Text by Ewelina Lasota
A thicket, a forest meadow, a street, a building’s corner – an ordinary piece of land, a few cobblestones. These places, seemingly innocent, may in fact be marked by death, whose guise is remembered by only a handful of people…
“A Piece of Land” is a trial in bringing these testaments back to life by listening to those voices and ascribing them to a photographic documentation of the landscapes embellished in those few memories. Every picture relates to an individual tale of people who are no longer in the realm of the living: a grand-mother shot dead on her front porch, a family slain on a forest meadow, [Polish] residents of a Ukrainian village whose house was torched by UPA Ukrainian partisans.
Asking witnesses of these events for their memories, the photographer became something of a director – he contributed to the playing of roles from those times. We come into contact with the survivors and the departed individuals from those dramatic scenes. We learn of their fear and even primal want for life, which dramatically rises when in view of death. We hear the tales of eighty-year-olds, yet we often feel that we are in fact meeting with children – with a boy who smuggles in potatoes for his father in a labour camp, boiled in their skins, then they would keep for two days); with a little girl, who in rescuing her one-year-old sister from a burning house also takes with her two white pillows, believing that in this way she’ll save the very heart(h) of her home.
The interviews reveal contexts which are absent from the logic of life during peacetime. They lead to places which – and only just encountered – take on a new meaning. One could say that “memory is knowledge”, which was uttered by another witness of war, Imre Kertész. The photographic impressions of these places force us to reflect on the phenomenon of memory: the memory of places where buildings, trees and most commonly scrub become witnesses of human tragedy. Who would have thought that the dam in Myczkowce once set the scene for a bloody slaughter?
“A Piece of Land” makes us conscious of how we relate memories to a certain place as well as how we mark the symbolic boundary around it (often not to be crossed again). The recordings which accompany the photographs do emphasize, however, how firmly the act of forgetting is embedded in the domain of memory, as well as furthermore underlining the selectivity and reliability of human memory. They are like personal notes of the author from the scene of the action – full of quotations, whispered voices, shreds of thoughts, undefined noises. From this veritable audible magma suddenly comes the thought, that maybe forgetting is the only path which leads to a “normal” functioning of life after such destruction.
How did this come about?
Could this all happen again?
The author does not single out an answer. He leaves us rather with a feeling of hopelessness and that evil is inescapable. After all, parents not noticing any peculiar happenings on the 1st September 1939 sent their kids to school…
A photographer, conceptual artist, lecturer, curator and editor, Kramarz has resided on Hawai'i Island since 2010. His works have been exhibited in galleries throughout Europe and the U.S. Several of his pieces are held in permanent museum collections. Kramarz’ work has received wide acclaim and he has been recognized with awards, grants and residencies. His publications include collections of his own photographs and several collaborative co-authored publications. The artist’s installations incorporate photography, found pictures, archives, audio and video and text. They explore the function of people, places, and objects within personal and cultural context.