Scrub, groves, thickets and shrubs

Philipp Kohlhöfer, Robert Kuśmirowski, Michał Matejko, Ewa Sułek 

Guest appearance: Serge Vasylechko 


On 24 February 2022, Russia attacked a free Ukraine. This day, which today connects the stories of many people and is a symbol of national trauma, used to be a private date, belonging to Oleksandra Pogrebnyak, who celebrates her birthday on that day. The starting point for her reflections was the fact that she and her husband made the decision to stay in Ukraine after the war broke out. The show at the Lescer Art Centre takes place in dialogue with an exhibition organized and opened on the same day by Oleksandra in her Kyiv flat among furniture, books, and plants.


The movement of the plants is complicated. Seemingly they cannot move on their own, leave occupied and sheltered territories, or take refuge from bombardment. Instead, they can spray seeds that, hidden in the nooks and crannies of our clothes or gusted by the wind, can even travel across the ocean. Where they germinate is sometimes a matter of chance and sometimes of the human hand. Rooted out of their natural environment, they grow in our homes, but all it takes is too long a holiday, a moment's inattention, or a lack of a tender hand to become completely defenseless. They can mutate, survive a tornado, be damaged and grow back, take in a hostile environment, but also die for lack of sunlight, set by us in too dark a corner of the room.


Drawing on the experience of plants, the exhibition Scrub, groves, thickets and shrubs focus on issues related to the impossibility of detaching ourselves from the place to which we are bound by geographical circumstances - usually quite by accident, since we cannot choose the location in which we are born, nor our nationality. Meanwhile, these two elements largely determine our lives, and place boundaries - geographical, physical, and mental, often difficult to cross and unfairly deployed - in front of us. The dramatic stories of refugees and refugee women from Ukraine, as well as from Middle Eastern and African countries, trying to enter Poland through the border with Belarus, are juxtaposed with the experience of the exhibition's curator and her own battle with visa procedures. The powerlessness associated with her geopolitical location led her to depression, which resulted in her killing all the plants in her flat. She expressed her emotions in the poems that are presented in the exhibition, which were visually interpreted by Michal Matejko, who created their bodies with the help of artificial intelligence.


Scrub, groves, thickets, and shrubs is an exhibition about borders - their crossing or the impossibility of crossing them, movement of one's own volition, or that forced. About the boundaries between man and plant, man and machine, between word, sound, and image; physical limitations, and the boundaries of cognition and the physical and virtual being. Often our understanding of the world is based on a distillation of the qualities and properties that give our perception meaning. What happens when this boundary is crossed too?


The vernissage included Philipp Kohlhöfer's film Culture War premiere about Ukrainian artists during the war and a meeting with the director.


Curator: Ewa Sułek

Producer: Paweł Zaręba