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A panel discussion in Krytyka Polityczna and video documentation from Vietnam

The Jar­mark Europa open-​air market was orig­i­nally founded by mem­bers of the Viet­namese intel­li­gentsia, uni­ver­sity grad­u­ates and doc­toral stu­dents who in the early 1990s seized an oppor­tu­nity to make a fast buck from street trad­ing. It was the best stu­dents from North Viet­nam who were offered schol­ar­ships to the Soviet bloc. The next wave of Viet­namese immi­grants came to Poland for eco­nomic rea­sons at the begin­ning of this cen­tury. What will happen to the Warsaw Viet­namese after Jar­mark Europa has been closed down? Many of them, dis­cour­aged by Poland’s harsh immi­gra­tion laws, are return­ing home. What does the assim­i­la­tion of Poland’s largest ethnic minor­ity really look like?
Asians are believed not to assim­i­late well. On the other hand, they are well-​organised; they have their polit­i­cal organ­i­sa­tions, civil asso­ci­a­tions, news­pa­pers, schools, and a copy of Hanoi’s One-​Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist temple, built near the 10th-Anniversary Sta­dium. The better-​educated Viet­namese have been assim­i­lat­ing more rapidly; as grad­u­ates and stu­dents of Polish uni­ver­si­ties, they are the socio-​cultural, and often also eco­nomic, elite of their com­mu­ni­ties. The Polish Viet­namese, whose number has grown from about fifty in the 1960s to some 30,000 today, belong to a three-million-strong dias­pora known as Ng˝ời Việt Hải Ngoại (Over­seas Viet­namese), or occa­sion­ally as Ng˝ời Việt Tự Do (Free Viet­namese).

The Sta­dion era and wild trad­ing are draw­ing to an end. Viet­namese ven­dors are moving to shop­ping cen­ters in sub­ur­ban areas like Ursus and Wólka Kos­sowska. Many of them are head­ing back to Hanoi. As one wan­ders through the Viet­namese cap­i­tal, one can spot numer­ous restau­rants, book­stores, or car show­rooms run by ex-​vendors from the sta­dium in Warsaw. How has their expe­ri­ence of Poland, of his­tory, been? The polit­i­cal, civic, or pri­vate deci­sions of return­ing Viet­namese emi­grants reflect the atti­tudes and per­sonal dilem­mas of the last twenty years in Poland. Van, a screenwriter, cannot work in his orig­i­nal pro­fes­sion; he believes the Viet­namese choose Poland because of its Sol­i­dar­ity past and its role in bring­ing about the end of Com­mu­nism. He is very sorry to see them arrive in Warsaw and so quickly become dis­il­lu­sioned with the unwel­com­ing atti­tude of the Polish author­i­ties. Tuong divides his time between Wólka Kos­sowska, a new trad­ing center on the out­skirts of Warsaw, and Hanoi; he is not a member, he won’t say a bad thing about the Com­mu­nist Party. Karol says he will go back to Poland in 2011 only to renew his pass­port and iden­tity card and then imme­di­ately come back. Together they are cre­at­ing a ‘Little Warsaw’ in Hanoi.  They speak fluent Polish, spend time in a Polish-language book­store, and they know of a modern hous­ing estate, ‘just like Żelazna Brama in Warsaw’, being built in Hanoi. As one watches this rapidly devel­op­ing coun­try and its elites, at least some of which have ties to Poland, one won­ders to what extent the Polish expe­ri­ence, the expe­ri­ence of free-for-all cap­i­tal­ism and democ­racy, will allow them to crit­i­cally exam­ine — and find a place for them­selves in — modern-​day Viet­nam, given its polit­i­cal regime, dynamic eco­nomic growth, and con­trolled chaos and charm.

There is one other, unex­pected and tragic, Viet­namese theme to the Sta­dium. On Sep­tem­ber 8, 1968, during the national harvest-​festival cel­e­bra­tions, one Ryszard Siwiec immo­lated him­self in protest against the Warsaw Pact’s inva­sion of Czecho­slo­va­kia. Siwiec chose a form of protest vir­tu­ally unheard of in Euro­pean cul­ture. His inspi­ra­tion prob­a­bly came from the protests of Bud­dhist monks against South Vietnam’s reli­gious poli­cies. In June, 1963, a monk named Thich Quang Duc doused him­self with gaso­line and set him­self on fire in the middle of a busy inter­sec­tion in Saigon. The images of a figure in lotus posi­tion being con­sumed by flames cir­cu­lated around the world. Siwiec’s tragic self-​immolation, in con­trast, was quickly and com­pletely hushed up. The sig­nif­i­cance, rea­sons, and form of his act were noted only some twenty years later.

A panel dis­cus­sion in Kry­tyka Poli­ty­czna and video screen­ing of doc­u­men­ta­tion from Viet­nam, was held on Decem­ber 16, 2007. Par­tic­i­pants included Ngo Van Tuong, Viet­namese activist and jour­nal­ist, Prof. Paweł Boski, inter­cul­tural psy­chol­o­gist, and Joanna Warsza, cura­tor. The panel was mod­er­ated by Adam Ostolski.


Chosen arti­cles and reviews:


Sybille Korte, Katze odel Nudel­mas­chine, "Berliner Zeitung" 23.11.2007


Julia Slater, Spread­ing the Swiss Word in East­ern Europe,Turk­ish Weekly, 11.03.2009


Daniel Miller, Sta­dium X, Frieze, 15.05.09



Finissage of Stadium X
A series of Live Art Projects in the Derelict Communist Stadium

The 10-th Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw was built in 1955 from the rubble of a war-ruined Warsaw. It was to preserve Communism’s good name for forty years, by the mid-’80s, the site had stopped being used as a sports venue. It fell into ruin, becoming a post-Communist phantom. In the early 1990s, it was ‘revived’ by Vietnamese intelligentsia-cum-vendors and Russian traders, pioneers of capitalism who set up camping beds with all sorts of wares on the crown of the Stadium. Jarmark Europa suddenly became the only multicultural site in the city, a storehouse of biographies, equipment, and stories, as well as a major tourist attraction. A place became as an Asian suburb, a primeval forest, a realm of provisionality, controlled chaos and discount shopping, a sports club in demise, a work camp for archaeologists and botanists, the seat of Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with many others. Its different logic, its heterogeneity, its longstanding (non)presence in the middle of the post-Communist city, the invisibility of the Vietnamese minority, the debate around the development of a new National Stadium here for the Euro 2012 football cup, and the lack of a critical debate on Poland’s post-war architectural legacy — all these factors served as the inspiration for the curatorial project Finissage of Stadium X and later for the publication of a Reader: Stadium X-A Place That Never Was.

The 2006 project A Trip to Asia: An Acoustic Walk Around the Vietnamese Sector of the 10th-Anniversary Stadium by Anna Gajewska, Joanna Warsza and Ngo Van Tuong and a series of six ‘episodes’ of the Finissage of Stadium X in 2007–8: Boniek! by Massimo Furlan, On-Site Inspection, The End of Jarmark Europa – a debate, Radio Stadion Broadcasts by Radio Simulator and backyardradio, Palowanie/Pile Driving by annas kollektiv, and Schengen by Schauplatz International, were subjective excursions undertaken by artists, athletes, and activists into the reality of a Stadium ‘no longer extant’. The result were projects of a participative and semi-documentary nature (a walk, a football match, a Sunday radio station, a spectacle on a building site, an exhibition featuring real people) which touched upon issues of memory, deterioration, the power of imagination, ambiguities, and the future, as well as on the problematic exoticism of the place.


> BONIEK! | Massimo Furlan, Tomasz Zimoch

> ON-SITE INSPECTION | Joanna Warsza & Cezary Polak


> RADIO STADION BROADCASTS | Radio Simulator and backyardradio Berlin

> PILE DRIVING | annas kollektiv

> SCHENGEN | Schauplatz International