POLSH 320 A: Introduction to Contemporary Polish Culture

Spring 2023
MW 12:30pm - 2:20pm / MGH 284
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Community, Gender, Politics: Food in Polish Contemporary Art


In this course we will discuss chosen aspects of Polish culture and society through the lens of food and art. The symbolic aspect of food for ages was a vast source of inspiration for artists. Food and food habits represent powerful systems of symbols. Since the avant-garde movements, food is not only a motif of representation but is also used as a medium of the artwork. During the course, numerous artworks will be examined – such as video arts, installations, objects, paintings, posters, performances, graphics, and sculptures. The course will allow students to recognize and raise knowledge about the most influential Polish artists of the 20th and 21st century (such as Jerzy Bereś, Alina Szapocznikow, Natalia LL, Maria Pinińska-Bereś, Elżbieta Jabłońska, Anna Królikiewicz, Iwona Demko, Slavs&Tatars, Aleksandra Ska, Joanna Rajkowska, Oskar Dawicki, WPROST Group, Łódź Kaliska Group).


Why does food appear so frequently in Polish art? What are the cultural and symbolic meanings of food? How do Polish artists use food to speak about social and political issues? How can we interpret those artworks? How is food connected to individual and collective identity? How food can be understood as a political issue in the socialist and postcommunist perspectives?


The discussed topics will include food and politics (food scarcity during the PRL period, hunger as a political issue), feast and community building in performance art, food and gender in feminist art, food taboo and disgust, cannibalistic metaphors, food ethics and sustainability, food and identity in the context of migration, food and sensory experience in multisensory installations. In some cases, American or Eastern European artists will be mentioned to give additional context/comparison. 


               Class attendance and completion of the assignments: 20%
               Quiz: 20%
               Virtual exhibition: 60%
We will be working on the Artsteps platform: www.artsteps.com. For any questions/technical problems with the platform – please contact me at: astron2@uw.edu
Virtual exhibition requirements: The exhibition should have a clear, precise food-related topic, indicated in the title of the exhibition. It should be accompanied by a curatorial text (min. 2500 words, the text should have a bibliography and footnotes). The exhibition should consist of minimum 16 artworks (min. half of them by Polis artists). Additional resources can be used in the exhibition to develop the deeper context (for example archive photographs, renaissance or baroque paintings – however, they do not count to the artworks limit). Consider the placement of the artworks and the relationship between the artworks and the space. Think about the aesthetics of the exhibition. Remember to add titles and authors of the artworks. Record the guided tour – introduce the topic, explain the choice of the artworks, and comment on chosen artworks. The final exhibitions will be public and accessible through Slavic Department social media.
Common image resources:
Important: 04.24 – first exhibition discussion – text draft (concept, bibliography), title and theme of the exhibition, 8 artworks
05. 31- final presentation of the exhibitions
Wed, March 29                     Food and Art - Introduction. Rethinking still life tradition



 1.Watch “Festin” video-art by Wojciech Doroszuk (How the food is depicted? How the video-art imagery relates to the traditional still life? Does the video-art provoke any emotions or aesthetic experience? If yes - what kind of emotions/aesthetic experiences – beauty, disgust, boredom, fear etc.)

  1. Think of one artwork connected to food – from any historical period or geographical region (what does the artwork depict? In what manner? In what way the food is present in the artwork?)

Read: C. Korsmeyer “Making Sense of Taste. Food and Philosophy”, Chapter: The Visual Appetite: Representing Taste and Food, pages 146-147, 156-167, 178-184.

 Mon, April 3             Does Polish Cuisine Exist? Reflections on Food and Identity
 Assignment: Think about various connections between food and identity – personal, national, ethnic. Choose 3 dishes that are crucial for your identity (for instance connected with personal memories, family traditions etc.) Send the images to astron2@uw.edu till Friday 03.31Reading: K. Murawska‐Muthesius, Welcome to Slaka. Does Eastern (Central) European Art Exist?, Third Text, 18:1, pp. 25-40. The Cultural Politics of Food, Taste, and Identity. A Global Perspective, ed. S.I Ayora-Diaz,London 2021, Chapter: K.J. Ćwiertka, Foreign Influences in Polish Culinary Taste During the Twentieth Century, pp. 177-197. Optional: M. Tomaszewska-Bolałek, Polish Culinary Paths, Warsaw 2018, Chapter: History of Polish Cuisine pp. 15-37, text available online: https://issuu.com/msz.gov.pl/docs/polish_culinary_paths 
Wed, April 5 Meat Rush, Food Scarcity and Endless Queues in the PRL (Peoples Republic of Poland) – reality or stereotype? 
Reading: Communism Unwrapped. Consumption in Cold War Eastern Europe, Chapter: A short story of Communist Consumption, pp. 8-17.
Inga Iwasiów, Meat, Published in Journal of Postcolonial Writing, Vol. 48, No. 2, May 2012.
The Routledge Handbook of Gender in Central-Eastern Europe and Eurasia, Chapter: J. Regulska, Z. Włodarczyk Fluidity or clean breaks?, New York 2022, pp.18-28.  
Mon, April 10 Communist Bodies. Food, Performance and Socialism 
Reading: J. Hanusek, Jerzy Bereś: The Art as Challenge, pp.14-18, P.Piotrowski, The Artist’s Body pp. 40-45. In: Jerzy Bereś, Zwidy, wyrocznie, ołtarze, ed. Aleksandra Węcka, Poznań 1995
 Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: A Critical Anthology Primary documents, eds Janevski Ana and Marcoci Roxana with Nouril Ksenia, New York 2018, Chapter: B. Pejić Proletarians of All Countries, Who Washes Your Socks?: Equality, Dominance, and Difference in Eastern European Art, pp. 283-290.  
Wed, April 12  Pop art a’la polonaise. The Meaning(s) of “Western” Food and Political Transformation 
Reading: M. Prusik, M. Lewicka, Nostalgia for Communist Times and Autobiographical Memory: Negative Present or Positive Past? Political Psychology Vol. 37, No. 5 (OCTOBER 2016), pp.677-693.  
J. Smith, P. Jehlicka, Stories around food, politics and change in Poland and the Czech Republic, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 2007 nr 32(3), pp. 395–410.  
Mon, April 17 Pickles, gherkins and “torts”. (De)constructing Polish Cuisine through Ironyand Kitsch 

Assignment: 1. Create a meme including a stereotype about Polish/Slavic food.

  1. Visit Karolina Konopka’s Instagram – think about 3 questions to ask the artist

Reading: Reading: Mouth to Mouth, ed. P. Larios, Warsaw/London 2017, Chapter: J.Heiser, Back to PPPP: The Polymorph Perversity of Slavs and Tatars’ Pickle Politics, pp. 200-211.

Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: A Critical Anthology Primary documents, eds Janevski Ana and Marcoci Roxana with Nouril Ksenia, New York 2018, Chapter: The Slavs: Redeeming the East in Eastern Europe, pp. 364-366

  Wed, April 19  Consuming the (In)edible? Taste, Disgust and Transgression 

Assignment: Create your own edibility map

Reading: C. Korsmeyer, Savoring Disgust, The Foul and Fair in Aesthetics, Oxford 2011, Chapter: Delightful, Delicious, Disgusting, pp. 61-87.   

Mon, April 24 Food Think Tank
 Assignment: watch “Root” the movie, think about 3 questions to ask Food Think Tank + Exhibition discussion  
Wed. April 26 Food and Feminism. The Ambiguity of Natalia’s LL “Consumer Art” 
Assignment: Think about various way of representing food and gender in media, pop culture, advertisement. Send an example – be prepared to explain your choice. 
Reading: Feminist Food Studies. Intersectional Perspectives, eds. B.Parker, J.Brady, E.Power, S.Belyea, Toronto 2019, Chapter: This is What Feminist Food Studies Looks Like, pp. 1-13. 
Jakubowska, Agata. 2007. “The Attractive Banality of Natalia LL’s "Consumer Art” (1972–1975)”. Nordlit, no. 21 (May):241-48. https://doi.org/10.7557/13.1763. 
Architectures of Gender: Contemporary Women’s Art in Poland, New York 2003, Chapter: E. Matynia, Polish Women between the West and the Past, pp. 32-39.
 Mon. May 1 Cooking, Domestic Work and the myth of “Polish Mother” 
Reading: A. Imbierowicz, The Polish Mother on the defensive? The transformation of the myth and its impact on the motherhood of Polish women, Journal of Education Culture and Society 2012(1), pp. 140-153.
 T. Trojanowska, Being Poland: A New History of Polish Literature and Culture since 1918, Chapter: E. Szybowicz, Hermeneutics of the Marginal, pp. 622-626. 
Wed, May 3 Kitchen Revolutions and Empowering Food. Black Protests and “She-Gastronomes” exhibition – a case study 
Reading: Ostaszewska, Black Protests – a struggle for women’s subjectivity, Polish Journal of Educational Studies, vol 1(LXXI) 2018, 92-102.  
Mon, May 8 Meet the Meat. Eating Women and Cannibalistic Desires
 Reading: C.J. Adams, The Pornography of Meat, Chapters: Man up, Body Chopping, New York 2020, pp. 31-44, 59-78.  
 Wed, May 10 Absence and Memory. Sensory experience in multisensory installations 
Assignment: While walking around the city, try to exercise your senses. Think about how food affects the senses in the city space. Think about the smells, noises, advertisements, tastes and touch. Mark the places that especially affected yo.
Reading: A. Królikiewicz, Interlanguage, Gdańsk/Sopot 2019, pp. 76-110.   
Mon, May 15 Meeting at the Table. Migration, Community and Foreignness  
Assignment: visit an „exotic” or „ethnic” restaurant in Seattle. Think about the interior decoration, menu, the dishes - how the ideas about „ethnicity” constructed? Would you describe this restaurant as „authentic”?  
Reading: F. Parasecoli, Savoring semiotics: food in intercultural communication, Social Semiotics, Vol. 21, No. 5, November 2011, pp. 645-663.  E.Godlewska, National and Ethnic Minorities in Poland in the Opinions of the Advisory Committee of the Council of Europe, Przegląd Zachodni, no II/2018, pp. 65-74. 
Wed, May 17 Hunger as a Political and Ethical Issue in Polish and Ukrainian Art + exhibition discussion 
Reading: L. Dostlieva, A. Dostliev, Visual representation of the Holodomor. From commemoration practices to contemporary art, Baltic Worlds, December 2020. Vol. XIII:4, pp. 28-33. 
B. Steinberg, A Table Laden with Famine. Interview with Karolina Brzuzan: https://przekroj.pl/en/society/a-table-laden-with-famine-berenika-steinberg   
Mon, May 22  Eating Non-Human Animals/ Food, Speculative Design, Ethics and Sustainability 
Assignment: Prepare the “menu” of the future. Base your “menu” on your speculative scenarios –  abundance, scarcity and post-apocalyptic. 
 Wed, May 24 Eating Non-Human Animals/ Quizz  
Mon, May 29 – Memorial Day 
Wed, May 31 – Exhibition presentations



 Class attendance and completion of the assignments: 20% - 30 points

 Quiz: 20% - 30 points

 Virtual exhibition: 60% - 90 points

Total – 150 points




































Lowest passing grade



Academic failure





Catalog Description:
Topics vary and may include overview of contemporary Polish culture: literature (prose, poetry, and drama), film (feature, documentary, and video art), music, theatre, art, and architecture, as well as an introduction to the cultural life in Poland in the twenty-first century. Offered: AW.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
July 24, 2024 - 12:36 am