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Joanna Rajkowska

Location: Dannenberghaus Uhyst (former "Adelspädagogium" boarding school)

Dear residents of Uhyst, dear members of the local history society,

for the ÜBER TAGE_08 art project this year, we have invited Joanna Rajkowska, an internationally renowned artist from Poland. She came to our attention because in 2002 she erected a huge palm tree on a major crossroads in Warsaw, on Jerusalem Avenue - the artificial tree is still standing and still looking magnificent. But it has also been the subject of controversy - as is often the case with art that ventures out of museums and galleries into the open.
Last year, in a residential neighbourhood adjacent to the former Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Joanna Rajkowska installed a small artificial pond with oxygen fountains and brightly coloured seats. Throughout the summer, people from many different backgrounds relaxed here. But more than just a simple summer pleasure, the idea was for all these different people to talk to each other at the same time as rediscovering their neighbourhood and its beauty and potential.

Such discoveries within the everyday, then, are the focus in Joanna Rajkowska's art - the aspects she touches on are not always pleasant, but there are always surprises. She has taken a similar approach to Uhyst. And since the problem of vacant but very interesting buildings is apparent to anyone who cares to look (Manor House, Schleifmühle mill), she concentrated on the Dannenberg House that has been leading a sorry existence. It was originally built in 1747 as the "Adelspädagogium", a boarding school run by the Moravian Church. In the years that followed, around seventy young aristocrats, mostly from Lithuania and the Baltic region, received what for the time was a progressive education. They included the young Prince Hermann Pückler, who planted his first garden here. With the Moravian brethren and their educational ideals, a certain internationality came to the region. In the German Democratic Republic, after a chequered history, the house was converted for residential use. Due to this work, it is now almost impossible to see the layout of the original interior. For some time now, this historic monument has been completely empty.

Joanna Rajkowska based her art project on the idea that this house should be revived. But what could it be used for? What does the future hold for the region? Will it be a future totally cut off from developments in Europe and the world? Lusatia, too, is effected by global movements, not least because it is a border region.
The artist focused on two themes: firstly, the hope of focussing renewed attention on the building, using artistic means to imagine a new function for it. And secondly, she tried to imagine what such a function might be in twenty or thirty years time, in view of global political and social conditions.
While in this region there seems to be no end of space available and we have to think hard what might meaningfully be done with it, elsewhere in the world people are cramped together under wretched conditions and long to emigrate to places where better living conditions prevail. The enlargement and parallel sealing off of the European Union by the Schengen Treaty plays a major role here: Fortress Europe! On the one hand stands our relative prosperity, on the other the flow of refugees - which according to demographic forecasts is set to increase in coming years. What will happen to all the people from developing countries who are drawn to the West, how will they be accommodated? Will refugee camps only be set up in major cities, or will smaller towns in border regions also be asked to receive such (often unwelcome) foreigners?
With these questions in mind, Joanna Rajkowska labelled the building. The typeface she used is taken from the original printed matter about the "Adelspädagogium". In the windows - assigned to the individual rooms inside - we see the names of faraway countries in this old script. An unusual sight, especially as these are exotic countries: Sudan, Afghanistan, Albania, Iran, etc. It is as if these nationalities were now the house's inhabitants. Above the back entrance, a sign declares the building's new imaginary function, in German and English: Das Uhyster Flüchtlingsheim/The Uhyst Refugee Asylum. This temporary measure is sure to generate debate and irritation. This is the intention, as the artistic intervention will give the Dannenberghaus a new visibility, calling it back into the minds of people who haven't really noticed it for a long time. Perhaps they will support the idea of the new Society of Friends of the Dannenberghaus and the need for revitalization. After all, this is a historic and architectural monument with more than just local significance. On this we all agree, even if we don't know what the future will bring.

We look forward to talking to you about this project!

Yours sincerely,

Susanne Altmann (curator, ÜBER TAGE) & Reinhardt v. Bergen-Wedemeyer (producer).

B i o g r a p h y

1968 Born in Bydgoszcz, Poland

lives and works in Warsaw

1987 - 1993 Studied painting at Krakow Art Academy and art history at Jagiellonen University, Krakow

1994 - 1995 Studio Semester Program, State University of New York

S o l o   e x h i b i t i o n s   (selection)
2008 Camping Jenin, workshop, Freedom Theatre,
Jenin (occupied territories, Palestine)

The Airways, Trafo Gallery, Budapest

2007 Oxygenate Yourself, Nizio Gallery, Warsaw

2006 Umea Volcano, Verkligheten Galerie, Umea/ Sweden

Leave it, Centre for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw

P u b l i c   a r t   p r o j e c t s
2007 Oxygenator, public project, Grzybowski Square, Warsaw, Poland

2002 - 2009 Greetings from Jerusalem Avenue, Warsaw


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