The re-enactment of Tadeusz Kantor’s “List” [The Letter] in front of the Polish parliament building constituted an artistic protest against the plans for the so-called “postal elections” to be held during lockdown.
During Tadeusz Kantor’s 1967 happening, seven postal workers, assisted by the police (milicja), carried a large letter from the post office on Ordynacka Street to Foksal Gallery. The subversive nature of the event consisted not in expressing specific political content, but in creating an ambiguous situation with the consent of disoriented authorities. As a result, the latter lost control over the message. Although Kantor avoided openly political content in his work, in that very instance the letter was actually associated with censorship. The motif of an entourage and a giant letter on the streets of Warsaw was thus firmly established in art history and has been used by various artists over the years.
On May 6, 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, a 14-meter-long banner-letter with the slogan “ŻYĆ NIE, UMIERAĆ” / “LIVE NOT, DIE” was carried from Warsaw’s Main Post Office to the parliament building. Although the slogan sounds familiar [ŻYĆ, NIE UMIERAĆ /LIVE, NOT DIE], its true meaning is revealed in punctuation. Addressee: Polish Government. Sender: Sovereign.
The artists recreated the dimensions of Kantor’s original “Letter,” and thus maintained the required safe two-meter distance between participants. They set off from the main Post Office building on Świętokrzyska Street. After walking two hundred meters, the group was stopped by the police in front of Bank Towarzystwo Spółdzielcze building. After reading the document certifying that “the artists are at work” and taking down their personal information, the police escorted the march to the parliament building.
Once there, the artists were once again stopped by the police, and a couple days later two of them received fines of PLN 10,000 each for “posing an epidemic threat.” Following an intervention by the Commissioner for Human Rights, the fines were withdrawn.
Rok powstania: 2020
acrylic paints, water paints, poster paints, pencil, marker, cotton fabric. Courtesy of the artists, Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw