Poisons and medicine are oftentimes the same
substance given with different intents.

— Peter Mere Latham

The political and the intimate are most strongly intertwined with the senses, especially the sense of smell, around which the ‘Distillates’ project is centred. Together with local partners, Karolina Grzywnowicz produces medicinal essential oils from plants used as a camouflage and colonisation tool. The olfactory installation – offering an embodied, emotional and reflective experience – tells the story of what was to be erased and uprooted.

The first chapter of this project is devoted to pine trees. Due to their widespread occurrence in Eastern Europe and fast growth, pines were used by the Nazis to conceal concentration camps in Poland. At Sobibor, Treblinka and Belzec, after the demolition of camps’ buildings young pine trees were planted to completely cover the traces of the crime. Planting pine trees was also a part of the Zionist plan to transform the historic landscape of Palestine to take away its indigenous and give it an eastern European character, in order to encourage Jews to settle in Palestine. Since 1948, Israel has planted more than 250 million pine trees to camouflage razed Palestinian villages.

Special Prize of the Warsaw Gallery Weekend and ING Polish Art Foundation.


Jednostka Gallery, Warsaw
29 / 09 – 29 / 10 / 2022


oil distillation: Paweł Piasecki / Destylarnia Olejków Eterycznych; Abed Alami
herbalist: Barbara Błażyca-Szczerbowska
production: Kuba Rudziński
technician: Krzysztof Tęcza
photos: Bartosz Górka, Kuba Rudziński, Filip Skrońc, Grzegorz Wełnicki
design: Studio Lekko


olfactory installation: blackthorn module 100x100x100 cm
essential oils: Pinus sylvestris, Sobibór, Pinus halepensis, Palestine
collages: 31 x 23 cm