Anka Leśniak

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WORKS 2015


installation, photography, video

34 Jaracza Street /the crossroad of Jaracza and Kilinskiego Street/ Lodz

the Invisible inVisible project /Polish version/

The installation at Jaracza Street is inspired by the extraordinary story of Fifi Zastrow (Friderike Falkenberg), an actress of Jewish origin who performed in the Theatre zu Litzmannstadt (Lodz, Poland) during the time of Nazi occupation. Theatre zu Litzmannstadt was a propaganda theatre of the Third Reich and Fifi played major roles there whilst hiding her Jewish origins. She was present on the stage of the Theatre zu Litzmannstadt probably to the end of its existence (1944). However, she did not escape the fate of so many Jews and was taken to a concentration camp in Germany where she was subjected to medical experiments and torture. Her body survived, but her psyche did not. Until the end of her life she lived in total isolation and fear of people.

The story of Fifi Zastrow (Friderike Falkenberg) was reconstructed a few years ago by Malgorzata Leyko in the magazine "Tygiel Kultury". In her article Malgorzata Leyko posed questions about the life of Fifi Zastrow: How was her life in the city, which on the one hand was a centre of Nazi's power and on the other hand, a place of Jewish martydom? The border of the ghetto was only three streets from the place where the Theatre zu Litzmannstadt was situated. Was the theatre a way of salvation for Fifi Zastrow? Or was the stage her ghetto?

In the installation at Jaracza Street I used the Roman maxim: "Acta est fabula". These words announced the end of a performance in the Roman theatre where the use of a curtain closing had not yet been implimented. These were also the words Augustus supposedly said on his deathbed – "Acta est fabula" – "The play is over" - comparing human life to a theatrical spectacle. The Roman Empire with its military power, architecture and emperors' gestures was also the paragon for dictators who ruled Europe during Fifi Zastrow's lifetime.

The building on which the installation has been made is located only a few steps from the former Theatre zu Litzmannstadt. It previously housed various institutions and during the war a hotel called Klukas was situated there. Fifi perhaps repeatedly passed next to this building going to work in the theatre, which was located in the present building occupied by Theatre Jaracz. And who knows, maybe she lived in the hotel Klukas, being a kind of nomad travelling through Europe with the theatrical troupe. The play for this building is also over. The curtain has fallen. Who knows whether its story will have another scene.

The installation was opened by a performance, during which time I hung a poster on the door of the building. The poster depicted a photo of my first installation inspired by Fifi Zastrow, which was made for the exhibition "Getto XXI" in 2014. The maxim "Acta est fabula" was repeated on the poster together with its continuation "Plaudite cives!" - "Applaud citizens!". In essence, the play is over and the art is over in general whenever authoritarian rulers take control because regardless of political factions, authoritarianism always means an end to creative freedom. And finally the word "Plaudite!" - "Applaud", when uttered in the imperative it really becomes a command, setting the boundaries of art according to its usefulness for political propaganda.

         The project was implemented thanks to the grant of the Mayor of Lodz

         see also the previous work on Fifi Zastrow