The Palka Diaries
The Palka Diaries (performance project)
Palka Diaries is a multi-modal performance project documented at palkadiaries.co.uk.
Summary Statement (300 words)
The Palka Diaries Project is a multi-output enquiry in to the artistic representation of post-memory. It comprises web documentation of an artistic-research field trip to Siberia, and the resulting installation, “Bark and Butterflies” and the short film “Exile to Leeds 6”. The trip followed the train journey narrated in an inherited wartime diary in which the PI’s grandfather and father describe their deportation from Eastern Poland to the Gulag in 1941.
“Post Memory” as defined by Marianne Hirsch (2012), “describes the relationship that the ‘generation after’ bears to the personal, collective and cultural trauma of those who came before – to experiences they ‘remember’ only by means of the stories, images and behaviours among which they grew up.”
Accordingly, this project examines the specific creative strategies to engage with intergenerational trauma and the overpowering family memories of wartime suffering in the second generation.
The questions this project set out to answer are:
- What methods can be used to give expression to inherited memory?
- How can inherited archival materials perform a role in this process?
- How is the relationship between second generation artist and first generation survivor articulated in this process?
This project involved documenting the journey to Siberia, gathering impressions, materials, sounds and images for later performance/installation work. I immersed myself as artist and PI in both the historic journey of memory, as well as our actual journey in the present. To do this we made performance gestures en–route principally in the train compartment, with readings from the diary, projections of the diary text and portraits of grandfather and father and recorded diary readings in Polish. These interventions which went on over 6 days took on a phantasmagoric quality, merging past and present, living with dead and created epiphanous connections between family stories and lived reality. The resulting art works, give expression to these experiences and have been shown in the UK, Poland and Germany.
Heritage Lottery Fund – All our Stories Fund £10k
Coventry University – (School of Art and Design Research Funding) – £5k
- PI Adrian Palka (CU)
- Wolfram Spyra – Sound Artist/Technician Berlin)
- Roksana Vykaluk (Musician/Translator- Poland/Ukraine)
- 2 x Optoma Pico Projectors
- 2 x zoom recorder
- 2 x laptop
- 2x speakers
- 3 iPhones
- 2 x iPads
Itinerary (identical to diary)
6 days train travel Lviv-Kharkiv-Kuznetsk- Petropavlovsk-Omsk-Novosibirsk-Bijsk -Novoiushino
Family Archival Materials
- Slides of original diary text in Polish in Grandfathers and fathers handwriting for projection
- Recordings of readings from the diary in Polish (actor Adam Molak, Polish National Theatre) to playback en route.
- Transcriptions of diary in both languages for projection.
- Portrait photo/slides of Grandfather and Father from the time for projection.
- School Talks – Siberia: The Diary and the Journey
- Polish School, Bishops Ullathorne School, Leasowes Avenue, Coventry
- Reepham Primary School, Norfolk
- Krey-Siberia Group (Polish Community Group) – diary on website – kresy-siberia.org/hom/element/the-palka-diaries-4/diary-of-zygmunt-and-jan-palka
- HLF History Pin Site – The Palka Diary’s Collection
- Who do you think you are exhibition stand: Earls Court 2014.
Exhibitions: Bark and Butterflies
- Coventry Peace Month Festival (2014)
- Kunst am Spreeknie Festival, Berlin (2014);
- Klangland, Kassel, Germany (2014);
- Polish Army Museum, Warsaw (2014);
- Coventry University Conference (June 2017)
- I am Safe exhibition, Neue Galerie, Bunkerstadt-Wunsdorf , Germany (September 2017).
Hessische Nachricht Agentur (Germany) Intention von Adrian Palka, der auch Dozent in Coventry ist, war es, in jene Landschaft einzudringen, die für ihn familiäre Mythen birgt. Das Ergebnis heißt „Bark and Butterflies“: Eine Hütte, in der ein Koffer mit Birkenborken liegt, dazu ist ein Prosagedicht des Vaters auf Englisch und Polnisch zu hören.
Diese wunderbar melancholische, multimediale Installation schafft es, innere Bilder der Heimkehr entstehen zu lassen.
the intention of Adrian Palka, (lecturer at Coventry) is to force his way into landscapes which contain family myths. The result is called “Bark abd Butterflies” in which a suitcase containing shards of birch bark accompanied by a prose poem recited in English and Polish. This wonderful melancholic installation succeeds in stimulating inner image of homecoming in the spectator.
Exhibition and film – ‘Exile to Leeds 6’/Bark and Butterflies:
- Leeds City Museum, October 2017–January 2018.
Exhibition and public lecture:
The Forum, Norwich Library, November 2018.
- CDare Bark and Butterflies: Redeeming the Past – digital interventions into family history and post memory-Digital Echoes Conference 2015
- University of Malta: Bark and Butterflies: Redeeming the Past – digital interventions into family history and post memory-21st Century Research Conference 2016
- Warwick University: Siberia and Us. Sky Blue Research Conference 2017
- Glasgow University: Siberia and Us: Polish Exilic Memory, Psychic Borders and Second-Generation Performance Strategies: Space of Exile Conference
- ‘Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne Écorce et papillon: le goulag revisité – une interface fantasmagorique’, Conference Médias situés et mobilités partegées, 2018
Header Photo Credits
- Photo: Jan Palka (aged 16) – Siberian Taiga with Butterflies
- Montage: Wolfram Spyra (2014)