Spring (Summer, Fall, Autumn) of Nations

Artists: Kornelia Binicewicz, Attila Csörgő, Nikolay Karabinovych, Funda Gül Özcan, Dan Perjovschi, Lia Perjovschi, Dorota Podlaska, Daniel Rycharski, Jacek Staniszewski
Painters of the Transylvanian Panorama (Battle of Nagyszeben [Sibiu]) Michał Gorstkin-Wywiórski, Tihamér Margitay, Tadeusz Popiel, Zygmunt Rozwadowski, Leopold Schönchen, Béla K. Spányi, Jan Styka, Pál Vágó

Curators: Krzysztof Gutfrański, Monika Weychert


A soldier with a very contemporary way of thinking? A brilliant engineer? A multicultural pioneer? Or a hero of the Spring of Nations – a staunch fighter for Polish and Hungarian independence who converted to Islam to become a senior officer in the army of the Ottoman Empire? A noble mercenary, or perhaps a proto-freelancer?

General Józef Bem, aka Bem József, aka Murad Pasha, was different things to different people – and an example par excellence of how history can be re-written for political purposes. Because national heroes are rarely allowed to die once they are dead. In 1929 through Turkey and Hungary, Bem’s remains returned from Aleppo in Syria to Tarnów where he was born. They were placed on top of six columns as not ‘worthy’ of being laid to rest in consecrated land.

What is Bem today? An idiosyncratic, up-on-high mausoleum in Strzelecki Park in Tarnów. But also a monument in Budapest – at the foot of which the 1956 revolution started. It was there that students gathered to show their solidarity with the October events in Poland at the time. Bem is also the fragments of the Transylvanian Panorama – a 19th-century painting that it took seven painters under the direction of Jan Styka six months to paint, and when completed, it was 120 m long and 15 m high. But those who had commissioned the painting failed to pay the fee and so Jan Styka cut it up into pieces to try and sell them off individually. Today, only a few pieces remain – scattered through different countries – and BWA nnd Tarnów has been trying to reunite as many as possible. The truncated painting shows one of the finest episodes in the fragmented life of General Bem: a hyperrealistic panorama of the Battle of Sybin, or Sibu in today’s Romania. The actual piece showing the hero of the battle, General Bem, is still missing.

The exhibition Spring (Summer, Fall, Autumn) of Nations at the BWA Tarnów has used the posthumous fate of General Bem and the complicated homage paid to him to analyse necropolitics and different ways that history gets rewritten. The invited artists have used the motif of the panorama and the dismembered body – also in the sense of body politic, or nation state – to bring back the spirit of Bem so that his remains may tell another version of its history.

We will conjure up ‘springs’ and ‘winters’ of nations. And we will practice a panoramic overview through the works of the invited artists, the presentation of the fragments of the panorama and public program.

We will give the floor to Józef Bem himself, to the artillery soundtrack. There will be a step-by-step reinterpretation of the Transylvanian Panorama, and a presentation of the new version of the Budapest monument. We will summon the spirit of Bem and consume the general’s body. Perhaps through this symbolic act some of Bem’s spirit will percolate through our lethargy and inspire a new spring in our step?