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No. 209 October 2021


Translation: Marek Dyba
Images: Wojciech Pacuła

No 209

October 1, 2021

About Nowa Huta, Zdzisław Beksiński, Gdynia, Radmor, art and technology – you will find it all on the back of this postcard from A.D. 2021.

NE OF THE ADVANTAGES OF THE HOLIDAY IS THE time our children finally have to themselves. In most cases, it means sleeping longer and going to bad later, the possibility of doing nothing or even getting bored, or, as a last resort, the possibility of taking one’s descendant on a trip. I decided to use the latter option.

You see, I am from Huta, specifically Nowa Huta. Although I’ve been living longer in a completely different district of Krakow, inside I am a "gumior", as our grandmothers and grandparents, who in the 1950s and 1960s came to this place, were called by the inhabitants of the "real" Krakow.

Gumiors, or - as TOMASZ GOMÓŁKA writes in the title of his autobiography - the inhabitants of the "goomowisko", we became due to the ubiquitous mud during the construction of this new city, in which - if you believe the urban legends - whole trucks were lost (Tomasz "Goomi" Gomółka, Goomowisko XX wieku. Muzyka/Sport, 2021). When going to the Krakow Market Square, or simply to the Old Town, we used to say that we were going "to Krakow", or "to the city". I still keep saying that to this day. Just so you know - if someone in Krakow asks you about the "old town" or the "central station", they almost certainly came from Warsaw. In Krakow it is - respectively - 'Rynek' and 'railway station' or 'main station'.

A lot has changed since I lived there. However, Nowa Huta is still a "separate" place, which is easy to spot each time when switch from the MPK bus number 578 to the 174 line which ends at the main gate of the Combine - the contrast between the people in these two both buses is striking. Something tells me that each 'team' also calls the other one 'strange'. The Huta's peculiarity also lies in the fact that although it has many beautifully revitalized and restored places, in its mass it seems to be the least invested part of the Royal Capital City of Krakow, as the inhabitants of Krakow call themselves.

One of the most visible deficits in this largest district of my city seems to be the cultural offer, at least the perceived one. In fact, it is not that bad, I would even say that it is surprisingly good, but in the common awareness, even of the inhabitants of Nowa Huta, this place has as much in common with culture as - this is my opinion - Kraków with the capital city. The point is that Huta has always been compared with Śródmieście, and not with other districts. In such a comparison, it turns to fare pretty good, even better than good.

One of the most important places on its map is, in my opinion, the ZDZISŁAW BEKSIŃSKI GALLERY in Krakow, located in the Nowa Huta Cultural Center, commonly known as eNCeK (NCK). It is unprecedented that the gallery of a painter, artist of this class and importance, should be located in a remote location, far from the Old Town. I visited it right after opening, and although I was so impressed with the canvases that I had only known from albums so far, I couldn't help noticing that the place where it found itself is quite random. It was a side room, lit mainly by large windows, completely unsuitable for permanent exhibition.

Unfortunately, I don't know when, but at some point the Gallery was moved to the NCK’s main building, to the best room, right next to the gallery of another celebrity, JERZY DUDA-GRACZ. I must say that this is one of the better lit galleries I know - Beksiński's paintings make an electrifying impression in it. So I go back to the beginning of this story, because one Saturday I went there with my daughter. After a really good burger, served from one of the food trucks located in the front of the Center, we dived - literally - into the freak world of the artist.

After coffee and tea in the nearby ŁANCAFE, from which one can see an unbelievable view of Nowa Huta Meadows, we returned home determined to watch, once again, the Ostatnia Rodzina, film by Jan P. MATUSZYŃSKI from 2016, a story about the Beksiński family (2016). It’s a powerful story, an emotionally dense one and worth recommending, even if the character of the artist's son, TOMEK, a journalist from Radio Trójka and translator of Bond movies, is presented quite one-dimensional (in short, he is shown as an absolute changeling and recluse, forgetting that he had many friends).

And so let me return to the title of this column. Well, Zdzisław Beksiński was not only a painter, not only a crazy fan of technical innovations, but also a music lover. He listened to the music in his studio, which could be precisely reconstructed due to the fact that the painter recorded on a camera and photographed everything and everyone.

Perhaps thanks to that, the passage of time is marked in this film not so much by changing the appearance of the characters, that is, their appearance and clothing, but by showing the canvases that the artist was working on at a given time and by changing the devices he used to the music with.

And he always had a few of those. If we look closely, we will notice that in each time frame he had several parallel systems - three or even four - he listened alternately to them. What's more, after he met Piotr Dmochowski, the admirer of his work living in Paris, where he graduated from the Faculty of Law and the School of Political Sciences, he became an artist - as for Polish conditions - exceptionally wealthy. Dmochowski, at the artist's request, often paid him for his paintings with CDs, so Beksiński had an extremely large collection, also supplemented by his son.

But getting back to the point - the passage of time in the film is largely suggested by the replacement of some audio systems by others. One of them was based on the receiver from the Gdynia-based company RADMOR, the OR-5102 model, called the "Radmoryna", always accompanied by the iconic, ten-band (per channel) graphic equalizer. At the end of the 1970s, the manufacturer's stereo receivers - or rather quasi-quadraphonic ones - were the quintessence of sophistication and the object of desire of Polish music lovers. Even at the end of the 1980s, when subsequent versions of this device were already on the market, it was an amplifier commonly considered to be the pinnacle of Polish audio-related technical thought.

Designed by a team led by MARIAN PRAWDZIWEK, with a perfect design developed by GRZEGORZ STRZELEWICZ, it is not only a part of the Polish history of electronics, but also an iconic item of a certain period in which everything seemed possible.

The company, from which later the Zakłady Radiowe Radmor was separated, derived its history from 1949, when the company called MORS (Morska Obsługa Radiowa Statków) was nationalized. A year later, they started to design their own communication devices - the AA-2 and the RK-1 concert station. Radmor is a "child" of a company dealing with marine telecommunications devices. In 2011, the brand was incorporated into the WG Group, a Polish private defense sector concern, and now offers military field communication systems.

And perhaps this is the key to understanding the phenomenon of receivers with Radmor logo, their class and quality of design. The engineers involved in this project had to operate in completely different design conditions, a different executive regime than classic audio manufacturers - needless to say, a much more demanding one. In addition, they had access to foreign components, which was a rare case in the reality of the Polish People's Republic economy. Obviously, the company's products were much more expensive and the production volume was limited, after all it was just a separate branch of a "larger" company. All this, however, contributed to a product unique in every respect and sought after to this day.

How do I know all this? - I subordinated this year's trip to the GDYNIA-SOPOT-GDAŃSK Tri-city area, and in Gdynia I visited the temporary exhibition at the Gdynia City Museum entitled Legenda Radmoru (legend of Radmor). Originally planned for the period from November 7, 2020 to April 25, 2021, it has been significantly extended due to the lockdown.

The exhibition, which was small in size, offered me a special experience. For the first time I saw all the products of this brand, including prototypes. What's more, I bought for myself a beautifully prepared exhibition catalog, to which a pencil case with the exhibition's logo and a set of pins, including one with the iconic receiver, were added. This is the first study of this type and a very good one at that. The only thing that I missed in it was the description of loudspeakers with the Radmor logo, once a hit of the Polish audiophile scene, despite the fact that they were presented at the exhibition.

The curators of the exhibition, AGNIESZKA DRĄCZKOWSKA and PAWEŁ GEŁESZ in the introduction to the catalog, write:

For some, Radmor is a dream-come-true hi-fi 5100, for others the long-awaited calls by longing sailors conducted via Gdynia Radio, the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the port, the best Polish design, and finally a workplace for dozens of Gdynia and Tri-city residents. Existing continuously since 1947, the company went down in the history of our country as one of the leading manufacturers of communication systems and devices.

⸜ AGNIESZKA DRĄCZKOWSKA, PAWEŁ GEŁESZ, Serce i rozum. Dwugłos kuratorski wokół wystawy „Legenda Radmoru”, in: „Legenda Radmoru”, exhibition catalog, ed. Agnieszka Drączkowska, Paweł Gełesz, Gdynia 2020, p. 13.

It is not surprising then, that next to other leading Polish products, including Aria reel-to-reel tape recorders, Finezja cassette recorder, custom-made speakers with a ribbon driver (by the way - I wonder who was its designer and manufacturer), and then the "tower" (all-in-one system) from one of the Japanese companies, there was just Radmor, which played Beksinski favorite classical music in his studio. And this is how art and technology meet - technology and art. Anyway, at some point it is difficult to distinguish one from the other.

Chief editor

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