Gdansk, November 2018

Research trips to four cities in Europe

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Research trips to four cities in Europe

LAZNIA CCA invited Institute for Public Space Research (IBPP), based at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw to colaborate on research trips and publication which was published this year. There were four research teams consisting of eight researchers: four from Institut and four recriuted in march 2017 within the open call. Four cities had been choosen: Paris (researchers: Monika Weyhert Waluszko IBPP, Bogumiła Nowik), Berlin (Piotr Szczepański IBPP, Katarzyna Wirkus Molęda), Thesalonik (Jakub Grzegorczyk IBPP, Anna Szczeblewska) and Gdańsk (Maleusz Salwa IBPP, Mateusz Skrzeczkowski). The researches took place during summer and autumn (July – October 2017).

The research trips aimed to analyze: new strategies used both by institutions and individual actors (artists) to attract new public and encourage it to participate in creative processes and social responses to those strategies.

Analysis was thus focus on selecting the artistic interventions that aimed to attract new public in the stages of: conceptualization, creation and after the intervention was realized. Basing on those assumptions, artistic interventions that fulfill following criteria was selected: were planned and realized with active participation of the local community or social groups that can’t be described as “second public” (that has constant contact with the art and has “conventional” knowledge of modern art) and can be analyzed in the context of the criteria used to select the cities in which research was realized (Paris, Berlin, Thessaloniki and Gdansk).


Cities and interventions that was analyzed during research trips

Paris – Passage 56

Paris was selected by IBPP team because of its’ character described as follows: “Paris – as one of the most important global cities, one of the fundamental historical and contemporary European art centres, as well as the place where events crucial to global progress have recently taken place, including for instance the COP21, which has also provoked some artistic reactions in public space, the French capital seems the right place to research. Context for the strategy of carrying out enterprises related to public space will also be provided by centuries-long significance of Paris and its institutions of culture to Europe as well as current tensions of social, racial and ethnic nature.”

“Passage 56” is cultural and ecological space, founded in 2006.  Before embarking upon the project, its initiators conducted in-depth research concerning residents’ expectations. They were the aaa group. Since 2001, the architects have anchored their activities in research practice – undertaking participatory research, mutual trainings and citizen actions. aaa designs and constructs architecture and collective spaces; their projects involve residents’ self-governments. “56” is consistent with these premises and has been run exclusively by neighbours for the last five years. They organize artistic and community-oriented events; a participatory garden continues to bloom.

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Berlin – Prinzessinnengarten

Berlin was selected by IBPP team because of its’ character described as follows: “One of the most important culture centers in Europe and capital of the state that has central position in European Union. It can be characterized by diversity of cultural scene – the “official” one, as well as “alternative” one.”

Prinzessinnengarten in the distrct of Kreuzberg allows us to explore the strategies used by “alternative” cultural scene to attract new public. It can be seen as a green oasis – urban agricultural space between the old and new buildings surrounding the Moritzplatz in Berlin’s Kreuzberg. This is a beautiful and peaceful place that connects audience from different countries, cultures and neighborhoods who can grow here their herbs and vegetables. The Prinzessinnengarten is a place of discovery where children, neighbors, experts and those curious about sustainable living can come together to talk and explore alternative visions for their city (also the artistic ones).

In the middle of a small forest which is also based in the garden we can find a café and a beer pub, numerous flower pots and veg patches. Sometimes special events, concerts, flea markets and workshops on urban agriculture and art are organized here. Although the garden was spontaneously created by the grassroots initiative (by non-profit company „Nomadisch Grün“ with friends, activists and neighbours) it is characterized by exceptional attention to aesthetic value, placing it in the company of other artistic initiatives present in Berlin’s public space.
Will the process of identifying the garden with art be established in the city? Is it a global or a local trend? What sort of audiences the garden bring together? What are their meaning for the ontology and aesthetics of this place which is both work of nature and culture at the same time. These issues were the axis of our Berlin study.

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Thessaloniki – Goethe’s Dream

Thessaloniki were chosen because of the social mobilizations related to the economic and political crisis and their influence on art in public space as well as the relations between official institutions and loose, grassroots initiatives on the cultural field.

Goethe’s Dream is a set of three practices realized during the process of re-design of outdoors of Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki’s building complex:

  • Points of view:

Giorgos Gyparakis redesigns the outdoors forecourt of Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki’s building complex, transforming it into a garden that is truly experienced by the visitors and that creates the conditions for the public to interact with it. The goal is not to design a garden that mimics the natural landscape; rather, to create the circumstances so that this garden grows naturally, as time goes by, around three basic, functional axes: main route-pathway, square, seating micro-environments. The “pathway” that leads to the buildings is encompassed by the natural environment through its materiality and “free” form. Towards its end, the boundaries are lost and the street blends with the flora around it. The “square” is defined by the presence of a plane tree, found in almost all village squares around the Greek periphery. The “seating micro-environments” are installed at the naturally formed pits resulting from the terrain’s reformation into a low-hilled relief. The rocky seating spots within these micro-environments have been designed, so that they provide unhindered views to the garden. Thus, those sitting there can contemplate privately, even while they engage in dialogue with others.

  • Arkadien:

Alexandros Psychoulis turns Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki’s café into a site of experience and a place of gathering for the institute’s staff, students and visitors. The Arcadian archetype offers the paradigm for this imaginary, ideal place, identified with the concept of a content, carefree, happy life without constraints, close to nature. Using the optical illusion animation technique, without the interference of digital media, the installation transforms the café’s small and large indoors surfaces into moving images. At the same time, the services offered are perceived as a kind of choreographed ritual. Just as poets and authors throughout time –like Theocritus, Virgil, Cervantes, and Goethe– let themselves be seduced and carried away by their efforts to conquer eternity beyond real places, similarly, contemporary visitors let themselves be seduced and carried away by an ongoing installation-performance.

  • Homeland

The installation Homeland is an exhibition of a collection of soil (Land) samples. A great number of participants offer samples that they have collected from the place each one of them considers his/her country of origin, his/her homeland (Home). The samples, using the ancient rammed-earth technique, are molded and casted into the recesses of the wall that divides Goethe-Institut Thessaloniki and the Fοlklife and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, and remain there as permanent exhibits. The project’s central goal is to bring citizens of all social groups in contact with the primal and symbolic materiality of the soil (ground), to introduce them, through experiential workshops, to the process of earth-ramming and casting, and at the same time to create a website that will host the relevant information and data, functioning as a universal interactive communication channel (portal).

The project is an invitation to return to the idea of “homeland” as a variation to Arcadia, a place of peace and tranquility, and a return to the primordial. This invitation to engage with the geographical and geological history (affective geography), via the establishment of a universally open-ended sampling, captures the symbolic interaction of the participants with the memory of the place (human geography). The work, as multilevel crossroad of real and spiritual meetings, constitutes a geo-sociopolitical encounter and aims towards distilling the metaphysical meaning of soil and transfuse it from the ideological foundation of the theory of the masses to everyday human practices.

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Gdansk – Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdansk

Gdansk was selected because of the tradition of cosmopolitism and constantly developing diverse forms of artistic activity in public space. Those features can be analyzed through research of Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdansk – an initiative that allows us to refer also to the social problems connected to the revitalization processes.

The Centre for Contemporary Art Laznia manages the project being a part of a broader scope of works aiming at revitalisation of the Lower Town district, of an area abundant in historical edifices but at the same time isolated from the centre and degraded. It is anticipated as a long-term plan and is supposed to build up a permanent collection of works of art in urban space within the project called the Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdansk. It also initiate changes of the character of the district where Laznia is based.In 2013 Laznia CCA get second branch in Nowy Port district, wich is very similar in many cases to Lower Town and revitalisation is there in progress as well.

Urban space is  developing through years and the projects assigned for realisation  are chosen in regularly announced, closed, international competitions. This is how Laznia intends to take part in social and architectonical transformation of the Lower Town which is going to require close cooperation with artists, scientists, planning engineers, architects and also politicians. But there many others artistic  acitvities realized in the framework of The Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdansk at Lower Down and Nowy Port as well. One of them was “Bedtime” by Aurelia Buczek.

The “Bedtime” project refers to the “My Bed” installation by the British artist Tracy Emin. After suffering from depression, Emin exhibited at Tate Gallery her bed where she spent her illness. Around it were gathered objects that accompanied her every day. The work was qualified for the Turner Award. The “Bedtime” installation was showed in public space of New Port reinterpreting the work of Emin. Crossing the border of privacy it draws attention to the problem of loneliness told from a woman’s perspective.The casual recipient was invited to enter into a dialogue with the resident of this temporary, open space and bring her a symbolic gift. Objects collected around the bed illustrated a story about people’s life and the history of the New Port.

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Results of research trips

Researchers interviewed not only “new public”, but people connected with the project as well: artists, curators, coordinators. The result of four research trips are eight texts, two texts from each trip. One is short, journalistic summary of the research, the other being a broad analysis of the studies carried out in four cities and this one will be publish. Researchers prepared photografic documentation which has been presented in the book, which was published this year.