Wavy Block (2005–2006), Mściwoja Block 4/6, Gdynia (2004) and the video works Vedutista (2004) and Modernist (2009) were created at a time when critical reflection on the architectural heritage of communism, understood in historical, aesthetic and sociological terms, entered the public debate. The buildings that are the protagonists of Julita Wójcik’s works were built in the 1970s in the wake of modernization processes, manifestations of which were, among others, residential housing programs. Commentators of Wójcik’s work emphasized that in her interpretations the dehumanized buildings gained a “human” dimension, and she herself pointed out the element of individualism that residents brought to the unified blocks.
Over a decade after the works had been created, in the context of the changes that the artist’s work underwent, these objects acquired new meanings. For several years, Wójcik has been anxiously looking at the socio-economic condition of artists, and her work is dominated by a note of caution caused by the instability of financial markets. “Do you want to have an apartment? Avoid a mortgage” she wrote on one of the works in her Prospectless series (2012). It is assumed that one of the most important causes of the economic crisis in 2008 was the growing debt, including the mortgage burden on those purchasing apartments. The number of loans granted indicates the extent of demand on the real estate market. However, according to the HRE Think Thank report, 2.1 million flats are missing in Poland and the number is constantly growing. During the three decades of the functioning of market economy, this deficit could not be reduced.
Among the premises available on the secondary real estate market, 10% are flats in large-panel blocks. Paradoxically, they are very popular not only because of the lower price, but also functionalism. Built massively, they were an important propaganda tool in the hands of the authorities, especially in the 1970s, when most of the apartments were commissioned. Allocated in accordance with the principles of an inefficient cooperative system, they were a long-awaited luxury. They are still treated like gold by apartment buyers. In the new reality, however, their economic and legal status has changed significantly. Once centrally distributed, today they can be purchased. As a market commodity, they can become someone’s property. This aspect of their functioning – as real estate – is a completely new quality, foreign to their creators.
The vigilance with which Wójcik observes reality, her distrust of the economy and the growing sense of anxiety in her art, alter the way in which one gazes at the “portraits” of buildings from the Gierek era. At the time when the presented works were being created, the market dimension of the blocks from large concrete slabs did not seem important for commentators on the artist’s work. In a new context, Wójcik, regaining the once unwanted heritage, becomes the owner of the office of desirable properties.
*** Julita Wójcik – artist and performer, graduate of the Sculpture Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk (diploma in the studio of Prof. F. Duszeńko, 1997). Winner of numerous scholarships (including the Minister of Culture, the City of Gdańsk, the Culture Foundation). Resident in projects including Art in General (New York, 2006), Visegrad Found (Prague, 2010), Megaprojekt Brazil IAM (2016). Laureate of Polityka’s Passport (2012). Her latest realizations include: Economic predictions (Belo Horizonte, 2016), Action at the MP’s house (Nowy Sącz, 2016), Economic epitaphs (Gdańsk, 2019).