The giraffe

During the discussion in Tychy about the post-war art and its contemporary reception, in which I had the pleasure to take part, one of the discussed subjects was the Labour and Struggle Monument, designed by Augustyn Dyrda. It turned out that the monument functions under three different names. I wanted to see which one is most strongly rooted in the hearts of Tychy residents. I met with the author of the sculpture, created on the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Polish People’s Republic. Mr. Dyrda wanted the monument to symbolise the process of integrating indigenous and immigrant populations, typical for the city of Tychy. Their biographies gave the city its identity. The ideological sense of the monument, just like its official name (Labour and Struggle), began to fell into oblivion over time. A colloquial name referring to its shape, the Giraffe, stuck. Residents of Tychy softened the ideological symbolism of the memorial, which slowly turned into a meeting place and events location.

Being true to the author’s intentions, I decided to revive the monument and provoke people to discuss and integrate around that space. Since for most of the locals it was simply the Giraffe I decided to take this name literally and transform the monument. I attached an inflated giraffe head to its top and waited on the spot every day in order to talk about it with passer-bys. I organised workshops for children, in course of which we looked at the Giraffe and various Tychy monuments, while creating their symbolic metamorphosis with modelling clay.

Every day under the monument I met a lot of people who were either outraged or curious and willing to talk. Usually during a conversation, even with those who were skeptical of my project, friendly communication was established. Residents of Tychy told me their memories related to the monument and the space around it, explaining what it had meant for them before and what it meant now. Some brought photos of the monument documenting various stages of its existence, others wanted to take a picture with the Giraffe with the attached head. On the last day, a woman brought me a cake, which we shared with other visitors.

The performance was a part of the ‘Tychy Yesterday and Today’ project implemented by the Municipal Museum in Tychy. Stanisław Ruksza and Michał Kubieniec were project’s curators.