#photography & visual arts
Paweł Althamer based his sculpture on a very particular resident of Warsaw's Praga district. This monument was created in collaboration with the children and their guardians of the Praga North Group of Pedagogy and Social Animation (GPAS).
The sculpture resembles a popular Praga resident, recognized and liked by everyone from the area – adults and children alike. Mr. Rubber belonged to the group of petty criminals and drunkards from Brzeska Street, which didn't stop him from also playing the role of the authority on the local code of honour.
The sculpture of Mr. Rubber, produced in collaboration with the children and staff from the Group of Pedagogy and Social Animation Praga North (GPAS), was placed in 2009 in front of a liquor store at the corner of Czynszowa and Stalowa Streets. The staggering, natural sized figure was criticized by some for emphasising the district's bad reputation. Others, on the other hand, took care of Rubber and gave him a hat when cold winter days came.
It was children's idea to raise a monument to him. The sculpture, mounted on a spring, sways as if to imitate its model's movements. Rubber will be stood in the same spot where he spent years wobbling on his soft knees and chatting to the passers by.
This was not the first time that Andrzej Orłowski and Tomek Szczepański, who lead an experimental educational programme for children and youth of the Praga neighbourhood (as part of the Group of Pedagogy and Social Animation Praga North), team up with Paweł Althamer, who easily finds a common language with difficult teenagers. He had, for instance, participated in the successful educational programme Einstein Class (Klasa Einsteina), which supported local children in learning the fundaments of physics.
I had never seen Rubber (Guma in Polish) in person, I let the guys make the decision. When I saw him in a photograph, I liked him from a sculptural point of view, this kind of hunched figure.
– Althamer said in an interview for gazeta.pl
We were deeply disturbed by the news of his death, which came to us while we were working on the sculpture. He was a young man, just a little over thirty years old. – Orłowski added.
Paweł Althamer donated the sculpture to the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw. As part of its collection, it is presented at very prestigious venues, such as the Presidential Palace in Warsaw. The artist declared he was happy with this, as long as the museum creates a copy of Rubber and bring it back to the original location in Stalowa.
This was a good lesson for the kids. Why dedicate a monument to Copernicus or the Pope, if you can instead raise one to your local hero – Mr. Rubber. Moreover, it is possible give it a lighter, more accessible form. You can wobble him, write on him, stand by him. Monuments are important – as things that act as reminders. The question is – what do they remind us of?
– said Joanna Mytkowska, the director of the MoMA Warsaw.
art in public space
museum of modern art in warsaw
Group of Pedagogy and Social Animation Praga North
Rubber / Guma
Collection of the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
Sources: artmuseum.pl, gazeta.pl, own materials, ed. Agnieszka Sural, 10.04.2014, transl. Ania Micińska, June 2015