Iwo Borkowicz
Alicja Biała
Dominik Paździor


Concordia Design

Poznań, Poland


Six totem poles by Alicja Biała and Iwo Borkowicz have been erected at The Bay of Art, in Poznań, Poland. They symbolise the relationship between human and the forces of nature, which were once perceived as mystical ancestors.

A QR code has been placed on each totem pole. After scanning the code, specific scientific reports and statistics will be displayed on a smartphone. Each of the six totem poles refers to a different environmental issue.

The sculptures that make up the installation are hand painted by Alicja Biała using patterns characteristic of the artist’s work. They consist of a three-dimensional image that takes up an area of 400 square meters. The different proportions, colours and patterns reflect the results of research, and provide statistics on the condition of the environment. As a result, we can visualise the scale of timber felling, air pollution, overexploitation of fisheries and more. The giant totem poles, in bright colours, draw attention to themselves not only due to their aesthetics, their role is to encourage and prompt passers-by to interact.

This totem pole illustrates the problem of high air pollution in Poland. It also provides a comparison to the air pollution situation in other selected European countries.

Each element of the pole shows what part of the population of chosen countries is subjected to the above-average concentration of particulate matter PM10 – a harmful mixture of particulates in air, in the years between 2011 and 2016. The level of air pollution in Poland is the highest among the EU countries. Today, every eighth death in Poland is connected to air pollution.

European Environment Agency (Link)

This totem pole shows how much water is used in the production of 1 kcal of different types of food.

Meat production (especially the production of beef) needed to feed an entire population uses significantly more resources such as water, energy or agricultural land than growing vegetables, fruit or cereal. Moreover the meat production industry is responsible for the emission of 58% of greenhouse gases as a result of agricultural activities while producing only 18% of the calories of food.

Use of land – Our World in Data (Link)
Water consumption – Water Footprint Network (Link)
Other information – The Guardian (Link)

The shape of this totem pole illustrates what has happened to the plastic produced throughout history.

Less than one tenth of the plastic produced has been recycled. The problem of global pollution caused by plastic has increased significantly. Plastic that pollutes the natural environment poses a great risk for its inhabitants. Approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped in the ocean each year alone.

Our World in Data (Link)

This totem pole illustrates the fact that a forest area comparable to the size of Poland disappears every year.

Deforestation is mainly caused by agriculture, clearing of natural forests and the mining industry. In 2016 the deforestation reached its peak with 29.7 m hectares of forests cleared. Unusually tragic fires in Brazil and Indonesia also had an impact on the exceptionally high loss of forest area.

Deforestation – Global Forrest Watch (University of Maryland) (Link)
Poland’s surface – PWN encyclopedia (Link)

The shape of this totem pole is based on reports on the condition of marine and ocean fisheries in the world.

It illustrates the fact that the fishery industry in its current form because of overfishing and the issue of by-catch, is soon going to lead to the collapse of marine population. The population of big fish in the seas and oceans has decreased decreased by 70 percent.

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Link)
Our World in Data – Fish stocks within sustainable levels (Link)
Link Marine Ecology Progress Series – Fish biomass in the world ocean (p. 512, 155-166)

In the last 50 years the population of wild animals has decreased by 60%. The spiralling extinction of the population of wild animals is caused, among other things, by urbanisation, the conversion of natural land into agricultural land, hunting, poaching, climate change and pollution. If the present trends continue, around one million species will disappear in the coming decades.

WWF Living Planet Report 2018 (Link)
United Nations Sustainable Development (Link)

It took a while to select topics and it was quite a dynamic process. In the beginning, a broad spectrum of issues was contemplated. We wanted to create six pillars of different natures, but of equal gravity. In terms of civilisation, in many respects we have been going in the right direction in the last decade. However, the opposite unfortunately must be said about the environmental condition of the Earth. Therefore, due to the critical situation of human influence on the environment, we have decided to concentrate on this topic. The next step in creating the totem poles was to select and verify the data and its sources. We took great care to make sure that information we used came from reliable sources.
– Iwo Borkowicz

Public space allows art to reach everyone, not only a narrow group of gallery and museum-goers. The totem poles are based on statistics which we wanted to include in the public space. The Information reflects our amorality as humans. The statistics are not only dedicated to one social group – they direct the message to the whole of society. We are curious to know whether the facts will be rejected or accepted, and if our intentions will be interpreted correctly. The work is not intended as an attack but as an invitation to enter into discussion, with a view towards evolving as a society.
– Alicja Biała


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