'Agitprop/Anti-Agitprop train' consisted of two model trains at either end of a long railway track that ran the length of the gallery wall. One train was made from historic photographs of 'Agitprop trains' mounted bill-board style on the railway carriage chassis'.
Agitprop trains have a particular resonance with my practice. I often find myself working on projects and with arts orgainisations that have a specific remit to work with new audiences. The most notable result is that the work is always shown outside the context of the art gallery. Its a notably egalitarian way to bring culture to groups who might ordinarily assume art galleries are not for them. Ironically in this context the medium has been brought back into an art gallery.
Railway carriage that's been painted and turned into a travelling cinema.
Agitprop Theatre railway carriage.
Photo Doug Atfield
At the other end of the line was a train made up of cattle wagons. Inside were historical images of people being loaded onto real cattle wagon trains ready to be deported to Siberia. Most of these images were taken secretly.
The following texts accompanied this work in the gallery:
In collaboration with Hitler, Eastern Poland had been annexed by Stalin at the beginning of the war. Afterwards, in the Soviet dominated post-war environment of Eastern Europe, this new and morally dubious border was upheld. As a result of its loss of territory in the East, Poland was given new land in the West taken from Germany. To compensate the Poles, Stalin had basically given them part of someone else’s country and effectively shifted country sideways.
My father’s family had been deported during World War Two from Eastern Poland to Siberia by Stalin’s NKVD police during an ethnic and political cleansing operation in 1940. The family were transported in railway box cars. They weren’t imprisoned there; the vast empty wilderness meant there was nowhere to escape to. After the war my father resettled in England, but his relatives were repatriated from the Soviet Union to a newly acquired part of Poland.
(original image John Vachon 1946 - on the way back from Siberia.)
Our Polish relatives were resettled in the previously German territory. However, while Stalin was still alive, it was inadvisable to visit them. This was despite the fact that Stalin had inadvertently made the country geographically just that little bit closer.