The Polish word 'sztama', pronounced 'shtamah', brings to mind interesting connotations. It smacks of boys’ solidarity. A dictionary of the Polish language explains it in rather innocent terms, as “a relation between friends or companions entailing mutual help.” It is derived from German 'der Stamm', which means tribe. However, many examples could be quoted that analyse how this seemingly positive phenomenon transforms into group aggression.
Axelrad, in a critical way, draws upon the deeply rooted mixture of fascination, fear and prejudice that gave rise to the western European fantasy of tribalism, ‘shtamah’. A crucial thread present in the exhibition is also the notion of a sacred and enticing character of uniforms, which symbolically ties the wearer to the ranks of the army, police or another military group.
The exhibition will be toured to Copperfield, London, 20 September – 18 November 2017.