For forty years now it has stirred up strong emotions continuously. It seems that anyone who has had contact with it, “knows better” what it SHOULD look like. It is often admitted by those who come from far away. On a regular basis, these close ones are not satisfied with it.
It has always been eager for more, and – how awful – it hasn’t changed! Cartoons (1977), photography (1980), for many years it has been opened to painters, illustrators and sculptors. Today it leers more and more towards motion pictures. Region (1977), Poland (1978), the world (1985). More and more intensive publishing, its own calendar, exhibitions, meetings and workshops held throughout the year. For over six years it has had its own gallery thanks to the municipal authorities.
The oldest in Poland, and one of the world oldest artistic and satirical contest has never wanted to be a mere competition. It was born as artists’ meeting and presentation, and so far this tradition has been cherished. Since the very beginning it has not been limited to fine arts only. Within the frames of a festival which introduces numerous exhibitions, it has consequently built up the stage which hosts cabarets, musicians and theatres. Four years ago it decided to grant artists with the Satyrykon Stilettoes. It just honours exceptional Personalities. These are the ones who oppose stereotypes, and force the Polish society to think. No matter which discipline they are active in. Music, theatre, film, it may as well be football, memes or hairdressing.
Debutants have often been surprised with the received prizes. It does not want to kneel in front of the famous ones. Those who owe it their fame may as well be disappointed as it is not going to award them endlessly. On the other hand, by appointing new members to the international Jury every year, it provides unbiased judgements of the artists’ high levels. Some are said to be slightly browbeaten. It tries to come up with its own rules which make it distinguishable. For many years it has preferred untitled cartoons. When confronted with talents exceeding these rules, it has never hesitated to break them. It has an idée fixe, it would remain faithful to. It perceives satire as one of the most important art disciplines.
One can say that it perfectly matched the time at the moment of its birth. Almost with no promotion, just with the aim and power of its very idea, it managed to gain wonderful allies. “Szpilki” satirical magazine, Eryk Lipiński, Museum of Caricature in Warsaw. It was completely surprised when it realised that Satyrykon was known on the other side of the globe, and “Witty World” recognised it as one of the world best competitions (1987). At the time when Polish borders were closed, it was such a shock that the fact has remained unforgettable till today. However, FECO high marks, as well as spontaneous waves of works coming from South America, China, Iran, Indonesia and Thailand, managed to make it resistant to compliments. And also to critics. Still the crowds of new artists coming from “nowhere” make it ravish with delight. It deeply cherishes the relationships once started. It has cared much for promotion for many years now. Not so much for itself, rather for those who are under its care.
For forty years really many have tried their hand at it. Hundreds of splendid names, widely known in their own countries. Some have been faithful to it for decades although they have never won any awards. It seems they are simply fond of it… This is the right time to thank them and all the others, and say how much they are also liked by Satyrykon, to say that despite thousands of their works, they are not anonymous, that their artistic output, a tiny change of an artistic pseudonym, their development or later successes have never remained unnoticed.
To be honest, it has chosen a bit strange location for itself. The old town of the Piasts, a beautiful German city of Liegnitz which after the WW2 became a subject of the possibly strangest joke in its history. The people here used to compare their city seen from the air to a plate of assorted dumplings – one half filled with Russian ones, the other with Lazy ones… And still Satyrykon itself has always noticed its satirical potential. It has never wanted to move. Just on the contrary, it loved to welcome everybody, and even in the worst times it used to demonstrate Polish hospitality. It settled down more and more firmly. Benefitting from its splendid artistic connections it offered Legnica subsequent proves of commitment and love. And at last, thanks to Florian Crihana, it passed its city a deep, beautiful and intriguing, satirical mirror. The city has never had such a mirror in its long history. And after all it deserves one! Eventually, after forty years, it has become an important point on a satirical map of the world.
Actually, since its very origins, Satyrykon has obviously tried to summarise, to draw conclusions for the future. Nevertheless, it celebrates the consecutive, impressive jubilees casually and hurriedly, more absorbed with the current edition than the future one, which it hopes will take place after all. It has not recorded down its history in a sufficient way. There were some attempts to do so, however, collecting and completing all these memories with an unbiased comment on what has happened for forty years here in Legnica in the field of art (precisely art, and not just satire), is still ahead of us. Satyrykon itself has lost the chance again. Anyway, shouldn’t it be done by someone else?
Its every-day live follows a natural rhythm which seems to be more regular than seasons of the year. Fund raising, looking for the main topic, an exhibition at the Satyrykon Gallery, building up an excellent Jury for the future edition, which will equal the previous one, regulations, a calendar print, another show at the Satyrykon Gallery, reception of works from all over the world delivered by artists, of whom the majority is already well acquainted… Ordinary days, a few feasts on the occasion of an exhibition opening or a Jury session. Last but not least, a carnival of the 2-day June festival. Chasing an unattainable ideal, we still try to improve something. The need of change has been discussed non-stop. But the Real Changes do not have a revolutionary, rather an evolutionary character, sometimes they start almost imperceptibly. Needless to say that one of the biggest collection of over 28 000 satirical works, has been actually initiated almost purely by chance.
What seems to be the most important now? Perhaps a wish that the Satyrykon Gallery got its second wind? Quite recently it has had ambitions to teach love to satire to the youngest. And the older should not be neglected either. Or another wish – to show the wonderful collection of Satyrykon works on the Internet? And maybe “Funny food”? The latter tasty plan is about reaching masses “through the stomach”, not forgetting about artistic ambitions. Or perhaps, after all, the development of “Sharp-eye skills”? According to the initial plans this cycle of student exhibitions was just about to end, meanwhile it still lives its crazy life, and does not seem to let itself be closed… And eventually perhaps the generation shift which has been taking place in relation with what has been just discussed? To tell the truth, a few generation shifts have already taken place. Satyrykon tenaciously believes that there are more generation shifts ahead!
transl. Anita Wincencjusz -Patyna