Fotograf Magazine

Nomadic State

On The Modern State’s Ruins

Like every utopia, Nomadic State is a country you can’t find in one particular place. It is not located on an offshore platform or a small island bought by a billionaire longing for his private kingdom. It is a country in constant move, materialising itself in the form of art pieces that question the very seriousness and sturdiness of the state as a construct.

A blob of off-white goo floats up and down, set in motion by the membrane of a speaker. For a fraction of a second, it hovers in the air like an organic abstract sculpture, resembling a miniature of a Barbara Hepworth piece. It’s called “Monument Generator For the Public Space of the Ideal State” and it’s a piece by Nomadic State–the duo of Stach Szumski and Karolina Mełnicka. The average life span of a monument in midtown Warsaw, where Mełnicka and Szumski are based, is even shorter than that of a human. It turns out that stone is even more fragile than flesh, and heroes quickly become public enemies. Nomadic State’s generator is a cheeky response to that problem–a device producing abstract monuments, erected and toppled within a second in a potentially never-ending cycle.

The generator was part of the temporary embassy that Mełnicka and Szumski established in Munich, but normally their state is, in fact, a nomadic one. The trips they set out on do not at all resemble carefully scheduled diplomatic visits. A fortuitous road trip to Siberia with a retired physician yearning for the USSR times? Check. Travelling through tourist resorts on the Sinai coast, abandoned before their completion? No problem. Going through the far reaches of northern Russia, Korea and Japan, the artists ask about the meaning of life, talking to local shamans (the project “In Search of the Meaning of Life”, 2018). In Egypt, they watch the political unrest shaking the mirage oasis of peace and luxury (project “Tourrorism all inclusive”, 2017). On the outskirts of Warsaw, they traverse Chinese supermarket like Indiana Jones excavating ancient cultural treasures (“Free Export”, 2018).

What is the agenda of Nomadic State then? It is certainly not another microstate created by rich libertarians who do not like to pay taxes. The duo’s projects are a quasi-parasitic being living in the cracks of the geopolitical network we know today. It is a state fueled by optimism and doubt at the same time, as demonstrated in Nomadic State’s logo. It refers to the UN’s logo, but with one key element missing–the Earth. Here, all that the laurel wreath surrounds, is a hollow circle. What it brings to mind, is the national symbol of Belarus. Its form is nearly identical to the one from the Soviet era, only the hammer and sickle are replaced with the hollow outline of the state, suggesting more of a feeling of deprivation than a new solid identity. Nomadic State is a land on the ruins of the post-war modern global order. In a way, we all are or will soon become its citizens

NOMADIC STATE is an artistic duo and fictitious microstate created by Stach Szumski and Karolina Mełnicka in 2015. It is a mobile project that fits into the existing geographical and social spaces.

PIOTR POLICHT is an art critic and curator, editor of “Szum” magazine and visual arts editor at, based in Warsaw and Szczecin, Poland.

Piotr Policht