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Frameworks Media Collective residency at CCA Warsaw

By Ruchika Negi and Amit Mahanti

We began our residency in Warsaw in September 2016 with a broad curiosity around the river Vistula that flows through Warsaw and other parts of Poland. Over the last few years, the water levels of the Vistula have been receding during the summer months. Consequently, various historical objects buried in it at different time periods, have resurfaced or have been excavated. For instance, Jewish tombstones that were desecrated by the Nazisduring World War II and thrown into the river (or used for making roads and bridges);historical treasures that were plundered from Poland in the Swedish Deluge of the 17th century and World War-II related objects have come to the surface. This has sparked off tremendous interest, not only from an archaeological point of view, but also around the significance of these ‘historical’ objects in the present day. For us, this resurfacing of objects – mostly associated with historical events of violence and war – became the prism through which we began to look at the river.

 

Our research and filming centred around a World War-II Soviet reconnaissance airplane that was discovered in 2015near a town called Wyszogrod (about 70 km from Warsaw) from a tributary of the Vistula River called the Bzura.This plane was shot down by the Nazi army in January 1945 when the Germans were retreating from the area. The wreckage, along with the remains of the three young pilots who died in the crash, was excavated and restored by the Museum of Vistula in Wyszogrod.  At the time of this discovery, Wyszogrod got a lot of media coverage and there was much hype around this event, though now it has receded from all this attention, as is the case usually. Our work here explored Wyszogrod’s response to this wreckage – focusing on stories, curiosities, opinionsand controversies that surround the discovery and restoration of this plane. Given the political history of this region and Poland’s tenuous relationship with erstwhile Soviet Union, present mythologies around this ‘Soviet’ plane became important for us to explore – not so much for their truth value, but in terms of the imaginations of war and violence, of large politics and small histories, of memory and remembrance, that an occurrence like this reveals.

 

Wyszogrod, perhaps like many towns in Poland, contains several traces of the Second World War. The wreckage of this plane is one of the town’s most visible markers of this time. The wreckage is currently housed in a pavilion in the main square of the town, very close to the river. Myths and opinions around the plane and the wreckage abound in the town today – some people have recollections of seeing the plane shot down in 1945, others are critical of its presence given Poland’s Soviet legacy. This landscape of peoples’ responses and the political symbolism of this wreckage has centrally informed our work during this residency.

 

The work is a film-in-progress.