international art circuits over the last few decades, with more disorderly and experimental arrangements. The project title is taken from a work by Croatian artist Mladen Stilinović (1947–2016), to whom the project is dedicated. Stilinović's life-long anti-systemic approach, his quiet but shrewd rebellion against social conventions and the conventions of art, and an artistic practice that trenchantly and humorously engages with complex themes of ideology, work, money, pain and poverty, inspired a generation of artists worldwide. The project is a cooperation with Kontakt Art Collection and is supported by Erste Group Bank AG and ERSTE Foundation.


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Stanisław Dróżdż

Stanisław Dróżdż’s semantic and visual poems resemble the experimentation of the avant-garde, embodying a laboratory of language, signs and images. His early concrete texts from the 1960s, such as Forgetting [Zapominanie], might be associated with transrational-constructivist designs by Rodchenko and Stepanova, such as Abstract Verses or Toft from 1919, and especially with El Lissitzky’s famous 1929 cover for the magazine Journalist. Samples of similar constellations of words, “notion-shapes,” “ideo-shapes,” or “ideo-forms” (pojęciokształty, to use Dróżdż’s term), could also be found in Apollinaire’s “ideograms,” in the work of Robert Walser and of Stefan Themerson, and in semantic poetry as Themerson defined it in 1944. Stanisław Dróżdż elaborated his own approach to the “reality of the language” by expanding it into its material artistic form, from the two-dimensional piece of paper to the three-dimensional space, resulting in concrete poems such as his most famous Between [Między], realized at Foksal Gallery in Warsaw in 1977. This installation of painted words evenly appropriated the entire gallery space by repeating the word “between” on every wall, confronting the viewer with the material substance of the concrete poem, the meaning of the word as such, and the literal experience of standing between the words. This work was realized in collaboration with Zbigniew Gostomski (who designed the font and letters) and is one of the most systematic of Dróżdż’s realizations, being based on the clear mathematical rule of diagonally repeated words—“the rule according to which I was writing the text,” the artist explained. Dróżdż was himself an expert in linguistics, both as a theorist and as a practitioner. He studied Polish philology in Wrocław and also authored the book Poezja konkretna [Concrete Poetry], which was published in 1979 and consisted of documentation and texts from the period between 1967 and 1977. His practice was compared to that of Vaclav Havel and Hamilton Finlay (with whom he was familiar), as well as to that of the Art & Language circle and the conceptualism of Joseph Kosuth, which nowadays seems to be very different from Dróżdż’s approach. Nevertheless, later years also saw both of them work with words in space, displaying them in seemingly similar ways. Kosuth usually displays longer sequences and informing/disinforming sentences, while Dróżdż usually worked with one word or very few words only. Like many conceptual authors, Dróżdż confronted the semantic and optical layers of written signs but did not try to redefine the artwork as such. Similarly to the Polish conceptual artist Jarosław Kozłowski, Dróżdż was deeply inspired by Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of language identity, as well as by linguistics and game theory. These ideas led him to produce his sequences of numbers and numerical combinations in the Numerical Texts series of the 1970s, and are likewise behind his dice and game in the 2003 Venice Biennale project Alea iacta est. Since Wittgenstein defined language as the bounds of cognition, Dróżdż wanted to test it in its possible shapes and functions in space, and in a similar vein: he wanted to analyze its structure, “language’s reality.” His visual book / project Klepsydra [Hourglass] from 1969 to 1990 is a very good example of an attempt to capture the structure of time-space as such, of the time-space of language, and of signs—using existential and differently shaped words such as “is,” “was,” and “will be” to take on the tautological form of the hour-glass. As Dróżdż stated, the way in which he construed the concrete works “was based on permutation: in some texts/poems, the semantic aspect was dominant; in others, the visual. “I take the pen and scratch on the piece of paper—this is how my works emerge. Consciously and in the subconscious. This process is parallel, and the two layers overlap each other.” This, then, is how Dróżdż’s pojęciokształty (ideo-shapes) found their visual embodiment.



Born in Sławków, Poland, 1939. Died in Wroclaw, Poland, 2009.

Dróżdż was member of the Union of Polish Artists. His poems have been published in numerous magazines and exhibition catalogues in Poland and abroad. Dróżdż graduated from the Technikum Ekonomiczne in Wrocław (Poland). From 1959 to 1964 he studied Polish Philology at the University of Wrocław. He was awarded with the MA diploma on the basis of his published book "Poezja konkrentna” (“Concrete poetry”) in 1979. The book contained works, biographies and bibliographies of Polish authors of concrete poetry. Since Dróżdż´s concrete poetry requires to be shown in space, he started collaborating with national and international museums and galleries in 1974. He was also active animating the concrete movement in Poland as well as organizing numerous theoretical symposiums focusing on concrete poetry.

Solo Exhibitions (selection):

2010 “Anthological“, Studio d´Arte Contemporanea Pino Casagrande, Rome, Italy

2009 “Beginningend“, CSW Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland

2008 “Concrete Poetry Spaces“, Gallery Appendix2, Warsaw, Poland

2007 “Clepsydra“, Ogród Saski, Lublin, Poland

2006 “Stanisław Dróżdż, Dominik Lejman: Annex for exhibition ‘The Form Is Emptiness - Emptiness Is the Form’“, Gallery Nova, Krakow, Poland

2005 “i“ (fragmentary). Figures of Meaning. Concrete Poetry“, Gallery Sektor I, Górnośląskie Centrum Kultury, Katowice, Poland

2004 “Between 1977-2004“, Studio d’Arte Contemporanea Pino Casagrande, Rome, Italy

2003 "The Dice Has Been Cast", Polish Pavilion, 50th Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy

2002 “Concrete Poetry“, Galeria Foksal, Warsaw, Poland

Group Exhibitions (Selection):

2011 “Museum of Parallel Narratives. In the framework of L’Internationale“, MACBA Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain

2010 “Over and Over Again“, Wyspa Institute of Art, Danzig, Germany

2009 “A Collection. Twenty years of the Starmach Gallery“, National Museum Krakow, Krakow, Poland

2008 “The Impossible Collection“, Wyspa Institute of Art, Gdansk, Poland

2007 “Words – Forms – Meditations“, BWA Lublin, Lublin, Poland

2006 “The Form Is Emptiness - Emptiness Is the Form“, Sektor I, Catowice, Poland

2005 “Always a little further”, 51th Venice Biennial, Venice, Italy

2004 “Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s-70s“, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, USA; Miami Art Museum, Miami, USA

2003 “Europa Konkret“, Altana Galerie der Technischen Universität Dresden, Dresden, Germany

This bibliography provides a list of books available in the
ERSTE Foundation Library

Books/Exhibition Catalogues


Dawidek-Gryglicka, Małgorzata, ed. 2012. Odprysk poezji = A piece of poetry : Stanisław Dróżdż mówi = Conversations with Stanisław Dróżdż. Kraków et al.: Korporacja Ha!art.

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