edited by: Elżbieta Janicka, Wojciech Wilczyk
graphic design: Tomasz Bierkowski
publisher: Zachęta - Narodowa Galeria Sztuki
“Other City” is a documentary photographic project that attempts to visually map the area of the Jewish ghetto (Warsaw Ghetto, 1940–1943) created by Nazi Germany in the heart of the Polish capital. The ‘post-ghetto’ space (a term coined by Holocaust historian Jacek Leociak) stretches between the Palace of Culture and Science in the south, the Arkadia shopping centre in the north, the New Town, Plac Krasińskich, Krasiński Garden, Plac Bankowy and the back of the Pasta building in the east, and Żelazna Street, Okopowa Street, the Jewish Cemetery and the Old Powązki Cemetery in the west. The artists photograph the area from the rooftops and top floors of buildings using a 4x5 inch-sheet camera. They work from autumn to spring, on sunless days, avoiding chiaroscuro and trying to avoid capturing foliage as this blurs the street grid and alters the modelling of solid figures. The project is in colour, which is perceived by the artists as more realistic and natural than black-and-white photography.
The presented images are formally consistent. They also share certain elements, such as the same fragments of space shown in a different perspective, or landmarks: the Palace of Culture, the church at Nowolipki Street, the blue high-rise at Plac Bankowy where the great synagogue at Tłomackie Street used to stand, or the court building and Protestant church at Solidarności Avenue (formerly Leszno Street). These elements allow the viewer to mentally reconstruct the entirety of the documented area. A map created by cartographer Paweł Weszpiński for the purposes of Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak’s monumental publication, The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, complements the project. In the map, Warsaw’s present street grid has been superimposed on a detailed plan of the nonexistent city, while the few surviving relics of Ghetto development have been additionally marked.
“Other City” proposes a reflection on the successive stages of the development of postwar Warsaw, on the concepts and ideas of architecture and urban planning, each of which emerges from a view of the past while being a form of thinking about present and future society: from egalitarian visions of social housing to the neo-liberal logic of maximum profit without regard for legacy architecture and at the expense of social cohesion. The emblematic places documented in the photographs – the former Berson and Bauman Hospital, the Nożyk Synagogue, the former Nalewki Street, the former Umschlagplatz, and others — embed “Other City” in the history of Jewish Warsaw. For Janicka and Wilczyk’s project is also an attempt to recapitulate the identity of the territory and the consciousness of the community that has constituted itself on the site of the former Ghetto. In this sense, it raises questions about postwar Polish culture’s and society’s attitude toward an unprecedented civilisational catastrophe. “Other City” makes evident that the Holocaust transpired right in the centre of the social and cultural tissue yet has received no central, paradigmatic, cultural representation to this day.