Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!
Become an A&B portal user and receive giveaways!

Urn, flower, eagle - a photographic record of polling stations. Exhibition of Marek Zakrzewski's photos at Poznan's Centrala Gallery

Kuba Głaz
29 of November '22

Polling places appear for a day. Every few years or months they combine festivity and solemnity with the everyday. They are places of aesthetic tension or attempts at visual coexistence. Photographer Marek Zakrzewski has been documenting these one-day metamorphoses since 2015, and is now showing them at Poznan's Galeria Centrala.

On one side, a flag, an eagle, an urn, and on the other, a school wall paper, an exercise ladder or an official display case. All in the sinewy light of fluorescent lights. Seemingly we are all familiar with these election arrangements, but do we look at them carefully, sometimes in a crowd of other voters? Or is there a kind of electoral silence when it comes to the appearance of these places ? Do we look at familiar interiors differently when we vote in our old school, and differently when we visit places in our new place of residence? Anna Gregorczyk, curator of the "Important Elections" exhibition presenting Zakrzewski's photographs, posits a thesis:

While the slogan,,elections" heats up the public debate from time to time, the polling place itself seems to be transparent in this process. Is it, then, merely a backdrop or a real, albeit temporary, space of democracy?

The answer can be sought on one's own by looking at photographs of empty polling places, keeping in the back of one's mind the guidelines of the State Election Commission quoted in the exhibition:

The decor of the polling place should correspond to the seriousness of the vote.


Exhibition "Important Elections", Centrala Gallery, Poznań - Excerpt from the exhibition.

© Marek Zakrzewski / Galeria Centrala

Is this the case? And how should this seriousness be emphasized? Looking at the photographic record of the venues Zakrzewski has been documenting since 2015, one can see all sorts of striving for a serious effect. But, is this possible in gymnasiums, fire stations or among school wall papers? Space arrangers are resorting to aesthetics with the help of a familiar stock of decorations: potted flowers, sheets of cloth and cloth - with varying results.

Eagles multiply, crosses don't

The effect of state solemnity is often emphasized by the proliferation of flags and white eagles - a kind of stamp of legitimacy, with which school classrooms, day care centers, gymnasiums and offices are stamped without restraint for the duration of elections. The wall-mounted emblem that is on the equipment of every classroom and office is not enough. Only the crosses, whose presence in the - seemingly - neutral space of polling places, do not multiply, seem to be a misunderstanding anyway.


Exhibition "Important Elections", Centrala Gallery, Poznań - One of the photographs of Marek Zakrzewski's project.

© Marek Zakrzewski

Zakrzewski also notes with his project the changes taking place. The most prominent one is... the visual disappearance of the ballot box. Since the use of transparent cubbies has been mandated, they are difficult to see, something that older voters sometimes complain about. The earliest photos still show old, opaque ballot boxes not subject to unification, while newer photos show ephemeral, barely visible containers. This, by the way, is not the only problem with the new type of ballot boxes. During a discussion arranged around the exhibition, Zakrzewski said that the

the new standardized ballot boxes often did not fit through the doors of polling places, which sometimes entailed widening the entrances.

revolution in a small center

In the photos, one can also see what sometimes manifests itself even on a larger scale: non-functional equipment positioning and problems with ergonomics. After all, urns in the way of booths or tables, poor lighting of voting stations, or school furniture that does not fit the posture of an adult are not uncommon. Besides, there are no PKW regulations that mandate any standardization in this matter.


"Important Elections" exhibition, Centrala Gallery, Poznań - One of the photographs designed by Marek Zakrzewski

© Marek Zakrzewski

Zakrzewski also sees other changes, not just those related to transparent ballot boxes:

I focused on localities in Greater Poland, with the exception of Poznań. Lately, I've started to look into the same places years later, and I sometimes see their radical transformations, which in an undersized city can even be an aesthetic revolution. Vibrant colors give way to whites and grays, excess decorative elements disappear.


Exhibition "Important Choices", Centrala Gallery, Poznań - One of the photographs of Marek Zakrzewski's project.

© Marek Zakrzewski

without a distorting mirror

Zakrzewski is also careful not to emphasize visual dissonances, funny or awkward juxtapositions of the required solemnity with the existing character of the place. In his design, he also did not include photos of the most famous polling place in Czerwonak in Wielkopolska, which over the years has been arranged in various attractive ways to attract voters and, incidentally, the media. Anna Gregorczyk even stresses that the photographic project

is a sensitive and careful observation of spaces, carefully arranged places, filled with temporariness, patriotism and aesthetics rooted in the Polish mentality.

This mentality is also an attempt to tame and "domesticate" the space, sometimes in rather puzzling ways, such as the ballgame basket decorated with a flower pot shown in the exhibition. Zakrzewski reports that

premises are most often arranged by school janitors, or by administrative staff, to whom, despite their
sincere commitment, striving to make it "nice" and "patriotic," lack a certain flair. The result is a lack of clarity and chaos. While I have no problem with the peculiar aesthetics I document , I sometimes lack a certain order and symmetry. I'm also not fond of covering up "troublesome" elements with some sort of hastily arranged drapes or sheets.


Exhibition "Important Elections", Centrala Gallery, Poznań - a space arranged to resemble a voting booth, where visitors can fill out an election questionnaire

© Marek Zakrzewski / Galeria Centrala

Zakrzewski's documentation of polling places could be enriched with new photographic records. It would also be interesting to expand it by immortalizing the corridors and entrances to buildings used for voting. While the polling places themselves show a striving for order as such, this intermediate zone - haphazardly cluttered with proclamations, candidate lists and various kinds of visual navigation - is also worth noting.

Jakub Głaz

IMPORTANT ELECTIONS, Marek Zakrzewski, 10.11 - 07.12.2022

Centrala Gallery, pl. Ratajskiego 6a, Poznan
Wed-Fri 3-7pm, Sat: 12-4pm*.

*selected Saturdays only (information on FB)

curator of the exhibition: Anka Gregorczyk

Marek Zakrzewski (1985) is a member of the FOTSPOT collective, a photojournalist for the Polish Press Agency, and a photography teacher at the Communications Technical School in Poznań. Agraduate of photography at UAP and philology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, he is in the midst of his master's studies at the Institute of Creative Photography in Opava, Czech Republic. The project Serious Choices 2022 (VI - XI) is implemented with the support of a grant from the Minister of Culture and National Heritage.

The vote has already been cast

Interior trends 2023
Interior trends 2023
PZU Park