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How to remake the Alteration? The 13th edition of the Gdansk Narrations festival is behind us

22 of November '22

November, let alone its second half, is not associated with a month or an aura conducive to outdoor art festivals. We prefer to sit indoors, slightly bored, dreaming of summer and sunshine. For 13 years now, the Narrations festival of contemporary art, presented in the public space of Gdansk, has been trying to break us out of this marasm. Each year, the organizers choose a different neighborhood where artists present their installations, performances and interventions. The edition under the slogan "We were, we are, we will be" held on two frosty evenings on November 18 and 19 concerned the small district of Przeróbka.

The Narrations Festival is organized by the Institute of Urban Culture in cooperation with the Gdansk City Gallery, and the curators of this year's edition, which Architektura & Biznes covered under its media patronage, were Emilia Orzechowska, responsible for the art thread, and Bogna Świątkowska, dealing with the city thread. The curators invited fourteen artists from all over Poland to show their works at EXPO Przeróbka. They were: Paweł Błęcki, Natalia Budnik, Małgorzata Kuciewicz and Simone De Iacobis (Centrala), Elżbieta Jabłońska, Krystyna Jędrzejewska-Szmek, Mirek Kaczmarek, Robert Kuśmirowski, Diana Lelonek, Piotr Pawlak, Joanna Rajkowska, Alicja Rogalska, Katarzyna Roj, Mikołaj Szpaczyński, Maryna Tomaszewska, Jasmina Wójcik, Paweł Żukowski.

Uczestnicy festiwalu Narracje mogli brać udział w zorganizowanych oprowadzaniach

Participants of the Narrations festival could take part in organized guided tours

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Alteration that is?

As we read in the curatorial concept:

Alteration has so little, and could have everything - it is an unlimited potential, the elements of which can be intuited, discussed, designed. What monuments can we envision as we look to the future of the Przeróbka? What ideas and attitudes will we elevate to a pedestal?

This is the question the curators addressed to the invited artists, giving them the spaces of the Przeróbka district. A small district (inhabited by about 3 thousand people), working-class, somewhat forgotten - "disappeared", located in the eastern part of Gdansk, a transit district, often only passed by on the way to the beaches of Stogi. It has no significant institutions, parks or churches, and its diverse development consists of brick tenements, blocks of flats, single-family houses with gardens, and even skyscrapers. Until the 20th century Przeróbka was full of rafters who dried ("processed") grain on its grounds, then the thriving Rolling Stock Repair Plant turned it into a working district.

Oprowadzanie kuratorskie wystartowało spod festiwalowego punktu info Witacz

The curatorial tour was led by Emila Orzechowska, and the first point on the tour was the work of Paweł Żukowski

photo: Dobrawa Bies

the district through the eyes of artists

We could listen to the entire history of the district and many tidbits during the curatorial walk, led by Emilia Orzechowska, starting at 5 p.m., November 18 from under the festival info point at 10 Siennicka St. Despite minus temperatures and piercing wind, enthusiastic, warmly dressed crowds with thermoses in their hands spilled out of the streetcars every now and then. Every half hour, both on Friday and on a snowy Saturday, guided tours of the installations and grounds of the district were organized.

The tour of Przeróbka was aided by a map with all the art activities marked. The first point on the trail was Pawel Zhukowski's "WITACZ", creating a contemporary city gate, inspired by the carded signboard of Spawmet (one of the plants still in operation). The artist reproduced the lettering, colors and form of the signboard, giving it a new meaning.

Płuca Ostatki

From left: "LUNG_2022" Mirek Kaczmaryczyk; "Ostatki" by Alicja Rogalska

photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Next on the route we could watch a film by Mikolaj Szpaczynski, and approach and listen to the "ood breathing", scenographic and even camp installation "LUNG_2022". This colorful sculpture stood in place of the now-defunct fountain by Zygfryd Korpalski, depicting two shells facing each other, which to passersby, were often associated with lungs, hence the popular name "lungs of a railroad worker from ZNTK." New Lungs, interpreted by Mirek Kaczmarczyk, is an aggressively colorful, anatomical form that attempts to draw attention to the environmental crisis, among other things.

„Ostatki” Alicji Rogalskiej

"Ostatki" by Alicja Rogalska

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

The festival-goers' tour was led to the other side of the street, where Diana Lelonek was waiting for us, with the first part of the installation titled. "We were, we are, we will be," It was a rather inconspicuous intervention in an urban concrete neighborhood, where the artist placed stripped-down, unwanted elements of "shredded non-place." Then Emilia Orzechowska led the frozen crowd to the Dead Vistula River, where on a ping-pong table Alicja Rogalska created a "Ostatki" - a lightbox with a photo of a lavishly set table of food consisting of industrial waste and household leftovers. The artist thus talks about the time of Shrovetide and the fact that the carnival is coming to an end and an ecological disaster is coming, which we can prevent by changing our consumerist lifestyle.

Kuratorka Emila Orzechowska przed dawnym barem Bajka

Curator Emila Orzechowska in front of the former Bajka bar

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Another point on the route was the atmospheric sound installation "Sączki," performed by Katarzyna Roj and Piotr Pawlak, who alluded to irrigation fields that purify sewage, telling their story, portrayed somewhat like a fairy tale. Meanwhile, on the route to Sączki, at the former Bajka bar, it was possible to leave an object, which Martyna Tomaszewska will place in a time capsule.

In addition to male and female artists, the festival also involved the youngest residents of Przeróbka, who together with Jasmina Wójcik created the "Children's Gazette", which was distributed during the event.

Odwiedzający festiwal mogli ogrzać się pod instalacją „Ciepło o mewach”

Visitors to the festival could warm up under the installation "Warmth about Seagulls"

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Malgorzata Kuciewicz and Simone De Iacobis of the Centrala design group, together with Natalia Budnik, offered a distinctive look at the world of animals. Their project, "Warmth about Seagulls," encouraged participants to think consciously about heat and energy and use it wisely, based on how seagulls function. We gathered in front of the nesting platform of the gray gull, and were warmed by infrared heaters. The flow of energy, invisible to the human eye, is revealed by thermal imaging cameras.

Druga część instalacji Diany Lelonek „Byliśmy, jesteśmy, będziemy”

The second part of Diana Lelonek's installation "We were, we are, we will be"

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

After a longer walk, we ended up at the second part of the installation "We were, we are, we will be" by Diana Lelonek, who used stone to refer to the motto of the monument located years ago in Przeróbka. Standing in a "non-place", we listened to stories about inter-species pacts.

„Uroczysko” w wykonaniu Krystyny Jędrzejewskiej-Szmek

"Uroczysko" performed by Krystyna Jędrzejewska-Szmek

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Another artist invited to Narrations was Krystyna Jędrzejewska-Szmek, who drew on the district's natural resources to create "Charming", in which she hung pennants, like laundry on strings, dyed with naturally occurring plants in Przeróbka. The fabrics featured images of non-human residents of the district.

Wideo Elżbiety Jabłońskiej „Przeróbka, Przerabka, Trojan, Troyl”

Elzbieta Jablonska's instillation "Przeróbka, Przerabka, Trojan, Troyl".

photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Narrations is also an unusual opportunity to visit places and buildings that are normally inaccessible. This year's edition made it possible to explore the grounds of the Railway and Municipal Rolling Stock Repair Plant, in whose halls several art installations were placed. Using the space of one of the halls, Elzbieta Jablonska created an extremely atmospheric and mysterious atmosphere. Her work "Przeróbka, Przerabka, Trojan, Troyl" encourages sensitive observation and learning about the history of the place of the people who created it.

Praca Joanny Rajkowskiej „Wkrótce wszystko się zmieni”

Joanna Rajkowska's chakra "Soon everything will change".

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

Leaving the hall, we found ourselves in a place of power and magic created by Joanna Rajkowska. The artist, fascinated by Brazilian beliefs, created a chakra from a crystal brought back from a trip to Brazil. "Soon everything will change" was dug into the place where the artist believes the heart of the district should beat. The work was accompanied by a musical performance "Soon_Everything Will Change," performed by James Oldham, Paulina Araśniewicz, Maciej Naczek, Julia Ziętek and Tomasz Szczepański, as well as the Tadeusz Tylewski Choir of the Gdansk Medical University.

Robert Kuśmirowski umieścił swoją instalację w jednej z hal hali ZNTKiM

"DUSTribute II" Robert Kuśmirowski

photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

The walk ended with two works placed in the halls of ZNTKiM. Robert Kuśmirowski created a scenographic space as if from Tarkovsky's film "Stalker." "DUSTribute II" placed in the Mithril hall, could be "peeped at" through peculiar peepholes, and buzzing sounds added to the horror of the installation.

Kuśmirowski Światy

from left: the interior of Kuśmirowski's installation; "Worlds" by Pawel Blecki

Photo: Dobrawa Bies; Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

The Rojam Hall was taken over by Pawel Blycki, who suspended inside it, referring to traditional worlds made of wafers. "Worlds" made for Narrations are overscaled objects covered with artificial flowers, collected by the artist in Tricity cemeteries. Błęcki combines distant worlds of handicraft with mass production.

Uczestnicy festiwalu w drodze do klubu festiwalowego DNO

Festival participants on their way to the Kestiwal Klub DNO

Photo: Bogna Kociumbas-Kos, IKM

After such an intense walk, there was nothing left to do but to direct one's steps to the DNO Festival Club, where, to the sounds of electronic music served by the Gnojki Collective, among others, one could warm up by dancing and sipping mulled wine.

The festival ended late at night on November 19, and despite the frosty weather, it was warmly received by hundreds of visitors - not only residents of Gdansk. Check out the reactions and discussions on Narration's FB.

We are already inviting you to next year's 14th edition of Narration and remember, be sure to stock up on warm hats, scarves and gloves and thermoses, not necessarily with tea alone.

The festival was visited and reported by: Dobrawa Bies

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