Art & Oppression: Artist's Statement

Joan Fitzsimmons

Surveillance: Warsaw

I spent some time in Warsaw, once pre-EU, twice post. I rented a room in a Communist-style building. Built in the 1970’s, many of these complexes make the International Style seem elaborate. Now privately owned, the interiors of my building were often stylishly updated, but the exterior remained grim. My apartment retained its original aesthetic, which included three impressive locks. I spent a good deal of time waiting, listening to comings and goings. Responding to the oppression of the locks, the sparseness of my quarters, I imagined a repressive state. I began photographing through the peephole, waiting for something to happen.

During a recent visit, it was apparent that capitalism was in full flower, yet it seemed that lives were lived in interior spaces, little care given to the exterior. Entering my building, I navigated that grimy exterior, keyed in my code, waited for the elevator illuminated by a bare light bulb. I struggled to unlock the three locks on a heavy metal door. While comfortable enough, the unreconstructed décor belonged to the 1970’s. It was redolent of an era that I, as an American, associated with fear and oppression.

I became my own novella, spying through the peephole, practicing surveillance photography, unknown to my subjects, waiting for something to happen; anything! The most banal of movements, became the material of great intrigue. While the reality of the events recorded is benign, the images can suggest dark narratives.