pozdrowienia z alei jerozolimskich

The palm became political because it is a deeply contextual project. Plam’s time is the time of right-wing groups’ gouvernance in Poland, who attempt to cleanse the country from any culturally alien content. And I conceived the project exactly as a social experiment testing how far Polish society is ready to accept in every respect such an alien element.”

Election spot of Zieloni 2004 party, broadcasted in 2006
Click to open.

Correction to Agnieszka Rybarczyk’s article „A home-delivery revolution” published in „Rzeczpospolita” daily, 28-29 Apr 2007.

Amos Oz is probably right claiming that depravation of a language precedes ethical decay, deterioration and decline. In Agnieszka Rybak’s article „A home-delivery revolution” 4th RP born language-deteriorating patterns are the core of the description of a phenomenon which is incomprehensible for the author and which she is unable to depict.

What particularly strikes me is lack of understanding the necessity of existence of opposite political groups and thus enabling or widening the scope for the discussion. It is manifested in the lexical layer by a singular seizure of terms, fast-food description and definition shifts as in words „bohemia” and „superstructure”. It is a language which makes a polemical statement hardly possible.

One of misunderstandings is author’s claim that ‘famous Joanna Rajkowska’s palm, erected at de Gaulle circle during Lech Kaczynski’s rule in Warsaw, conceited apolitical is, as touched by a magic wand, tilting left.”

As my project has been used in an instrumental way as an example of capturing another area by supporters of ‘Krytyka Polityczna’, I will try to explain where the mistake is. And specifically three mistakes found in that statement.

1. The palm was erected at de Gaulle circle in December 2002, because the planning permission was granted in the
summer that year, which means during the tenure of PO-SLD coalition and it was impossible to cancel. Judging by public statements of Lech Kaczynski concerning the project, one may safely claim that it was erected against his will. I should stress, that no public money was invested into it.

2. The palm wasn’t apolitical. It is a feature of public projects that they are described by dynamically changing context created by various human actions. Every public statement, gesture, performance made under the palm affects its meaning. Public projects arise in an antagonised and traumatised cannot be apolitical, because such space, activated by the course of the project, becomes political. In case of the palm it became political not only, as I stressed many times, by the history of the street’s name, which instantly sparks the discussion about our attitude towards any Strangers. The project is of performative nature. Because of the need for positioning themselves in reference to the changed vision of the space and to the presence of a culturally strange element, people had to determinate now and here their attitude towards the strangeness, thus cultural presence of the palm itself became political. Why? Because in 4th RP estrangement became a deeply political issue.

So the political feature of the palm is brought from its presence in the political discourse.

3. The palm tilts left not by the touch of magic wand, but by the presence of very different people connected with left-wing circles under its leaves. Somehow it wasn’t ‘Młodzież Wszechpolska’ who gathered under the palm, but the Greens and Le Madame people. And not Radio Maryja circles sent the newsletter for financial support of the reconstruction of the palm, but ‘Krytyka Polityczna’.

That was the tilt and it started when a bare palm stood illegally at de Gaulle circle because the mayor’s office wouldn’t sign the proper agreements.

The world isn’t as simple as the author would like to see it. How can you explain that people whose preferences can hardly be described as left-wing donate money to the palm, including a lady describing herself warmly as ‘moher’ who bought 2 shares for 400 zloty each? That lady admitted that it is also her palm.

Łukasz Cybiński talks to Joanna Rajkowska
An abridged version of the interview has been published in “Rzeczpospolita” on 12th February 2007.

The palm is drifting left

Why do you want the palm to be reconstructed?

The reason is simple: the palm is falling apart and a part of the structure needs to be replaced, to be precise, a head, bark and the foliage.

What is the point of keeping it?

As long as the public project is alive, people react to it, see certain message in it, identify with it or hate it, that long the project has the right to live. In 2003 I wanted to give the palm to the city, Foundation Institute of the Promotion of Art sent a letter concerning that issue to the mayor of Warsaw. There was no reply. We sent another letter then, to ask for help with the deconstruction of the palm. There was no reply again. The time was passing on, people wrote the history of the palm and it ceased to be a personal project. Being aware of the views of many people, mostly acquaintances of mine, on the palm as a symbol of tolerance, openness, also with light-heartedness, I think that as long as the political situation is as it is, it is not the time to deconstruct it yet. After all these years the palm is associated with certain way of thinking about politics and a society, and about groups that govern the country at the moment.

Did you have any political intentions when constructing pf the palm in 2002?

This is an art project, not a political manifesto. The palm became political because it is a deeply contextual project. Palm’s time is the time of right-wing groups’ governance in Poland, who attempt to cleanse the country from any culturally strange content. And I conceived the project exactly as a social experiment testing how far the Polish society is ready to accept in every respect such an alien element. I am glad that the project becomes increasingly more political. One can hardly not to. There is nothing more an artist could dream of.

So what does being political mean?

The palm is a certain idea of the reality and in such idea there are many issues that are described as left wing. In the course of consecutive crisises which happened in the palm’s history, people who met underneath it were grouped around certain political option, e.g. Greens, Le Madame club, ecologists, all the people who want Poland o be a bit different than it is now. They organised public fund-risings, wrote letters to the mayor. I have an impression that the time is flowing faster and faster and all of us somehow shift towards the left. So does the palm.

I asked the editors of 'Krytyka Polityczna' for help and the fact that they decided to send out a newsletter only proves that.

The palm wasn’t accepted by the former council of Warsaw, mayor Kaczyński and groups that backed him from the very beginning. I read in the press that the reason was that the permission was granted by the preceding coalition. Quote: “Traditionally in this spot a Christmas Tree was put at Christmas. This is our tradition and we should retain it.” So every action I undertook was blocked, e.g. Municipal Road Office ordered a banner “The palm is waiting for the permission” to be taken down overnight and took down the scaffolding under the pretext of not fulfilling safety regulations. But on the other hand there is no need to demonise the, in the end it was mayors order for Municipal Gardening Works to help with the maintenance of the project.

Maybe it will be the left who will take the palm as a symbol, as they did with a crescent and a hammer or a red rose?

I don’t expect left-wing groups to have such intentions. The Palm is such an ironic project that every attempt to define it unambiguously is doomed to fail. I am just glad that the palm is drifting left.

What if the May Day processions started in the neighbourhood of the palm? It is next to former Party Headquarters anyway.

I would stand aside and watch with amazement. Left-wing is left-wing, young left is young left but
Party Headquarters is a different issue. This is – unfortunately – a left-wing groups’ burden, which needs to be faced, and that isn’t easy.