• Reopening Old Wounds

    Date posted: November 23, 2009 Author: jolanta
    I am engaged in painting, sculpture, animation, murals, collages, and videos..

    Tomasz Kozak

    Tomasz Kozak, Negroisation: Exhumation of a Certain Metaphor, 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Lokal_30 Gallery.

    I am engaged in painting, sculpture, animation, murals, collages, and videos. Generally speaking, my works are about examining sore spots of modern history. The model example is Negroisation: Exhumation of a Certain Metaphor (2006). This interdisciplinary, multifaced installation has been inspired by the texts of two writers—a German, Ernst Jünger and a Pole, Tadeusz Borowski—who both used the same metaphor shortly after World War II to diagnose the collapse of European culture. Jünger was a captain of the Wehrmacht and one of the master thinkers of German Conservative Revolution. Borowski was a former prisoner of Nazi concentration camps, poet, leftist journalist and, above all, author of famous camp stories written in a spirit of grotesque and nihilism. These two outstanding writers both developed concurrently, unbeknownst to each other, the same symbol of the downfall of the Western civilization. That symbol was the figure of the Negro.

    For Jünger, this figure was a metaphor of the barbarization of the German nation. He believed Germans had turned during the war into “Moors, Negroes, and cannibals” violating the fundamental ethical standards. In the post-war context in turn, the Negro has become a symbol of Germany’s occupation by the Americans, a personification of the post-surrender humiliation. In his post-war diaries, titled perversely The Occupation Years, Jünger mentions, for instance, a black U.S. soldier sentenced for raping a teenage German girl.

    Borowski, a former camp slave, perceives Afro-American soldiers similarly to Jünger, as cultural and sexual aggressors. At first sight it seems to be a peculiar paradox. However, soon after the liberation of the Dachau camp, Borowski found himself in a strange situation. He was interned by the Americans in a displaced-person camp near Munich. From his point of view, the Americans were occupiers, too. In his eyes, they differed little from the Germans—they took over their camps, and still kept people in the pajama-like stripes behind barbed-wire fences. The texts that Borowski wrote in between 1945 and 1948 are a kind of derisive and insulting epitaph for a culture that has built the crematorium and burned down in it. This epitaph is topped with an ostentatiously sneering, “black” exclamation mark. An example of such a mark is the American Negro soldier, the “victorious anthropos” standing on the civilization’s wreckage in one of Borowski’s poems.

    The groundwork of Negroisation project has been defined by three problems. Firstly, on what basis do tormentors and victims develop the same phantasms and presuppositions? Secondly, why must the color of these assumptions be black? Thirdly, how thin is the line between liberators and enslavers? I didn’t mean to answer these questions “correctly.” Instead, I was trying to visualize and describe, in a provocative and dubious manner, one of the most disturbing moral and cognitive perplexities of European history.

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