No 2 (98) 2014
April - June

City as a Phantom

For several years the phenomenon of a city has gone through a belated renaissance in Poland. The city has been turned into the sphere of a dialogue on the issues related with memory, symbolism and meanings. All these have been described in the most interesting way by young artists.

Marta Zdanowska

Culture animator and urban activist, related with the Political Criticism circles.

Marta Zdanowska

THE "ŁÓDŹ IS BEING DEVELOPED" PROJECT, pursued by the Manhattan Gallery, invites one for this kind of a delusive, ritualistic journey into the entrails of the city.

To force one's way through the downtown Łódź is like a trip to the interior. The city center life has been disorganized by reconstruction works. In these conditions excavation pits, barriers and omnipresent diggers have turned it into a kind of a jungle. This is how "Łódź Is Being Developed". Krystyna Potocka-Suwalska, the curator at the Manhattan Gallery, has applied this multi meaning context as a title of an artistic project. The name can be interpreted literally, referring to the situation of Łódź to be rescued by means of a thorough reconstruction. The title, however, has been a compliment addressed to young artists. Twenty authors, who present their assemblages, photographs, video installations and performances, were born in the 80's and 90's, and they just start their artistic path. Their narration on Łódź has been a palimpsest: they have written current, intimate meanings into the fragments of old texts, memories and objects. They have applied multimedia, singing, shouting, experimental music, dance and site-specific.

A series of performances in the urban space - that open the exhibition - have been the most interesting elements of the whole project. The city has been approached here as a meta narration on community, a fragmented founding myth, an inherited memory. An archaic, tribal form of expression is quite astonishing when referred to the frequently applied topic. "A Song for Łódź" by Ola Kozioł, a performer, has been an improvisation based on revolutionary songs, poems by Tuwim and Jewish texts, thus creating a fragmented story about time. Kuba Krzewiński has followed similar stylistics in "Pre-Cry" that presents kind of archaic community, where voice does not render history, but emotions: from rhythmic trance, through attempts at a shout in spite of a gag, through orgiastic screams. Marta Ostajewska and Suavas Levy, while exploring completely different means of expression, have referred to the ritual in the "Belly" performance; an attempt to enter into the city entrails. An initiating journey along emptied out streets and picking up scraps on the construction sites ends with going down to the "Tire" sewers where ritualistic, primeval tunes of the city have been born and played; collected pipes, stones and sticks being music instruments.  The ritual, after all, has been the strongest element of the stories on Łódź. This has been used in the "Ever Closer to the Earth" fascinating dance, gesture and melody recitation show offered by Joanna Szumacher and the OFF Harnam Group. The plot refers to the words of the "Promised Land" song by Kofta, in an altered version it tells about passing and heading for death - in a dramatic final fragment the artists,

dressed in black, have been crawling on cobblestones in a heavy rain.

As much as performances have focused on carnal forms, the exhibition as a whole depicted the city from the angle of debris, wreckage, remains, waste. It could have borrowed the motto from the words spoken in the piece "Without a Title" by Paweł Korbus: "Does matter store energy or memory?" Objects force one's attention, they are obtrusive - this has been the message strongly present in the installation made of an old metal sheet that is resonating through loudspeakers (by Berlak), as much as in the assemblage by Korbus, composed out of objects found on a garbage dump (a cabinet of personal files of a housing cooperative), and a visually fascinating work by Aleksandra Ignasiak that presents glass jars filled with colorful liquid ("Water Tricks"). Horror Vacui has accompanied characters, stylized to resemble blasé rock stars, on the photograph by Magdalena Kordowicz.

"Łódź Is Being Developed" shows an astonishingly coherent picture of the city that has been undergoing an attempt at reanimation. One does not know whether Phoenix will rise from the ashes, nevertheless a tribe of young artists have been very convincing. They deserve an applause.

"Łódź Is Being Developed", Maria Apoleika, Art Kontrola, Krystian Berlak, Magdalena Kordowicz, Aleksandra Chciuk, Aleksandra Ignasiak, Ola Kozioł, Paweł Korbus, Marta Ostajewska, Suavas Lewy, PUL, Kuba Krzewiński, Robosexi, Joanna Szumacher; the Manhattan Gallery, Łódź, April - May 2014.