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//Piss off!// - Rafał Jakubowicz

Piss off! - Rafał Jakubowicz

What do you want? Who let you in?

‘We only wanted to ask whether Señor might spare some…’

‘We just wanted to ask, if…’

‘All right, all right, out! Right now! Piss off!’

(a dialogue from  Luis Buñuel’s film The Milky Way, 1969)

 

The Programme for the Prevention of Begging is a campaign which, since 2008, has been pursued by local authorities as part of a grand promotion of the Poznań City know-how project, following a directive issued to that effect by the city’s President, Ryszard Grobelny.  A team of representatives of the Department of Health and Social Affairs, the Centre for Family Help, the College of Social Services Employees, the Border Service, the Headquarters of the City Police as well as the City Security Services prepared a suitable programme and undertook to implement it[ 1].

From the web page Poznan.pl: ‘Beginning is a complex matter, linked to a broad social-economic context. It can involve both adults and children or young people. (…) Individuals engaged in this activity can be encountered frequently in the streets of Poznań. However, begging does not always result from problems connected with the person’s functioning in society, such as poverty, destitution, unemployment, homelessness or drug dependency. In the common perception, begging represents a particularly acute expression of the existential and social degradation of an individual; and yet, today, begging is often a deliberate choice, a recipe for easy money, or even a lifestyle choice. For these reasons, one ought to be aware that the alms offered will not necessarily be spent on satisfying basic survival needs, but can encourage the beggar’s desire to persist with a drug habit or with obtaining money through deception. It is worth remembering that there are many ways of deceitfully coaxing money out of the public. Apart from putting out a hand, imploring or flaunting one’s misfortune, there is also active begging.’ [2]

In 2009, the first phase of the campaign started, which was directed at the inhabitants of Poznań. Numerous posters appeared on various media of mass display, such as backlit billboards or hoardings. They showed an image of paving slabs; slogans written against this background read, ‘Begging is a choice, not a necessity’, ‘If there are no givers, there will be no takers’ and ‘Let’s put a stop to begging in Poznań’. In the photograph, you can see the billboard next to the Imperial Castle (photo 1).

In 2010, the next phase of the campaign took place, this time addressed to tourists and clients of the restaurants in the Old City. [3] All over Poznań, new posters appeared, on which you could see various ‘begging bodies’ [4]. The posters carried the slogan familiar from the previous phase, ‘Begging is a choice, not a necessity’. This photo was taken in the lavatory of the bar Barcode in the market square (photo 2).

These posters were also put in the display cabinets of the subway leading to the platforms of the PKP Poznań Central railway station (photo 3).

In 2011, as part of the third phase of the campaign [5], gadgets were produced. This time, the target group consisted of drivers and shoppers in commercial centres. At BP petrol stations, car air-fresheners with an intensive smell were given out (photo 4).

On the reverse of the air-freshener, the message read, ‘Don’t give money, help sensibly’. It is worth noting the characteristic typography – one of the elements of Poznań’s visual ID (photo 5).

In shopping centres, including Tesco supermarkets, plastic tokens for putting in supermarket trolleys were given out, shaped as a 2-zloty coin (this had an unintentional ironic effect; photo 6).

On the reverse of the coin, you could see the free helpline number 0800440450, open 24/7, where consultants provided callers with information about how to behave when face to face with beggars [6] (photo 7).

The relentless campaign, which has been carried out by the City know-how project, has combined – under the aegis of city PR – propaganda, advertising and promotion. The project is reminiscent of the advertising campaign for the insecticide Raid – the only difference is that it does not concern insects.

 

Rafał Jakubowicz – (born 1974)

Artist, art critic, author of installations and films. Graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, where he now lectures.

 


[4] In the phrase used by Lidia Płatek, one of the brains behind the campaign, when talking to with me.