Swimming Pool (Light projection)
2003 / 2013
A Swimming Pool, Wroniecka Str. 11a, Poznań, Poland
Friday, 4 April, 2003. Photography on aluminium, postcard
2011 / 2013
16 photographs and postcard
On 4 April, 1940, the stars on the dome of the synagogue on Wroniecka Street were taken down with the help of ropes […] Afterwards the city officials gave the command to convert the building into a swimming pool. On the same day, sixty-three years later, Rafał Jakubowicz, in a one-time artistic intervention in his hometown of Poznan, projected the word “swimming pool” in Hebrew letters above the entrance of the old synagogue. The swimming pool installed in the synagogue by the National Socialist occupiers is in operation until 1 September of the year 2011, in which the 41st edition of the European football tournament, UEFA 2011-12 took also place in Poznan. A photograph, a video and postcards, a medium that Rafał Jakubowicz frequently uses, are what remain of the artistic action. Neither the passers-by, who experienced Jakubowicz‘ projection by chance, nor the children playing in the pool were probably aware that the swimming pool is a desecrated sacred building. The memories of it are erased in public consciousness and the projection in Hebrew also causes more irritation than insight. There are no traces of the synagogue to be found on the inside either, which Jakubowicz also filmed. The search for traces blurs in a diffuse play of water and light.
In the form of blue graffiti on the walls of Israeli cities one can find the lettering ‘Am Israel Chai‘ – “The people of Israel live!” This watchword has a long tradition, it stands for overcoming persecution and submission and is used as a heading, as a blessing, on numerous occasions, but it is also a reminder of fear and oppression. Rafał Jakubowicz’ interest lies in the message of the lettering but also in the comments and reactions surrounding it. In Israel, the graffito ‘Am Israel Chai’ seems to have a stimulating effect, it can always be found with further commenting or expanding graffiti in urban space (usually in black or red spray). ›Am Israel Chai‹ seems irresistible, people are almost instantly drawn into a shrewd play of words, like “Am Israel Chai bepachad (The people of Israel live in fear), Am Israel Chai beseret (The people of Israel live in a world of fiction), Am Israel Chaialim (The people of Israel are soldiers), Am Israel Chaiot (The people of Israel are beasts)”
…and many, many other, more or less funny comments.
Am Israel Chai was transferred onto Polish walls, the usual “site” or “background” for anti-Semitic slogans. In Polish or German cities, a Star of David can usually be found alongside anti-Semitic slogans, the words ‘Am Israel Chai’ are incomprehensible here in several respects, and especially in the snow they appear oddly out of place.
The ‘Chai’ project is accompanied by a postcard edition at the respective venues. It was realised for ‘A Cookbook for the Political Imagination’ (ed. by Sebastian Cichocki and Galit Eilat, 2011) which accompanied Yael Bartana’s exhibition in the Polish Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition in Venice.
Rafał Jakubowicz (*1974 in Poznań), studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, at the Faculty of Artistic Education and the Faculty of Painting, Graphics and Sculpture. He is a PhD candidate at the Institute Of Art History at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań, lives and works as an artist and curator in Poznań.
In collaboration with Nicola Radić Lucati
Das Seine – Forschungsprojekt
Nikola Radić Lucati, As They Stand, 14 photographs
Rafał Jakubowicz , FIASKO, lettering made of corroded steel
The artistic research project Das Seine connects places whose historical meanings today appear diametrically opposed to us: Staro Sajmište, the old fair ground in the centre of Belgrade which was turned into a concentration camp by the SS and Gestapo, and architecture views from the south of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. The architectural similarities between the photographed building complexes are therefore all the more striking to the viewer. Together, the fourteen photographs by Nikola Radić Lucati and a sculptural work by Rafał Jakubowicz, the lettering FIASKO, form the artistic research complex Das Seine, in which individual branches of the Bauhaus tradition are examined in different historical constellations. All fourteen photographs by Nikola Radić Lucati depict architectures built under the influence of the Bauhaus that were meant to give a positive signal for a social departure to modernism. While the buildings in Israel were to offer modern dwellings for a young nation, Staro Sajmište was erected in 1937 as an international fair complex and as a representative part of a ‘New Belgrade’, four years before the invasion of the National Socialists. Between 1942 and 1944, around 32,000 people were interned on the area between representative pavilions before being driven on to other camps. The camp counted as one of the most brutal Gestapo camps in occupied Serbia and was the site of incredible atrocities; the 7,000 Jewish women and children and elderly of Belgrade as well as members of the Roma people were murdered here. After the war, the grounds were offered to artists as studios. Today, the artists and descendants Roma families are living in the dilapidated buildings; all attempts of various initiatives to establish a memorial center for the victims have failed until now, despite a resolution by the city council.
The German lettering FIASKO made of corroded steel by Rafał Jakubowicz is the second part of the joint work Das Seine. By using a historical typography, Jakubowicz refers to the historical synthesis of two developments conceived of as contrary in German history, the artistic avant-garde and National Socialism. As an inmate of the Buchenwald concentration camp, the former Bauhaus student and colleague Franz Ehrlich designed the gate inscription Jedem das Seine in the style of the Bauhaus, which was partly adopted by the Nazis despite the official despise of international modern style. After being released in 1939, Ehrlich went on to design further structures including the commander’s villa in Buchenwald and the camp’s zoo. Afterwards, he was a soldier of the punishment unit 999 in Greece. In 1946 Franz Ehrlich allegedly returned from war imprisonment in Yugoslavia to Germany, where he became the head of the department for reconstruction in Dresden. As a master student of the Bauhaus, but also as a celebrated architect in the GDR, Ehrlich’s biography invites one to call into question what is seemingly clear by considering the ambiguity of the missing parts of his biography.
Nikola Radić Lucati (*1971 in Belgrade) lives and works in Tel Aviv and Belgrade.
Rafał Jakubowicz (*1974 in Poznań) lives and works in Poznań.