“This is a grievous sin, this is the profanation of a sacred thing-of history. If you felt the necessity of venting your spleen on your fatherland’s past, what prevented you from doing it in your own name? You know, it would not have been worse than the way it is now. Everybody is well aware that you are a renegade. They say that you are even gone over to the Mohammedan faith, and I am afraid that It may even be true. However you are not completely at fault. Perhaps this is simply an organic deficiency, I suspect that your mother when she was pregnant happened to come across an album of drawings by Hogarth. She feasted her eyes on them and that is why you now see everything in caricature.”
–Adam Mickiewicz to a member of Society of Rascals, Józef Sękowski
For their second show at Raster, the Slavs and Tatars collective presents an installation in the form of a pickle-juice bar. The title Society of Rascals (Towarzystwo Szubrawców) was drawn from the name of a now-forgotten literary society of 19th-century Vilnius. The society was famous for its heavily ironic, caustic displays of satire that stood counter to the self-important stance of the romantics, their soothsaying and exalted engagement in the nationalist discourse. Slavs and Tatars reference the group’s “pavement prose,” or specifically low-brow language, coupled with its cosmopolitan approach towards national identity. They bring in the centuries-old kitchen tradition of pickling to ferment or turn sour the romantic conception of fatherland and power. The pickled juices served by the artists along with provocative lexical gymnastics are meant to suggest an antidote for the pathos of Polish patriotism, while also expressing their own acerbic regard for any politics based on the oppositional binary of us-versus-them.
Slavs and Tatars’s work will be the subject of a mid-career retrospective at the CCA Ujazdowski, Warsaw in November 2016 and CCA Vilnius in the spring of 2017.