Reclaiming Work

A People's History of Poland

Leading Editors:
Marek Wasilewski, Waldemar Kuligowski

Reclaiming Work

Marek Wasilewski

A People's History of Poland

Waldemar Kuligowski

Table of content/ articles for purchase or download:

Section: Reclaiming Work

Abstract:

For years, the ruling classes of the EU member states have systematically refused to accept their share of responsibility for the situation of refugees in the Middle East; however, what has been dubbed “the refugee crisis” encompasses only a small part of what has resulted from long-standing policies, including those of the European Union. The political changes taking place today are having a significant impact on the politics of integration, and, seen from a longer-term perspective, on global labour relations. The least qualified and poorest migrants, both men and women, are increasingly becoming a cheap labour force used by global capital to rapidly increase profits. The article was written in the spring of 2016 during the rapidly changing political situation arising from the so-called “refugee crisis”. The text attempts to analyze the impact of today’s policy decisions on future generations of workers, and on refugees, as well.

Section: Reclaiming Work

Abstract:

In order to explain the means by which the work and lives of those participating in the contemporary circulation of art – artists, curators, critics, freelancers – are organised, I focus on their fundamental dependence on a constant search for new opportunities, including side jobs, projects, exhibition offers, commissions for works, and temporary employment. In the article, I make the assertion that dependence on fleeting opportunities is a source of systemic pressures that leads to the spread of competition, the instrumentalisation of social relations, and the atomization and self-precarization of art. In the article’s conclusion, I show that a key aspect of resistance to structural pressures in the circulation of art is the contestation of individualized dependence on the ebb and flow of opportunities.

Section: Reclaiming Work

Abstract:

The text refers to Aleka Polis’ artistic action titled Rosa Rotes Städtchen, carried out in Polish public galleries since January 2016 and consisting of cleaning the galleries. Remaining after each action are the rags used to clean the floor, stamped and signed by the gallery directors, providing a visible sign of work which usually remains invisible. The author describes the artist’s action in the context of similar activities in the history of feminist art, and then analyzes them in the context of their sexual, social, institutional and political connotations. This leads to the raising of such issues as poverty among women and the invisibility of women’s work. In the conclusion, a question is raised about the significance of this event in the context of the contemporary political situation in Poland.

Section: Reclaiming Work

Abstract:

The position of the artist as worker is ambiguous and raises questions. This arises from people’s beliefs and myths about art, concerning its uselessness, romanticism and idealism; from an understanding of the concept of work rooted in a capitalist perspective, according to which art functions as something “different” than and “external” to work; and from misunderstandings about what comprises the essence of an artist’s professional activity. Critics and art theorists speak about artists’ work, while artists themselves speak through their work (Oskar Dawicki, Michał Frydrych and Julia Curyło). In the conclusion, the concept of creative work is discussed by people not connected professionally with the art market, but who are its potential customers.

Section: Reclaiming Work

Abstract:

The essay is a translation of part of a master’s thesis written and defended at the Kunst im Kontext Institute at the Universität der Künste in Berlin; it consists of a theoretical section in the form of a book and a practical section in the form of video and drawn film. The product in the form of a book was inspired by the art of confectionery, which on the aesthetic plane links two professions the author was engaged in during the writing of her thesis – a saleswoman in a pastry shop and a graduate student. The theory provided here is in the form of legislation, and the artistic practice imitates the art of cooking. The work appears to be a material activity, and the value added to it or subtracted from it, an anthropocentric fiction.

Section: A People's History of Poland

Abstract:

The author analyzes the increasingly frequent analogy in both journalism and academic literature between Atlantic slavery and the system of manorial serfdom. While the comparison is in his opinion justifiable on moral grounds, it is of little use intellectually because it does not help us understand the specifics of serfdom. Without doing so, we cannot understand where there is continuity between that regime and contemporary Polish society, nor can we come to terms with the stigma of history. The reason we still treat serfdom as “Polish slavery” is, according to the author, Westernism, namely, the belief that the West has been the locomotive of global history. A brief analysis of the “real” slavery that prevailed in Poland in the era of the first Piasts, and which was a consequence of exporting slaves to the Islamic world, shows how we can talk about the people’s history of Poland without the burden of Westernism.

Section: A People's History of Poland

Abstract:

The author speaks to the increasingly popular thesis that equates the status of a peasant in the era of serfdom with that of a slave. In the sixteenth century, Poland was the most important exporter of grain in Europe. A consequence of this fact was refeudalization, leading to the almost complete dependence of the peasantry on their lords, including their being bound to the land. The economic and cultural category of the “churl” arose, which was degrading in both a social and moral sense. However, there was no homogeneous peasant mass, subject to uniforms laws. The peasant in manorial serfdom was not a slave; he was not subject to commodification or deprived of his original identity. He was rather a subject who was forced to work, a client of a landowner, and not a slave.

Section: A People's History of Poland

Abstract:

An analysis of Poland’s people’s history should start with an analysis of the peasant/farmer/agricultural entrepreneur relationship, and the plants, fungi and animals raised/produced by them. In these relations, one can see the changes taking place in the culture of Poland as a whole, and ask about the mutual relationships among these changes. Are the methods used to raise animals and cultivate plants primary or secondary to the changes taking place in a society? How can rural and urban areas influence and inspire one another?

Section: A People's History of Poland

Abstract:

It is a common belief in Poland that peasants were an ignorant, disorganized mass with no ability to fight for their rights. Apart from a few exceptions, little is written about peasant revolts in Poland. There is very little awareness that they even rebelled at all. This stems primarily from misunderstandings about the nature of peasant revolts. The manorial serfdom economic model adopted in Poland required its own specific tactics of resistance. Knowledge about the nature of peasant revolts on Polish territory and the strategies employed allows us to see and understand their scale. It then becomes clear that the peasants were not such a passive mass.

Dział: A People's History of Poland

Abstrakt:

In Poland, a new form of political “we” was invented, tailored to the conditions of a nascent modernity, which largely coincided with the era of romanticism. It was then, in the first half of the nineteenth century, that the first attempts were made to write a people’s history of Poland, i.e., a telling of history from a perspective in which not the elite, but those from the lower strata of society were the main actors. The project to construct such a narrative came to an end following the Galician slaughter, a phenomenon that generated a fear of the masses. Despite the ultimate failure of this quest to tell history from the perspective of the people, these efforts can still provide inspiration for the exploration of history from a grassroots and democratic perspective.