Artur Żmijewski - “Democracies”
“Democracies” is a series of short documentary films realised by Artur Żmijewski within the framework of a scholarship in Berlin’s DAAD. Each of the films is a kind of reportage about the course of a social demonstration in Poland, Europe, Israel and on the West Bank of the Jordan. It is also an attempt to reconstruct historical events, such as fans rioting during Euro 2008 or the funeral of Jörg Haider.
“When I was in Israel, I saw on YouTube a film made by anarchists (Anarchists Against the Wall) during the protests against the occupation – later I joined one such protest, in Bil’in. They fired rubber bullets and tear-gas at us. At the cemetery, holes had already been dug to receive more bodies. Not that anything at all happened to us but seeing the holes in the ground made an impression. I then filmed something which I was able to make into at least a half-decent report. In any case, it looked similar to the films made by the anarchists. Then I was at a Loyalist demonstration in Belfast which was in favour of continuing the policy of the dependence of Northern Ireland on Great Britain so, in essence, in favour of the continuation of occupation. When I spoke to British people in Liverpool and asked them whether they felt like occupiers, they did not even know which occupation I was talking about. I was at the ceremony commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of Nakba, the Palestinian tragedy. I arrived late for the ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the founding of Israel. I was sorry about that because there had been a large military parade and above the beach in Tel Aviv there had been fighter planes flying. I saw them later, when they were flying to bombard Gaza in January 2009 – the domestic airport in northern Tel Aviv is at the same time a military airport. Then I took part in anti-war demonstrations which did not stop anything – then, when the bodies had been counted, we went on a silent demo to Jaffa – people were lighting candles in the streets, helpless in the face of their own government and the belligerent attitude of the majority. That Sunday, when they read out in all the churches in Poland the opinion of the bishops on the subject of in vitro fertilisation, I went for evening mass to the Church of St Stanisław Kostka. It happened to be the “Mass for the Fatherland” and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were not far away. The parish priest said mass and read out a fragment of the letter from the Polish Episcopate. He added his own commentary. As usual in the church, nobody entered into discussion and nobody, apart from the priest and the altar-boys, said anything. Nobody protested. The homophobic and obscurantist tirade by the priest was not interrupted. I also remained silent. Not for nothing had I been brought up in the spirit of conformity and patriotism during Religion lessons. When I attended the parade on the occasion of Polish Army Day, I went, like everybody else, to the Łazienki Royal Park for the soldiers’ fete. Under the Chopin Monument, we listened to Niemen’s song “This world is strange”, in which man still despises man – this was performed by a military band. With other ordinary people, I had the opportunity to participate in various demonstrations and protests, together with others I could experience my own participation in the “critical mass” of democracy – whatever kind of democracy it was, real or illusory, functioning in a country that was free, half-free or occupied. Each of these events was cut according to my own measure and seemed to be the final horizon of my political participation – to go and shout slogans or stand behind a barrier separating me from the space reserved for the VIPs. Because only they can have the honour and delight of full participation in the act of political pornography which proximity to the centre of events is.”