Imagined Poland. Representations of the New Nation State at the Exhibitions of Industry, Craft and Design, 1948–1974
Supervisor: Professor Paul Betts, Dr Mikolaj Kunicki
I am an AHRC-funded DPhil candidate in Modern History.
My thesis examines the use of design in the construction of Poland’s national identity at the international exhibitions in the Cold War period. It is the first comprehensive study of Polish design rhetoric in any language that rests at the crossroads of design studies and cultural history. Based on original archival material, both written and visual, and oral interviews this thesis tracks the process of construction of Imagined Poland alongside the development of the design discipline during the three post-war decades. It charts the trajectory of these two narratives and examines their critical reception. In doing so this research casts new light on the relationship between design and political history in the Cold War Europe.
However, it is not a thesis about designed objects or spaces per se, but rather about their discursive qualities and the way that they were put in work to narrate the nation. Versatile and embedded in the cultural, economic and social contexts, design proved to be well suited to this role: it allowed political authorities, trade representatives and creative intelligentsia to address timely issues on their agendas. This thesis closely examines eight exhibitions organised in the Soviet Union, Italy, Belgium and Poland. The narratives of these events, as the thesis argues, reflected the state’s changing self-understanding towards international public opinion. It indicates that although Polish exhibitions were occasionally adjusted to the particular location, their themes were largely shaped in response to the political developments at home and in the Eastern Europe. By using exhibitions as a framework, this thesis offers a new perspective to study Polish international modernism and subsequently provides an alternative reading of Poland’s relationship with the Soviet Union, the Eastern Bloc and the rest of Europe.
Since 2012 I have been working as an Associate Lecturer in Contextual and Theoretical Studies at the University of the Arts London.