Kuba Bąkowski, “Head East”

Until now, PLACES has acted as a series of minimalist artistic interventions in public space. Their starting point was a meeting between the artist and curator in the space for which the site-specific installation was created.

Previous editions took place in an old boiler house, the hall of the Rifle Factory, on the site of a former columbarium and in a somewhat forgotten department store. In their projects, Maciek Chodziński and Paweł Kulczyński, Marcin Zawicki and Lasy, Julita Wójcik and Marcin Dymiter as well as Honorata Martin and Krzysztof “Arszyn” Topolski worked with tangible places – their architecture and history. The space provided them with a context, an important point of reference for the works they created. The fifth edition of PLACES takes as its point of departure the state of emergency introduced at the beginning of September in the border strip between Poland and Belarus – encompassing 115 towns in Podlaskie and 68 towns in Lubelskie Voivodeships. This is the first time that the artist invited to the project, Kuba Bąkowski, has combined art and activism in his work.

In relation to border areas, the name of the series could be given the prefix “non-”. The concept of a “non-place of memory” (French: non-lieux de mémoire) describes locations that have witnessed violence and suffering, but have not been commemorated through common memorial practices –no monuments or plaques are to be found there. The non-place where Kuba Bąkowski’s installation is shown is his own car, which the artist used to move along the humanitarian crisis zone on the Polish-Belarusian border – at first acting on his own, then joining the organised aid effort.

Head East consists of the remains of a temporary refugee camp. Bąkowski transfers them to his car in a gesture of bearing witness. In the border zone, his off-road vehicle comes in handy during aid operations for refugees stranded in the woods. Parked in the central part of Gdańsk’s Main City, near St. Mary’s Basilica, with contents that might bring to mind a Christmas nativity scene, it is an urban art intervention intended to provoke reflection on the fate of those who are denied a place here.

Where the forest ends and the village does not yet begin, there is something else, something not quite specific. Fields and side roads, paths and ditches, groves and meadows, clearances and shadows. Hideouts and traps. A something-in-nothing, or nothing-in-something, not really anything in particular.
(“Things Left Behind by People”, Bartosz Rumieńczyk, Krytyka Polityczna)