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Abstract

This article, as part of the “new historiography”, deals with the beginnings of modern research on interwar architecture in Poland. The author considers said starting point to be in the first edition of Adam Miłobędzki’s Outline of the History of Architecture in Poland (1963). Miłobędzki was one of the foremost scholars of architecture in Poland and his book was reprinted three times (1968, 1978, and 1988). Thanks to its modern synthesizing form, it occupied from the start a key position in the Polish literature on the subject, and to this day remains a model academic textbook. A strictly personal work, it used the most up-to-date knowledge of the history of Polish architecture at that time, and underlined Miłobędzki’s individualism and intellectual independence from the authorities. The “outline” was not constructed to be a denotative (unequivocal) collection of objects-facts symbols, but rather a connotative (equivocal/polysemous) text open to interpretations. It had, however, the features of a propaedeutic, using cumulative knowledge in an evolutionist manner and according to a phasic model. The history of architecture is narrated through the description of buildings chosen for their innovative role in history. In the system of historical linearity applied therein, the history of architecture breaks off at the beginning of the First World War, thus excluding the interwar period. Its absence was corrected by the addition of a short appendix to the second edition (1968), entitled “Conclusion. Architecture after the First World War”. According to Leśniakowska, the inclusion of the appendix was the result of influence by the neo-avant-garde movement in art and architecture, activated by a generation of modernist “resistance” to socialist realism (of which Miłobędzki was part), which appeared in the mid-1950s. Leśniakowska acknowledges the added “Conclusion” to be the founding text for the study of interwar architectural culture, and reveals its complex simultaneous synchro-diachronic connections, intersections, contexts and sociocodes. The author analyses the reasons why the Outline initially ended on the caesura of 1914; it was the result of a directive of post-war academic art history which stipulated a one hundred years distance from the subject of research. This ruled out movements from the mid-19th century and excluded contemporary culture from art historical studies as being more suitable for art criticism than history of art. It was not until the last edition (1988) that Miłobędzki shifted this caesura to around 1950, which could be explained by the influence of revisionist tendencies in the humanities after the Second World War. Among others, James S. Ackerman considered the separation of history and criticism as unnatural and harmful, leading to limitations and negative cognitive effects. Looking at this dispute from the perspective of the “new historiography”, so vital for shaping artistic/architectural historiography, Leśniakowska points out that the exclusion of the modern/contemporary art and architecture exposes the mechanism of submitting the studies on art to a system of authority and domination, which teaches the “correct” understanding of the past without the phenomena which could pollute it. The exclusion of the interwar period was therefore a “significant oversight”, a decision rooted in the symbolic order of knowledge-authority, a symptom of the problem of “using” art history by a suitably programmed new memory in accordance with the then doctrine of managing tradition. In the theories of text and of seeing (image as text; text as artefact) and in the system of representation, that which is omitted is part of the message, which, with the help of performative practices, provides knowledge about the author of the information. Hermeneutical reading of the Outline by Miłobędzki, and of his index of architectural values, allows us to see how architecture appears as that which is “visible”, and is filled with (politically desirable) meaning. In the index of values established by Miłobędzki, the work of modernist architects was sanctioned, showing not only (and not as much as) what but why there were various forms of modernism in Poland, and how they shaped the mosaic or patchwork landscape of the interwar architecture. The appendix to the Outline has the characteristics of a subjective “attendance list”, which by questioning the automatism and authoritarianism of the “war” caesuras, points out to a cluster of issues that in the 1960s and the contemporary methodological consciousness outlined the preliminarily image of architecture in Poland. They set out the future direction of research on the arts of the first half of the 20th century, which came to the fore with the “new historiography” and critical history of art/architecture with its inclusive democracy of the gaze.
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