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Paweł Althamer: A Common Task

20th Anniversary of the Fall of Communism and of Regained Freedom in Central and Eastern Europe, Brussels
04/06/09
Twenty years ago, the Communist regime was overthrown in central and Eastern Europe. Poland, which played a major role in the process of millions of citizens from the ‘other Europe’ recovering their freedom, wished to remind the European public of this anniversary which is so crucial to us all. One of the most important artistic events held within this context was the ‘alien landing’ in Brussels, as part of the Common Task carried out by the artist Paweł Althamer.

The event entitled Common Task aimed to find an original way to commemorate the high ideals which, twenty years ago, accompanied the trade union ‘Solidarność’ in its fight for dignity, freedom and democracy. The concept, linked to the idea of liberation, evoked the courageous choices made by people who chose to break away from broadly accepted standards and those who continue to do so. The project’s strength resided in the people running it, ordinary, everyday people, and in the changes they brought about and continue to carry within themselves. These changes can change the course of history: in Poland twenty years ago, the majority of the population no longer believed in the transformation of the ‘inhuman system’; and yet, this change still took place.

The venue for the event was not chosen at random. Brussels is the capital of a united Europe, a continent which, just twenty years ago, believed it would forever be divided. The long road to freedom started in August 1980, when the trade union ‘Solidarność’ was created in the shipyards of Gdansk, and it continued on 4 June 1989, on the occasion of the first ‘free elections’ organised in this part of Europe, going on to take in the enlargement of the European Union, on 1 April 2004, to welcome as Member States ten countries located primarily in central and Eastern Europe. On 4 June 2009, in Brussels, at the very heart of Europe, the ‘aliens of the common task’ served as a symbolic reminder of these events.

On that day, the aliens arrived In Brussels from Poland in a golden plane dreamt up by the artist. Their first stop was the place where the 1958 Expo was held. The Atomium, which, at that time, jutted out over the national pavilions, was the starting point for a tourist escapade across the capital, via place Flagey, a place where young people like to meet, the Grand Place, the tourist heart of the Belgian capital, with special attention paid to the European institutions : the European Commission and Parliament. This European Brussels is, in every sense, Europe’s Tower of Babel, which represents, in its plurality, the ideas which go to make up the foundations of the European Union. Just as the founding fathers dreamt of and built a free and democratic Europe, the Poles dreamt of and fought (using peaceful means) for a free and democratic Poland. The European Union is, quite simply, a common task. A task shared by us all.

The golden plane in which the participants took their seats to travel to Brussels symbolised communication, knowledge and harmony, a ‘golden way’ leading to changes for the better. Getting the plane to its destination was the ‘common task’ of the strategic partners in the project: Polish airline LOT, the ‘Solidarność’ European Centre in Gdansk, the National Centre for Culture, the Polish Embassy in Belgium and its Cultural Service.
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