In pieces

Billboards and banners in public space
Produced for artboom festival, Krakow

2015

The work consists of billboards and banners placed throughout public space. Printed on them are quotations from John Steinbeck’s "The Grapes of Wrath" (1939), describing the objects sold by the farmer family, which was forced to leave their land under pressure from creditors. In addition to the text, there are representations of objects (parts of a horse, tools, weapons) in the form they are present or could be present in today's city.

In modern dictionaries, the definition of the term "village" is far from the meaning that functioned 100 or even 50 years ago. The concept of "peasantry", connected with the countryside, sounds like a relic today. Peasantry, understood as an independent social class working to meet its own needs, has actually ceased to exist as a result of the processes of integration of the countryside into agricultural farms that produce on a large-scale. Consumerism, possession and consumption characterise contemporary relations between the city and the countryside. The Village, once an independent unit in the context of the capitalist production, is today only one of the cogs within it. In "Society of the Spectacle", Guy Debord describes "urban planning" which ravages the cities, replicates pseudo-countryside […]. The landscape of "new cities", intended for […] technologized pseudo-peasantry, perfectly illustrates the break with the historical time that was their foundation. Their motto could be: "nothing will ever happen here and nothing has ever happened here".
In "The Grapes of Wrath", John Steinbeck tells the story of American farmers, forced to leave their property by an overabundance of crops, pressure from the banks, and the mechanisation of farms that forces out traditional manual labour. In one of the episodes, Steinbeck describes the process of selling the farmers’ goods, including the livestock that the family has to sell for next to nothing. In a hopeless situation, the farmers sell not only the rural attributes by also part of themselves, as if they were connected with the objects of trade by a chain of personal experiences. For the characters of the book, the plough and the horse are not the same as a tool and an animal – they are rather an extension of their experience and body. In his book "Method", Sergei Eisenstein writes: "the apogee is reached when the little girl heads to the market along with the horses…", in this scene, "memory and a living being are equal".
The attributes of the countryside are often used in advertising – a mechanism where is no room for memory and tradition and the emotions evoked are related solely to consumerism. The logic of selling resembles the construction of a city: milk and meat can be purchased at the supermarket, tools – in the garden section, the horse is intended for tourist rides, and the ground is built over. In Poland, agriculture has always been an important branch of the economy. At the same time, villages that do not produce agricultural goods are actively absorbed by the cities, contributing to the creation of social contrasts. Traces of these processes are particularly visible in the region of Wola Justowska, which has actually completely undergone the transformation from a village to an elite residential district of Krakow. Traces of social contrasts are visible in places in which newly built, heavily guarded villas stand adjacent to neglected, half-ruined buildings and abandoned homes. Although Steinbeck’s heroes and Polish villagers live in completely different contexts, they are united by one thing: the lack of choice, at a time when they have to abandon the land to which they are chained not only by their memories but by a physical connection. (MR)


 
"Junk piled up in a yard... Well, take it — all junk — and give me five dollars. 
You’re not buying only junk, you’re buying junked lives."


  
"See? The teeth. Sound all over. Deep lungs. Feet fair and clean. How much? Ten dollars? For both? And the wagon 
— Oh, Jesus Christ! I’d shoot ’em for dog feed first."


  
"Wouldn’t go out naked of a rifle. When shoes and clothes and food, when even hope is gone, we’ll have the rifle. 
When grampa came — did I tell you? — he had pepper and salt and a rifle. Nothing else".