Link to website
Branding the terms "Biennale" and "European Capital of Culture" promotes a certain legitimacy to local cultural events in an attempt to make them attractive for corporate sponsorship (and city development) tying them to economic and political agendas. Art and culture are part of the larger political and economic issues that shape the daily life of any city. Invited artists are implicated in these structures. As such, these officially sanctioned spaces for art provide a rich ground for artists to address the conditions that define how and for whom their work is produced and displayed.
My own work addresses the overlapping relations that create social space in both the real and virtual sense. To generate a critical reflection on the complicated conditions of artistic production and social space, I wanted to give visibility to two creative current not sanctioned by the city: Rozbrat, a sixteen year old squat and autonomous space for various political, social and cultural activity that is currently in a precarious position with the threat of closure and "Poznan: To nie Firma!" (Poznan: Not a Company) a counter campaign to the official city campaign "Poznan: Miasto know-how (Poznan: City of know-how) that become visible in the city in June, 2010. Both Rozbrat and "Poznan: To nie Firma!" play a critical role in creating alternative narratives into how urban spaces should be constructed as well as the rights of its citizens to decide about the life of the city.
A full artist statement here.
The initial proposal by Rozbrat was to stage a public event in the city centre during the Mediations Biennale that politically addressed the disparity in spending between affordable public housing and the construction of a football stadium in preparation for 2012 European Football Championships in Poznan. This proposal was rejected by the city and revised by the organizers of the Biennale in a way that would prevent visibility and its effectiveness.
Following an invitation made by Rozbrat on their website, I offered instead to transfer half of my artist's fee provided by the Biennale in order to support their ongoing activities. These activities were not required to take place during the Biennale.
An installation in National Museum (Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu) included an artist statement and documentation of the financial transaction (from the Biennale–to me– to Rozbrat). Photo and text essays were provided by Rozbrat on the proposed building of container settlements for low-income residents that can no longer afford to live in the city centre and texts about gentrification within Poznan. Copies of the "Poznan: To nie Firma!" stencil were made available for people to take away and distribute the message throughout the city. This launched the 2nd phase of the campaign that officially began by spray-painting the stencil within the officially sanctioned walls of the museum.
The financial contribution was used to support the following activities:
Printing 5000 copies of the newspaper TEJ, produced by Rozbrat as a critique of city politics within the context of the stadium and social housing / containers issue. This newspaper was distributed during the opening day for the stadium and just before a concert by Sting.
Rozbrat also printed 500 copies of a brochure and large photographic prints about the container settlements which were used during an intervention within the city council where a temporary exhibition was made during council proceedings.
Finally Rozbrat printed 1000 posters that subverted the PR campaign design for the city and are now trying to distribute them around Poznan.
In their words "we feel our actions are building up tension that maybe we can push something through ... sometimes it's not easy to recognize the direct results of a campaign, but somewhere it might have some influence..."
My collaboration with Rozbrat and the taking up of the "Poznan: To nie Firma!" campaign are in a long tradition of interventionist approaches that transform officially sanctioned art spaces into an arena where ideas can actually be transmitted to the public with the potential of translating into engagement.
A special thanks and well-wishes go to Rozbrat, the Anarchist Federation in Poznan, Ryszard Kluszczynski, Tomasz Wendland and Ewa Kubiak.