The 13th edition of the Narrations Festival will take place in November 2022 in Przerobka district of Gdansk. The competition committee assessed the proposals sent in through an open call and chose the curatorial concept of Emilia Orzechowska (curator, artist, producer, culture animator) and Bogna Swiatkowska (originator and chairwoman of Bec Zmiana Foundation). The concept was submitted under working title “we were, we are, we will be”.

The competition committee was composed of: Olga Wysocka (deputy director of the Zacheta National Gallery of Art), Ewa Laczynska-Widz (director of the BWA in Tarnow), Stach Szablowski (curator), Aleksandra Szymanska (City Culture Institute’s director – festival’s organizer), Piotr Stasiowski (director of Gdansk City Gallery – co-organizer of the festival).

Passage from the argumentation of the concept’s choice “we were, we are, we will be”:

By recommending Emilia Orzechowska and Bogna Swiatkowska’s project “we were, we are, we will be”, the jury noted the double mindfulness shown by the authors when building the assumptions of their proposal. Firstly, we mean sensitivity to the symbolic potential of micro-district Przerobka. From the viewpoint of everyday life and the urban order of Tri-City, it is a peripheral place, domesticated equally by deliberate human actions, by chance, and also by nature living in urban conditions. This peripheral nature and semantic understatement of the district let the curators see the possibility of proclaiming Przerobka the “capital of the 21st century”, putting forward the thesis that the shape of the future would be determined precisely on the outskirts and margins of today’s order.

Secondly, authors of the project showed sensitivity to the times’ spirit. Whereas that spirit suggests that the reflection developed today through artistic activities should be expanded beyond aesthetic, historical and social problems defined in traditional, anthropocentric categories. The jury appreciated the curators’ announcement who declare that they want to work “close and low” with the reality of Przerobka and, together with invited artists, look for a platform in this district to develop interspecies community and subspecies solidarity. Our appreciation was also gained by the research nature of the project, the authors of which refrain from a priori solutions and concepts. Instead of coming to Przerobka with ready ideas and beliefs, the curators focus on actual, in-depth study of the neighborhood’s context; the results of these studies will determine the final shape of the projects implemented under NARRATIONS.

In the concept of “we were, we are, we will be”, the curators distinguished four most important threads. The first of them focuses on issues related to non-anthropocentrism, interspecies and biodiversity: “[In our efforts] We want to be close and low to the ground, proclaim the postulates of an interspecies community,” declare authors of the concept. Another area of ​​curators’ interest is the future – both the one concerning the district and the changes in the means of defining the goals and character of art. The third theme is exploring the meanings: ”potential for change” and “imagination for power”, i.e. slogans closely related to art actively involved in social and political discourse. “We keep hearing that evolution is better than revolution, that changes should be introduced slowly and carefully. We feel that we do not have time for this anymore”, authors of the concept write. The last area distinguished by them focuses on the slogan “remaking reality”, which refers to innovative and inclusive ways of designing and producing an artistic event.

In the introduction to the concept, Orzechowska and Swiatkowska emphasize the growing need for changes: “The effects of industrialisation, human plundering activities against nature and natural resources, greed, subordinating sensitivity to capital and consumption are no longer possible to be powdered. A major makeover is needed, turning what doesn’t work into something that works well. We proclaim Przerobka district to be the capital of the 21st century! ”.

– “We were, we are, we will be” is the inscription on one of the two monuments in Przerobka in Gdansk. Both of them have a form of erratic boulders and commemorate events important for history of the district – they stop them in time, and thus in the minds of the residents. The vector on the timeline is pointing to “almost-ish” here. What kind of monuments can we “imagine” looking at the future of Przerobka? What ideas and attitudes will we put on a pedestal? Can we assign the slogan “we were, we are, we will” to a different, non-anthropocentric perspective? Can we propose an interspecies connection – ascribe “we were” to man, “we are” to matter, and “we will” to all surviving nonhuman terrestrials? – the curators are wondering.

An important element for Emilia Orzechowska and Bogna Swiatkowska is the way the production of Narrations Festival is being conducted. The process of preparing and programming the event will take place in the spirit of the idea of culture for climate.

– Choosing Przerobka as the venue for the implementation of the 13th edition of the Narrations Festival gives the opportunity to produce and present artistic works with great potential for meaning. The festival lasts only 2 days, but our goal will be to create knowledge and experiences that can last much longer in Przerobka. Today, the distribution of participation has changed. Distances have been restored, but perspective has shortened. Our proposal emphasises the need to understand art as a useful tool for highlighting spatial, interpersonal and interspecies relationships. Making Przerobka the symbolic capital of the 21st century will be a great opportunity for this – the curators add.

13th edition of Narrations Festival, November 2022. “we were, we are, we will be” (working title)

Curators: Emilia Orzechowska, Bogna Swiatkowska

Organizer: City Culture Institute, co-organizer: Gdansk City Gallery, Gdansk cultural institutions

Curators’ biographical notes

Emilia Orzechowska – curator, producer and culture animator. She graduated from Film Studies at the Institute of Audiovisual Arts at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, the Study of Culture Animators in Gdansk with a Film Specialisation, and Art Criticism at the Gdansk Academy of Fine Arts. She is a founder of the A KuKu Sztuka Association, where, until 2017, she carried out original and interdisciplinary artistic projects, including Parking (2007-2016) and the ARTLOOP Festival (2011-2017). She often refers to history of places or people in her independent curatorial practice. She likes non-obvious locations and site-specific projects. She often relates to space in her narrative, creating experiences rather than presentations. Her latest independent curatorial project “The Dark Side Of The Sun” refers to concepts such as ecological debt, climate depression and ecocide, among others, and results from current changes in nature, climate change and the ecological disaster that we are participants of. On a daily basis, she works in Miniatura Theater in Gdansk as a theatrical producer and cooperates with TRAFO Trafostacja Sztuki in Szczecin as a curator, organising exhibitions and her own original series PERFOstacja, in which she presents performance art and dance performances. Since August 2019, together with Ela Jablonska and Wojtek Kotwicki, she co-creates the W788 Foundation, which runs residential programs in Kozielec, on the 788th kilometre of the Vistula River.

Bogna Swiatkowska – originator, founder and chairwoman of Bec Zmiana Foundation, where she has implemented dozens of projects devoted to public space, architecture and design, as well as competitions addressed to architects and designers of the young generation. Initiator and editor of the magazine “Notebook for 6 weeks”. Prior, she was the editor of the first pop-culture monthly magazine Machina (1998–2001), author of numerous texts, interviews, radio and TV programs devoted to contemporary popular culture. Scholar of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage (2014). Member of the Social Culture Council by the President of Warsaw, the Capital City (2012-2015), Council of Architecture and Public Space of Warsaw, the Capital City (2015-2018), as well as the Expert Team for Local Culture at the National Culture Centre (2015-2017).

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