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Thesis in English 2020

The Truth and Lie of Architecture

1. The truth? Creators are still looking for the truth. There is the inner truth of a work, the truth of time, the truth of art, the personal truth of a creator (I see it that way!)… Artists, viewers, art theorists, philosophers believe in the existence of the truth of art, they accept this idea. The audience may believe that Leonardo da Vinci’s painting of the Mona Lisa contains some mysterious truth; it is difficult to imagine the depth of the truth of Fernando Botero’s Mona Lisa. One can also believe that there is the truth of abstract painting. The truth of literature is widely accepted: the truth of the worlds of Joyce, Kafka, Gombrowicz, Borges… However, we do not wonder about the essence of the truth of Ciaccona from Bach’s Partita for Solo Violin No. 2, nor about the Gesamtkunstwerk of Wagner’s Valkyrie.

In the recent past of architecture, the concept of “truth” played an essential or significant role. There were directions based on a certain ethics in architecture; the architectural form resulted from the assumptions of the guidelines described as the sincerity of architecture; the aesthetics resulted from a kind of game of the truth. In brutalism, the truth consisted in the “sincerity” of the material; later, the truth of the form was also related to function. The issue of truth was also an important guideline for the development of concepts related to the logic of the building’s construction system; these concepts seem to have been displaced by individual efforts to demonstrate the originality of the architecture and – the architect.

2. The great lie of art. “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth, at least the truth that is given us to understand.” This statement by Picasso remains valid! It is not clear what the truth is, the lie has gained a new colour. Once more, we are moving within an aesthetics that dazzles with a category of fictionality. Its existence has never been exposed so much. Even the significance of the slipping keystones in Giulio Romano’s Palazzo del Té by was concealed by a thick layer of ideology of beauty.

Nabokov put forward the category of the great lie as the main attribute of art. The play of the artist and the audience can be compared to a game of chess, and interpreted as a conscious acknowledgement of the rules of artificiality on both sides of the mirror of fictionality. It seems that the matter with literature is simple: a literary work is not a statement that can be true or false. It is a statement that is not subject to such verification: this is the status of fiction. Declaring fiction as play and the great lie as a pretext is the way to create things. The adoption of such an idea assumes that art should be seen through the foggy glass of consciousness, that here we are watching – the world of art, the artificial world, the world in a mask. In this haze, one can seek the depth and vastness broadening the reception of an artistic object. Architecture also hides behind a veil of play, irony, and all other curtains proclaiming their artificiality. And the synonyms for “the great lie”: fiction, mystification, illusion, fantasy, poetry, irony, joke… are justified.

3. The easy lie. In the vicinity of the lie of art, there is the area of the greatest sincerity, “the easy lie”, the area of kitsch – the art of happiness. Kitsch is not just a description of things, it is also a definition of a certain kind of attitude and then, as a result, action. There is pleasant Hundertwasser’s kitsch in architecture. There is also a huge building in Warsaw: The Palace of Culture and Science, the greatest kitsch in the world, once grim, now tamed by time. It is an architectural thing with references to a certain tradition of historical architecture, built for – man’s happiness. And right on the edge of kitsch – the great art of postmodern architecture, and the vagaries of supermodernism.

4. The goal. The great lie and the search for the truth – do not fit into a single architectural theory. One can get an impression that the primary value is not so much the art called architecture as the goal – its originality enabling it to distinguish itself from everyday life’s surroundings and to be accepted by the world!

Dariusz Kozłowski, Maria Misiągiewicz, 2020