2009:Jun // Artur Żmijewski

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When in Israel, I watched videos on YouTube from anarchists’ [Anarchists Against the Wall] protests against the occupation. Later, I joined one of those protests in Bil’in. We were shot at with rubber bullets and attacked by tear gas. Holes for new bodies had already been dug up at the cemetery; not that anything bad was to happen to us, but these holes in the ground made an impression on you. I shot some footage then that I later managed to edit into a relatively sensible narrative. It actually looks similar to the anarchists’ films. Sometime later, in Belfast, I attended a loyalist demonstration of people who want Northern Ireland to remain a British dependency, or, in fact, for the British occupation to continue. When I talked to people in Liverpool, asking them whether they felt like occupiers, and they couldn’t understand what occupation I was talking about. I attended the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian tragedy. I arrived late for the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. I regretted that because there was a major military parade with fighter jets flying over the beach in Tel Aviv. I saw them later when they flew to bomb the Gaza Strip in January 2009. The national airport in northern Tel Aviv is also a military airfield. I took part in anti-war demonstrations that prevented nothing, and after the bodies had been counted, we went on a silent march to Jaffa. People simply lit candles on the streets, feeling helpless towards their own government and the militant majority. That Sunday when the bishops’ letter about in vitro fertilisation was read out in churches throughout Poland, I went to attend the evening mass at the St. Stanislaw Kostka church in Warsaw. It was a ‘patriotic mass’, and Christmas Eve was not far away. The priest celebrated the mass and read out excerpts from the Polish Episcopate’s letter. Then he added his commentary. As usual, no one discussed him; no one spoke except the priest and the altar boys. No one interrupted the priest’s homophobic, narrow-minded rant. I was silent too. Apparently, all the conformism training I had received in religion and patriotism classes was not for nothing. When attending a military parade on the Polish Army Day, I went, like everyone else, to see the festivities in the Łazienki park. Under a Chopin monument we listened to a military band play Niemen’s ‚It’s a Strange World‘, where man still despises another man.

Together with other ordinary people I had the opportunity to participate in various demonstrations and protest marches, experiencing, alongside others, my participation in the ‘critical mass’ of democracy – whether that democracy was real or feigned, functioning in a free country, a semi-free one or an occupied one. Each of those events was made to my measure and seemed the ultimate horizon of my political participation – to march, chanting slogans, or to stand behind a fence separating us from the VIP sector. For only the VIPs are granted the honour and ecstasy of full participation in the political pornography of getting close to the eye of the events.

Artur Żmijewski (© Foto: Nadine Dinter, 2009)
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