Pawel Starzec: Fridom – a story about squatting movement
“Squatting, in the basic sense, means creating something – a home, a place to work, a meeting place, an action space – out of nothing, out places used by nobody. If you want, you can connect it with childhood roleplaying about creating a home and having a tea party – but this time without ‘game’ and ‘pretending’ elements in it. Deeply concerned that act of property is bullshit as long as you do nothing with your property and it lays unused, people just start to use this property. End of dramatic story.
It suppose to be no heroic myth in this project. 2 years ago, when I started to be curious about history of squatting in my hometown and developed an idea to investigate this history and eventually turn it into some kind of photographic documentary, the main feeling about whole idea was curiosity. Most articles, documents and stories about squatting are focusing on the dramatic site of this movement – evictions, protests, direct actions or at least cooking food for Food Not Bombs. Disatvantage of this point of view is really simple, it makes people forget, that squats are not a political and social war centers, but places for people to live. Of course, most of people involves themselves into some kind of political/social/enviromental etc. action, but the main reason to squat something is to create a home, not a point of political struggle.
So, at first coming with a little of knowledge and a lot of curiosity, I went to visit the most known autonomous cultural center in my hometown. With a completed list of now and then squatted houses I’ve decided to make complete map of Wrocław squatting scene. And, somehow, I still didn’t manage to create this map, but for now, I’ve visited six countries working on it. The idea sucked me in. I started to look for pictures from squats and autonomus spaces around the world – yeah, curiosity – and I found pictures of Rog in Ljubljana. Man, I need to go there! The same happened with Croatia, Austria, Norway and Germany. So, there goes the project.
The main idea under those pictures is to make people discover and remember the simple fact, that squatters are completly normal people. Of course, I was intrested in evictions, actions, opening the new places as much as anything else, but this story is about the normal days. Boring and lazy days on the couch in the social room, cold nights, collective meetings, renovations, dogs, listening to music, playing music or cooking dinners for 15 people. For me, that things are a lot more intresting, beacuse we can relate to them. The reason why newspapers and documentrists are intrested in squats is simple: „There is a jungle in your hometown, where people are shooting heroin all the time, making pauses only to burn some police cars, steal a bike or make a concert for bands that normal people can’t stand.”
I don’t see it that way. And the reason for doing this document was to make the viewer see squatting the same way I do.”
text and images © Pawel Starzec
Pawel Starzec is a Polish photographer (b. 1992) based in Wrocław, currently studying sociology. I had a chance to meet him in Berlin at EIN Lab: Interact! residential workshop, where he created one of the best works, a mature project Iconoclasm, beside that he was also working on some other personal projects. For this hard working young man future sure is bright.