<p>Jean-Luc Godard, <em>Tout va bien, </em><span>1972</span></p>
<p>Jean-Luc Godard, <em>Tout va bien, </em><span>1972</span></p>

No. 31: Visuality of Social Classes: Histories and Actions

Managing editors: Magda Szcześniak, Krzysztof Świrek

Jean-Luc Godard, Tout va bien, 1972

This issue was supported by the Film School in Łódź, Polish Studies Department of the University of Warsaw, and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, from the Fund for the Promotion of Culture.

Table of Contents


  1. Visuality of Social Classes: Histories and Actions

    ”Visuality of Social Classes: Histories and Actions”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2469

    Introduction to the issue on the visuality of social classes, particularly class history, class conflict, and class consciousness.

    keywords: social class; class structure; visuality; representation; class conflict; class consciousness


  1. "Us" vs. "Them". Communist Dialectical Images from Interwar Europe and Soviet Russia

    Adri Kácsor, ”"Us" vs. "Them". Communist Dialectical Images”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2439

    Brawny male workers vs. bulging bourgeois men. Working-class mothers burdened by the hardship of poverty and childcare vs. elegant upper-class women enjoying a lifestyle of privilege. Such juxtaposed images of workers and the rich were prevalent in the visual culture of communism throughout the twentieth century, appearing on posters, illustrations, and other genres of political propaganda across countries and continents. Although these didactic propaganda images have rarely been considered in histories of modernism and the avant-garde, this article argues that they were among the key visual inventions of twentieth-century communist visual culture given their highly innovative aesthetics and juxtaposed structure that provided them a potential to become dialectical. Drawing on examples from interwar Europe and Soviet Russia, this article examines how didactic juxtapositions could become dialectical images, triggering political transformations while also making revolutionary class consciousness visible for the viewer.

    keywords: dialectical image; visual juxtaposition; Soviet propaganda; modernism; international communism; caricature; agit-prop album

  2. Worker's Photography Movement of the 1920's and 1930's. Theoretical Perspectives and Research Possibilities in Poland

    Maciej Duklewski, ”Worker's Photography Movement of the 1920's and 1930's”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://www.pismowidok.org/en/archive/2021/31-visuality-of-social-classes/workers-photography-movement-of-the-1920s-and-1930s

    The paper examines the latest research in the field of social, documentary, and artistic photography created by working class amateurs and left-leaning professionals in the 1920s and the 1930s. The field encompasses phenomena such as the international movement of working-class photographers, left-wing illustrated press and theory of proletarian photography. Such examination allows me to outline research possibilities in Poland and their possible methodology. The article describes its local conditions of production and circulation. It also outlines the available evidence for further research, including materials related to The First Exhibition of Worker-Photography in Lviv (1936, curated by Władysław Bednarczuk), communist press and Polish interwar photography magazines.

    keywords: photography; communism; modernism; Second Polish Republic; industrial workers; worker's photography movement

  3. Consuming Class. Imagining Upper-Middle Classness through Photography in Vanity Fair

    Amelie Ochs, ”Consuming Class”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2459

    This art historical close-reading enters into dialogue with theories of class and is located at the intersection of visual history, periodical studies and historical consumer research. While the term “consuming class” is closely connected to the present globalized world, the origins of this social phenomenon date back at least to the 19th century. The article examines the ways in which photography is used to imagine this class and its sense of distinction. Taking as its object Vanity Fair’s November 1922 issue, the author analyzes different uses of photography and its relation to readers. Stressing social theories by Thorstein Veblen and C. Wright Mills, she defines the consuming class as an upper-middle class, searching for a point of orientation in high society culture in order to stabilize their own class-consciousness. In this sense, she argues that the visual content of Vanity Fair is rather a presentation for – than a representation of – the consuming class. The article also examines the modern magazine as a display and circulation platform for modern art, photography and advertisement which motivates the visual and social practice of image consumption.

    keywords: consuming class; middlebrow culture; image consumption; Vanity Fair; advertising photography; visual ideology

  4. Behind the Ancestral Portrait. Representations of Contemporary Aristocratic Communities and the Polish Class Structure

    Maja Głowacka, ”Behind the Ancestral Portrait”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2456

    The aim of the paper is to examine the relationship between media representations of contemporary aristocratic communities and the processes of shaping class structure in Poland. Through an analysis of selected images (press materials, television programmes), I try to show that the images of the Polish nobility function in two different ways and are a part of the process of “hiding” of the Polish upper class, described by sociologist Maciej Gdula. The popularity of images of the aristocracy is a distraction from: a) the actual capital and status of the presented group; b) the functioning of other sections of the upper class. Historicized, exotic, excess-based representations of the aristocracy exclude the group from the ongoing processes of domination struggle, negotiation of class positions and powers. They thus become one of the significant elements in shaping and functioning of the class structure in Poland.

    keywords: nobility; aristocracy; upper class; class structure; social class; media; popular culture

  5. Double “Class”. On the Popularization of Dr. Martens

    Arthur Crucq, ”Double “Class”. On the Popularization of Dr. Martens ”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2409

    In this paper processes of appropriation and commodification are discussed from the perspective of subcultures and their relation to class. Dr. Martens boots are discussed as a specific case-study. They were appropriated in the 1960s by British Skinheads to signify their working-classness. Besides being functional, design objects are apparently endowed with meaning and these can vary depending on different modes of appearance, on different styles. Today Dr. Martens, is primarily a fashion-item. This calls into question to what extent commercialization undermines the potential of design objects to be endowed with meaning. By critically discussing recent scholarly literature on subcultures and style I will explain how in recent decades the dynamics of the neo-liberal market economy with its emphasis on consumption, facilitated a further commodification of style-objects as desirable value-objects. What will be argued successively is that appropriation and commodification in late capitalist society might obscure but not obliterate the social realities of class that lie hidden beneath the flux of images in which we are engulfed today.

    keywords: appearance; appropriation; class; commercialization; commodification; Dr. Martens; Punk; Skinheads; semiotics; style; subcultures; working-class


  1. "Populus Means the People, Ladies and Gentlemen"

    Michał Januszaniec , ”"Populus Means the People, Ladies and Gentlemen"”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://www.pismowidok.org/en/archive/2021/31-visuality-of-social-classes/populus-means-the-people-ladies-and-gentlemen

    Visual essay devoted to peasants' protests during the post-socialist transition in Poland. Drawing on press photographs, TV footage, newsreels, and grass-roots video recordings, the authors construct an archive chronicling the popular resistance of farmers, who were struck particularly hard by free-market reforms.

    Warning: presentation contains visual depictions of various types of violece, viewer discretion is advised.

    keywords: protests; transition; farmers; peasants; people's history; visual activism; post-socialist transition; class struggle

  2. “Populus Means the People, Ladies and Gentlemen.” A Visual Archive of Peasant Protests during the Post-Socialist Transition

    Magda Szcześniak, ”“Populus Means the People, Ladies and Gentlemen””, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2471

    The article is devoted to peasant protests organized in the period of the post-socialist transition in Poland. The mainstream public sphere is reluctant to bring up the memory of these protests, suppressed as it is by the story of the transition as a period of reveling in capitalism and building a civil society. The author views the radical protest movement as the first mass and serious opposition against the new neoliberal politics of the state. Using Charles Tilly's category of "repertoires of contention," she analyzes the tools used by farmers: road blockades, occupations of government buildings, performances of food wasting and examples of peasant visual activism. The article is accompanied by Michał Januszaniec's visual essay, which uses a diverse range of visual materials from the period.

    keywords: protest movement; farmers; peasants; people's history; visual activism; post-socialist transition; class struggle


  1. Red Meat, Green Death. Violence and Time in the Work of Maria Lassnig

    Adam Lipszyc, ”Red Meat, Green Death”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2436

    This article is devoted to selected motifs in the work of the Austrian painter Maria Lassnig (1919-2014). The author starts from an analysis of monstrosity, which is often present in the artist's self-portraits. Referring to Lassnig's manifestos, in which she outlines the concept of painting under the banner of 'body awareness', as well as to certain ideas expressed by Gilles Deleuze in his book on Francis Bacon, the author points out that Lassnig's 'monstra' - manifested in the form of animal monsters or machine monsters - are a visualisation of bodily torment connected with the process of subjugation. In this vein, the analysis also focuses on the function of intense red - the colour of suffering, but stimulated being - which the artist likes to use when creating monstrous figures, as well as abstract green which, according to the author, refers in Lassnig to the order of death. The author reconstructs the functions of these colours, referring to a number of the artist's painting works as well as her film animations. Finally, four of Lassnig's self-portraits are analysed in detail, two from her earliest period and two from the last period of her work.

    keywords: Maria Lassnig; painting; meat; body; monstrum


  1. The Power to Express Who You Can Become. Sabine Hake in Conversation with Magda Szcześniak

    Sabine Hake, Magda Szcześniak, ”The Power to Express Who You Can Become”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2449

    A conversation about Sabine Hake's interdisciplinary three-volume study on the proletarian imaginary in German culture from the 1860s to the 1960s.

    keywords: working-class culture; proletariat; Marxism; emotions; Germany


  1. A Multiplicity of Voices. On People's History

    Małgorzata Litwinowcz-Droździel, ”A Multiplicity of Voices ”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2462

    A critical overview of a number of recent publications devoted to the people's history of Poland.

    keywords: people's history; peasants; serfdom; history; village

  2. Shame, Upward Mobility and French Literature

    Wiktoria Tabak, ”Shame, Upward Mobility and French Literature ”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2443

    A review of three theatre plays: Koniec z Eddym [End of Eddy] (Teatr Studio) and Halka (Narodowy Stary Teatr) directed by Anna Smolar, as well as Powrót do Reims [Return to Reims] (Teatr Łaźnia Nowa, Nowy Teatr) dirrected by Katarzyna Kalwat. The author analyses changing ways of representinf social classes in contempoary Polish theatre, pointing to a new tendency of concentrating on personal stories of upwaard mobility.

    keywords: social class; shame; contemporary theatre; upward mobility

  3. Connecting Class, Capital and Coaching

    Kamila Biały, ”Connecting Class, Capital and Coaching”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2429

    Review of Michał Mokrzan's bookKlasa, kapitał i coaching w dobie późnego kapitalizmu. Perswazja neoliberalnego urządzania[Class, Capital, and Coaching in the Age of Late Capitalism. Persuasion of neoliberal arrangement] (Toruń 2019) is written, on the one hand, from the perspective of sociological studies of late capitalism in Poland, and on the other hand, in the spirit of phenomenological research. The latter directly relates to the category of assembling, which is interesting for the researcher, originating from the philosophy of difference, becoming, and process. The author, faithful to this tradition, tries to describe the neoliberal device in a specific context. As the author of the review attempts to show, Mokrzan is only partially successful.

    keywords: capitalism; neoliberalism; coaching; class; phenomenology; Michał Mokrzan

  4. Senseless Mood of Divergence. A Reply to Kamila Biały

    Michał Mokrzan, ”Senseless Mood of Divergence.”, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture 31 (2021), https://doi.org/10.36854/widok/2021.31.2434

    The presented text responds to the review of the book Klasa, kapitał i coaching w dobie późnego kapitalizmu. Perswazja neoliberalnego urządzania [Class, Capital, and Coaching in the Age of Late Capitalism. Persuasion of neoliberal arrangement] (Toruń 2019) written by Kamila Biały. The author addresses doubts raised by Biały, pointing out that some fragments of the review confirm the recognition of Hans-Georg Gadamer that we extract from the texts we read what we previously put into them, i.e., our pre-understandings with the prejudices that determine them. Referring to hermeneutic thought, Mokrzan argues that in Biały's review, superstitions do not enable understanding as block it, resulting in four problematic reviewing strategies. In many places, the review does not discuss with the book but with an imaginary opponent created for her own use. The source of this gesture is a senseless mood of divergence, that is, the ideas and affects produced in the context of the dispute between the supporters of an approach that privileges the "objective" approach to social phenomena and its opponents - choosing the "subjective" approach.

    keywords: class; capitalism; coaching; capital; Kamila Biały