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Sturdy tractors

30 October 2006 – From the 1960s onwards, Polish farmers have built their own tractors from vehicle parts. The Polish artist Lukasz Skapski photographed 150 of these handmade agricultural machines, which are now on show at the Fons Welters Gallery.

On some photos, owners pose sitting on their tractors – often with a rather unflappable expression. At the exhibition a short documentary is shown as well, in which farmers tell about their tractor and what it can do.

The documentary shows that they are in fact quite enthusiastic about the machines they have assembled. With offhanded pride, they tell that they are superior to normal tractors, because they can climb steep slopes and because they never break down.

Many tractors also run much faster than the permitted 25 kilometre per hour; some owners claim that they can do 100.

The most recent tractor is from 2003, but most were built during the era of communism. For private persons, agricultural machines were hardly available. Out of necessity, they built their own.

Skapski praises the ‘anti-corporate’ character of the tractors. They are part of the anarchy and absurdity with which people adapted to the circumstances. His photos do justice to the tractors: sturdy, cute, and often rather bizarre.

Until 18 November. Fons Welters Gallery


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