The city space consists of the visible and the invisible. Especially in historical places ‘exposure to city radiation’ has become an artistic strategy. The spirit of place, created by the invisible, mocks the Lonely Planet guidebook readers – the visible, what you read about, might turn out to be something totally different.
When somebody is connected with a given place, memories create a topographical map; upon arrival in a new place as a tourist, the map woven from other cities overlaps with the surroundings of the new place.
The city itself is not neutral either. The region of Włodkowica Street and św. Antoniego Street in Wrocław is a maze which deceits, makes one lose track. Wandering through passages, backyards, nooks and crannies stimulates imagination and pushes it to new tracks. Olga Wroniewicz’s ‘Passage’ (2008) is just such gates to phantasmagoria, a tunnel ‘across’ the real passage, which sucks in, using the element of surprise. The artist leaves something to chance, too: each time the audio-animated space triggered is different.
The reality added a comment to this work: the ‘Passage’ lived a life of its own, opened when it wanted. The existence of the animated tunnel was like the UFO: it was waited for, announced, some said they saw it, others never believed it existed. The absent object mocked guides.
Just like Ubu giving a tour of Paris: ’This triangular monument, sire, is the church of Saint Germain des Pres. — Judging from the postcards, I thought it’s the Odeon. — Not at all, it’s the Opera …’
And so on.
A false mirror is offered to the audience by Rafał Jakubowicz. The title of his work, ‘Onehundredeightysomething’, refers to the height of a wall, above which one usually cannot see. In order to satisfy the curiosity, one needs a helper, needs to make an effort, become a voyeur. An element of abstraction, the ludicity of the situation created, funny manipulation, optic illusion and an element of surprise ease the shame of being a voyeur. But a subtle feeling of embarassment emphasises the situation we have become used to in art, or even appropriated the right to it. The installation, which was shown in art galleries before, here – in the public space – speaks about something else. Creating another dimension of representation by Jakubowicz can still be visible, but voyeurism is in the foreground. A makeshift wall separates an area where something has been hidden from the passer-by – an accident, renovation, excavation, or art.
Invisible dialogues with the place are most present in projects which were not realised. Setting property borders, which is very relevant in this part of Wrocław, was the subject of Maciej Kurak’s project which never materialised – an installation consisting of ropes and stuffed pidgeons. Pidgeon breeders’ custom of ‘circling’ the birds is a beautiful metaphore of the issue of freedom and ownership. The buildings near Włodkowica and św. Antoniego are bought by developers in large numbers and instantenously lose their old character.
In this edition of SURVIVAL, the subject of the ingerence of art in the space belonging to inhabitants was invisible but perceptible. The artists and the audience were guests for a few days – they came uninvited to hosts who might have never had contact with institutions of art, but stimulated dialogue, interaction. Reflection on invasion, which is what art in the public domain is – on the peculiar, semi-private status of yards (which some years ago were unavailable to strangers), was hidden between the lines. The idea of an ‘exhibition inside an exhibition’, i.e. creating, within the festival, an old-fashioned exhibition of drawings behind gold-framed glass, separated from the audience with a red rope, guarded by security – like in big museums – never came into being. The invisible inscription ‘Do not touch’ might refer to any exhibit in the city space. The borders between a work of art and the audience are re-negotiated every time anew.
A phantom city should have its invisible guidebook. Delusion as a signpost for imagiantion, artist in the city as a cunning conman. Mixing up paths, false directions, descriptions of places and histories which never existed – I dream of involving the city in this perverse game as art-audioguide. Like this conversation of tourists who got lost:
‘How about that!’ he roars, ‘Look!! the Pantheon!!!’. ‘The things you hear,’ says Charles without turning round. (…) ‘Maybe it isn’t the Pantheon?’ asks Gabriel. There’s something crafty about his question. ‘No,’ says Charles forcefully. ‘No, no and no, it isn’t the Pantheon.’ ‘Well what would it be then in your opinion?’ (…) ‘The thing we’ve just seen, twasn’t the Pantheon, course it wasn’t, it was the Gare de Lyon.’ ‘Maybe,’ says Gabriel casually (…) ‘Zazie, just have a look at that and see if it isn’t a lovely lump of architecture, it’s the Invalides…’ ‘You’re talking through the back of your head,’ says Charles (…) at the very most it’s the Reuilly Barracks.’ /R. Queneau, Zazie in the Metro/
Walking in a city, even (or: especially) one which is seemingly known to us, when we willingly give up the sense of direction and adopt a false azimuth, may reveal invisible openings in the space, let us in on the secret. The artist draws the citizens in a board city game.
Give me your hand and let’s get lost!