Monuments are a photographic series whose aim is to take a closer look at Polish monuments, “against the grain”; to find the ones which deconstruct the homogeneous image of the past. Putting together the photos in diptychs and triptychs results in “constellations” which juxtapose the (hi)stories told by these monuments.
I wanted to show that the image of the past created by these monuments is full of breaks caused by, on the one hand, historical politics, on the other – individual experience. I claim that these breaks are crucial for the understanding of Polish mentality – an exceptional dimension of this phenomenon. Monuments were conceived as a result of my reflection on “in-betweenness.” I come from the Cieszyn Silesia – a region of ambiguous identifications; as an emigrant (and a son of emigrants) I spent several years in Germany, and after coming back to Poland, I started living in Masovia. The feeling of a lack of unified sense of belonging sensitised me to these moments when this belonging ceases to be obvious, unproblematic. That is why monuments, as if out of their proper place – “absurd” monuments, “uncomfortable,”, “painful,” or just unsuitable for the one-dimensional character of Polish post-war national identity – proved especially intriguing for me, due to their polyphonic character but also the potential to provoke anti-histories. These monuments became for me the visual evidence that there can be no one, proper or “true” story (historical narration), and that the image of the past is constantly be re-negotiated and co-created by those who carry it within themselves.
I was also intrigued by the fact that artists such as Xawery Dunikowski or Władysław Hasior played an active role, while other still do, in shaping of collective national imagery. In this context, the involvement of art in service of political reality seems very important. Especially if one considers the tension between the meaning and the artistic value of a monument. I have a feeling that monuments of great suggestiveness and high artistic value exercise greater influence than those mediocre, “classic” of which there are thousands.
I am aware that the Monuments do not exhaust the issue’s complexity. In a sense, such an exhaustion is not at all possible. History is created on our very eyes and monumentalised at the same time. I took a journey along the trails which in one way or another are close to my history. I searched for discontinuities in what I did so far domesticated. Monuments provide an expression of artistic reflection on the non-obviousness of the places’ and peoples’ identities, on the intermingling of various histories and their representations.