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19 Nov 2019

Opaque To Herself l Poland and postcolonialism

Janek Simon, Polyethnic, 2016

Opaque To Herself l Poland and postcolonialism
La Colonie


Opening : 19th November 2019 at 7pm From 19th November 2019 to 15th January 2020 From Tuesday to Saturday from 11am to 6pm, except official holidays.

La Colonie

La Colonie
128 rue La Fayette

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Agnieszka Polska
Janek Simon
Slavs and Tatars
Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa

Curator of the exhibition: Joanna Warsza
Exhibition architect: Janek Simon

What is the place of Eastern Europe in (post)colonial debates and in the larger colonial project? How to understand the region, which was both oppressed and oppressor? The exhibition casts a light on how colonial and neocolonial forces have navigated the territories of Eastern-Europe, Poland in particular, and shows a tiny fragment of this complicated picture. From the abolishment of serfdom, the unfulfilled hegemonic aspirations in Africa, to today's perverse use of postcolonial theory in the nationalist agenda. Such an inquiry can offer ways to better understand the region's right-wing turn, the permanent need of affirmation of its exeptionalism and victimhood, the firm anti-immigration stance, the lack of the critical examination of its own imperial past, but also the feeling of discrimination in Western Europe. The exhibition offers to think of ways of going beyond such entanglement, also with the help of artificial intelligence.

According to some thinkers, there's an etymological link between the words 'Slav' and 'slave'. Scholars such as Fernand Braudel and Immanuel Wallerstein have shown that part of Europe East of the river Elbe, inhabited mostly by Slavs, was the first semi-peripheral zone of capitalist world-economy in early modern times. It was pushed into a state of dependency, forcing rural populations into serfdom. In parallel, the kingdom of Poland became a local hegemon, then was itself later divided between three countries, and after its independence linked the modernist project with the aspiration for colonies, and today appropriates the postcolonial theory against e.g. the EU. This slalom of oppression lived and transmitted not only complicates the decolonizing debates but also leaves the region pretty opaque to herself.

In collaboration with the Ujazdowski Castle Centre of Contemporary Art in Warsaw, which in February 2019 presented the survey exhibition of Janek Simon, a choice of which is presented here and with the support of the Goethe Institut, Paris. The accompanying reader was published by SAVVY Contemporary Berlin in 2017 in relation to the previous itineration of this show.

Many thanks to Kader Attia, Lucas Erin, Alix Hugonnier, Sean Kiely to La Colonie's team.
Małgorzata Ludwisiak, Urszula Kropiwiec and the entire team of CCA Varsovie, de SAVVY Contemporary Berlin and the Institut polonais in Paris.