Natalia Romik Hideouts. The architecture of survival
04.08 – 06.11.2022 Natalia Romik Hideouts. The architecture of survival
curators: Stanisław Ruksza, Kuba Szreder
scientific collaboration: Aleksandra Janus
producers: Michał Kubiak and Anna Muszyńska (Zachęta), Andrzej Witczak (TRAFO Trafostacja Sztuki)
collaboration: Julia Leopold and Aleksandra Zientecka (Zacheta Gallery), Taras Nazaruk and Maryana Mazurak (Centre for Urban History of East-Central Europe in Lviv)
graphic design: Piotr Jakoweńko (Senna Kolektyw)
exhibition architecture: Sebastian Kucharuk (Senna Kolektyw)
coordination: collaboration in the making of models and sculptural forms: Agnieszka Szreder, Rafał Żwirek, Oleksii Konoshenko
silvering of sculptural forms: Monuments Conservation Studio — Piotr Pelc
preparation of scans and 3D models: ArchiTube
documentary film director: Peter Prestel
financial support for the exhibition: Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture
public programme partner: Rozen Family Foundation
financing the documentary part: Gerda Henkel Stiftung
funding for a research project in Ukraine: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland
funding of the conference accompanying the exhibition: Global Education Outreach Program (GEOP) — POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
collaboration on a public programme: Austrian Cultural Forum
Natalia Romik’s exhibition is an artistic tribute to survival architecture, the hiding places built and used by Jews during the Holocaust. They used tree hollows, wardrobes, urban sewers, caves or empty graves to create temporary shelters. In the exhibition rooms of the Zachęta gallery, mirror casts of nine hiding places from Poland and present-day Ukraine are presented. The sculptural forms are accompanied by an exhibition presenting the results of interdisciplinary research carried out by Natalia Romik and Aleksandra Janus together with a team of anthropologists, historians, archaeologists and urban explorers.
Artistically modifying models of the hiding places, which by definition must remain invisible to the unauthorised eye, Romik plays with visibility as an essential property of their architectural form. The tragic history of the Holocaust is the starting point for a universal reflection on methods of survival in situations of existential threat, their bodily, social and architectural dimensions. The installation pays tribute to the daily toil of those in hiding and those who provided hiding places, their creativity, solidarity, and will to live, often overlooked in the tradition of heroic commemorations that celebrate mainly heroes and leaders. It also problematises the theme of commemorating invisible architecture which, despite its invisibility, is an important historical testimony. At the same time, models of the hiding places connote a place of human seclusion. They can also be read in a broader existential perspective, such as the tragedy of refugees and giving them shelter during migration or persecution in countries threatened by military conflicts.
The exhibition reflects on fundamental problems of architecture and social coexistence, such as the relationship between form and function or the design and use of space. The hiding places were often created ad hoc, out of the need of the moment, in places originally unsuitable for it. They are a testament to the architectural creativity of users who had to secure the basic needs of sustaining life — sometimes for many years — with minimal resources, without being able to radically alter the space available to them. Attics, cellars, caves, trees or even tombs were given a completely new function, the condition of which was to maintain a semblance of their previous form — to provide effective protection, the attic had to look like an ordinary attic and the tree like an ordinary tree.
The exhibition is at the same time a summary of the research process carried out using an interdisciplinary repository comprising architectural and artistic techniques, archival research and social science methods. The project is part of a broader trend of reflection on the cognitive potential of architecture and art, using it to reflect on the community established in situations of threat — be it political, economic or climatic.
The exhibition is a summary of Natalia Romik’s research project supported by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung and the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.
This exhibition would not have taken place without the support and cooperation of many people. Special thanks are due to: Sofia Dyak, Joanna Fikus, Murray Fraser, Irena Grudzińska-Gross, François Guesnet, Jonathan Hill, Piotr Jakoweńko and Sebastian Kucharuk (Senna Kolektyw), Joanna Józik and Elżbieta Dul (Monument Conservation Studio — Piotr Pelc), Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Przemysław Kluźniak and Karolina Łątka and the ArchiTube team, Oleksii Konoshenko, Luiza Nader, Taras Nazaruk and Maryana Mazurak (Centre for Urban History of East-Central Europe in Lviv), Piotr Pelc, Shana Penn, Peter Prestel and Klaus Hernitschek and Maximilian Schecker, Agata Rakowiecka, Matan Shefi, Aga Szreder and Rafał Żwirek, Dariusz Stola, Stanisław Welbel, Hanna Wróblewska, Marta Wróbel, the Jewish Community of Warsaw, the Jewish Community Center Warsaw and the Tarbut program, the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute, as well as the people who supported the research of particular hiding places presented in the exhibition: Waldemar and Anna Andrzejewski, Krystian Banik, Manya Berenholz and Helen Schwartz, Krzysztof Bielawski, Jerzy Bielczyk, Liana Blicharska, Abraham Carmi, Larissa Chulovskaya, Jenya Chulovskyi, Jolanta Cyganek, Krystyna and Witold Czartoryski, Marta Dobecka and Marcin Powierża, Iryna Dobrokhodska and Serhii Dobrokhodskyi, Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis, Serhii Epifanov, Marta Frąckiewicz and Erika Krzyczkowska-Roman (POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews), Dalia Gordon, Jan Jagielski, Karolina Jakoweńko (Cukerman’s Gate Foundation and Babiniec Festival), Marek Jeżowski, Jadwiga Kobylec, Vlodko Kostyrko, Marek Krępiec (AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków), Bożena and Grzegorz Kujawowicz, Michał Laszczkowski, Szymon Lenarczyk, Kamil Mendocha, Ewa Mroczka and Rafał Godek (County Centre for Culture and Tourism in Wiśniowa), Natalia Mysak, Chris Nicola, Marla Raucher Osborn, Jay Osborn (Rohatyn Jewish Heritage), Avihu Ronen, Oleh Rybchynskyi, Piotr Rypson, Andrii Ryshtun and Anna Tychka (Urban Explorers Lviv), Wiesław and Danuta Salamon, Aleksander Schwarz (Forgotten Foundation), the Immaculate Sisters of Jarosław: Anastazja, Xawera and Bernadetta, Karol Skarżyński, Dmitri Solomko and Magdalena Olak, Mykhailo Sokhatskyi, Remigiusz Sosnowski and Witold Wrzosiński (Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries), Magdalena Sugalska, Przemysław Szpilman, Wojciech Tabaszewski, Janet Tobias