In the 1960s in Poland, artistic collectives flourished in the city of Torun, fostered by the academic community of Copernicus University despite the restrictions placed on artists by the Communist re´gime then in power. One of the most significant of these groups was a photography collective known as Zero61. The moniker was derived from the year of the group’s founding, 1961, and was based on the members’ insistence on starting from scratch, aesthetically speaking. Desiring to shed themselves of all influence and formalistic tradition, they sought to begin again from zero. The founding members included Jo´zef Robakowski, Czeslaw Kuchta, Lucjan Oczkowski, Jerzy Wardak, and Wieslaw Wojczulanis. As the 1960s progressed, more artists came to participate in the collective, including Andrzej Ro´zycki, Antoni Mikolajczyk, Michal Kokot, and Wojciech Bruszewski. The various participants shared darkroom space,
experimented with technique, and exhibited their resulting work together. They did not employ a specific program or write an artistic manifesto, as their aesthetic direction was essentially freeform. Yet they did share certain values and strategies in common. Their motivation was self-consciously rebellious, and they were specifically interested in challenging the journalistic, documentary photo-
graphy popular in Poland at the time. Their work is characterized by a playful attitude toward the photographic medium, and frequent experimentation with technique and process. Suchmanipulation served to problematize photography’s reputation as a transparent window into reality, and a conveyer of unmediated truth. For the Zero-61 group, artistic intervention did
not conclude with the click of the shutter. They were interested in pushing the boundaries of their medium by manipulating their images and combining their photographs with other materials. There was diversity to the formal strategies utilized by the Zero-61 members, and the results of their experimental endeavors were often visually poetic. Bruszewski frequently scratched his negatives, Ro´zycki painted directly on finished prints, Mikolajczyk utilized multiple exposures, and nearly all produced various types of photomontage. Some created montages by juxtaposing negatives, others by combining fragments of prints and re-photographing them to create a sense of seamlessness. The willingness of the Zero-61 members to mix photography with other mediums points to the multiplicity of their artistic practice; some were practicing painters, while others went on to create more conceptuallybased work.