Brussels hosted the Solidarity Camp, an interdisciplinary performance and installation art project conceived of by Nowy Teatr from Warsaw and the Wyspa Institute of Art from Gdańsk. The project tours various capitals in Europe, showcasing the social resistance movement “Solidarność” of the early '80s in Gdańsk’s shipyards, forming the first unified resistance against the communist regime.
Brussels hosted the Solidarity Camp, an interdisciplinary performance and installation art project conceived of by Nowy Teatr from Warsaw and the Wyspa Institute of Art from Gdańsk. The project tours various capitals in Europe, showcasing the social resistance movement “Solidarność” of the early '80s in Gdańsk’s shipyards, forming the first unified resistance against the communist regime
The project, set up behind Brussels’ KVS (Royal Flemish Theatre), incorporates five small reconstructed houses which served as centres of social life and provided space for the free exchange of ideas amongst the workers in the Gdańsk shipyards. These houses serve as miniature exhibition halls for the works of Polish artists who seek to express what solidarity means today, over thirty years after the movement began.
The Solidarity trade union federation began organising on the 31st of August, 1980, at the Gdańsk shipyards under the leadership of the now-internationally recognised Lech Wałęsa. It was the first trade union to organise under the communist regime and was not controlled by the government. The Solidarity movement served as the main form of civil resistance in the 1980s pushing forward worker’s rights and social change. The ideals and messages of “Solidarność” spread throughout the Eastern Bloc and is considered to be a highly influential actor in weakening the communist regimes.
The project, created specially under the Polish Presidency of the European Council, provides an opportunity to re-examine the significance of the ideas cherished by Solidarity in present-day Europe. The key questions involved include: How did the movement affect European sensibilities? Are its values still valid or are they now obscured by consumerism and capitalism? “Solidarity Camp” provides a chance to reflect critically upon the future of Solidarity, and discover new meanings and phenomena with which it could be associated.
For the Camp installation, Grzegorz Klaman selected and adapted objects from the Gdańsk Shipyard for a tour of major European capitals. Their trivial yet legendary character is taken out of its immediate context as these artefacts attempt to transmit the Shipyard’s myth and place it under scrutiny out of the context of their original setting.
For years, workers of the Gdańsk Shipyard constructed their own private sheds within the huge production space. It was there that they would meet up during their breaks, have coffee or lunch, rest, and then – plot conspiracy against the regime. The humble zones of privacy and comfort were always respected by the management, despite the fact that they were not officially registered. These small hubs of social life lightened the burden of daily toil. Their design, colour and furnishings reflected the unbridled creativity of their users, and gave a vent for the workers' free self-expression. Made using whatever materials were at hand, these improvised shelters are among the last remaining testimonies to the ingenuity of workers who fashioned strange constructions and vehicles, attempting to make their lives somewhat easier. No longer serving their function, and consigned to be melted down at a steel-mill, the tiny havens now languish on the shipyard grounds.
"Solidarity Camp" puts a small village of these sheds on display for the public. Grzegorz Klaman, together with the shipyard workers, modified the shelters in accordance with EU transport regulations. The hybrid constructions which emerged from this process blend the indigenous with the normative. Regulation practices thus become a reference point for the installation project, which forms a narrative of the shipyard shed’s struggle for survival in a new reality of the European Union.
The project kicked off in Gdańsk in August, then travelled to Kiev, is now in Brussels and will, in October, travel to Madrid and wrap up in Warsaw in November.
The Camp is set up for about a week in each location and the sheds serve as space for various visual installations, performances, lectures and meetings. Grzegorz Klaman prepared a political multimedia presentation about the history of the Gdańsk Sipyard sheds. Several Polish artists, including Zorka Wollny, Marek Sobczyk, Roman Dziadkiewicz and Karol Radziszewski, will be exhibiting in another shed. Agnieszka Kurant, Paweł Mykietyn, Adam Witkowski and Anna Molska will present their works in one of the huts. Yet another shed will serve as a space for performances and the remaining shed will feature a vodka bar.
Additionally, the Camp will feature guest speakers like Bruno Latour, Naomi Klein, Chantal Mouffe and others. The programme also incorporates performances of contemporary Polish plays, including Bożena Kleff’s “Utwór o Matce i Ojczyżnie” / “On the Mother and Fatherland”, Paweł Demirski’s “Brylant to węgiel, który wziął się o roboty” / “Diamonds Are Coal That Got Down to Work”, and Julia Holewińska’s “Ciała obce” / “Alien Bodies”.
For a full programme, visit Nowy Teatr’s website.
Nowy Teatr in Warsaw is run by the renowned director Krzysztof Warlikowski. The theatre was opened in 2008/2009 and is known for staging contemporary, thought-provoking performances. The Wyspa Institute of Art has been in exsistence since 2004 and is located on the Gdańsk Shipyard grounds. It, combined with the Wyspa Progress Foundation, is an artistic organisation seeing to promote and present contemporary art, especially focusing on art that poses questions of society as a whole.
Date: 23rd of September – 1st of October, 2011
Venue: KVS Royal Flemish Theatre
Organised by: Nowy Teatr, Wyspa Institute of Art, KVS Royal Flemish Theatre, Gdańsk Shipyard
This project is cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.