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The most aggressive of the arts

24 of November '21


In the once famous, but today somewhat forgotten satirical novel of 1922 by Russian writer Ilya Erenburg (1891 - 1967), "The Extraordinary Adventures of Yul Yurenitsa and His Disciples," one can find an intriguing paragraph devoted to painting, but also possible for me to transfer to some extent into the world of architecture.

The novel is set in the years leading up to, and during, the First World War and, among other things, describes the activities of an extremely swift, active and, above all, very wealthy American businessman, a certain Mr. Coola. Well, one forenoon this businessman visited a painting exhibition, which exhibited paintings by a young painter in the Cubist convention, mainly still lifes. After seeing the exhibition, the businessman, despite his undisguised indignation, bought all the paintings of the same painter. Excited and delighted by this fact, the painter brought another couple of dozen of his paintings to the businessman's headquarters in the afternoon. The businessman cast only a cursory glance at them, then without a word he also purchased them all. Then, at his behest, the servants, or bodyguards, cut all these paintings into small pieces, right in front of the heartbroken painter's eyes. The businessman declared to the painter that he had ordered the destruction of the paintings because he did not like them categorically, and advised the painter to change his profession, as he had sufficient organizational and financial resources to concentrate all the paintings that the painter would create in the future, and then also destroy them. The businessman justified such an attitude on the grounds of his desire to spare the public from seeing, in his opinion, decided ugliness.


Author: Piotr Średniawa

I very much like to cite this passage from the novel during the often heated discussions in our circles on copyright law as an example of the somewhat peculiar relationship between the owner of a work and its creator. Interestingly, from the point of view of the provisions of the current Polish Copyright and Related Rights Act, there is nothing reprehensible in the conduct of the businessman. In the case of contemporary art, plagiarism, interference with the work or parts of it without the permission of the creator, unauthorized distribution of the work is not allowed, but its destruction is not subject to any restrictions. However, in this excerpt from the novel, what fascinates me more than the copyright issues is the possibility of having significant financial resources to acquire a large number of works. Traveling around Poland, commuting to work every day or walking around the city, I regret immensely that I am not able to focus a large number of architectural objects that I pass. The dream of acquiring them does not come from a desire to own these properties, invest capital or speculate on them, but from a desire to demolish them.

At least it is not the fanaticism of iconoclasts and iconoclasts or the Herostrates complex that speaks through me, but a growing aversion to interacting with the ugliness around me. This applies to urban space, the countryside, as well as something sprawled disorderly along the roads that is difficult to define. My destructive inclinations generally apply to relatively not-so-long-ago buildings, as older ones are acceptable to me without resistance to some degree. Also, their demolition, especially those under conservation protection, would be questionable, yet possible, which is not at all uncommon in Poland, although such actions subject to prosecution by the judiciary. Perhaps my reluctance to commune with our urbanized space is the reason that I much prefer a walk in the woods to a stroll in the city. This is not because I am looking for hard-to-define beauty in the woods today, but because I am confident that, except for some places where plastic bottles and tires have been dumped, I will not be surrounded by ubiquitous and assaulting ugliness.

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