Anka Leśniak

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WORKS 2015

Michalina - That a Girl!

installation, digital print

27A Zachodnia Street, Lodz

the Invisible inVisible project /Polish version/

The installation is inspired by the figure of Michalina Tatarkówna-Majkowska – the first woman who ruled the city of Lodz.

Michalina Tatarkówna-Majkowska was a textile worker who ruled the city during the time of communism at the turn of the 50s and 60s. Born on the 27th December 1908, she was always associated with an environment of communism. At the age of three she lost her mother and she started her first job at the age of fourteen. Her unusual ability to attract people, combined with her firm character and where her attractive appearance was perhaps also not without significance, allowed her to quickly advance a career within the PZPR /Polish United Workers' Party/. In the 50s and 60s she was successively the General Secretary of the Committee of the PZPR for the Province of Lodz and the General Secretary of the PZPR for the city of Lodz.

The figure of Michalina Tatarkówna-Majkowska that emerges from the memories of those who remember her and from archival sources, differs somewhat from the image of the so-called "communist establishment". Thanks to her efforts, the statue of Kosciuszko destroyed by German Nazis was reconstructed, the area of the Radegast concentration camp was cleaned and turned into a memorial site and modern housing estates for that time were built. However Michalina Tatarkówna-Majkowska does not exist in the collective memory of inhabitants of Lodz.

The installation consists of an inscription - a play on words "Michalina zuch dziewczyna" and openwork elements made of cord. The inscription refers to a Soviet movie by Konstantin Judin from 1938. The Polish title of the movie is "Zuch dziewczyna" (That a Girl!). The Russian version is "diewuszka of charaktierom" - a girl with character (charisma) which is also significant.

The inscription was repeated three times each time in a different word order. It could be read from the left to the right or from the top to the bottom. By fading parts of some words, the new ones emerged as “czyn” - action (deed)" or “duch” - ghost. Flags made of lace were also placed on the building. With reference to handicrafts and spider's webs, intricate openwork structures of cord were installed in the windows. The spider's webs refers to Arachne - the "matron" of spinners.

The ideas of Communism in which Tatarkówna-Majkowska probably sincerely believed, had become embroiled within the incompetence and private interests of those apparatchiks keeping power in the totalitarian state. The biography of Michalina Tatarkówna Majkowska has also been interwoven in this "tangle", so today it is difficult to unravel and resolve the so-called controversy surrounding her.

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