Opening: Friday, 22 February 2019 from 6 to 9 pm
Exhibition: 23 February – 20 April, 2019
I had a dream about a border, very difficult to cross,
though I myself had crossed a number of such borders
despite the guardians of states and empires.
In the dream everything was fine as long as
we were not forced to cross the border.
On this side a fluffy green carpet made from the treetops
of a tropical forest, we soar over it, we birds.
On the other side nothing.
Nothing to be touched, seen, heard, tasted.
We prepare to go there reluctantly, like emigrés
who do not expect happiness in the distant countries of their exile.
Czesław Milosz *
Hubert Czerepok’s third solo exhibition at ŻAK | BRANICKA, rnAmericans, I am Afraid of, features a series of works inspired by the rnlatest political events. At first, the works resemble a collection of rnabstract lines. Neon signs bear the shapes of selected state borders on rnwhich walls have been built: between the US and Mexico, Israel and rnPalestine,Turkey and Syria, Hungary and Serbia. The installation rnpresented in the centre of the gallery looks like a mountain of scrap rnfrom broken border barriers, but its form is far from random: it rnprecisely maps the shape of the border between Poland and the non-EU rncountries.
International borders are politically conceived lines rndrawn to separate people based upon geographical realities combined withrn economic and cultural differences. Race, religion and global conflicts rnall play their roles in determining how the world map unfolds. Fluctuating international boundaries move as a result of their own rnpolitical circumstances. Electrified by regional disputes and inflamed rnby worldwide tensions, these lines in motion frame our national rnidentities.
Under the pretext of protection – be it from rnterrorism, refugees or wild boars – ever newer barriers are erected, rnwhose aim is to separate some people from others. Scholars note that, rndespite general globalisation, no other period after World War II has rnseen as many border walls raised as the recent years. Elisabeth Vallet, rnProfessor in geopolitics at the University of Quebec in Montreal and rnauthor of the book Borders, Fences and Walls: State of Insecurity? rncalculates that if all border walls were set one next to another, they rncould encircle the entire Earth. A striking aspect of this phenomenon isrn that the walls are not erected by weaker states for fear of being rnattacked by stronger states, but the opposite: such borders define more rnpowerful countries that wish to separate themselves from their rnneighbours. The borders of the countries chosen by Czerepok for his rnneons, they all have borders that witness political and economic rntensions. The choice of colours depends on which country is the most rndominant in the region.
Hubert Czerepok is fascinated by his search rnfor the sources of conflicts and evil. For many years, the favourite rntheme of his practice were "viruses” that infected reality, such as rnchaos, conspiracy theories, paranormal phenomena, mysteries of history –rn everything that went beyond social norms and the borders of cognition rnand logic. Yet, in the recent years, his interests have shifted to rnpalpable reality. His project Americans, I am Afraid of concentrates on rnthe border barrier as a tool of physical segregation and social rnseparation. The phenomenon of separating oneself from "the other” was rnpresent already in his earlier works devoted to language as an invisiblern barrier and an isolating device. Those pieces addressed shibboleths rn(words difficult to pronounce by foreigners, strangers or enemies) and rnviolence in language motivated by affiliation with a certain national orrn social group. The latest series depicts the ease with which an rnarbitrary abstract form becomes a physical barrier with real rnconsequences. The artist asks about the motivation behind barriers rnbetween humans erected by societies. Czerepok understands border walls rnas a symptom of the lack of self-confidence and an indicator of the rnsense of threat. However, how much is a nation worth whose identity is rndefined by fear?
Hubert Czerepok seeks the sources of chaos in the rnworld by undermining and compromising the systems according to which thern world functions. His favourite subjects comprise the art world, good rnand evil, and the history of the world and the society. He seeks out rnviruses in the system everywhere: in evil, chance, ill will, or plain rnstupidity. Czerepok is no moralist: all he wants is to show the scale ofrn madness in reality.
* A Border in Theological rnTreatise, trans. Czesław Miłosz, Robert Hass. Published in Spiritus. A rnJournal of Christian Spirituality, Volume 2, Number 2, Fall 2002: rn193–204.
image: Hubert Czerepok, Americans, I am afraid of, 2016, Neon, 55 x 200 cm, ed/3 + AP