Tag Archives: 1989

Polish space invaders target Brussels

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Twenty years ago communism fell in Central and Eastern Europe. It was Poland where the transformation which changed the course of European history began. A special artisic-social project entitled “Common Task” will remind Europeans about events which took place over 20 years ago. On 4th of June 1989 Poland was the first country behind the Iron Curtain to organise free elections.

The “live social sculpture” will appear today in Brussels. There are no VIPs here – Paweł Althamer, artist and project’s organiser told the media. This is a grass-roots project, in which ordinary people participate. It reminds that ordinary people are the ones who can change reality. 20 years ago no one expected that Poland would be free. We thought it was impossible. Our astronauts also never expected to fly to Brussels in a golden airplane.  We set to have fun and enjoy freedom.

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On 4 June at 10.05 a.m., at the Brussels Airport, for the first time in history, golden Boeing 737 of Polish Airlines will land with over 200 people on board, all wearing golden spacesuits.  Golden creatures, residents of Warsaw’s Bródno district, and neighbours of the artist Paweł Althamer, will explore the city of Brussels. Their first stop will be at Expo ‘58 – the area representing the world in its entire complexity condensed into a single elementary particle. The model of atom dominating the national pavilions will be a starting point for the visit to the European Parliament – another place which reminds of the multidimensional character of things, their transitory nature and crossing the borders. They will have a walk around the Grande Place and a picnic at the Royal Park.

Journalists, reporters and everyone who will accopmpany the participants will have to wear the golden space-suit as well.

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Curator’s note reads:

At the heart of Paweł Althamer’s Project lies ‘live’ communication with people, encouragement of interaction and participation in the activity and creative process. Common Task is intended for a broad group of recipients, i.e. those who are interested in modern art as well as accidental passers-by, residents of Brussels. The choice of the place for the event is not accidental either. Brussels is the capital of the united Europe, a continent which barely twenty years ago seemed to be divided forever. In this context, the artistic performance may offer an impulse reminding us of the changes which took place in Poland and which influenced the history of entire Central Europe.

The joint activities are aimed to cross not only the mental but also the physical barriers; in addition to the meetings which are set in everyday reality, the participants also set out on peculiar journeys offering them new possibilities and unusual experiences. Clad in extraordinary spacesuits they balance on the border of two worlds; the one that they know and the new one which is very often a projection of their imagination. The world that they know quite frequently means the unattractive space of the grey and gloomy blocks of flats. The participants are “ordinary” people who have “ordinary” jobs and who are just “people from across the street”. “Common Task” allows them to leave the twilight zone and to appear in a public space which is completely new to them. For them, it is a different world full of people communicating in a foreign language. But it is also the world in which they become visible. What is more, they become the focal point and draw attention of the other people.In this context the Project of Paweł Althamer can be viewed as a social sculpture. The sculpture which is a material object, is transformed into a common experience, a process aimed to introduce a deep going change in the registers of everyday habits. Subject to this artistic transformation is not only a physical object but also the person, consciousness and mental habits. At the same time, Common Task is a meeting and integration place of various social groups and people whose everyday realities do not merge in any way and who are often excluded from the social and cultural rites. Symbolic crossing of the borders thus occurs at many levels.

Video from the press conference

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imagesThis event is part of “It all began in Poland” – celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War and of the 20th anniversary of the collapse of communism in Central Europe. More info at www.3989.pl



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Poles must stop living in the past

Friday, 1st of August, was a day devoted to remembrance of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. Its heroism and glory, that had to be concealed during the years of communism. Now in full shine thanks to the massive media coverage… hours of live broadcasts on all news channels, metres of tape and pages of text have been devoted to various analysis, diaries, transcripts, comments, interviews…

The remembrance celebrations for the 64th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising have become another episode in an endless celebration of history while the needs of the current inhabitants of Poland are being neglected. We should be focusing on making new and innovative things happen.

So let’s dash the burden of our troubled past and start living in the present.

Celebrations of history have become festivals of pride – of Polish pride. Pride for “our” people, for “our” struggle, for “our” greatness. But history is not something I want to be proud of. This is not a real achievement of the people of this country. The fact that we decide to focus all our popular celebrations around history means that we feel we have no achievements in the present. Or no other interests. And we know it. Festivals of music, festivals of flowers, festivals of wine, festivals of anything else never get quite the coverage as dead people festivals do. Will we ever see a festival of, let’s say, art that brings the whole country to a halt? That gets the attention of the VIPs? That sees parades and concerts all around the country?

OK, we have a country, we have freedom. Very well. Many people don’t. But what do we do with it? Where are our talents of music, drama, comedy, architecture, science, literature, management, politics… etc.? Why doesn’t our system encourage creative people to do great things? Things we can be really proud of. Things we can see as real and present achievements. Where is the innovative music and style? Architecture that makes an impression. Experimental media… outstanding performances… We don’t let our talents flourish, we offer second-hand culture. Half of our television programmes are imports from the UK (while our public television pays millions for substandard soaps), most of what is shown in cinemas is American, while the music in our iPods is half British half American. The things our system and our people create don’t even appeal to ourselves, so no wonder we don’t feel proud of our creativity.

Is the past is the only area of greatness in our minds? We must stop living in the past in order to move on.

It is very difficult for Polish people to ever dare to see things this way. We are raised with certain patterns of thinking, we are socialised to certain myths, and most of our schooling concentrates on preserving our National sentiments; sentiments for partitions, war, and communism. We are manipulated into the romantic notions that surround Nation. Analysing the past we take sides and engage emotionally, instead of remaining cool observers. Television programmes, papers and books are filled with sweet-like-sugar pictures of heroes. Pictures people seem to fall for, but these are pictures I never believed. For I know life, and things are always complicated and people are full of passions and fears, truths and lies, and are never one-dimensional. We are manipulated into being hysterically Polish. Like our parents. And their parents. This leads our schooling to neglect the practicalities of life, like communication skills, tolerance, organisation, work ethics – which cost us so much trouble… Is remembering really the main task of the Polish people? Shouldn’t we primarily concentrate on developing some other qualities?

We, the people of Poland, remember our history too much, too often, we try to hard, we concentrate on it too much. We put too much emphasis, and heart, into it.

Furthermore: history and common experiences (war, pain, victories over enemies, lashes from greater powers) are a feature of a discourse that talks about Nation. And Nation talking always shifts our focus from everyday things – Nation serves romantic high purposes. Nation talk also excludes non-Poles.
I would prefer our present focus to be on the inhabitants of Poland, and their happiness. Inhabitants you will note, is a broader notion than Nation. It doesn’t exclude anyone.

Another things is that the national remembrance excitement is becoming obligatory, and I really hate when I’m being told what to think and what to feel. Just as “Słowacki was a great poet”.

“If you’re Polish and you know it,
And you really want to show it,
If you’re Polish and you know it,
Clap your hands (Clap, Clap).”

I hate these never ending celebrations of dead people. As someone said, Poland is ruled by coffins. And the coffins that rule Poland and the minds of people of this country are both the coffins of great Polish people, and of Polish victims.

But the worst thing is that all those celebrations strengthen the wrong parts of Polish thinking. They concentrate on the past, on finding those guilty for all that present Poland lacks… And provide a good excuse. An excuse that we are never reluctant to use when something substandard is pointed at. An excuse that comes very handy to all those lazy bastards who complain and complain but won’t lift a finger to change anything. I always say this to people: nothing will change itself, you have to make it happen. If you don’t like something, like for instance the slow pace in which roads are being built: associate with others who share similar opinion, create a pressure group, influence the government. That’s how democracy works. Decision makers will not take notice of you unless they have to.

And I hate to hear all those hypocrites who one moment criticize everything about Poland, and the Polish people, and then suddenly on another occasion, praise such remembrance occasions. So you celebrate the existence of this failed state that disappoints you so much? Why should you celebrate something you don’t like? Something that you never felt good with, something that causes you only headache and embarrassment?

Stop! Wake up people! We are alive, why don’t start living for eff’s sake? Concentrating on the present and the future. On work and fun.

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