Compressed Homes From Central Europe At The Spitz Gallery

| 24 May 2006
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photo shows house hanging from cliff face

A summerhouse in the Czech Republic. Photo: Veronika Zapletalová

A new exhibition at the Spitz brings together four photographers from across Central Europe.

The core of the show are two series of photographs on opposite walls of the gallery showing a homelessness shelter in Poland, and summerhouses from the Czech Republic - in widely different circumstances the photographs show how people bring their personalities to the environment they live in.

photo shows bed with jumble of clocks to one side of it

The bed of a homeless Polish clockmender Photo: Andrzej Krammarz & Weronika Lodzinska

The Home photographs by Andrzej Krammarz & Weronika Lodzinska are all close-ups of bunk beds owned by men in the largest homelessness shelter in Poland. This is the only space they have that is specifically theirs, and the decoration expresses the lives of the unseen owner. This picture crammed with clocks belongs to Andrzej Mazurek, 58, who 'can mend anything' and sells his array of second hand electrical goods at local markets.

90% of the people in these shelters are alcoholics who, after personal crisis or family break up have spent their rent money on drink and lost their homes. Poland's provision of basics for the homeless is good - none of these people will starve or freeze - but many have lost purpose in their lives and the ability to resist a quick escape through drink. One image shows the bed of a man who did not survive his last binge.

photo shows wooden hut for summer living

Photo: Veronika Zapletalová

Facing these large, sparse images are a couple of hundred small pictures of Summerhouses by Veronika Zapletalová. Placed closely together like the window of a surreal hippy estate agent, these pictures show the little places in the country that Czech people retreat to during their summer holidays.

These are not the second homes of the rich - many are closer in design to the beach huts of English seaside towns. The whole range - from greenhouse, to shed, to retro wooden cottage, to caravan on stilts, to stylish modern design, to one little home hanging off the side of a sheer cliff - speaks of the inventiveness and love of their owners. Two of these summerhouses are giant wooden drink casks, with full sized doors at the front.

photo shows treehouse

Photo: Veronika Zapletalová

This juxtaposition of small happinesses and large personal disasters is supplemented by more abstract work by Viktor Kopasz and Tomas Agat Blonski downstairs. Although there's not a human face in the whole exhibition, it is revealing about very personal things - and about sides of central European life that are, in London, usually off the radar.

photo shows gate of summerhouse

Photo: Veronika Zapletalová

Where next?

See even more summerhouses here. Veronika Zapletalová's book of Summerhouses will be published in the autumn of 2006 by the Czech publishing house ERA, along with essays by sociologists, architects and philosophers about the phenomenon of these Czech 'chata'.

Other Polish venues in London:

The Sikorski Museum describes the fight of the Free Polish to save their country during the Second World War.

The Polish Library was once a source for smuggling dissident literature into Poland whilst the country was still under Communist rule. Now more concerned with making Polish literature available in London, it offers a range of cultural events, and an extensive library of Polish history and fiction.

Attached to the Polish Embassy the Polish Cultural Institute offer a wide programme of Polish cultural events - with many of the film showings in particular relating to the modern history of Poland. Events are in English.

More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
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