Tytus Szabelski / Common ground

The point of departure for my proposal is probably Jan Berydszak’s never realised work from 1979. At the outdoor Lublin Art Meetings, the Poznań artist suggested that the residents of the new residential district Osiedle Sienkiewicza bring soil from the surrounding villages of their origin to be used in the neighbourhood gardens. My work does not intend to repeat the idea from 40 years ago in new circumstances, but it rather echoes it.

I perceive the theme of this year’s Festival Open city – Hospitality – as pertaining to relationships between nations in the context of migration, regardless whether motivated economically or to save life or health. My action is addressed to a few people who came to Lublin from Ukraine – which stems from the migration scale, the geographical proximity and a thick network of complicated, historical ties. The core of the work is a literally understood exchange of soil: transporting symbolic amounts of the Lublin soil to Ukraine – to the project participants’ places of origin – and vice versa: bringing the same amount of soil from Ukraine to Lublin.

The use of the word “nation” in the above paragraph is meaningful and intentional – this concept is strongly connected to land and the sense of belonging to a specific, geographically and culturally defined area. Symbolically, earth is the giver of life, something we take root in; on the other hand, it is only a form of matter, oblivious to human cultural superstructures. Traversing the border, we do not put our feet on the ground which has quasi-magically changed its nature.

Polish and Ukrainian soil mixed together is to constitute a common ground. Initially, very noticeable as an intervention in the urban space, it grows gradually into its tissue later. Nevertheless, a ground forever changed and symbolically ready for creation of a new community, in opposition to national divisions.


Tytus Szabelski, born in 1991, photographer and visual artist. Journalism and Social Communication graduate of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and of Photography at the University of the Arts in Poznań. At present, a PhD candidate at the Interdisciplinary PhD Programme at the University of the Arts in Poznań. Cooperated with the Toruń Centre of Contemporary Art, Galeria Miłość and the “Krytyka Polityczna” magazine (Political Critique), member of Grupa nad Wisłą from Toruń. Author of individual exhibitions and participant of group shows. Two-time winner of the City of Toruń Cultural Scholarship (2012 and 2016), and a finalist of national and international best art diploma competitions (Best Diplomas at the Academy of Fine Arts 2016 in Gdańsk, Maria Dokowicz Competition in Poznań, Start Point Prize 2016 in Prague). Laureate of the Konrad Pustoła Memory Scholarship for Socially Engaged Photographer. Former editor of an online magazine „Magenta”, dedicated to contemporary photography. At present, he is working on a scientific art magazine „Postmedium.