A Project by Pawel Althamer and the The Nowolipie Group in Poland

Poland has some of the most beautiful virgin forests in Europe. In particular, that of Białowieża, virtually untouched, represents all that remains of the immense primary forest that thousands of years ago spread throughout the continent. But despite being UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Heritage, its existence is at risk because of recent Polish legislation.

The big change concerns the exemption from the need to obtain permits to remove trees or shrubs in state property if knocking down takes place for non-commercial purposes.

Approved on 16 December 2016 and taking force on 1 January 2017, this law was proposed by the Environmental Minister Jan Szyszko and, in spite of contrary public opinion, rapidly enforced. In practice, forest guards will no longer apply the normal prohibition on the protection of flora and fauna, as the restrictions will be loosened. The new law, in fact, significantly reduces the protection of the natural areas managed at the state level, the extension of which now amounts to about one third of Polish territory. According to some lawyers this law would violate EU directives, and many are working to abolish it – its compliance would open a new chapter in Poland in the history of tree-killings.

The operation carried out by Paweł Althamer develops and creates interconnection between action and space through participation. The Nowolipie group, led by him, mainly includes people with multiple sclerosis, working with the precipitous methods of art. Paweł wondered how they would have handled this theme, and how they would have collaborated with Academy students.

A wooden statue – a sad girl with her hands covering her face, and in tears – was transported from the Nowolipie Group headquarters to the Warsaw Academy of Fine Art, thus becoming a physical connection between the two spaces. Indeed, this sculpture was the pretext that opened up a dialogue that, in turn, brought about the real work.

After finding a number of felled trees, some of which were quite big, the students and members of the Nowolipie Group were able to choose their own piece to protect, carve and mold at the Academy. It was a collective work, an artistic and dialogical process at the end of which the decision was made to re-insert the trees into the natural environment from which they had been torn.

The sculptures will soon be transported to the forest, and then given to nature and its will over time: which will become the source of their shape, color and size. The place chosen is in a virgin forest. It is a small opening, a kind of natural amphitheater surrounded by beautiful clear lakes that you can only reach by taking a path that  crosses over a small water stream. And it is the entrance walkway of the Academy itself that transforms itself into the wooden bridge that leads to the final space: an unusual, pure and primitive place where nature has taken over and annulled human law, and where art still has meaning thanks to the gestures of Althamer’s group.