We use a billboard – the symbol of the modern age consumption – and change it into an object of consideration, reflection and a deep insight into ourselves and the surrounding reality.

Men of lead

This section contains, among others, a series of works by the same title, which we prepared for the 10th anniversary of our group. It is concerned with our national characteristics. Below, we present a quote from the proclamation we prepared in connection with the exhibition, in September 2009.

“In the series of works called “Men of lead”, Galeria Rusz performs a vivisection of the myths, beliefs and ideas that shape the collective consciousness of the Polish nation. Contrary to the claims of Andrzej Wajda[1], the artists from Galeria Rusz are convinced that Poles are men of lead, not of marble or steel. We are lead soldiers, who treat reality as a game of heroism, rather than real people of flesh and blood who have personality. Our minds are warped by a mental lead poisoning, which stems from an excess of bullets (from our numerous battles) that are stuck in our collective body of nation. Our legs are leaden, because we are afraid of people and of reality, our heads are heavy like lead after the latest roisterous night. Lead is, unfortunately, the kind of metal that is soft, heavy and toxic… Are these also our national characteristics?

The artists from Galeria Rusz are convinced that a great opportunity for change lies in the fact that, as a society, we enter adulthood – it’s been 20 years since Poland regained independence. Therefore, it is high time we thought about what we want to become, instead of passively assuming the mentality handed down to us from our far-from-perfect ancestors.

Galeria Rusz is not alone in its ironic derision of the Polish collective character. It is already in the year 1613 that the Scottish poet John Barclay wrote about Poles: “This nation was born for violence and wilfulness which they call freedom”. In 1885 Georg Brandes, a Danish writer and critic characterised the Poles in the following way: “A nation that is quarrelsome and impractical, vivacious and care-free, disdainful of persistence and hard work”. One of our greatest poet, Cyprian Kamil Norwid wrote in 1862: “As a society, we are hopeless. Indeed, we are not a society, we are one great national symbol (…). As Poles we are giants, as humans we are dwarfs”. And Edmund Lewandowski, a sociologist and the author of the book called “The character of the Poles and of other nations”, passes the following judgement: “Different opinions, expressed by both the outsiders and the Polish people themselves, hold the Poles as an infantile nation of Don Quixotes, divorced from the prose of life, constantly daydreaming, following their emotions and delusional hopes rather than reason and cool calculation.”




Men of lead: Malevolence, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / For our malevolence, for your malevolence


Men of lead: Options, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (JG) / There are always many options – either triumph or demise


Men of lead: Victory, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / Victory shall be ours!


Men of lead: Over, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / It’s over, over, over, oversupply


Men of lead: Hysteria, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / An eight-volume hystery of Poland


Men of lead: Willfulness, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (JG) / Unbreakable will-fulness


Men of lead: Butchered, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / Does everything have to be butchered in here?


Men of lead: Mediocrity and passivity, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (JG) / The orders of the highest rank have just been awarded: the Order of Mediocrity, the Order of Passivity


Men of lead: Envy, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (JG) / Envy is the common wealth

Poland is officially named „Rzeczpospolita Polska” which might be translated into the “Republic of Poland” or the “Commonwealth of Poland”.


Men of lead: Trust, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (JG) / Verb inflection for my closest persons: I don’t trust; you don’t trust; he, she doesn’t trust



Look within, 2009, bilbord, exhibition for the 10th anniversary of Galeria Rusz, Toruń / Don’t look on the grass at the other side – look within



Men of lead: Fire in the pan, 2009, poster, Toruń, (JG) / We are burning with the fire that just flashed in the pan


Men of lead: Scheme, 2009, poster, Toruń, (RG) / No Top Clean, only Scheme – every household’s got it!; Top Clean – washing powder, Scheme – washing powder / Cypisek was the only baby washing powder sold in the People’s Republic of Poland.


Make believe, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (JG) / We choose to be just make-believe, just anyhow – anything goes


Wreath, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / A laurel wreath or a funeral wreath


History, 2009, billboard, Toruń, (RG) / Polish history in a nutshell; Shot, shot, shot, shot, shot, shot, shot, shot in the foot


[1] Andrzej Wajda – a Polish theatre and film director, a prominent representative of the Polish cinematography and one of the creators of the “Polish Film School”. He is the author of important films taking up the issues of the Polish contemporary history. Among these are “Man of marble” (1976) and “Man of steel” (1981).


Do góry