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Neighborhood. A visual essay on Krakow and a social action

Dobrawa Bies
25 of January '22

The Kacper Greń, a graduate of the Faculty of Industrial Forms at the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow, currently studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw, has been awarded the international diploma review Graduation Projects 2021 (2D). In the awarded work "Neighborhood - a visual essay on Krakow and a social action," he points out that the space around us is worthy of attention and discovery, as we should all decide the direction of our place of residence. The area of Krakow he focused on is District I, and the result of his work is a book with inserts encouraging urban mini-activism.

Obwoluta książki jest jednocześnie mapą

The book's wrapper is also a map

© Kacper Greń

Graduation Projects is an international review, and its participants are undergraduate and graduate design graduates from the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary, as well as citizens of these countries studying outside the Visegrad Group countries. The diplomas are judged in two categories: 2D and 3D - applied graphics (including web design, usable active projects, or screen applications) and industrial design (including textiles, clothing, glass or ceramics).

Co takiego kryje się w okolicy?

the main inspiration was everyday life

© Kacper Greń

urban miniactivism

Kacper Greń's project focuses on District I of Krakow, it is in its space that the author was looking for ungentrified and city-forming places. It is these that he considered, to be particularly valuable, taking into account the fact that there are fewer and fewer of them every year. He documented each of them with the help of photographs.

The purpose of my project was to point out that the space that surrounds us every day is worthy of attention and hides a lot to discover. At the same time, I intended to show the phenomena occurring especially in today's Cracow, and at the same time in many other attractive tourist cities of the world. In addition to these two aspects, I included the issue of urban mini-objectivity - the possibility of expressing one's feelings or opinion about what is happening around us. The idea was to draw attention to the fact that we can all speak out on what are the directions of development of our place of residence, and to propose mini-tools to serve this cause," says the author.

Zdjęcia w książce

The book is a visual essay with numerous photographs

© Kacper Greń

The result of the work of a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Cracow is a book - a visual essay - along with inserts: a wrapper-map, a leaflet-poster and a set of posters and stickers. Such a set, or its elements, can be distributed by bookstores, museums, art galleries, cafes, bars, city information points, as well as by individuals or city activists.

Fragment książki

The author searched for ungentrified and urbanizing places
and documented them photographically

© Kacper Greń

interview with Kacper Gren

Dobrawa Bies: The subject of the visual essay is District I of Krakow, why exactly this place?

Kacper Greń: I chose this district early on in my work on the project, because it encompasses the Old Town along with Kazimierz and Wesoła - until recently the site of the University Hospital, as well as the Rakowicki Cemetery, among others. It is this area that we identify with the "real" Krakow, and it is this area that exhausts the concept of the center. A little later, I decided that as part of the project I would like to address gentrification, its causes, course and, above all, its effects. I also knew that my time was limited to one semester. Investigating a larger area of the city would probably just not be possible in that time.

Książka dotyczy Dzielnicy I Krakowa

The project focuses on District I of Krakow

© Kacper Greń

Dobrawa: What were your inspirations? Please tell us about the project work.

Kacper: Last fall, when I was already walking around the city with my camera, I often came across a Cricoteka poster with a quote from Tadeusz Kantor: "The best matter for creating a work of art is everyday, banal, boring activities, with which no one attaches any hopes." I was just working with this everyday life at the time, and it was my main inspiration. I studied it in the city, and the city as such is a complex organism. It results from and bears witness to historical processes, but it also happens here and now, from day to day. It must ensure the functioning of many social groups and reconcile their interests. In my opinion, the most important of these groups, obviously internally diverse, are the residents. And in tourist cities, it is often not they who are the object of most concern for decision-makers. I have listed in my work six phenomena that I believe are characteristic of such cities, including Krakow. These are gentrification, tourism, uniformity, depopulation, polarization and revitalization. On the streets, I looked for city-forming centers, and I considered small and local places, such as long-established stores and artisans' establishments, to be such. With increasing tourist traffic, they are diminishing in favor of chain stores or places serving visitors and their entertainment. For locals, life is becoming less and less comfortable, eventually forcing them to move. In addition to the noise, or the lack of infrastructure serving everyday life, the increase in rental prices is also acute.

Projekt Okolica, plakaty

the paper details six phenomena: gentrification, tourism,
uniformization, depopulation, polarization and revitalization

© Kacper Greń

Dobrawa: To whom is your project addressed and how can it help save the city?

Kacper: The project's addressees are mainly residents of Krakow. I decided to approach the demonstration of the complex topic of the processes taking place in their city from several angles. The visual essay is supposed to work mainly sensationally. I relied on a sense of nostalgia, a longing for something that is being lost in the city, indicating that there is still a chance to slow down the process or give it a different course. I also decided to show statistical data describing this problem. It seems to me that they can help capture what many instinctively feel, living in Krakow on a daily basis. Such a broad form can also more easily reach a wider audience and people with different sensitivities. Some are reached by drawings or photographs, others are more appealing by diagrams. Together, however, they form a fairly coherent whole. In addition to getting people interested in their own place of life, or showing the processes that rule it, I also wanted to encourage people to fight for it. That's what this next aspect, or urban miniactivism, is all about.

Statystyki w książce

In the publication you will also find statistical data

© Kacper Greń

Dobrawa: What does this miniactivism mean to you?

Kacper: Not all of us feel up to taking part in demonstrations or protests. Most are unlikely to participate in such actions, which does not at all mean that they are indifferent to the fate of the country or the localities in which they live. Many limit the expression of their opposition to private conversations. This is where mini-activism comes from. It consists of small activities that, in my opinion, can first of all develop a certain sense of solidarity and struggle for a common cause. They are not demanding and can be undertaken, for example, during a walk. Perhaps in some cases such a small activity will later become an inspiration for more? Among other things, I have prepared stickers and posters. Stickers are of two types, based on the phenomena I mentioned earlier. One with the inscription "Webeg you not to touristize" can be pasted on the door of a place that we consider important and worth preserving. On the other hand, I would place "Gentrified" where such a place has been lost to, for example, a bank headquarters or another Starbucks.

Plakaty w przestrzeni miejskiej

the project encourages miniactivism

© Kacper Greń

Dobrawa: Do you think there is a lack of alternative forms of publication on the market, and if so, what should they look like?

Kacper: I think there is definitely a lack of this type of publication. Such experimental forms, through their nature, often have much more impact than a traditional book, consisting only of text. Also, not everyone has the time or inclination to spend time on reading, and alternative forms provide an opportunity to absorb content in a different way. Such a format, in addition to the story spun by the creator, also gives the viewer a wide opportunity for interpretation and involves him or her in some way in the narrative. Another advantage is their permanence and a certain democratic nature. Exhibitions last a certain amount of time and most often require an appearance in a certain place. A book can wander and reach a wider audience in various ways. It can be bought for oneself, given to someone else as a gift, passed on after reading, or borrowed. In this way, information organically has a chance to spread. Of course, there are also limitations, such as cost, among other things. Experimental books are more expensive to produce, which is the reason for their frequent high price. I wish things were different, but that's why I'm only talking about a certain amount of democracy. It also follows that an experimental book by itself will not change the world, but it can be a certain contribution or inspiration to it.

Dobrawa: Thank you for the interview.


The topic of Krakow, and Merry in particular, was discussed by students during the interdisciplinary Spaces of Concern workshop .

Wesoła wasalso discussed during the16th. EDITION OF THE INTERNATIONAL BIENNALE OF ARCHITECTURE in Krakow, during which, architects, urban planners, city councilors, design students, sociologists andactivists, divided into three groups, worked to identify the spatial-functional-communicative potential of Wesoła, so that the newly emerging district would respond to the needs of the city's residents and become an open, friendly space in the city center. You can read about the results of these workshops and the Biennial as a whole in the December issue of A&B [see A&B 12/2021].

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