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15.6.- 6.7.2012 University library ˝Svetozar Marković˝ King Aleksander Blvd. 71, Belgrade

The Purity of Water Nikola Radić Lucati


“Rusalka”, a joint show by Rafal Jakubowicz and Nikola Radić Lucati consists of two works: “Swimming pool”, a 2003 two-channel video of a site-specific light-projection by Jakubowicz, and “Rusalka”, a 2011 series of steel-mounted photographs with an object-installation by Lucati. Both works, marking the anniversaries of the April 4th 1940 desecration of Poznan’s synagogue, treating this as a continuing, unfinished event, refracting the causalities of narrative erasure during the process of adaptation of several key historical events that have influenced the formation of Poznan’s contemporary landscape. The synagogue, converted into a swimming pool in 1942, has served until today as a living nazi temple to the health of the body, each swim-stroke taken to wash away the aura of it’s faith and culture, still provoking the containment of the suspended traditions of a lost co-habitative, multicultural and communal life, still seen a threat to the privatized, re-purposed strategy of petrifying genocide through re-use; then only recently normalized it’s evidence in an act of cultural replacement into a contemporary art-center. The recurring need to justify and mediate the synagogue’s right to existence either memorially or functionally, stand in contrast with the seemingly laconic, self-evident functionality of the swimming pool or a gallery. The needs chosen to be fulfilled by the replacement, are unveiling the economy of motives driving the sequence of crimes from genocide toward the subsequent repression of memory. The “remodeling” done during the occupation, as well as the subtler renovations of the space are providing the physical clues of the cultural policy of normalization in stages - first by “physical culture and education”, (as sports were

The New Synagogue, Poznan 1907. The Museum of Family History

often called in repressive regimes); then by contemporary art, offered recently as a “solution”. Though at first glance disparate, the two have similar functions, primarily of isolating and blocking, both the building itself and the context of their own arrival, while constantly streaming the cultural imperative of the “new”, in it’s most repetitive forms, with every new corporeal or artistic exercise.


The exhibition is named after the lesser of Poznan’s two lakes, Malta and Rusalka. Both were dug by massed forced labor, during the holocaust and war, as well as the ensuing dictatorship, following the devastation of Polish society under German and later, Soviet domination. The one improbably permanent act of poetic resistance was naming the lake after the betrayed nymph. This might have been the only way for the citizens of Poznan to communicate, through common mythology, the gravity of what has been done. Without the narrative of revenge and empowerment, or it’s stately attributes, Poznan’s artificial, geographical “nymph” opens a complex interplay of symbolic subjugation with the Russian “Rusalki”; these alchemic transfuigurators of the pagan realm of the mythos into nationalist imperial soveregnity. Much more real, as the embodiment of intimate suffering and female suicide, Poznan’s Rusalka reflects the waves of empowerment and disenfranchisement in the history of Wielkopolska and Poznan. Just as Kvapil/Dworak’s nymph, she was never meant to grace the prows of imperial fleet, or empower utilitarian readings of folk tales. She fulfills the role of a modern heroine far more convincingly; facing love, betrayal and damnation alone. The real, public memorial to the victims of Poznan’s lakes was never erected. An odd plaque near the Fort VII and a small column, seem lost against the number of sites involved and the scale of the atrocities. Their memory, having been preserved in nothing more than a name, remains portable, potentially subversive, their message still a testament to the severity of the repression and a harbinger of resistance. Even today, as the symbols and results of the war and dictatorship are being redesigned and pacified through the constant adaptation of their public perception, the normalization of the methodology behind the acts of genocide and repression

1942 (Poznan) - video, 1996-2002. Uriel Orlow

still proves difficult to sell, as it is re-tracing the same economic practices original mass-murders were carried out for. The role of the dominant national culture becomes that of economically instrumentalized, politically oppressive mechanism of projection of the cultural hegemony. Within it, the art, contemporary in particular, is being pushed forward to test and announce the future criteria for the normative adaptations of the minorities’ historical narratives, rights and property into the dominant cultural codes.


The intervention, both the action and the documentary works, was intended to underline the transition between two phases of normalization (the physical and the cultural), when a further step in abolishing the responsibility and guilt is taken by the opening of the new art-center, further repressing the commemorative in the public discourse. In choosing the timing for the intervention, as well as the form, (the exhibition), the authors’ intention was to provide the context both for the founding of the art-center, and the art projects that have taken place there previously. The political, direct communication of Jakubowicz’s 2003 light-projection “Swimming Pool” and documentary fact branching toward history and mythology in Lucati’s “Rusalka”, might become the missing elements in the expanding web of works on Poznan’s synagogue, and a fitting way to mark the moment of transition into acceptability of the it’s new use. In retrospect, it seems almost as if the original video “1942 (Poznan)” by Uriel Orlow 1996-2002, the theatrical site-specific installations “Alphabet” by Janusz Marciniak as well as the performance “House” by Adina BarOn in 2006, have all turned out to become the vanguard in the drive to dedicate the site to contemporary art instead of holocaust remembrance, as the authors originally intended. In fact, the 2006 was the year demolition of the synagogue was lobbied for in Poznan, and both Marciniak and Bar-On’s works were part of the drive to save it. Jakubowicz and Bar-On’s works being essentially about translation, registering it’s negation through the use on the “wrong” language or medium. (Hebrew, instead of the erased Yiddish; projected light against the performer’s screams). Marciniak’ ceremony, based on the sanctity of the aleph-bet itself, firing it’s symbols onto the dome’s interior, not allowing himself to be constrained by the lack of knowledge of

Alphabet - performance, Poznan 2006. Janusz Marciniak

the language. Orlow’s use of Kaddish, a prayer for the dead, showed clearly not only artist’s protest and clear stand on whom the synagogue really still belongs to; but also, the ability to transfer his own suprise to the viewer. There didnt’s seem to be any need for translation as well - back in the 90’s, he chose to speak of Poznan from the outside, exposing the permissive authorities rather than communicating with them directly.


The artists, having volunteered to intervene, inadvertendly seemed to imply art as a kind of practical “solution” for the future of the building. As such “strategic placements” have been proposed and executed ahead of the major public projects by the cultural authorities elsewhere; their works were readily recognized as useful “strategy of respect” and subverted by the cultural policy makers of Poznan, offering contemporary culture as equivalent, alternative replacement for holocaust remembrance. Following the narrative of the Holocaust and repression through the story of a single architectural monument in the post-transitory normalization, has uncovered the resulting continuous adaptation of memory and speech in struggle for survival of the minority victims’ communities, leading to the acceptance of the positions of the dominant majority. The projection of the minority position seemed to oblige the artists to project it through their own works, “speaking in the name of”. That speech, which in honoring the subject, also objectifies and inadvertently subverts through it’s fixed, ethical stance, once public, became a target for appropriation, just as any other public form of communication. The works presented at the “Rusalka” show, while forming a mutually supportive construction, are centered on the inversion of their media roles. A set of static, photographic objects document the continuing actions forming the process of normalization. A performative act which, filmed, becomes a document of a condition - the erasure of a people and it’s culture that has stopped at the point of the erasure of the language, again; showing the translation might not be an option that could still be leading to a hope of a dialogue. The referee tower, rising from lake Malta, judgment and purity in it’s whiteness, almost a monument. The “new” building, with

House - performance, Poznan 2006. Adina Bar-On


sloping roofs instead of domes, it’s socialist wire-mesh glass windows; a “memorial plaque” by the entrance debating casuistry with Rabbi Akiva Eger st. sign. The interior, opening the clean, straight swimming lanes of this “private exercise yard”, under the street-lights mounted over the water. The permanence of the photographs’ steel backing contrasts the shifting rhythms of the binary channels of Jakubowicz’s videos. His work, is split between two films: One a document of the light projection of a translation of the building’s function “Swimming pool” from Polish to Hebrew, and another, a candid-camera walk through the swimming pool itself, listening in on the swimmers. The elements disrupting the binary clarity of this show, are the magnified display of a preserved Rusalka butterfly, in permanent flight over a bed of sky-blue poison, fixed and distorted by a condenser lens and Goran Nikolić’s musical variations on the Dworzak’s “Ode to the moon” from his “Rusalka”, submerged into the frequency band of the butterflies, where the hearing, not yet evolved beyond alarm mechanism, conditions the behavior, establishing fear as the primal response to music. Both were conceived as the beacons tracing the path of the work from the documentary, through the mythology to the visceral origins of the Rusalka’s aura. The traces left by the ropes and the falling stars, still linger behind the heavy, locked doors of the Poznan’s small Jewish community, a place with a view onto history as it becomes life again.

Synagogue plaque, Poznan 2007. Staniislaw Nowak


Rusalka, exhibition view. UBSM Art Center, University Library “Svetozar Marković”, Belgrade, 2012.


‫שחייה‬-‫בריכת‬ Indoor swimming-pool, Wroniecka Street 11a, Friday, 4 th of April 2003, Poznań/Poland. On the 4th of April 1940, the stars on the domes on the Wroniecka Street synagogue were taken down with the use of ropes. [...] Afterwards, city authorities gave order to transform the building into an indoorswimming-pool 1. 1

Wiesław Porzycki, The Obedient Until Death (the German Officials in Warta Land 1939-1945), Poznań 1997, p. 51.

Rafał Jakubowicz

Swimming Pool, light projection, video 2003.


Rafał Jakubowicz

Swimming Pool, light projection and video 2003


Nikola Radić Lucati

Rusalka, latex print on steel, 2012


Nikola Radić Lucati

Rusalka, latex print on steel, 2012


Nikola Radić Lucati

Rusalka, latex print on steel, 2012


Nikola Radić Lucati

Rusalka, specimen, installation view, 2012


Nikola Radić Lucati

Rusalka, latex print on steel, 2012

Catalog production, photography: © Nikola Radić Lucati Video stills, photography: © Rafał Jakubowicz © All works and reproductions owned by respective artists

Rusalka - Rafal Jakubowicz | Nikola Radić Lucati  

“Rusalka”, a joint show by Rafal Jakubowicz and Nikola Radić Lucati consists of two works: “Swimming pool”, a 2003 two-channel video of a si...

Rusalka - Rafal Jakubowicz | Nikola Radić Lucati  

“Rusalka”, a joint show by Rafal Jakubowicz and Nikola Radić Lucati consists of two works: “Swimming pool”, a 2003 two-channel video of a si...