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The installation discusses the three entities that at different historical moments had the fantasy of Madagascar as a Polish colony: ‘Beniowski’, ‘Maritime and Colonial League’, and ‘Janek Simon.’

In the interwar period, Poland – following the example of Western powers – aspired to own colonies. Polish attempts included, among others, Madagascar. The main agent of these activities was the, the publisher of the monthly magazine, Morze [Sea]. In 2006, Janek Simon came across an issue of this publication at an antique shop. The fascination with discovering the scope of Polish ambitions to ‘catch up’ with the West compounded the artist’s disappointment with the instrumentalization of art by Polish cultural diplomacy, which he experienced as a participant of international projects. In this way, the idea for the Polish Year in Madagascar project was born.

In the spring of 2006, Janek Simon travelled to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, with a suitcase full of artworks with the aim of organizing a Polish exhibition — a mockery of official government cultural events. Yet, paradoxically, Simon’s suitcase contained no artworks by Polish artists.

Janek Simon managed to combine the repressed memories of colonial ambitions with a double absence: the lack of a Polish colony in Madagascar and Polish artists at the ‘Polish Year’ exhibition. The artist examines the ideas of Polishness in various ways, confronting visions of magnitude with hang-ups and failures. He breaks the linear story of the colonization of the South-East by the North-West and undermines the divisions into the centre and periphery, victim and executioner, rewriting history textbooks and contemporary postcolonial studies literature.

  • Object type:
    multi-element installation (48 elements divided in 3 parts: 1. Beniowski, 2. Polish Maritime and Colonial League, 3. Janek Simon)
  • Year:
    2006–2014
  • Dimensions:
    -
  • inv. no.:
    MNG/NOMUS/33/D
  • Własność:
    Deposit of the City of Gdańsk, part of the Gdańsk Collection of Contemporary Art
Janek Simon, Rok Polski na Madagaskarze, 2006–2014. Depozyt Gminy Miasta Gdańska w ramach Gdańskiej Kolekcji Sztuki Współczesnej, fot. © Bartosz Górka. Dzięki uprzejmości Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski
fot. © Bartosz Górka
  • Object type:
    multi-element installation (48 elements divided in 3 parts: 1. Beniowski, 2. Polish Maritime and Colonial League, 3. Janek Simon)
  • Year:
    2006–2014
  • Dimensions:
    -
  • inv. no.:
    MNG/NOMUS/33/D
  • Własność:
    Deposit of the City of Gdańsk, part of the Gdańsk Collection of Contemporary Art

The installation discusses the three entities that at different historical moments had the fantasy of Madagascar as a Polish colony: ‘Beniowski’, ‘Maritime and Colonial League’, and ‘Janek Simon.’

In the interwar period, Poland – following the example of Western powers – aspired to own colonies. Polish attempts included, among others, Madagascar. The main agent of these activities was the, the publisher of the monthly magazine, Morze [Sea]. In 2006, Janek Simon came across an issue of this publication at an antique shop. The fascination with discovering the scope of Polish ambitions to ‘catch up’ with the West compounded the artist’s disappointment with the instrumentalization of art by Polish cultural diplomacy, which he experienced as a participant of international projects. In this way, the idea for the Polish Year in Madagascar project was born.

In the spring of 2006, Janek Simon travelled to the capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, with a suitcase full of artworks with the aim of organizing a Polish exhibition — a mockery of official government cultural events. Yet, paradoxically, Simon’s suitcase contained no artworks by Polish artists.

Janek Simon managed to combine the repressed memories of colonial ambitions with a double absence: the lack of a Polish colony in Madagascar and Polish artists at the ‘Polish Year’ exhibition. The artist examines the ideas of Polishness in various ways, confronting visions of magnitude with hang-ups and failures. He breaks the linear story of the colonization of the South-East by the North-West and undermines the divisions into the centre and periphery, victim and executioner, rewriting history textbooks and contemporary postcolonial studies literature.

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