Poznań, Poland 2017
Public space is the subject of continuous business trade, it is constantly sold and bought. The management of private property directly affects the common public space and so, also the social fabric; yet happens without the knowledge and participation of the last one. The buildings, often of great importance for history and culture of the local society, pass from hands to hands of private owners. No one takes into consideration what roles they played nor what is their social context.
Village leader’s house (Sołtysówka) is the house of the last village leader – Adam Jeske, of the village/small town Łazarz. It is one of the last remnants of the village, which in 1900 was annexed by Poznań and with Górczyn turned into the Święty Łazarz district. The building’s fall into ruin, which took place over the last few years has not been coincidental. The fact that it has been left unprotected, unrenovated and that no one has followed the recommendations of the Heritage Conservator and the Building Inspectorate can be interpreted as an answer to why the building has suffered from a few fires, regular devastation and general lack of respect towards it. All this is also the reason for its on-going impoverishment, e.g.: recently the house of the keeper, which is located next to the entrance gate, has got severely damaged. From time to time one can also hear about the change of the owner, however, the approach towards the state of the building remains standing. Even the pleas issued by the Municipal Office or the financial penalties imposed by it, cannot break the impasse of the situation. Since the possibility of agreement with the owners remained out of reach and the decay of the building was progressing, the Building Inspectorate was forced to brick in the entrance and the windows, in order to protect the facility against people, who could destroy it from the inside or provoke another fire. It is deeply unsettling that the building once again was secured through the use of public finance, despite the fact that it is private property. Other solutions for this problem include expropriation of the owner and renovation of the facility through the use of public finance.
Sołtysówka is in a way the heritage of the rural history of Łazarz and the reality in which Poznań expanded (e.g.: the Prussian Partition, the role of the Poznań Fortress and the growth the petite bourgeoisie). The village leader (sołtys) – Adam Jeske and his family, came from Bamberg, as others they were promised financial benefits and hence encouraged by the nineteenth-century Prussian government to settle the villages around Poznań. It is possible that the sołtys was aware of the soon-to-actualize plans – the Łazarz district was to be annexed by the city. Major investments such as: power plant, water-works or street lighting, popped up on the grounds of the village relatively early. Their presence provoked an avalanche of frenetic purchases of land and further construction investments – their value was to rocket soon. We could say that Sołtysówka, apart from being a symbol of growth of petite bourgeoisie, can also be interpreted from the point of view of the history of migration. Moreover, its story is intertwined with the gradual abolishment of socage (in the Prussian partition this process lasted from 1808 up till 1872), hence making the building also the symbol of the beginnings of capitalism in the area.
Even though the facility was mentioned for the first time in 1885, it still has not received a thorough historic or architectonic coverage. The only pieces of information one can encounter are: a superficial description of the outside of the building and a passing reference about the house of the last sołtys of the village Łazarz; usually they can be found at the end of articles about the terrible state of the facility or another change of the owner. Has the Sołtysówka become a victim of the game between the Town Hall and the private developers?
Arek Parasite’s project is an act of protest against the existing, stalemate situation. The artist decided to wrap the Sołtysówka with a police line bearing the title “SPRZEDANE/SOLD”; hence becoming a peculiar lord of time and designing a possible future of the building, its consecutive sale. The aim of the project is to raise awareness of the problem of vacant buildings, of them becoming a bargaining chip in the game between the administration and the investor. In the game whose only objective is to gain the maximum profit, without taking into consideration the non-financial repercussions – expurgation of the history of the district, the citizens being deprived of the rural heritage and the intriguing space, potentially a place for animation or social activism. The project is also to encourage participation in a discussion on the state of the building and its future. Additionally, it is to make the people cast and wonder what are the socio-economic relations/ties between the citizens of Łazarz and the citizens of Poznań: “who? To whom? Why? For how much? What benefit will they have? Who would like this to happen?” It is also worth noting that the dialogue about this particular space is one that takes place behind the closed door, to which the citizens do not have a key. Therefore, let’s once again try to ask ourselves: what will and can happen to the building, which currently is cursed with becoming a ruin?
On 7th of June in 2017 was held a project sum up discussion “City – how to act and not harm?”
In the discussion participated: the Principal Deputy of the President of Poznań – Mariusz Wiśniewski, an architecture critic – Jakub Głaz, Katarzyna Czarnota from Greater Poland Association of Lodgers, a curator of public art – Dorota Grobelna, a representative of Lazarus Open Culture Zone – Łukasz Trusewicz and an artist – Arek Parasite. The discussion was moderated by Maciej Frąckowiak.
The project was realized on an artist’s residence in The Raczej Gallery,
under the program Turn on Lazarus 2017: Locality in Poznan.
Discussions on facebook about the action “Sold / Sprzedane” (in the initial phase of the project when the building was intentionally wrapped with a tape it was without any artistic connotations):