Artur Żmijewski

Our Song-book
2003
video, 13 min. 35 sec.
(W)

Artur Żmijewski’s films and video works are amongst the most confrontational works of art addressing issues of memory and identity in Poland. This as well as other works by Zmijewski investigating the cultural and emotional texture of memory related to the Shoa originated at a moment of an intense controversy raised in 2001 by the Polish historian Jan T. Gross, addressing for the first time explicitly the active role of the Polish civil population during the Nazi regime in his book Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland (Princeton, 2001). Artur Żmijewski’s film Our Song-book registers an elderly woman singing the words of the national anthem of Poland: Poland has not yet perished, so long as we still live. Żmijewski had asked elderly people, immigrants from Poland, living in Tel Aviv, among others, hospital patients and residents of retirement homes, to remember and sing songs from their childhood, songs in the language of their old homelands that they had been forced to abandon. The old people sing fragments of the songs they recall, the Polish anthem, The Carousel, This Last Sunday, they have forgotten other songs. The work recalls generations of individuals who had to emigrate from Poland due to anti-Semitic hate, it is about identity, the formative years of childhood and adolescence, and the stigmata of the past which emerge from the labyrinth of memory.

Artur Żmijewski (*1966 in Warsaw), studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and in at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam, lives and works in Warsaw.

In collaboration with Artur Żmijewski
Pilgrimage
2003
Video, 29 min. 30 sec.
Sound: Marcin Bocinski, Editing: Leszek Molski
(W)

A portrayal of a pilgrimage undertaken by a Polish group of Catholic faith to visit the most important places relating to the life of Christ in the Holy Land. Althamer and Żmijewski take part in this journey as one of those frequently organized for Polish believers and document the group’s activities and responses to their environment: Singing, praying, kissing the ground of the Nativity Grotto, following the Way of the Cross and bowing before the Holy Sepulchre. The pilgrims later dedicate themselves to spiritual shopping: Rosaries, crosses which are sold by Arab merchants. With their small camera, Althamer and Żmijewski document not only the spiritual rituals of the group, but also the atmosphere developing in response to the journey and the fact that the most important places of worship for Catholics are situated on Jewish and Arab territory, a mixture of fear and perplexity, worship and aversion.

Zmijewski explains his motifs for the journey: ›I was interested in the opposition between the pious intention of undertaking a pilgrimage to the spiritual sources of Christian faith and the fact that the most holy site of the Polish Catholics happens to be in the land of the Jews. This represents a fundamental conflict, for the pilgrims have never admitted the existence of Israel. From their point of view, this land was stolen from its rightful owners, the Arabs. (…) It is a black and white picture: the Jews have oppressed the Palestinians, who have suffered