This staged photograph taken in central Warsaw shows people’s reaction to the imaginary trial of those responsible for the 2008–2009 economic crisis.
A group of people of various ages is gathered around a small fire of burning banknotes on the pavement, amid the office blocks and hotels of central Warsaw. A woman is pouring money out of her handbag, a man next to her reaches into his pocket, while others make sure that none of it flies away.
This work is taken from the Economic Nuremberg series, in which Zbigniew Libera designed and directed scenes that might occur on the streets of Warsaw if the world political and financial leaders accused of causing the global economic crisis were ever put on trial. His photograph from 2013 was a response to that crisis, which peaked in 2008–2009.
The photograph was on display at the Labirynt Gallery in Lublin as part of the Judgement Night exhibition, which its curators described as:
A bitter dispute that touches on problems of the human condition in the context of a global crisis and the crossing of political, economic or aesthetic borders.
Libera’s approach was summed up perfectly by Allan Sekuła, as cited by Marika Kuźmicz in her History Lesson text (Obieg, July 2012). He wrote that art represents symbolic exchange and materialistic practice, which consists of creating both meaning and physical presence. The people in Libera’s photo are not desperately struggling to maintain the status quo – they have opted to make a revolutionary gesture in reaction to the naming of those responsible for the crisis.
Originally written in Polish, translated by AG, edited by MB, Dec 2018