We have met the curators of the 15th edition of the NARRACJE contemporary art festival, which will take place in 2024 in Niedźwiednik, Gdańsk. Zuzanna Mielczarek, an architect and researcher, and Mateusz Włodarek, a sociologist and cultural expert, were selected in the competition. The committee appreciated their concept „Uzdrowisko Niedźwiednik”, which aims to ask the question of whether a housing estate can become a year-round sanatorium for its residents?
TheNarrations Festival is organized by theInstitute of Urban Culture in cooperation with theGdańsk City Gallery, the event is under the media patronage of Architektura & Biznes. Each year, artworks presented in public space become a navigator of urban adventure, encouraging exploration and interaction. NARRACJE takes place in the fall, always in a different neighborhood, which becomes a reference point for curators and curators and an inspiration for artists.
The idea behind the 15th edition of NARRACJE
The main idea of the NARRACJE Festival is to create an artistic program(about 14 works = an hour and a half walk) in a selected part of the city, where viewers have the opportunity to get acquainted with the works of invited artists—mainly visual, light, interactive, performative, film projects, as well as andabove all, with sitespecific works created for specific locations in Gdańsk, which look at the existing geopolitical situation, topography and atmosphere of the neighborhood, and encourage creative discussion about universal as well as specifically local problems of a given place and community.
The festival, in its 15th edition, will explore Niedźwiednik—a residential area surrounded by forests, which is part of the Gdańsk district of Brętowo, and it was this area that the curatorial competition focused on. The commission working with Anna Mituś, Stach Szabłowski, Joanna Weltrowska and Anna Witkowska, unanimously, selected the project „Uzdrowisko Niedźwiednik” by Zuzanna Mielczarek and Mateusz Włodarek, which will be realized in 2024.
As part of the NARRACJE festival, we would like to reinterpret the function of a health resort. Why do we go to therapeutic and recreational places only on holidays, always remaining guests, tourists there? What if the estate where we live became our daily healing resort?—say Zuzanna Mielczarek and Mateusz Włodarek about their concept.
The winning curatorial project, as we read in the commission's justification, is distinguished by:
Highly inclusive and mass-readable concept, which additionally harmonizes with the character and atmosphere of Niedźwiednik, the city's original architectural and urban district, built in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The proposal addresses important dimensions and determinants of the contemporary standard of living of people living not only in this part of the city, but residential space in general. We liked that the proposal interestingly reaches out to the various expert competencies of those participating, without distinguishing between artistic, social, educational, natural, research-engineering or sensory. Without shying away from confronting the shortcomings and degradation of the settlement's infrastructure, it attempts to explore and regenerate its real potential in close proximity to the local community.
Archival photograph of the Niedźwiednik estate designed by Prof. Szczepan Baum and Danuta Dzierżanowska
© arch. Aleksandra Wilde
Niedźwiednik health resort
The main motive and inspiration for the concept of the NARRACJE festival was for Zuzanna Mielczarek and Mateusz Włodarek the architectural legacy of Prof. Szczepan Baum, which they got to know while conducting queries for the exhibition "Retroversje: Sobie mieszkania—Miastu Starówkę̨",held from May to the end of June 2023 at the Art Gallery EL Center in Elblag.
The exhibition featured archival blueprints for the reconstruction of Elblag's Old Town by Prof. Szczepan Baum and Prof. Ryszard Semka. While working on the exhibition, the curators (Zuzanna Mielczarek, Maciej Olewniczak, Emilia Orzechowska, Mateusz Włodarek) visited the house of Alexandra Wilde (Prof. Baum's daughter), located in Niedźwiednik, who told them about the history of the estate, architectural assumptions and its natural and social potential.
Both contemporary and captured in archival photographs, the views of Niedźwiednik brought to mind mountainous spa landscapes. Tall and lower blocks of flats, terraced houses, single-family houses harmonize with the natural landscape, in their diversity, but without remaining anonymous or invisible. Situated in the hills, however, the area does not have a sanatorium tradition, but an industrial and agricultural one. On the other hand, due to its unique location and microclimate, the area has a reputation as a friendly area for sports, recreation and leisure. It is this theme that we want to explore more deeply with the artists invited to create works at the festival," say Zuzanna Mielczarek and Mateusz Włodarek.
Meanwhile, this year's 14th edition of the festival, called "Tender Points," will take place on November 17 and 16 in the area of Gdańsk's Orunia district. In their curatorial concept, Katarzyna Sloboda and Jakub Gawkowski proposed that the artists preparing their works focus on the tender points of the district. More information can be found on the NARRACJE festival website.
elaborated: Dobrawa Bies
Curators of the 15th edition of the Narrations festival:
Zuzanna Mielczarek—architect, architecture researcher, curator. Graduate of the Faculty of Architecture in Delft, the Netherlands, PhD student at the Faculty of Architecture, Warsaw University of Technology in the field of housing. At the Faculty of Architecture in Brno, she runs the Inclusive Housing Studio together with Kacper Kepinski. Expert on innovative and social projects at PFR Real Estate. At the National Institute of Architecture and Urbanism, she curates exhibitions and popularization projects. Together with Kamil Trepka, she hosts the Housing Podcast, Krytyka Polityczna.
Mateusz Włodarek—cultural studies scholar, sociologist and architecture researcher. He graduated from the curatorial studies at the University of Arts in Poznań and is currently a doctoral student at the Department of Sociology at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. He worked at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art, where he specialized in documenting the latest phenomena in art. He is currently affiliated with the National Institute of Architecture and Urbanism, where he works on exhibition projects.