1994 SLEDGE was connected to the central heating system in Ujazdowski Castle in Warzawa. Approx H 90 x W 200 x D 70 cm. Wood, steel, copper and hot water. Collection Moderna Muséet .


7 January 1994

This exhibition is the first of a series of five. The fir tree forms the point of departure for all the exhibitions. It works as a power centre for elucidating five different situations. The first situation deals with the fir tree’s place in our culture and our history and thus mirrors these two poles. The fir tree is the largest plant that people all over the world annually remove from the countryside into their homes – our culture. This they do in conjunction with Christmas – our history. The exhibition at Ujazdowski Castle dealt with this movement in detail and provided a consistent answer to bringing a fir tree into the room. The exhibition opened on 7 January in the middle of the Polish winter just after the Christmas festivities. The windows were opened wide to let in the cold and delay the final demise of the tree. The room was fitted with new inventories offering people a means of keeping warm: chairs that heat the body directly by utilizing the central-heating system. A situation in which the division between nature and mankind has been made more open and in which the needs of each party have been recognized.

Ujazdowski Castle has many links with the problems dealt with in the exhibition. The castle was built in 1624 for King Sigmund Vasa III (1587-1632). ”It was symmetrically laid out around a square court which was surrounded by a gallery. On each corner of the building an hexagonal tower is erected. The central planning of this edifice determined in two ways how it could be experienced. Firstly, the sight was directed towards the world outside and thus symbolized contemplation and control. Secondly, sight was entrapped internally, thus standing for reflection and cultural power.” During the eighteenth century Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski II (1732-98) substantially altered the castle. He gave its exterior a classical Baroque appearance and laid out extensive grounds. ”The lay-out of the park formed a series of ’outdoor rooms’ which were meant to provide an appropriate setting for the king’s public appearances.” It is precisely these two opposing aspects of its history that I particularly appreciate. On the one hand the intention behind the original building which was limited to the rooms
and their architecture with the aim of opening themselves outwards and, on the other hand, those parts of the park that sought to create open-air rooms. The ruins were demolished with explosives in 1954 to make room for a Polish military theatre. This never materialized, however. Instead, during the 1960s, a project was put in hand to rebuild the castle. In 1974 reconstruction was begun using the plans of Sigismund III. A room in the castle has been preserved in its naked state and the brick and concrete vaults provide a dramatic link with the building’s dramatic history. It is in this room that the exhibition was built up.

A series of understandings and misunderstandings has caused the fir tree to be connected with Christmas with all its stories of the three wise men and their journey to the newborn Jesus, of the baby Jesus in the manger, of the slaughter instigated by Herod, of Joseph who built rat-traps to keep the devil at bay. These are recurring images in art history.

The exhibition associates to the child’s first meeting with the fir tree. A very large tree is felled and erected in the living room. It is put there to celebrate Christmas. In time it dies and sheds its needles and is thrown out of the window. Childhood is a time full of possibilities when absolute truth has not yet been established. I believe that connecting with this state can provide us with a key for reformulating our established view of the world. One work in the exhibition deals with a synthesizing retrogression by drawing attention to the sense of smell which is probably the most important of the senses in awakening associations. Bits of fir tree are steamed in a container and the steam is led to an oxygen mask where the scent of fir tree (resin and needles) is extremely concentrated. There are a number of spots of colour on the support to the oxygen mask (the only painting in the exhibition) as a reference to Christmas with its decorations, something the room otherwise completely ignores.

Ulf Rollof

Solo Exhibition at Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland.
Curated by Milada ´Slizinska. All photos by Lars Gustafsson.

1994 INK DRAWING. H 30 x W 21 cm. Ink on cotton paper.
1994 "7 JANURY 1994". The room measures H 460 x W 925 x D 970 cm. 1994 ROTATING FIR TREE. H 410 x W 210 x D 206 cm. Steel, motor and firtree. Collection Moderna Muséet .
1994 HEATED CHAIR. H 83 x W 56 x D 60 cm. Hot water, copper, rubber, aluminium, felt, latex and plywood. Private Collection.
1994 MOUSETRAP. H 21 x W 21 x D 44 cm. Hot water, copper, rubber, felt, cheese and pigment . Private Collection.
1994 SCENT MASK. H 129 x W 36 x D 105 cm. Twigs of fir, boiling water, hot plate, latex, breathing-mask, pigment, glass, felt, rubber, steel and aluminium.
The fantastic smell of boiled pine tree.
1994 WATERCOLOR DRAWING. H 30 x W 21 cm. Watercolor on cotton paper.
07.01.94 - 12.02.95. Ulf Rollof Catalogue, 29 x 20.5 cm, 176 pages,
texts by Bart De Baere, Daniel Birnbaum, Philip Peters, Dave Hickey & the artist,
graphic design by Stefan Lidström, photographer Lars Gustafsson & the artist,
published by the artist (Mira Förlag), Stockholm, Sweden, 1996.