Krakowiak has founded pirate radio stations in Israel and registered conversations from the moon. In autumn the artist transforms the Polish Pavilion at the Biennale of Architecture in Venice into a full-scale installation devoted to the architecture of sound.
A young girl in a sport outfit is walking across Jerusalem. She’s dragging a chequered bag on wheels, the kind one would use for shopping. Inside, instead of groceries, there’s a construction entangled in cables. It closely resembles a homemade bomb.
The young girl is the artist Katarzyna Krakowiak. In the bag she carries radio transmitter which emits a pirate broadcast. In the cars and stores she passes, pop music goes silent. Instead one can hear the announcement, "We’re very sorry for the inconveniences on the road. On the corner an Arab mother with six children are being evicted from their home in a social housing estate. If you want to know more about the cleansing in Jaffa, please visit the website www.radiofreejaffa.com".
Radio Free Jaffa
Radio Free Jaffa (2009) is part of the radio project all.FM, which Krakowiak realizes in various towns across the world. In Wrocław the fate of the inhabitants of post-German houses was the theme of the illegal broadcasts. In Warsaw (2008) noise was the main topic.
I rode my bike through the jammed streets of Warsaw for three hours. I sent messages about the hazards of continuous noise, I presented data: Each day you flush 10 liters of water down the toilet, every 15 seconds a child dies of thirst".
Katarzyna Krakowiak (born 1980) is a graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. Yet she isn't quite a visual artist per se. As she tells it,
One day I began to perceive the world through waves and their vibrations. I thought: the world is built from light, light is a wave, vibrations of waves are sounds".
Bogna Świątkowska, chairman of the Bęc Zmiana Foundation, which often collaborates with the artist on artistic projects, remarks that
Krakowiak’s projects make us realize how visual our world really is. She uses a whole palette of "invisible" phenomena. She employs radio waves, internet technology, mobile phones, she talks about light, noise and sound. She does all of this in such a way that reveals the critical potential of these phenomena.
Architecture of Sounds
Krakowiak believes that sounds are a kind of architecture – planned in their structure, monumental. She also considers architecture to be a source of sounds. "A sound, which is constantly present, becomes ordinary. I wonder, what it would be like to hear moving buildings, stressed bridges and roads". To the artist, the city is an unusually intense world of sounds. She says:
Noise builds a city, you can’t get rid of it, but you may use it. How come did the Theatre of Television seem so artificial? Because there was no background buzz, there were no sounds of .streets or objects.
"Kasia isn’t the academic researcher type. She simply confronts her fascinations with scientific knowledge", says Michał Libera, curator of the artist’s project at this year’s Biennale of Architecture in Venice.
Krakowiak says she owes quite a lot to Mirosław Bałka. She was his student and later assistant in his workshop at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań.
He teaches focus and authenticity. He showed me how important it is to be responsible for one’s gesture, he taught about earnestness, which is the result of responsibility".
She studied graphic art and creates sound-art, but she also considers herself a sculptor. "I need grand gestures, gestures that are crafted masterfully (this I also owe to Bałka). I’m interested in spaces and work on monumental, invisible forms". Krakowiak admits that school was a traumatic experience for her – an institution, which regulated the simplest of actions. In 2003 she made a film about a school walk: during break the children in pairs walk around the school corridor in circles. To her art is an escape from dos and don’ts. "I constantly marvel at the world. I search for areas to act in. I experiment with various media, also illegal ones. I want to break rules".
Recently Krakowiak herself debuted as a lecturer. "I teach my students (a class entirely made up of girls) at the Faculty of Architecture of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk to be brave. I distort their understanding of architecture. I teach them to think abstractly, to transgress the obvious".
As she explains, to her architecture means creating sculptures on a grand scale. In the case of sounds, this scale is virtually limitless.
I like this a lot - the monumentality of sound, which is deprived of weight. I’m irritated by creating something for the eyes and architecture is chiefly created for the eyes. I use the language of sounds to speak about architecture".
Her technical skills are striking. She is capable of singlehandedly assembling a radio station and constructing a shaking windowpane. In London (2008) mobile bluetooth transmitters mounted on bicycles showed simple animations, such as I am still alive. In Warsaw (2006/2007) she prepared a virtual reconstruction of the ghetto wall: a message about the history of the place was sent to the cellphone of every person that entered the site.
She collaborates with a group of scientists – from ornithologists, through astronomers to acousticians. "I wanted to study chemistry. For a long time I was closer to science than art. I believe that art requires knowledge, rather than manual skills alone", she admits.
In Explosions (2009) she made use, amongst others, of seismographic records of earth’s vibrations from the Gaza region, which she turned into sounds. In the work I’ll Take You to the Moon (2009) she registered conversations conducted via the moon. The EME (Earth-Moon-Earth) antenna sends a signal at 1420 mhz – the same frequency which is used in attempts of contacting extraterrestrial civilizations. The signal was reflected by the moon and returned to earth slightly altered.
The title of the project Krakowiak is presenting in Venice this year - Making the walls quake as if they were dilating with the secret knowledge of great powers - is drawn from a quote from Charles Dickens' novel Dombey and Son, essentially a commentary on the impending chaos of modernity and industrial progress. Together with curator Michał Libera, Krakowiak transforms the pavilion space into a vibrating structure of sound that picks up on the noise generated by neighbouring pavilions (Egypt, Serbia, Venice, Romania) via microphones installed in the floors and ventilation, heating and sewage systems. Visitors can "eavesdrop" on all the different sounds emitted from these other pavilions as evidence of the typical workings of the building and human activity, heightened by the effects of speaker systems, mixers and amplifiers. The intimacy of personal space is broken down by making all types of sounds available to a larger public, no matter how unpleasant, uncomfortable or plain embarrassing.
As for Krakowiak's plans post-biennale, she says she is trying her hand at writing a piece for the Zagreb Opera. She explains that her composition does not take the typical path and says, "I’m not using notes. I’ve prepared a form of notation based on architecture and acoustics. Sounds travel through various types of spaces and bounce off them. The scale of the space corresponds to the scale of the singer’s voice. The libretto is about meanings lost in simultaneous translation". She plans to debut this work in roughly four years' time.
Author: Paulina Kucharska, July 2012. Translated by Marek Kępa, August 2012.