Wojciech Wilczyk - THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS AN INNOCENT EYE
The aim of my project is photographing buildings of synagogues to be found in the present-day Poland. During the Second World War, as a result of the politics of extermination of the Jews led by the Third Reich, the overwhelming majority of this type of buildings was destroyed. The few surviving buildings (very often holding an important historical value) changed their function in the best case scenario to stables or shops. After the end of the war they have not received their old status back.
Abandoned synagogues and houses of prayer (often in a state of ruin) were adapted without any scruples to: cinemas, factories, depots, silos, residential houses, offices or in the best case scenario: museums, cultural centres or municipal libraries. The change of function stripped the houses from their original sacral character, their usage for the sake of Jewish rituals.
This project traces the fate of these edifices as well as the transformations of their own image as well as that of their immediate close surroundings. My interest has also been directed towards every intentional action having taken place in order to disguise and wash away this sort of information. It happened has often taken place after the war and it still does today (which is related to the anti-Semitic tendencies which are unfortunately still alive in our country). I am interested in a certain form of memory, which is inscribed within the architectural form of a building or the planning of urban spaces, neighbourhoods, villages or settlements which were the home of the Jewish Diaspora before 1939.
The main intention of this cycle is not the creation of a photographic typology of these objects, but rather a sequence of photos presenting consistently the facades of former synagogues, occupying a distinctly visible space. Taking the photographs, I try to bring into the picture the contemporary context, where this sort of buildings are to be found. This way, this project tells the story of modern, usually rural Poland, which is rarely represented in visual works and records.
A photographic documental convention is applied here. On the one hand it allows the assembly of rich visual material with a pure visual character, whereas on the other hand it also enables – an element, which is substantial for the project – the creation of a visual narrative with a metaphoric sense. It tells the story of a deserted place, as it was left after the Endlösung, initiated by the Nazis 65 years ago. This aspect of my record shows a universal character. It concerns racial hatred as well as the consequences of ethnic cleansing.
The cycle has been produced with the aim of publishing the assembled material in an album. The book hold 307 photos showing all the objects preserved to the present day (excluding those filling a sacral function). The pictures in the album are accompanied by additional texts with visual descriptions as well as the history of the photographed buildings (as much as it is possible to make it out nowadays, of course). The afterword to the book is a summary of the conversations held with people in situations I had encountered during the realisation of the project.