Solo exhbition, Contemporary Art Centre Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, PL
Mausoleum of General Józef Bem, Tarnów, PL, 2016
In June of 1929, the corpse of General Józef Bem was buried in Tarnów, PL. However, before the remains of the Polish, Hungarian, and Turkish national hero returned to his hometown, they first had to be exhumed from their original burial place – a Muslim cemetery in Aleppo, Syria. Unearthed in Aleppo, the general was destined to return home by train.
The burial took place in a mausoleum erected for the occasion and became a part of the official historical policy supported by the authorities of the Second Polish Republic in the 1920s. The policy consisted of re-burials of heroes and national poets – e.g. Juliusz Słowacki in 1927, whose remains were brought from Paris to Kraków. In 1925, the body of an Unknown Soldier was buried in Warsaw after being exhumed in Lwów.
The exploitation of the figure that was General Bem by the historical policy of the Second Polish Republic is interesting because the burial can be read in the context of Polish foreign policy of the time and the utopian idea of the Intermarium – an alliance of states located between the Baltic and Black Sea. Transporting the body through Turkey and the countries of Central Europe was an opportunity to manifest good relations with these countries, as well as the historical ties existing between them. The general was paid tribute to in Istanbul, and crowds greeted him at the Hungarian stations through which the train travelled. In Budapest, the body was transported to the National Museum, where it was displayed publically.
Screen shots from the video (documentation of three performances, 2016, video full hd, 18'14''
In 2016, Przemysław Branas went on a trip to Aleppo from Tarnów, striving to conquer the route – on which the general’s corpse had travelled over eighty years before – but in the opposite direction. The journey of the artist was not only a tricky reenactment of the story from 1929, but was also a performance given in times that are themselves clumsily performing history; in times in which the re-burials of heroes are again transpiring, when the idea of the Intermarium is being revived, and Poland is being placed next to Hungary and Turkey. The artist’s journey occurred during the ongoing war in Syria. The exhibition testifies to the artist’s voyage through videos, photographs taken at the beginning and end of the journey, as well as presents the works created around the life story and life after life of General Bem.
curator Wojtek Szymański