Tytus Szabelski-Różniak's exhibition consists of photographs, films and a minimalist installation delineating the lines pasted on the gallery floor.
The visual status of these representations is ambiguous, disturbing and metaphorical. However, they all refer to passageways and their infrastructure, but also to processes of displacement, separation or isolation.
The photographs show animal crossings over motorways and expressways, especially international routes running through Poland. The legal conditions for the construction of such roads dictate that environmental impact studies are carried out, which identify the migration routes of animals that may cross the road under construction. On this basis, green bridges or tunnels are created in appropriate places to channel the movement of animals in a way that does not endanger their lives, while at the same time ensuring the safety of people travelling by car. These hybrid spaces, engineering structures of concrete and steel with a layer of earth and greenery, are incapable of camouflaging their specificity - places subjected to constant surveillance that merely imitate the natural habitat of animals.
In two video works, the artist focuses primarily on the border infrastructure. In the first, he depicts, in the form of animated models, the border crossings, walls or dams that separate specific countries in Europe. Nowadays, the distinction between the integrative and disintegrative functions of borders is becoming ever more pronounced. This context is strongly highlighted by the migration crisis and Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Another theme, addressed in the second film, is the transit of energy resources. Tytus looks at the Druzhba pipeline, one of the world's largest oil transport systems, connecting Siberia with Europe. Built in the 1960s, the pipeline was a key route for the flow of Russian oil to the West until 2023. At the same time, fibre-optic lines stretch along this structure, which are used to provide telecommunications and information services. The camera in the film captures fragments of the pipeline's construction, fitted into cut forest corridors or passing as a bridge over the Narew River.
The final element of the exhibition, mapping as well as dividing the exhibition space, are the lines pasted on the floor. The first reflects the shape of the A4 motorway stretching across Poland from the Ukrainian border to Germany. The second, on the other hand, corresponds to the line of Poland's border with Belarus, which has recently become a space of particular focus.
Therefore, the project consists of a set of different examples of infrastructure that serves to move - people, animals, raw materials, goods or information. Each of these not only facilitates communication but also hinders it on other levels or generates additional effects that are questionable in their nature. On many levels, we make choices about who we allow to move, where, when and under what conditions, or cross barriers we artificially create. We erect national borders to then build isolated transport corridors for selected groups, depending on their privileges. Special roads for those who can afford to pay the entrance fee, separate gates at airports for Schengen citizens, and finally camps or deportation centres. Those who are unable to meet the requirements imposed on them are denied movement at all - regardless of other circumstances. The need to tighten controls on movement and migration is becoming the dominant trend in the policies of many countries.
Tytus, who lives in the Podlasie region, focuses particularly on the drama unfolding on the Polish-Belarusian border. Just as motorway transport corridors channel human traffic by limiting entry and exit points, thus facilitating control, the border wall built there is designed to prevent the movement of those who are denied entry via official routes. The barrier crossing the Białowieża Forest, which includes animal crossings, here becomes a symbol of a paradoxical and bitter reality in which the typical human hierarchy of beings is reversed - it is the animals who become, in a sense, privileged, while people dying of exhaustion are forcibly pushed to the other side. However, this wall, like any such structure, is not able to completely stop human migrations. While the animal gates built into it remain closed, people find a way around it.
In his research, Tytus Szabelski-Różniak follows the tracts and architecture of communication and boundaries, focusing on the inverse of their function. He is interested in the aspect of dividing, controlling and channelising traffic, rather than in the way of connecting, repairing environmental damage or speeding up communication. This is therefore not a documentary project, but more of a metaphorical story projecting the ambiguous role of this type of infrastructure and how it works. The paraphrase of the ancient motto divide et impera included in the exhibition title attempts to draw attention to this inverted perspective and the correlation between the inaccessibility of natural environments and the extent of autonomy of the people who inhabit them.
- photographer and visual artist. Graduate of journalism and social communication at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and photography at the University of Arts in Poznań. Member of the Toruń Group on the Vistula River. Finalist in competitions for the best art diploma (e.g. StartPoint Prize 2016 in Prague) and winner of the Konrad Pustoła Memorial Scholarship for a socially engaged photographer (2017). Resident of the Warsaw Biennale (2020) and winner of the Visual and Sound Arts Residency Program of the Visegrad Fund (residency at Trafó Gallery in Budapest, 2021). His works are part of the collection of the Arsenal City Gallery in Poznań and the art collection of the Raffles Europejski Hotel in Warsaw. Professionally associated with the Visual Narrative Laboratory at the Polish National Film School in Łódź.
- curator and art historian, author of exhibitions and texts, editor of publications, independent researcher of contemporary art, and academic lecturer. Artistic director of 66P Subjective Cultural Institution in Wrocław.