In 2019 we were commissioned by the Poster Museum at Wilanów in Warsaw to design two posters about the legacy of the Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz as part of an international juried competition. 2019 was the fiftieth anniversary of Gombrowicz’s death.
The poster features a portrait of the writer Witold Gombrowicz rendered in squares. Like words joined together to form first a sentence, then a paragraph, then a story, so too do individual pixels coalesce to form an image of Gombrowicz. (“I create myself through my work,” he writes in “A Kind of Testament.”) The portrait’s left edge is purposely unresolved and imperfect. “My life is so… so… haphazard… unfinished… fluid… inadequate…”
Symmetrical and equilateral, the square epitomizes stability, immutability, and thus permanence. (“Pół-wieczny” suggests the idea of “semi-eternal.”) But while the square signals resistance to change, the pixel presents a paradoxical twist. Even as the form of the square pixel remains constant, it nonetheless facilitates the endless mutation of digital imagery—and thus of impermanence. (A contradiction that Gombrowicz would no doubt find amusing.)
The three nested squares that reveal the raw surface of the unprinted chipboard is a Japanese symbol known as a masu. (A masu is a square wooden box used for measuring rice in the 8th century when rice was a form of currency.) Masu is a homophone of the Japanese word for “increase,” and so these three concentric squares are understood as a sign of growth and abundance. We use them on the poster to symbolize the growth of Gombrowicz’s vision and influence in Poland as well as throughout the world.
“Gombrowicz” and “pół-wieczny” are printed in copper and silver, respectively. These metallic inks reinforce the theme of “semi-eternal” as precious metals are associated with permanence and incorruptibility.
Please note: all of the posters with this design were damaged in transit from our printer. (One corner is bent.) Imperfection “is life and beauty,” notes Gombrowicz.
• Adam Mickiewicz Museum of Literature, Warsaw, Poland
• Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London
• Museum für Gestaltung Zurich
• Letterform Archive
• “Gombrowicz Semicentenary” (2019)
Poster Museum in Wilanów, Warsaw, Poland
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EDITION: Open (unsigned)
DIMENSIONS: 70 cm x 100 cm
MEDIA: Screen printed in black enamel, Payne’s grey, and metallic silver and copper inks on chipboard
PRINTING: Wranch Studios / Gardena
DESIGN: © 2019 Mark Fox and Angie Wang, Design is Play / SF