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Freedom: Above-Ground Dialogue

Krzysztof Wodiczko

Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre roof terrace
October 13,2023 - October 13,2023

October 13, 2023 All day

* In case of bad conditions, the project will take place on 14.10.2023

This will be one of the most important events in the ŁAŹNIA Centre for Contemporary Art’s 25th anniversary celebrations: the showcase of a new work by Krzysztof Wodiczko, an outstanding, internationally renowned artist. The display will not only honour the institution, but also refer to the jubilee of the artist’s own creative work and his 80th birthday. Setting the stage for the presentation of his work, Wodiczko will be ceremonially awarded with an honoris causa doctorate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk. 

Krzysztof Wodiczko has an extraordinary gift for working with local themes, which, thanks to his interventions, start having a universal impact that transcends national boundaries. The artist focuses on social themes that are considered difficult, primarily giving voice to the socially excluded, marginalised, persecuted, and disadvantaged.

It will be no different in Gdańsk, where, in collaboration with the ŁAŹNIA CCA, he is creating a multimedia project dedicated to the residents of the city. This work will take the form of the eponymous ‘above-ground dialogue’ on the various dimensions of freedom. For months, Wodiczko has been talking to the participants of the project, with the support of Dr Monika Popow, a social researcher working in the field of socio-economic development and culture. The results of their work, recorded as a video, will be projected onto giant helium-filled balloons hovering above the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, creating a poignant aerial performance.

Krzysztof Wodiczko on his work on the project Freedom: Above-Ground Dialogue:

Conversations with researchers of the social situation taught me about alienating aspects of city life, such as:

– social breakdown, hostility, lack of willingness and ability to listen to the position and understand the experience of your adversary,

– prejudice against your adversary based on your simplistic perception of them in terms of narrow party, class, generational and cultural identity frameworks,

– living in an isolated bubble and locking yourself into confirming your political clichés (saying and hearing only what has been established as ‘truth’ by your group). Conversations and thinking spelt out in political echo chambers, an Anglo-Saxon term popular today: listening to your own political echo.

All these aspects of division, social fragmentation, and alienation are true for Gdańsk residents and Poles but also, to a large extent, societies all over the world. 

Fostering dialogue based on attempts to listen and talk openly and without prejudice is an urgent and difficult matter. We need initiatives to seek and find common themes, experiences and needs while being open to differences and disagreements in their interpretation across party, ideological, generational, and economic divides.

I consider the attempts to create media conditions and performative situations for this purpose among the most important tasks of today’s art.

While visiting the European Solidarity Centre and the Shakespeare Theatre, it occurred to me to propose, together with the ŁAŹNIA Centre for Contemporary Art, that these institutions collaborate on a special artistic and media project in the form of an experimental contribution to this task.

The Solidarity social movement appears to be a key critical reference and tradition for attempts to create new methods and conditions for dialogue against social alienation and artificial political divisions.

The Shakespeare Theatre and its interactive tradition (e.g., allowing the contact between spectator and actor) can also inspire the creation of new anti-alienating situations and performative-media methods and techniques towards an open dialogue.

Dialogue is fostered by the ‘safe’ conditions for speaking and listening not directly, but through devices/artefacts, through a media kind of mask/megaphone to communicate and exchange experiences and views in the public space as a democratic and politically ‘exterritorial’ stage.

The air, above-ground or ‘above-Earth’ space of the city seems just such an extraterritorial stage for a potential dialogue between alienated people.

The projection on the hovering screen-balloons would function as a communicative mask through which the above-ground, nearly angelic, aerial dialogue would be easier to imagine and carry out. 

I think that this dialogue, previously initiated and started ‘on the ground’ as preparatory dialogue workshops, could also be continued and developed during the performance.

Interested spectators could become its co-participants.

Their spontaneous reactions and utterances ‘from the ground’ would be transmitted and incorporated in real time into the ongoing conversations as an improvised addition and organic part of the above-ground dialogue.

Wojciecha Bogusławskiego 1
Gdańsk, 80-818
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