Portfolio: Christian Jankowski reinvigorates interest in Poland's monuments with the help of champion weightlifters


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The Independent Culture

Destroyed by the Second World War, and still raw from both Nazi occupation and its subsequent 45 years of Soviet rule, Warsaw is a city whose history is writ large upon its public spaces.

Yet, from the Ghetto Heroes Monument, before which the German Chancellor Willy Brandt famously kneeled in 1970, to Communist-era memorials such as the statue of Ludwik Warynski, the 19th-century activist who pioneered the country's socialist movement, the Polish capital is home to myriad monuments that, through time, have started to mean less to its people. The statue of Warynski, for instance, is currently being renovated out of the city, and a new site for it is being sought – though not everyone wants it back.

Which got Christian Jankowski to thinking. "There is something about Poland's dark history and its mistrust of power structures that is everywhere in its contemporary art," says the German photographer. "But you have to revitalise that history for people to re-engage with it."

Employing the services of the country's champion weightlifters, he aimed to reinvigorate locals' interest in their history by framing it in a new way, with the lifters literally placing the burden of Warsaw's past on their shoulders.

Their efforts startled a few onlookers – but none so much as the guards outside the American Embassy when they turned up to lift the statue of Ronald Reagan. "I have to admit that we didn't get permission for that; it did make me slightly nervous."

Heavy Weight History is at Lisson Gallery, London NW1, from Friday to 8 March