“Weeds is a project dedicated to a specific set of plants that act as a unique record of social and political history. These plants can be found in places that are now deserted but were formerly densely populated villages in the south east of Poland. Today, 70 years after their inhabitants were forced to abandon their homes, the plants have continued to grow, have taken over the space and they are a permanent reminder of human presence.
After the Second World War, a mass relocation of the population following a geopolitical change of Polish borders resulted in many native inhabitants being forced to abandon their homes and resettle to new locations. Between 1944 and 1950, the Polish Communist Government and the Soviet Union carried out two resettlement operations that resulted in over half a million indigenous dwellers of the eastern borders being forcibly deported from south eastern Poland. In most cases the abandoned villages were burnt down leaving no visible trace of the farm houses, churches and buildings that had previously stood there. The buildings that were not consumed by flames were deconstructed and used as building materials to harden the roads. Once so prevalent villages are gone forever and the multicultural atmosphere has drawn to a close.
Nowadays, this territory is considered one of the wildest parts of Poland. There are few traces left of the infrastructure that was there before, apart from an intricate system of roads that now lead nowhere, densely overgrown wells and grave stones. Abundance of plants cover and wipe away all signs of human presence, being at the same time its striking reminder. Among them we can find fruit trees blooming in spring in the middle of the forest, gooseberries, currants and nuts, as well as decorative plants such as the rudbeckia lacinata and daffodils. Plants used in religious ceremonies such as periwinkle or boxwood can be found together with nettle and alpine dock that grew after the relocation of farms, evidence that these places were once cultivated by people. The changes in the structure of the soil give these plants a chance to survive the next 600 years, making them not only a tool to reconstruct the topography of the villages, but also a key to understanding this space.
The Weeds project has been presented in various different iterations. The plant installation, which consisted of a section of a meadow that had been relocated from one of the abandoned places together with a map depicting the inexistent villages, was presented in an exhibition at the Zachęta National Gallery in Warsaw. After the exhibition, the installation was moved to a public space in Powiśle, Warsaw, where it remains to this day.