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The Orange Alternative: Street Happenings as Social Performance in Poland under Martial Law

  • Juliusz Tyszka


Confronted with political opposition, an authoritarian regime predictably responds with force – but also with recognition of a knowable enemy. Confronted with anarchy and laughter, it can be caught wrong-footed – as happened in Poland in the aftermath of Martial Law, when a young surrealist, Waldemar Fydrych, self-designated ‘Major’, created what he called the Orange Alternative. In a series of published manifestoes and in the street happenings they proclaimed and recorded, the Orange Alternative tickled the soft underbelly of the Jaruzelski regime, and met with responses ranging from hostility to ostensible sympathy to simple bafflement. Juliusz Tyszka here records the progress of a movement and its moving spirit – who, disillusioned with democracy when it came, exiled himself to Paris to invent alternatives anew. Juliusz Tyszka is a past contributor on Polish theatre to NTQ, who teaches in the Institute of Cultural Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan.



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Notes and References

1. Waldemar Fydrych, Bogdan Dobosz, ‘Hokus-pokus, czyli Pomaranczowa Alternatywa’ (‘Hocus-pocus or Orange Alternative’). Wroclaw: Inicjatywa Wydawnicza Aspekt, Wydawnictwo Kret, April 1989, p. 8. All other quotations indicated by page numbers only are from this source.

2. Marchlewski, Wojejech, ‘Kronika zdarzen’ (‘The Chronicle of Events’), in 'Pomarariczowa Alternatywa, Wigilia Wielkiej Rewolucji Pazdziernikowej: próby zapisu (‘Orange Alternative, The Eve of the Great October Revolution: an Attempt at Description’, Dialog, No. 395 (08 1989), p. 119–24.

3. Koztowski, Marian, ‘Czy istnieje taka alter-natywa?’ (‘Does Such an Alternative Exist?’), Gazeta Robotnicza, No. 12,037 (1988), Weekly Magazine, No. 1,375 (4 03 1988), p. 7.

4. ‘Wiosna, panie majorze! Rozmowa z rzecznikiem prasowym Ministra Spraw Wewnetrznych, mjr Wojciechem Garstka Rozmawia Julian Bartosz’ (‘It is Spring, Mr. Major! An interview by Julian Bartosz with the Spokesman of the Minister of Internal Affairs, Major Wojciech Garstka’), Sprawy i Ludzie, No. 311 (24 March 1988) p. 2.

5. This analysis is based on an essay written in 1963 by Jelenski, Konstanty, published as ‘O kilku sprzecznosciach sztuki wspolczesnej’ (‘On Several Contradictions of Contemporary Art’), in Res Publica, No. 3 (1987). Jelenski (1922–1987) was a Polish emigrant, essayist, and collaborator in the Paris monthly Kultura.


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