The Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art (http://laznia.pl/) was one of the first public cultural institutions established in Poland after the transformations of 1989. It began as an initiative by local independent artists opposed to traditional models of art. Their only chance to realize their projects was to create their own art space – one free from censorship, prejudices, stereotypes and inhibitions. An old and dilapidated former public bathhouse on Jaskólcza street first opened in 1908, turned out to be an ideal space for showing art. In response to a grassroots initiative by artists, in 1998 the Gdansk City Council designated it a municipal cultural institution: the Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art.
The Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art is guided by its mission of showing and promoting contemporary art as a means of expressing universal values, and an element of world cultural heritage. The centre does so by showing the latest developments in contemporary art, showing the process of change that art is undergoing, engaging cultural and social phenomena taking place around the world, and educating the public about these issues by organising of exhibitions, artistic exchanges, innovative educational programmes, academic conferences, lectures, concerts and film screenings.
We have organised numerous concerts, film presentations, meetings and panel discussions. In response to the great need for these types of events, in 2012, we opened an affiliate in Nowy Port – Laznia 2 Centre for Contemporary Art – Centre for Art Education, where, in addition to visiting exhibitions, visitors can take advantage of an art reading room, library, open animation studio, and cinema, and attend a wide range of classes and workshops. He job of adapting the Laznia 2 facility for cultural purposes was entrusted to us in 2008 as part of the revitalization of the Nowy Port district, and, in accordance with the name of the institution, it is located in a former public bathhouse at Strajku Dokerów 5 Street.
The two institutions form an integrated space for artistic activities that extends from Lower Town to Nowy Port. Through the activities we organise, Gdansk’s visual identity has been enhanced through art installations and eye-catching actions involving Polish and foreign artists invited to cooperate with us.
We have become one of Poland’s leading exhibition venues. In 2012, the gallery was one of seven Polish galleries listed among the 400 top places showing contemporary art in the world, by the prestigious Art Spaces Directory, published by New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art in collaboration with ArtAsiaPacific. A year later, in the newsweekly Polityka, Piotr Sarzynski named us among the 20 best museums and galleries showing contemporary art in Poland. ?a?nia earned its reputation due to its rich artistic program, its promotion of young and independent art, and by cooperating with well-known foreign artists, such as Gerhard Richter, Gilbert & George and Stelarc.
Łaźnia 1 CCA and Łaźnia 2 CCA – CAE are much more than just centres for contemporary art. its branches in Lower Town and Nowy Port perform an important artistic and cultural function throughout Poland, and in terms of revitalization and education efforts aimed at deprived neighbourhoods in Gdańsk. The institution and its program is featured in the Regional Development and the Revitalisation Programmes. Our projects are highly popular and well received, which is why many of them have begun to be organised in the form of a series. These include:
Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdańsk – the main goal of this project, launched in 2004, is to create a permanent collection of artworks in public space. To date, several projects have contributed to the revitalization of deprived neighbourhoods in Gdańsk. In Lower Town, this includes: the establishment of the LKW Gallery (designed by Daniel Milohnica and Lex Rijkers), whose trademark is a lorry located under an overpass, and whose actions include transforming subways and bus stops; Invisible Gate, designed by Front Studio in New York; Dominik Lejman’s Staging Anonymous; Esther Stocker’s Uncovered; and Amber Drops by Fred Hatt and Daniel Schläpfer. In 2012, we began collaborating with the Pomeranian Metropolitan Railway. Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdańsk events are accompanied by academic conferences, a series of workshops and educational activities.
Cities on the Edge is a project referring to geographical locations that are “on the edge”, which defines the identity and traditions of port cities. The project involves agglomerations from around the world, allowing for a dialogue to be established about what is local and what is global, about our shrinking world and global e-village, about the increasingly strong trends toward unification and homogenisation. Through the project, cities “on the edge” become placed in the centre, providing a window that allows for a closer look at a given culture and community. Gdańsk has been involved with Cities on the Edge since 2008. Numerous events have touched upon the problems of exclusion and regeneration, and focused on opening up to non-European cultures, as well as promoting local artists and little-known places in Gdańsk, and establishing cooperation with foreign art centres. In 2001, this led to Poland’s first show of young Palestinian artists in the exhibition Here & Now. The project English Artist On the Tour simultaneously promoted the young Polish artists in Europe. In 2012, the exhibition Unwanted Guests was shown during the Liverpool Biennial as part of the City States project. We are also part of projects aimed at developing means for exchanges and cooperation in the Baltic Sea region (e.g., Art Line) and among the countries of Eastern Europe.
Art+Science Meeting is an ongoing series of exhibitions, conferences, lectures, educational programs and publications begun in 2011, describing and familiarising people with issues at the border between art and science. Progressive art is taking up the tasks of cultural studies, a trend commonly seen in critical theory, as well as in creative dialogues between art and biotechnology, genetics, computer science, nanotechnology, research into artificial life and artificial intelligence, and many engineering disciplines.
This is not merely the result of new aspirations that have arisen independently within art, but reflects the outcome of complex circumstances, the influence of a wide variety of factors, and the rise of new social and cultural trends. Among these is undoubtedly the process of transformation that notions about science – its status, instruments and methods of operation – have undergone in the 20th century.
Artists constitute a “sensitive” social group that is actively engaged in confronting important issues facing our civilization. They are not afraid to talk about things that are still relatively unexplored. Through their work, they pose questions to which science – demanding hard evidence – as yet has no answer.
The project has included a series of workshops, concerts and lectures on experimental music entitled Soundplay and Man Machine.
Incubator is a program presenting and promoting young art, showing what is most interesting in it, and revealing new artistic languages. Its aim is to show both visitors and curators the enormous potential of the young generation. The program offers a forum for discussion, and includes plans to organize individual and group exhibitions, which provide a good opportunity for sharing experiences. We want Incubator to become a platform for bringing together members of the young art scene and to contribute to explorations of trends emerging within it.
In Progress is a regular series of meetings focused on experimental contemporary music, with musical events often being combined with theatre, para-theatrical activities, dance, film and audiovisual art. It is a project that allows you to not only listen, but also to understand the latest trends in Polish and foreign music.
The Artist-in-Residence Programme is a new point in the programme of Łaźnia CCA, which we plan to expand in coming years. Artist-in-residences, mainly in the visual arts, are being offered to both Polish and foreign artists. Some of these will be geared toward a specific objective, usually an exhibition, while others are focused more on a process. An important element of the project is working with the local community – learning, experimenting and promoting mobility in participants. The programme will include residencies and curatorial and intensive courses taught by specialists in the fields of curating and art criticism.
Parakino is a intended as means of showing the broader links between film and the visual arts, and for considering film language as an aspect of aesthetic discourse. Screenings of films selected by guest curators will highlight, through the lens of film and video, phenomena taking place around the globe. Parakino provides an inviting setting for viewers to actively participate in discussion on the role of video and film in the context of the language of new media. The history of experimental film and expanded cinema will be used to examine the future prospects of the fine arts, and especially video art, which is essentially an extension in the field of art of filmmakers’ attempts to move beyond the cinema, trying always to remain a step ahead of technology in their radical actions.
The Festival In Out, ongoing since 2005, is a competition for works of video, animated, experimental, documentary, and feature film etudes. The competition is open to young artists under 35 years of age. Each edition focuses on different artistic and social problems. The event aims to create a platform for discussion between artists, and to examine the current state of the art of cinema, as well as to encourage reflection on the world and its problems.
Mystics – Writers – Lunatics is a monthly series of meetings with authors, ongoing since 2010. Its purpose is to acquaint participants with the works of major figures in the alternative literature scene. The invited authors represent different forms of presence in so-called ‘underground literature’. They all have one thing in common – their unwillingness to accept the world as it is and their contestation of its repressive socio-political reality. Bringing these colourful characters together offers a new perspective for assessing literature that was deemed unacceptable by the public in the 1980s and 1990s.
KinoPort – a studio cinema located in the Łaźnia 2 CCA, operated with the needs of the local residents of Nowy Port in mind. A wide range of European cinema, with particular emphasis on Polish and American independent productions, also attracts visitors from throughout Gdańsk. In addition to its regular studio repertoire, KinoPortallows guests to see works of world cinema, and to take part in educational projects, surveys and festivals featuring special guests.
Creating a typical local cinema has allowed us to establish ties of mutual cooperation and appreciation with the local community, but, due to the fact that it is a part of the Łaźnia Centre for Contemporary Art, the cinema also presents its repertoire to the entire Tri-city region – including progressive and innovative films, but also works with roots in the history of film, painting, and music.
The Animate Gdańsk open animation film studio, located in the Łaźnia 2 CCA, is a place where top-quality hardware and audio-visual software allow you to create movies using the latest computer techniques. Plans for the studio include various workshops and competitions for children, young people and people involved in animation professionally. Classes in studio film will show young people how a passive consumer of media can become a creative filmmaker, with experienced animators presenting the latest software and animation techniques. One of the most important of the studio’s many goals is showing works of the Polish School of Animation and organizing meetings with the creators of animated films.
Educational activities play important role in the Łaźnia CCA programme. Art classes combined with studio workshops integrate traditional curatorial guided tours of exhibitions with lectures aimed at introducing key issues in contemporary art and artistic workshops. The aim of the educational program is to examine social contexts in contemporary art, both by showing the diversity the forms and various paths this takes. The workshops are conducted for children and adolescents by well-known Polish artists. The artists tailor their own programmes, making reference to their own work. The aim of the workshop series is to stimulate creativity and a willingness to engage in artistic activity among children and adolescents (with and without disabilities), as well as to motivate them to act and think creatively, moving beyond the schema of classroom learning. Participation in the workshop will help participants better understand, become accustomed to, and become more involved in the arts and culture in general, as well as providing an impetus to visit cultural institutions in the future. In addition, our arts education activities are aimed at supporting initiatives to help promote learning and education among seniors.
The Łaźnia 2 CCA houses a library and reading room, by the Provincial and Municipal Public Library in Gdańsk, offering access not only to traditional books, but also to electronic resources. The facilities available include a modern library equipped to serve the needs of blind and visually impaired.