Greetings From Jerusalem Avenue

2002, the artificial palm tree placed at the intersection of Aleje Jerozolimskie (Jerusalem Avenue) and Nowy Swiat (New World) streets, Warsaw, Poland

Joanna Rajkowska talks to Łukasz Cybiński
An abridged version of the interview published in 'Rzeczpospolita' on 12th February 2007

The palm is drifting left

Why do you want the palm to be reconstructed?

The reason is simple: the palm is falling apart and a part of the structure needs to be replaced, to be precise, a head, bark and the foliage.

What is the point of keeping it?

As long as the public project is alive, people react to it, see certain message in it, identify with it or hate it, that long the project has the right to live. In 2003 I wanted to give the palm to the city, Foundation Institute of the Promotion of Art sent a letter concerning that issue to the mayor of Warsaw. There was no reply. We sent another letter then, to ask for help with the deconstruction of the palm. There was no reply again. The time was passing on, people wrote the history of the palm and it ceased to be a personal project. Being aware of the views of many people, mostly acquaintances of mine, on the palm as a symbol of tolerance, openness, also with light-heartedness, I think that as long as the political situation is as it is, it is not the time to deconstruct it yet. After all these years the palm is associated with certain way of thinking about politics and a society, and about groups that govern the country at the moment.

Did you have any political intentions when constructing pf the palm in 2002?

This is an art project, not a political manifesto. The palm became political because it is a deeply contextual project. Palm's time is the time of right-wing groups' governance in Poland, who attempt to cleanse the country from any culturally strange content. And I conceived the project exactly as a social experiment testing how far the Polish society is ready to accept in every respect such an alien element. I am glad that the project becomes increasingly more political. One can hardly not to. There is nothing more an artist could dream of.

So what does being political mean?

The palm is a certain idea of the reality and in such idea there are many issues that are described as left wing. In the course of consecutive crisises which happened in the palm's history, people who met underneath it were grouped around certain political option, e.g. Greens, Le Madame club, ecologists, all the people who want Poland o be a bit different than it is now. They organised public fund-risings, wrote letters to the mayor. I have an impression that the time is flowing faster and faster and all of us somehow shift towards the left. So does the palm.

I asked the editors of 'Krytyka Polityczna' for help and the fact that they decided to send out a newsletter only proves that.

The palm wasn't accepted by the former council of Warsaw, mayor Kaczyński and groups that backed him from the very beginning. I read in the press that the reason was that the permission was granted by the preceding coalition. Quote: 'Traditionally in this spot a Christmas Tree was put at Christmas. This is our tradition and we should retain it.' So every action I undertook was blocked, e.g. Municipal Road Office ordered a banner 'The palm is waiting for the permission' to be taken down overnight and took down the scaffolding under the pretext of not fulfilling safety regulations. But on the other hand there is no need to demonise the, in the end it was mayors order for Municipal Gardening Works to help with the maintenance of the project.

Maybe it will be the left who will take the palm as a symbol, as they did with a crescent and a hammer or a red rose?

I don't expect left-wing groups to have such intentions. The Palm is such an ironic project that every attempt to define it unambiguously is doomed to fail. I am just glad that the palm is drifting left.

What if the May Day processions started in the neighbourhood of the palm? It is next to former Party Headquarters anyway.

I would stand aside and watch with amazement. Left-wing is left-wing, young left is young left but Party Headquarters is a different issue. This is - unfortunately - a left-wing groups' burden, which needs to be faced, and that isn't easy.

The Center for Contemporary Art, The Institute for the Promotion of Art Foundation
Michal Rudnicki (architect), Katarzyna Lyszkowicz
The official website:

The palm and the polish issues