The main theme of the exhibition was the need to find a safe, symbolic paradise. The previous symbol of the project – the tumbleweed moving with wind, was replaced in Malgorzata Szandala’s work by a palm root, the symbol of lost paradise and the return to the starting point. Our journey started in Silesia, the place I come from and finished in the place I currently live in. For the project, we used the prose by Katja Petrovskaya, Ukrainian writer, living permanently in Berlin, the winner of Ingeborg – Bachmann – Preis in 2013 and fragments of a short story titled Garden by Vielleicht Ester. The exhibition took place at a commercial Loft Acht Gallery in Vienna and the fact determined the shape of the presentation.
Let us start with a word
Paradise (n): late 12c., „Garden of Eden”, from Old French paradis „paradise, Garden of Eden” (11c.), from Late Latin paradisus, from Greek paradeisos „park, paradise, Garden of Eden”, literally, enclosed park, from an Iranian source similar to Avestan pairidaeza „enclosure, park” (Modern Persian and Arabic firdaus „garden, paradise”), compound of pairi- „around” + diz „to make, form (a wall)”. The first element is cognate with Greek peri- „around, about”, the second is from PIE root *dheigh- „to form, build”. Can we take it further and risk a statement that such words as: a paradise, Eden, enclosed garden and a ghetto, in some confusing way, have something in common? Isn’t it like that that two extremes – two opposite poles of meaning – become close to each other. One has no sense without the other. One is enrooted in another.
People and plants
Surprisingly, a paradise can be found in a multitude of places: somewhere in the deep shadow on the Greek island, in the luxurious hotel in Dubai, in the supermarket full of goods, in the travel bag and worn – out sandals, in the alcoholic ecstasy, in a warm bed and full stomach, in a travel agency special offer, behind the iron curtain, in a religious passion, outside a high wall, in the New World, in the safety guaranteed by the insurance policy, in the oasis on a desert, in a Disneyland, in the exclusive guarded estate in a residential area of charming property, in a promise of a good employment, in the immigrant’s mind, in being on the road, in a dream. Or just in being elsewhere. Wherever else it can be found, still, a paradise does not belong to these places. Instead, it is sticking to our thoughts which tend to drift freely in various directions. People and plants have something in common. One thing is their origin: a garden. Another is their need of identity and bond to a place, namely, their roots. There is one more distinctive and also very peculiar feature which stands in opposition to the previous one. This is their tricky nature manifesting itself in their ability of being rootless. Some species, once they grow mature, detach from their roots and blown by the wind spend their life in a constant motion. In a brave voyage, in search for a paradise on their own rules.
Two sides of the coin
So here we are in a constant movement, in getting around. Aiming at something, wandering towards imagined (imaginary) happiness. But there is the opposite pole of the same thing. This is the exile, this is to be expelled. Life with no place of one’s own, with no land. Paradise is, therefore and again, in a multitude of places. In the nightmare of exile, in the ethnic violence and civil wars, in a job dismissals, in the ordinary feeling of loneliness, in a heavy illness, in the foreign country, in „enforced nomadism”.
Nicht alle Blütenträume reifen
All these abovementioned issues are the points of our reference. Actually, we simply ask ourselves all these questions. What means to be Polish living in Vienna, learning and speaking a foreign language. Where and what are the borders of our world – the borders of our language. Yes, here comes the language and then literature. This is where we seek for the answers. We turn and refer to the prose of Ukrainian writer – Katja Petrowskaja. Born in Kijew, lives in Berlin, writes in German – a foreign language – a history of her family – a history that spatially spans form Kijew, through Warsaw, Auschwitz and Mauthausen. She writes: „In der Mitte des Paradieses am Rain sthet mein schweigender, lächelnder, glückilicher Grossvater und bestellt seiner Garten”.
Loft Acht Gallery, Vienna
Included context: fragments of Vielleicht Ester (2013) by Katja Petrovskaya