Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz
November 18, 2006 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, Witkacy for short. Artist, photographer, absurdist playwright, surrealist novelist, philosopher, witness to the Russian revolution, art theoretician and critic, the Great Malinowski's closest friend, drug fiend, and by most accounts a raving maniac and self-involved pain in the ass. His greatest novel was sadly prophetic: fleeing east to escape the invading Nazis, and then hearing the news that the Communists were also on the way, he slit his wrists on September 18, 1939 in the village of Jeziory, a martyr and victim to his obstinate belief in the freedom and independence of man against the bankruptcy of ideology and the coming wave of totalitarianism.
Previously here, but this guy's work is just too bizarrely compelling, and his legacy too obscure, to not get a little bit more attention.
posted by Meatbomb (16 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
"..he slit his wrists"

As all good absudists should. From Wikipedia Absurdism: "For some, suicide is a solution when confronted with the futility of living a life devoid of all purpose, because ending life seems a rational reaction to its absurdity." Like Camus' The Stranger. Thanks Meatbomb never heard of him.
posted by stbalbach at 7:48 AM on November 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

absudists is absurd.
posted by stbalbach at 7:48 AM on November 18, 2006

Great post.
posted by four panels at 7:58 AM on November 18, 2006

Great post. Polish fin de siecle art is greatly underappreciated, and that's a good site you link to.

Some of my personal favourites -

Boznanska (stunning delicate portraiture, 7 pages of paintings here)
Wyspianksi (best known for his stained glass designs)
Kamocki (incredible)

Lots more here. Well worth exploring.
posted by fire&wings at 8:01 AM on November 18, 2006

Eegads, what have thou donest with Brave New Meatbomb you rapscallion?
posted by bardic at 8:04 AM on November 18, 2006

Excellent post, Meatbomb- thanks!
posted by madamjujujive at 8:13 AM on November 18, 2006

Perhaps his favorite activity was to devise strange scenes of unusual events. He manipulated his guests (sometimes rather cruelly) to perform bizarre roles creating unique and sometimes tense situations. Sometimes he would move around during a party explaining to selected guests the role to be played and convincing others to act different roles. Or he would establish the roles to be played by his group of friends before hand and take them to the party to create a unique event. Once the famous Polish poet Aleksander Wat was cast in the role of an Italian or Spanish aristocrat. Wat performed his role excellently and took it so much to heart that eventually, having consumed a considerable quantity of alcohol, he came to believe in his aristocratic descent. The night ended with a terrible melee in a local restaurant where Wat ran amok and from which he had to be forcibly removed. Witkacy could not contain his delight. The game had been a success!
posted by Meatbomb at 8:21 AM on November 18, 2006

So this man is an aspirational figure to you, Meatbomb? Great post.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:53 AM on November 18, 2006

any links to his photography?
posted by trinarian at 10:10 AM on November 18, 2006

fantastic post! I worked on an central Euriopean avant-garde exbition 5 or 6 years ago that included some of his works, and always found Witkacy so compelling. (On preview: trinarian, this page has some photographic self-portraits.)
posted by scody at 10:22 AM on November 18, 2006

(should have said: "this page has some more photographic self-portraits," sinice meatbomb linked to a couple of them individually.)
posted by scody at 10:25 AM on November 18, 2006

Very nice, Meatbomb! Thanks!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:53 AM on November 18, 2006

Jesus. From the "witness" timeline link:

Becomes engaged to Jadwiga Janczewska
Jadwiga Janczewska commits suicide using Witkacy's gun

And then he gets badly wounded in WWI and is sent to recuperate in Saint Petersburg, just in time for the Revolution. No wonder he was a little strange! But that reminds me:

On his return, Witkiewicz, nominally a Russian subject, went to St Petersburg and enlisted in the Tsarist army.

Why "nominally"? Either you're a subject or you're not; he was born in Warsaw, which was part of the Russian Empire, hence he was a Russian subject.

Anyway, great post—thanks, Meatbomb!
posted by languagehat at 1:09 PM on November 18, 2006

Thanks all, glad you liked it.

Kraftmatic: yeah, kind of a hero / role model.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:37 PM on November 18, 2006

his legacy too obscure, to not get a little bit more attention.

He is a national hero and a cult figure here in Poland.

Just sayin'.
posted by jedrek at 5:21 PM on November 18, 2006

jedrek: yes, I know, but in the west he's almost unknown.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:49 PM on November 18, 2006

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