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Afforestation | 2015

17 photographs (18 x 24 cm) and 8 mm film

From thesaurus: forest - coniferous forest (eternal, dark), wilderness (black, deaf), swarm (impassable), bushes (dark, dense).

Forest represents what's unknown, mysterious and unusual. Hidden behind a curtain of dense vegetation. It is characterized by a certain ambivalence: it gives shelter, allows to hide, but also hides what shouldn't be seen.

 In the time of peace, it is a place of single crimes - in times of war, also mass crimes. The seclusion and the conviction that no one can see and no one will find emboldens the torturers. The distance separating the forest from human settlements makes it easier to obliterate the traces: cover, buried and afforested. Trees are good camouflage. The best are Pines because they grow well on sandy ground.

Trees are often the only witnesses of events. The old ones are only symbolic observers. Young, growing on crime scenes preserve the memory of the victims in a purely biological sense. They grow on the bones that become part of them.

On the other hand, the forest is something familiar and banal. A typical - even boring - Polish landscape, mythologized by writers. One of the elements of the idyllic land of childhood. It is associated with the forest hills from Mickiewicz poems, groves from the novel "Nad Niemnem" and the white small manor house situated near the forest from the novel "Przedwiośnie".

In my work, I want to tell about things that are not so idyllic in the polish forest. About hidden secrets and stories o violence. Remind that it is one of the "contaminated landscapes" from Martin Pollack's essay. I try to look at it from the point of view of trees, often the only witnesses of dramatic events. To reflect this duality and the "unknowability" of the forest, I used an 8mm film. Single frames allowed me to show the forest as a blurred contour, outlines of trees, leaves and dense bushes.

The forest that serves as an archetype in this project, "forest of forests" is the Kampinos Forest. Located in central Poland, almost within the city limits, it has often witnessed bloody historical events. In its area, there are places connected with the battles of the January Uprising and The invasion of Poland in 1939, the graves of the insurgents of 1863 and 1944 who were hiding in the forest. Here, in a forest glade near the village of Palmiry, the German occupiers shot about 1700 people in 1939-1941. After the execution of the sentence, they precisely covered the graves with moss and needles. In the end, they planted pines on them.

 Mass executions of the Jewish population also took place in Kampinos forest. For the place of the crime (and burial), the Nazis chose peat bogs situated far away from the villages and sand dunes surrounded by a forest.

Kampinos forest hid also many other crimes, it grudgingly reveals its secrets. There is no place where nature is untouched. 

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