Karolina Grzywnowicz The Weeds

05.09 – 31.10.2015 Karolina Grzywnowicz The Weeds

Zachęta Project Room

artist: Karolina Grzywnowicz
curator: Zbigniew Libera
gardening consultant: Sławomir Sendzielski
collaboration: Kuba Rudziński
collaboration: Karolina Bielawska

The Weeds is a project about plants that form a unique record of political and social history. They can be encountered in places where Poland’s most densely populated villages once used to be. Now several dozen years after these people deserted the area, the plants have become an evergreen and ineradicable mark of human presence.

The exhibition in Zachęta Project Room features a plant installation – a fragment of a meadow transferred from two depopulated villages in the Beskid Niski and Bieszczady mountain ranges. This is accompanied by a map of the area whose population was forcibly resettled after Second World War, marking non-existent villages.

After Second World War, in the aftermath of a geopolitical change of the Polish borders, many native inhabitants were forcibly relocated and had to abandon their homes. Over half a million civilians were deported from the Bieszczady Mountains, Beskid Niski, Beskid Sądecki, Przemyskie Foothills and Roztocze in the course of two resettlement operations carried out in those areas. During the first operation (1944–1946), claimed to be a repatriation of the Ukrainian minority, some 480,000 native inhabitants of Poland’s south-eastern borderland were relocated to the Soviet Union. The second operation, codenamed Operation Vistula (Akcja Wisła) was carried out between 1947 and 1950, with another 140,000 members of local minorities relocated. The deserted villages were usually burnt down to the ground – no houses, catholic or orthodox churches have been preserved to this day.

Depopulated areas undergo an intensive process of natural succession, which is a unique phenomenon on a European scale. Only sometimes one can identify barely noticeable traces of former human presence: overgrown foundations of houses, wells or tombstones. Apple, plum or pear trees blooming in the spring can be unexpectedly encountered in the middle of a forest. However, a great deal of other species of plants can serve as silent witnesses to human presence in those areas. Plants overtake the space once subjugated by people. At the same time, the plants have become continuously reviving witnesses of human presence in those abandoned, once inhabited places. Human-induced changes in the chemical composition of soil and its structure have been significant enough to give these plant species a way to survive for the next 600 years. That’s why the knowledge of these plants can help you find where the resettled villages were located and reconstruct their topography, at the same time providing an extraordinary key to a deeper understanding of that space.

As Paweł Mościcki  wrote in his text Reeding the Weeds:

 The poeticalness of this project begins with listening to the silent protest of the earth that makes abandoned plants endure and grow in defiance of political decisions. The artistic gesture – the extraction of a piece of meadow and its transfer to the gallery – is preceded by research work determining the rationale of a simple and singular gesture. At the intersection of archaeological work and artistic practice is born something that could be called anti-metaphors. These are based on a polemic with historical displacements, those bad metaphors that grow on the living body of historical experience, marking it with unspeakable suffering. The work of anti-metaphors is, therefore, directed against history. At the same time, they are anti-metaphors also because they are no longer expressed solely in language – which is why research alone, without actually transferring the meadow to the gallery, wouldn’t have been enough."

Karolina Grzwnowicz (b. 1984) – a multimedia artist and author of interdisciplinary projects. She graduated from Jagiellonian University, the Faculty of Comparative Literature. She is a holder of a scholarship of Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Her projects are based on in-depth research and her audio installations are often rooted in narrative stories. She is fascinated with narrative storytelling in its broadest sense and has a keen interest in the phenomena of transient, ephemeral and disappearing nature. She lives and works in London and Kraków.

Project was realised as a part of Association of Creative Initiatives ‘ę’ 1/1 Master and Apprentice programme. Financed by LOTTO Million Dreams Foundation.

Related media
  • mediateka / audio
    Karolina Grzywnowicz. Weeds
    A talk with the artist and curator - Zbigniew Libera (in Polish)
  • Grafika obiektu: Zachęta. September, October, November 2015
    mediateka / folders / Texts
    Zachęta. September, October, November 2015
  • Grafika obiektu: Karolina Grzywnowicz. The Weeds
    mediateka / folders / Texts
    Karolina Grzywnowicz. The Weeds
    Folder accompanying the exhibition
  • Grafika obiektu: Karolina Grzywnowicz. The Weeds
    mediateka / posters
    Karolina Grzywnowicz. The Weeds
  • Grafika obiektu: Karolina Grzywnowicz
    mediateka / video-documentation
    Karolina Grzywnowicz
    The Weeds


Karolina Grzywnowicz
The Weeds
05.09 – 31.10.2015

Zachęta Project Room
ul. Gałczyńskiego 3, 00-362 Warsaw
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Godziny otwarcia:
tuesday–Sunday 12–8 p.m.
free entry

exhibition partners: Association of Creative Initiatives “ę”, LOTTO Million Dreams Foundation, Grąbczewscy, Optigruen – Dachy Zielone, Led Farmer Oświetlenie Roślin, Fundacja Łąka, Nad Horyłką

sponsor of the Zachęta Project Room: Benq
sponsor of the opening ceremony: Chocolissimo, Freixenet
media patronge: The Warsaw Voice, Stolica, Artinfo.pl