‘School Reading’ (‘Lektury Szkolne’, 22min) is a film exploring the battle over education, morality and values between two extremely polarised and contradictory groups in Poland that do not share any common ground.
The artist narrates the footage with fragments of 3 school books that were part of the obligatory reading for 10 year old students. The protagonists of the 3 stories are children of the same age, living at the turn of the 19th and 20th century, who were victims of an uneducated, conservative society, where child abuse had been morally accepted and justified.
‘School Reading’ juxtaposes the children’s folk tales with clips documenting the political war between the conservative religion and liberal individualism, the progressive and nationalists; as well as the statements of the top hierarchy of the Catholic Church – the institution which holds undoubtedly the most prominent power in the country. The artist has also incorporated home video of her First Communion, allowing for an extremely intimate access point for an understanding of the trauma and conditioning implicit in Polish culture. Young Karpowicz embodies the vulnerability of all children who are forced to follow the religious and establishment ideology without giving conscious consent. The film elucidates cycles of abuse and pathological behaviour patterns underpinned by customs and traditions that are deeply rooted in Polish society. Karpowicz exposes a rigid moral matrix, resistant to change and impervious to the needs of the people it governs. Her ‘fatherland’ now bound in submission by supposedly shared values, which have been questioned and challenged by the Women’s Strike, a grass-root movement that shook the country.
In ‘School Reading’ the artist dives deeply into her subconsciousness to summon painful memories of her childhood education and the emotional impact of the literature forced on children at a formative age. Karpowicz unflinchingly autopsies the ‘pure and innocent’ acceptance of the values taught by the Catholic Church to reveal a significantly more sinister reality. Through this difficult and uncomfortable examination Karpowicz endeavours to analyse the current cultural fault lines in Poland, a country where divisions are deepening and having a minority opinion may lead to violence. By exposing the tense public debate on children’s education, Karpowicz leaves the audience with a sense of unease and uncertainty about the future of the country and the fate of the younger generation.