Take a walk!
But a jocular caveat first – it will be a compensatory walk. You will have heard of the compensatory role of art, that is, art’s capacity to replace something that we sorely miss or something we have no access to at a given moment. So, in walking, we will put this cathartic-compensatory concept of art to the test. Early springtime and glorious weather… what could possibly be more appealing than an urban stroll? Yet our current situation is that the city has ceased to be unproblematically open, attractive, and accessible. It is far more reasonable to stay at home and look at the world that opens up in front of us via screens, a world of walks guided by artists and their guests.
Each of the seven walks we recommend this week reveals some of the aspects of strolling in, looking at, experiencing, and examining the urban world around us. In the first week of the WRO’s online program, we share with you urban, Wrocław-inspired, and adjoining experiences. Some of them will dwell on details which may have slipped your attention. Others will hopefully open up unusual perspectives and reveal the city’s unobvious dimensions.
Take a walk! starts with Eric Siu’s performance Optical Handlers, which was recorded during the WRO Biennale in 2009. Eric, who lives in Hongkong, set off to ramble across Wrocław, wearing a uniform of his own design. With electronic goggles on his head connected to cameras in his gloves, he looked at the world around adopting the perspective of his constantly moving hands. He not only examined his immediate surroundings in this way, but also encouraged the passers-by he encountered in the streets to share this extraordinary experience with him. Such a shift of gaze can alter our self-perceptions and re-mold our experience of the environment. At the same time it can prove surprisingly effective in establishing new contacts and breaking the ice in a city one is a stranger to.
As for most of us seeing is a privileged mode of knowledge, re-figuring our perspective and allowing ourselves to be guided by other senses can be a valuable experience. Listening is equally important, and the sounds enveloping us may trigger new impressions if the ubiquitous audiosphere is brought into relief. Marcin Dymiter’s project Sonic Wrocław involved a theoretical and practical workshop in which the participants learned about the basic concepts of field recording and, at the same time, developed skills of sensitive listening. When we go out specifically to listen to the city, our perception of urban spaces is radically altered. A garbage truck drawing near and a night-time party have their own distinct sonic rhythm each. What we tend to treat as a secondary side-product of urban life actually proves to be a pivotal element of the cityscape.
Day three offers an expressly tranquil focus by presenting the documentation of the Subjective Atlas of Reality, a series of walks guided by the graphic artist Lena Czerniawska and her guests. The event was co-hosted by Stanisław Januszewski, affiliated with the Foundation of the Open Museum of Technology, and took place in Na Grobli [literally: On the Causeway] Street, a somewhat secluded neighborhood replete with historically and currently important hydroengineering facilities and devices. Sauntering amidst the structures that restored the memory of the city’s intriguing engineering past, the participants reproduced the objects, buildings, and things they chanced upon in their sketchbooks in whatever ways were made possible by pencils and paper.
Exploring vacated houses, buildings sprouting up on the debris capitalism, constructions gone bankrupt, forsaken by their owners, derelict yet peppered with “no trespassing” signs, abandoned in the fabric of the city, ones that the eye usually turns away from in embarrassment. This was our aim when we followed Bradley L. Garrett, a social geographer dedicated to the study and interpretation of such areas, to roam in a centrally located abandoned bank and to break into the Skeletor in Zielińskiego Street. The high, concrete skeleton of a never-completed parking garage, whose construction commenced in the early days of the political transition only to be abandoned for several years to come, is no longer there. The exploration of inaccessible urban spaces fosters a critical and interpretive perspective as it reveals autonomous spaces, which are temporarily worthless, removed from the jurisdiction of administrators, and unlooked at by the residents. They may have stopped being of interest to the regular economy, but they are immensely attractive to alternative economies and models of dwelling.
The fifth day of the week heralds the weekend and relaxing, once in urban parks and forests. Headed by Sylwester Gałuszka, the workshop instructor, young students of filmmaking art traversed the city to examine the city’s fraught relationships with nature, which were later conveyed in their animations produced during the workshop.
This ties in with another iteration of the Subjective Atlas of Reality. The documentation shows Lena Czerniawska and the ornithologist Dr. Hanna Sztwiertnia leading the participants of the walk towards birds, both those which are readily visible and those which are not so easily seen but can always be located by the sounds they produce. The two events represent two different modes of recording reality: one can travel with sketchbooks and manually outline gestures on a sheet of paper, but one can also travel with a camera and later creatively transform the footage in postproduction processing. This emphatically exemplifies two different ways of registering experience.
The last walk which concludes the week takes us to Paweł Janicki and Dominika Sobolewska’s interactive Platform – a component of the curatorial project of the Interactive Playground. The multicolored platform erected in the Solny Square responded to the movements of the participants (predominantly children), who made music by stepping on colorful elements of the installation. Their movements were monitored by a camera placed above the platform. Its all-encompassing bird’s-eye-view gaze registered all the motions within the demarcated area, and a custom-made algorithm responded accordingly by generating sounds which added up to a musical composition. The public-space artwork transferred everyday urban routines into the domain of art: while CCTV cameras are increasingly ubiquitous in city streets, in this case monitoring as a method of registering the participants in collective life marked the time of shared play and excitement rather than of control and surveillance.
Eric Siu (HK)
Optical Handlers – Eeyee
fragments of a performance in urban space
13th WRO Media Art Biennale 2009 Expanded City
Marcin Dymiter (PL)
documentation of a field-recording workshop
September 21-23, 2016
WRO Art Center and urban spaces
Eco Expanded City 2016
Lena Czerniawska (PL) + Stanisław Januszewski (PL)
The Subjective Atlas of Reality
a drawing walk among the monuments of hydroengineering
March 18, 2017
neighborhood around Na Grobli Street in Wrocław
Bradley L. Garrett (GB)
Exploring the Hidden City
documentation of a workshop in urban space
December 4, 2015
Sylwester Gałuszka (PL)
The Natural Register
documentation of a workshop for youth
August 15-19, 2016
WRO Art Center and urban spaces
Eco Expanded City 2016
Lena Czerniawska (PL) + Hanna Sztwiertnia (PL)
The Subjective Atlas of Birds
documentation of ornithological drawing walks
June 11, July 16, August 20, October 8, November 19, 2016
Wrocław and the surroundings
Eco Expanded City 2016
Dominika Sobolewska (PL) + Paweł Janicki (PL)
Wrocław’s Market Square
June 1-20, 2011
14th WRO Media Art Biennale 2011 Alternative Now!