stadium stadion x - Laura Palmer Foundation



stadium stadion x - Laura Palmer Foundation
ISBN 978-83-61407-84-3
ISBN 978-83-925107-2-7
Warszawa–Kraków 2008
Edited by
Joanna Warsza
René Wawrzkiewicz
Polish editing and proofreading
Marcin Hernas, Kinga Surówka, Monika Ples
English editing and proofreading
Warren Niesłuchowski, Joanna Krawczyk
English translation
This publication was created in conjunction with
the site-specific projects A Trip to Asia: an Acoustic
Walk Around the Vietnamese Sector of the 10thAnniversary Stadium and The Finissage of Stadium X,
produced by Laura Palmer Foundation in the derelict,
post-communist Stadium in the city center of Warsaw
surrounded by the immense early-capitalist market
called Jarmark Europa. In 2008 the Stadium was
demolished to make way for a new National Stadium
on the occasion of the Euro 2012 Football Championship.
John Kubiniec, Marcin Wawrzyńczak, Otmar Lichtenwörther
Polish translation
Kuba Mikurda, Marcin Wawrzyńczak, Piotr Kowalczyk
Joanna Warsza
Production Manager Zuza
Cover photograph
Mikołaj Długosz
Photos by
Mikołaj Długosz: 18, 22, 26–27, 32, 38, 40, 42–43, 44–45, 46–47, 48, 50, 60, 62, 66–67,
68-69, 70-71, 72, 74
Damazy Kwiatkowski /PAP: 104-105
Marta Orlik: 6, 24, 34, 52, 55, 80–81, 82–83, 86, 91, 92–93, 94–95, 96–97, 100
Marek Ostrowski: 4–5
Tomasz Pasternak: 84–85
Marta Pruska: 10–11, 12–13, 14–15, 16, 20, 56, 58–59, 76, 88, 90, 98
Joanna Warsza: 36
Albert Zawada/Agencja Gazeta: 28–29, 30–31
Photo editing
Jakub Ryske
Published by
Bęc Zmiana Foundation
ul. Mokotowska 65/7, 00-533 Warszawa, Poland +48 22 827 64 62
Korporacja Ha!art
pl. Szczepański 3a, 31-011 Kraków, Poland
+48 12 422 81 98
I would like to sincerely thank all the individuals and institutions
without whom this project and publication would never have
Bogna Świątkowska, René Wawrzkiewicz, Anca Benera, Kacper Białkowski, Zbigniew Boniek, Dominika Cieślikowska, Aslan Dekaev,
Anna Gajewska, Magda Grabowska, Michał Górski, Drążek, Bogusław
Hajdas, Ewa Janowska, Viktoria Kirpota, Marek Kraszewski, Kuba
Królikowski, Agnieszka Kurant, Ryszard Kosiński, Kuba Kosma,
Robert Jarosz, Siba Mahmoud, Warren Niesłuchowski, Piotr Kowalczyk, Kamila Liszczyna, Staszek Olędzki, Emilian Pajączkowski,
Barbara Piwowarska, Tomek Porowski, Adam Sienkiewicz, Ozgur
Soner, Janek Sowa, Anna Theiss, Tashi Tsering, Ngô Văn Tung,
Maryna Tomaszewska, Tomasz Twardy, Ania Waelli, Jan Wacławik,
Zygmunt Warsza, Gonia Wiśniewska, Tomasz Zimoch, Pro Helvetia, Polish Ministry of Sport and Tourism, Central Sports Center,
CHD Stadion, National Sport Center, Culture Department of the City
of Warsaw, Arteria Foundation, mamastudio, Kampus Radio, Stołeczna Estrada, EURO RSCG Warsaw, On Board Public Relations,
TVP Kultura, Warsaw Rising Museum, Stefan Starzyński Institute,
Foundation for Freedom, Chłodna 25 club, Goethe
Political Critique’s REDakcja, Diversity Forum Foundation, Warsaw
Continent, ORFI, SWPS, International Center for Vocational Adaptation, Energopol, Benq,, and all the volunteers and all I
forgot to mention.
P.W.STABIL, ul. Nabielaka 16, 31-410 Kraków, Poland
Printed on Arctic Volume Ivory 130 gr
Typeset in NaomiSans and Swiss911
ISBN 978-83-61407-84-3
ISBN 978-83-925107-2-7
This book was published with the financial support of the City
of Warsaw and the National Sport Center
Joanna Warsza
Roland Schöny
An Acoustic Walk Around the Vietnamese Sector
of the 10th-Anniversary Stadium
Pascal Nicolas-Le Strat
Grzegorz Piątek
On the Stadium’s Architecture
A One-man Re-enactment of the 1982 Poland-Belgium
Football Match by Massimo Furlan, commentary
by Tomasz Zimoch
Art and Schengen at the Stadium
Pit Schultz
With the Participation of Eyewitnesses to Certain Events
Claire Bishop
Warren Niesłuchowski
Ngô Văn Tưởng
An International Radio for the Weekend
in All the Languages of the Market
Sonic Microstrategies at the Jarmark Europa
Benjamin Cope
A Night Show on the Construction Site / annas kollektiv
Sebastian Cichocki
The Story of a Dissident-Market Trader
Ewa Majewska
Anda Rottenberg, Cezary Polak, Stach Szabłowski,
and Tomasz Stawiszyński talk about Massimo
Furlan’s Boniek!
Schauplatz International
Marek Ostrowski, Barbara Sudnik-Wójcikowska, Halina Galera
Botanical Researches at the Stadium
he people of Berlin were asked in the spring of 2008
whether they wanted the Nazi-era Tempelhof airport to continue serving the city in its present function, or be closed and transformed into a great hall for
expositions and art exhibitions. As a result of the referendum, the huge, never completed complex has ceased
handling air traffic. Overnight, a place with great character lost its functionality and expressiveness in favor
of an unspecified future, and a potential and puzzling
uselessness. In the early 1990s, involuntarily and in
a manner far more anarchistic than the Berlin airport,
Warsaw’s 10th–Anniversary Stadium, a Communist
showpiece, a sports venue capable of fitting 100,000
spectators, also ceased to ‘be itself.’ There is nothing
surprising in that fact: eras pass, buildings that are
not revitalised fall into ruin or become dysfunctional
and unpopular. In the end, sooner or later, they are
demolished. It is interesting that in a small number of
cases there then begins another, parallel history overlapping the one that was. The result is heterotopic places, areas that are not quite real, that, like the cemetery,
the garden, or the theme park, perform a function part
magic, part real, focusing and denaturing the qualities of the society that shaped them. When I first went
walking around the ruins of the Stadium and the surrounding open-air market known as Jarmark Europa,
I had a strange sense that this was an invisible and
unacknowledged symbolic ‘city within a city,’ governed
by its own laws, with its own climate, time zone, currency, and language. And though this was a somewhat
‘Orientalist’ observation, there was at least some truth
to it: here the shops opened at 3 a.m. and closed at
noon, the crowd spoke in Asian languages, the pitch
was overgrown with plant life, and the stands were
being combed through by archaeologists searching for
remnants of medieval Warsaw.
The Stadium was built in 1955 from the rubble of a warruined Warsaw in World War II. It was to preserve Communism’s good name for forty years, but paradoxically
the most important events during that time were the
tragic self-immolation of Ryszard Siwiec in 1968, the
1983 Papal Mass, and the Stevie Wonder concert in
1989. By the mid-’80s, the site had definitively stopped
being used as a sports venue. It fell into ruin, becoming
a post-Communist phantom. In the early 1990s, it was
‘revived’ by Vietnamese intelligentsia-cum-vendors
and Russian traders, pioneers of capitalism who set
up camping beds with all sorts of wares on the crown
of the Stadium. Jarmark Europa suddenly became the
only multicultural site in the city, a storehouse of biographies, equipment, and stories, as well as a major
tourist attractions. A place that theoretically did not exist could be read in many different, often conflicting,
ways: as an Asian suburb, a primeval forest, a realm of
provisionality, controlled chaos and discount shopping,
a sports club in demise, a work camp for archaeologists
and botanists, the seat of Jehovah’s Witnesses, along
with many others. The different logic of the place, its
heterogeneity, its longstanding (non)presence in the
middle of the post-Communist city, the invisibility of
the Vietnamese minority, the debate around the development of a new National Stadium here for the Euro
2012 football cup, and the continuing lack of a critical
debate on Poland’s post-war architectural legacy — all
these factors served as the inspiration for The Finissage
of Stadium X project, as well as for this publication.
The 2006 project A Trip to Asia: An Acoustic Walk Around
the Vietnamese Sector of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium
and a series of six ‘episodes’ in 2007–8 (Boniek!, OnSite Inspection, The End of Jarmark Europa, Radio Stadion Broadcasts, Palowanie / Pile Driving, and Schengen)
were subjective excursions undertaken by artists,
athletes, and activists into the reality of a Stadium
‘no longer extant’ which also signaled its problematic
existence. The result were projects of a participative and semi-documentary nature (a walk, a football
match, a Sunday radio station, a spectacle on a building
site, an exhibition featuring real people) which touched
upon issues of memory, deterioration, the power of imagination, ambiguities, and the future, as well as on the
problematic exoticism of the place.
Stadium X: A Place That Never Was is founded on the idea
of a reader, a selection of texts that forms a multi-faceted
picture of the deterioration of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium and the open-air market surrounding it. Each of
the invited authors offers his or her own fascinating perspective on this place and the project. For the botanists
Marek Ostrowski, Barbara Sudnik-Wójcikowska and Halina Galera, the Stadium was a wild garden, a green isle for
explorers discovered from a helicopter. Benjamin Cope,
curator and musician, monitors the market’s cacophony
of voices and the buzzing characteristic of Eastern European or Asian bazaars, while radio activist Pit Schultz observes in the Jarmark’s loudspeakers a sonic order typical
of small-town church bells. Philosopher Pascal Nicolas-le
Strat points to the ‘interstices and ground-floors of cities’: vacant lots and deserted buildings, where you can
find all kinds of strange objects: bicycles, abandoned
pieces of furniture, piles of advertising flyers, or letters
never collected by their addressees. Their provisional nature makes them into ‘points of resistance’ against rigid
and hierarchised models of creating the urban fabric.
Sebastian Cichocki, curator and sociologist, outlines the
spectacularity of defunct architecture and his fascination with ruins and decay. He perceives the Stadium as
nothing less than a Land Art installation, as well as an
alternative tourist attraction, a reservoir of information,
or finally, a new source of urban legends. Journalist and
activist Ngô Văn Tưởng tells the story of the Nhà Trắng
(White House), as the Vietnamese have ironically dubbed
this plot of land with its white makeshift stalls, and describes how members of the Vietnamese intelligentsia
in Poland became market vendors, then gave rise to an
opposition movement. Linguist Warren Niesłuchowski
studies the etymology of the Greek word stadion and
its functions. Stadion originally denoted the length of
a course run by naked contestants, some 200 meters,
and was later applied to the oval-shaped structure erect-
ed around it. In Latin, the word became spatium, ‘space.’
Grzegorz Piątek, an architectural critic and curator, describes how the heaps of rubble from a ruined Warsaw
were used to build this post-war architectural icon of the
city. He tells the story of the venue’s rise and fall, noting
that the Stadium’s remnants will be used as the foundation stones for the new stadium, which, though not yet
built, is already beginning to be touted as Warsaw’s new
showpiece. Art critic Claire Bishop writes of artists’ growing interest in collectivity, collaboration, social commitment, through projects blurring the distinction between
art and life. The publication also features texts relating
directly to the Finissage project: a transcript of a conversation between Anda Rottenberg, Cezary Polak, Stach
Szabłowski and Tomasz Stawiszyński on the Boniek!
performance and Massimo Furlan’s artistic heroism, as
well as essays by philosopher and activist Ewa Majewska
and curator and critic Roland Schöny. The latter uses the
example of the Finissage to test the potential for memory
in the public sphere, interpreting the project’s episodes
as ‘memo-coordinates’ that intensified presence in vanishing. Majewska analyses the project from the perspective of magical forces, seeing the protagonists of Boniek!,
artist Massimo Furlan and sports commentator Tomasz
Zimoch, as guides endowed with special powers to magically change reality. She reads On-Site Inspection in the
context of Stanisław Lem’s sci-fi novel of the same title
in Polish, Wizja lokalna, construing the Finissage as a trip
to the planet Entia, of which it is hard to learn anything
definitive because it is overgrown with a thicket of conflicting narratives created, among others, by the inhabitants of Kurdlandia and Luzania.
Over the course of time, the Stadium is likely becoming such a distant planet, while the present publication
attains — perhaps — the status of an unreal story
about a place that, after all, never was.
series of interventions on the premises of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium tested the possibilities of memory
in the public sphere in a prodigious manner. Moreover, in the form of reflexive snapshots staged in different
ways and which drilled deep into the strata of society, the
currently all-too­-obvious proliferations of an apparently archaic post-Communist capitalism were felicitously brought
into focus. On a location layered in nothing less than excessive fashion with different levels of meanings, political, economic and historical, curator Joanna Warsza has followed
the principle of fragmentary reconstruction and made the
signifiers characteristic of the location dance, before the
curtain fell for good.
It seems that only in this fragmentary juxtaposition of
seemingly unrelated elements that converge solely along
the line of the conceptual tangent of critical performative
practice was it possible to capture the highlights of a situation marked by the drifting apart of various narratives
whose scenic diversity no single rear view mirror could encompass. Without hoisting the colours with a call to socially
oriented art-forms, the biographical plane of history, combined with a subjective dimension, came into play. However, the complex ‘social field as a multidimensional space
of positions’1 that has constituted itself around the 10th–
Anniversary Stadium was not shifted into an analytically
well-founded representation, in the framework of activities
appropriately paraphrased as a closing event, but could
flare up for moments by means of a system of references.
Thus, equipped with all the necessary research tools and
methodological repertory of artistic intervention, the issue
of the ascertainability of history was categorically raised.
At the very moment when irreversible measures of restructuring affecting entire districts of the city of Warsaw were
commencing, this raised the question of which patterns of
recollection would determine the inscription of the consequences of this urban renewal into our consciousness.
For in the process of permanent absorption of events by
the media, our mode of perception seems to be radically
changing. All perception of historical processes is on the
verge of dissolving into the orbit of media representation;
in the process of increasing acceleration every event immediately turns into a media event. Images are torn from
their respective contexts and randomly juxtaposed, their
individual meaning leveled. Hence our perception of the
processes of urban development is no exception. Information on complex planning processes and urban renewal
measures is being transformed into a thin layer of standardized actuality which is reissued day in, day out in the
format of the news item. Intricate processes are reduced
to simple messages. By contrast, memory and recollection,
as manifestations of social depth, are shrinking inexorably.
Zoomed-in snapshots of the system of social relationships
have already acquired scarcity value. ‘We speak so much
of memory only because it no longer exists,’ as French historian Pierre Nora has declared. Collective memory shared
and passed on by living groups has been progressively diminishing. At the same time this has resulted in the increasing significance of real sites of memory as a kind of
repeater station enabling the release of potentials of retrospection on anything that has been individually (or collectively) experienced as special: ‘Our interest in those sites
where memory is stored or where it retreats into arises
out of this particular moment in our history. We are experiencing a moment of transition where our awareness of
a breaking with the past goes hand in hand with a feeling
of a breakdown of memory; yet at the same time it is a moment when this break still releases so much memory that
we may ask for its materializations.’ 2
Nevertheless any attempt to define the 10th–Anniversary
Stadium as a site of memory would set us on the wrong
track, as its socio-historical context totally forecloses any
coherent agglomeration of signs. So we would be better
off proceeding on the assumption that the Stadium has
already served as a kind of ‘apparatus of differentiation,’
not only through the dualism of victory and defeat inherent
in football, but first and foremost through its function as
a platform for highly contradictory situations within Polish
society. Sociologist Maurice Halbwachs explored such
processes and raised questions as to what holds living human beings together as a collective. According to cultural
anthropologist Aleida Assman, Halbwachs made a strict
distinction between collective memory and the memory
of historiography, as specific memories, even though they
form identity and stabilize a collective, may at the same
time block out historical events.3 Halbwachs remarked
‘. . . But there is no universal memory. Every collective
memory requires the support of a group delimited in space
and time. We can assemble the totality of past events into
a single picture only on the condition that we free them
from the memories of those collectives who preserved their
memory . . . and that we retain only their chronological and
spatial scheme.’4
Even though the interventions here touched upon such
issues, in Finissage Joanna Warsza deployed them rather to
only place marks which might be defined as ‘memo-coordinates,’ in order to embark on individual episodic expeditions. In this way, quite different patterns of memory were
thematized. Even the English tradition of reenactment, the
restaging of war situations, so closely bound up with the
British population’s drastic experience during World War I as allies of France in the 1904 Entente Cordiale,5 was here
only practiced in a quite fragmentary way, with only one
player. As a single signifier brought back to life, he was
abstracted from the overall context of a complete sports
event, which was obviously necessary for making this intervention possible in the first place. As in Slavoj Žižek’s
Lacan based analysis, the repetition would uncover the existential hopelessness of its participants: ‘This is how Lacan
conceives the difference between repetition of a signifier
and repetition qua traumatic encounter with the Real: the
repetition of a signifier repeats the symbolic trait unitaire,
the mark to which the object is reduced, and thus it constitutes the ideal order of the Law, whereas “traumatism”
designates precisely the reemergent failure to integrate
some “impossible” kernel of the Real.’ 6
To integrate opposing players and tell them to lose the
match would have made the homage to Zbigniew Boniek an absurdity. Yet even as a single signifier, Massimo
Furlan acted as an amplifier who symbolized the act of
a final flare-up. Indeed, it is one of the paradoxes of perception that aspects of presence can be intensified, of all
things, by disappearing. In particular, the experience of
the final discontinuation of the continuous data stream
of the existing can trigger a backward-looking desire. This
logic is particularly effective when libidinous forces and
desire are in play. That the psychodynamics of the recapitulation of commemorative images as an early form of
the restructuring of the real which results from disappearance is not only triggered by dramatic personal events
such as the breakup of a loving relationship or the loss
of a loved one, is something Freud had already observed
in his analysis of mourning as an extreme symptom of
disappearance. ‘Mourning is regularly the reaction to the
loss of a loved person, or to the loss of some abstraction
which has taken the place of one, such as one’s country,
liberty, an ideal, and so on.’7 Thus this can also apply to
national monuments and historical ruins.
Referring to what is required for the architecture of a stadium, the visionary Anglo-Danish architect Ove Nyquist Arup,
the founder of Arup Associates, the architecture and engineering firm that among its many other projects realized
the Beijing Olympic Stadium for the 2008 Games designed
by Herzog & de Meuron, said that a stadium is more like
a machine than a conventional building or structure. As sta-
diums are multiple hubs in the very center of traffic, energy
and media networks, and at the same time urban ‘supersigns,’ the optimized handling of audience streams linked
to the presentation of corresponding consumer items is
among their key tasks. Beyond this technocratic definition
of stadiums as machines, stadiums also serve a metaphorical purpose as desire machines with surfaces for inscription, recording and projection in whose macrostructures
sediments of history and memory are deposited.
Seen from this perspective the notion of architecture comes
to be loaded with allegorical meaning, in a way reminiscent of modernist literature and its method of ‘turning the
city into the mirror image of memory,’ which, for example,
Walter Benjamin was more than familiar with from Charles
Baudelaire’s poetry. Moreover, the terminological overlapping of architecture and memory can even be traced back
to antiquity, as exemplified by the concept of ‘mnemonics’ or ‘mnemotechnics’8. In his highly explorative Arcades
Project, Walter Benjamin repeatedly compares the act of
remembering with wandering through architectures. The
closing event of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium represented
an inversion of these two notions, and thus created an
echo chamber of perceptual contexts around the entropic
sign system of our society’s status quo.
1 P. Bourdieu, ‘Social Space and the Genesis of “Class,”’ [ = « Espace social et genèse de « classe », in Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, no. 52/53, June 1984. Reprinted in Bourdieu,
Language and Symbolic Power, John B. Thompson, ed., trans. Gino Raymond and Matthew
Adamson, (Cambridge, England: Polity Press, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991).
2 P. Nora, Les lieux de mémoire, 7 volumes, (Paris: Gallimard, 1984–92). Abridged translation,
Realms of Memory, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996–98).
3 See A. Assmann, Erinnerungsräume. Formen und Wandlungen des kulturellen Gedächtnisses,
(Munich, 1999, 3rd ed. 2006) p. 131.
4 M. Halbwachs, La mémoire collective [1950], trans. Lewis Coser, modified, cited in Assmann,
op. cit., p. 132.
5 See J. B. Köhne, ‘Krieg Trauma Spiel. Ein britischer wissenschaftlicher Film (1918) und eine BBCDocumentary (2002),’ in Frank Stern, Julia B. Köhne, Karin Moser, Thomas Ballhausen, Barbara
Eichinger, eds., Filmische Gedächtnisse. Geschichte – Archiv – Riss, (Vienna: Buchreihe der ÖH
Uni Wien: 2001 Vol. I, p. 171–3.
6 S. Zizek, Enjoy Your Symptom!: Jacques Lacan in Hollywood and Out, (New York and London:
Routledge, 2001) p. 79.
7 S. Freud, ‘Mourning and Melancholia, in ’The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of
Sigmund Freud, trans. James Strachey. (London: Hogarth Press: Institute of Psycho-analysis,
1953–1974, Vol. 14) p. 243.
8 See D. Schöttker, Konstruktiver Fragmentarismus. Form und Rezeption der Schriften (Frankfurt:
Walter Benjamins, 1999) pp. 232–3.
THE VIETNAMESE SECTOR OF THE 10th–Anniversary Stadium
very hundredth Varsovian is a Vietnamese, yet
Asians are symbolically absent from the homogeneous city. The project Trip to Asia: an Acoustic Walk
Around the Vietnamese Sector of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium was conceived in the summer of 2006 as
a response, among other things, to that absence. The
walk was a reference, on the one hand, to the idea
of urban roaming, and on the other to headphoneguided museum tours. The trip began on the left bank
of the Vistula, opposite the National Museum, at the
Warszawa-Powiśle commuter train station. Viewers
reported at a check-in point where they were handed
tickets, an mp3-player, a map showing the places where
the different audio tracks should be played, a checkered
plastic bag with various wares, and 5,000 Vietnamese
dongs. They set out in pairs, every half-hour. The first
stage of the trip was to take the train to the next station, Warszawa Stadion. It took only three minutes, but
it was precisely during that ride that the process began:
perceiving a different reality, and investing it with an
imagined, strange, consciously exotic dimension, intensified by the Polish-Vietnamese recorded commentary
on that surrounding reality. The train the viewer boarded crossed the Vistula and rode straight into the stalls
of the Vietnamese sector. When the first buildings on
the right-bank appeared, it was easy to see they in no
way resembled the development of left-bank Warsaw.
The stall roofs, chaotic alleys, and lush greenery made
them more like Asian suburbs, hastily constructed
without any architectural plans and using cheap materials. Little Vietnam, where the train soon stopped, was
a fluid, constantly changing world that could disappear
at any moment. So mapping it was strange, to say the
least. By crossing the Vistula, the viewer passed an
imaginary border between Europe and Asia, listening on
headphones to the same recorded message air passengers hear when landing in Hanoi. Upon disembarking
from the train, the viewer went down an alley between
warehouses, before reaching, some 300 m down the
road, the Dững Phờ bar, one of the Stadium’s eateries,
the one with longest hours, open until 4 p.m., when the
nearby stallholders close their businesses for the day.
There was a feminist poster displayed there, the work
of Alisa Ahn Kotmair, a Berlin-based Vietnamese artist, showing a cigarette-smoking woman in a low-cut
dress. Even today smoking in public is seen as inappropriate for women in Asia. In fact, it is hard not to notice
that most of Dững Phờ’s clientele is men, and that it
is also men who dominate the public social space of
the sector. The next stop was a spot under a flyover
where the ‘taxi drivers’ meet, men transporting wares
on metal pushcarts known as the uwaga, from the only
Polish word (meaning ‘Watch out!’) they know and
which they keep shouting as they squeeze through the
crowd in the narrow alleys. The taxi drivers are fresh
arrivals who have yet to repay the high cost of coming
to Poland.
After finding stall 105 and handing the bag over to
its owner, the viewer looked for an alley filled with
fast-food bars, where he was met by pro-Vietnamese
activists Ton Van Anh and Robert Krzysztoń. In an personal conversation with them, he or she learned about
the origins of the Vietnamese migration to Poland,
the oppression they experience here, the activities of
the Vietnamese embassy and secret service, and about
the charter deportations and spectacular careers. The
itinerary then took the viewer to Băng Sinh Vien’s
video-rental shop. Hidden behind a folding door, the establishment offers soap operas on VHS tape, musicals,
black records, and CDs, picturesque copies of copies, an
ersatz of happiness for the homesick Vietnamese. The
next stop, slightly elevated, was Mai Thái’s food shop,
selling anything from instant soups, through various
kinds of tofu, lemon-grass and lemon leaves, ginger,
rice, cardamom, mushrooms, and sauces, to frozen seafood. The 5,000-dong note loosened both the seller’s
and the itinerant’s tongues, and the counterfeit money
suddenly gained transactional value. Finally, at the outskirts of the market, the viewer found the Thang Long
Vietnamese cultural centre and the evergreen Pagoda.
The temple is a miniature version of the One-Pillar Buddha of Compassion pagoda in Hanoi, where charming
plastic chrysanthemums, water lilies, trees, and flowers blossom all year round. The Pagoda was built over
a couple of days, without any building permits, and it
is not listed in any official record (nor are many of its
The Trip to Asia project built on the idea of travelling
around your own city. The tourist, someone afflicted
with the disease of ‘tourism’ — voyeurism, alienation,
passivity, or lack of thought­fulness — was perfect material for recognizing one’s own ignorance. By perceiving the world from the point of view of the Warsaw
Vietnamese, the traveller was made co-responsible for
the reality around him. The staged trip around Jarmark
Europa served as a mechanism for deconstructing
reality, reversing minority-majority relations by quoting
the Vietnamese migrants’ everyday gestures (carrying
the chequered cargo bag, buying mango juice, visiting
the Pagoda). The TV crews present to provide coverage of the project were puzzled: ‘Where’s the action?,’
‘What are we supposed to film?,’ they asked. The action
took place in the viewer’s imagination rather than in
actual reality, in the experience of another reality that,
though invisible, is within arm’s reach.
A Trip to Asia: an Acoustic Walk Around the Vietnamese Sector of the
10th–Anniversary Stadium, June 4–10, 2006, starting at the Powiśle
railway station. In collaboration with Anna Gajewska and Ngô Văn
nterstices represent what is left of resistance in big
cities—resistance to normativity and regulation, to
homogenisation and appropriation. They embody, in
a sense, what is still ‘available’ in the city. Their provisional and uncertain status allows for hint, a glimpse
of other ways of creating a city that are open and collaborative, responsive and cooperative. The importance
of the interstitial experiment is borne out in this very
register, in methodological, formative, political, as well
as heuristic terms.
Interstices ease constraints. And yet this liberating tendency does not relieve us from reflecting on the resulting autonomy and how we seek to shape it. Philippe
Pignarre and Isabelle Stengers put it this way: ‘[W]hat an
interstice can do cannot be known in advance; we can
only say that it is a concept that invites plurality. […] The
interstice in fact does not provide answers but instead
gives rise to new questions.’2 The interstitial experiment creates its own dimensions based on the terrain it
explores and the ways in which it organises it. Its measure is its own process, namely ‘what it is about and to
whom it matters.’3 The experiment, in other words, turns
back on its initiators and confronts them with their own
involvement. To whom does the project matter? What
is its intention? The critical relationship the experiment
maintains with itself is not primarily determined by an
external authority that would give it meaning (an ideal)
or from which it would distinguish itself (a form of domination). Rather, it is as undecided, open, heterogeneous,
and plural as the dynamics it itself sets in motion. Following Henri Lefebvre, we could say that an interstice
opens up onto several levels of reality and that each of
these levels is defined in relation to the others. Each
one becomes, in a way, the critical experiment of the
other; the different levels of reality interpellate each
other reciprocally. Here we find tucked away the origin
of a host of questions. There we see traced the contours
and trajectory of a form of autonomy to come. The interstice constitutes itself on a political level; it wishes to
break with the classical organization of the city. But it
also confronts its own everyday limitations, integrating
rhythms and rituals, habits and familiar practices. The
interstitial experiment thus ‘encompasses a critique of
art by the everyday and a critique of the everyday by
art. It encompasses a critique of the political by everyday social practice and vice-versa. It also includes, in
an analogous sense, the critique of sleep and dreams
by waking life (and vice-versa), and the critique of the
real by the imaginary and the possible (and vice-versa).
This means that it begins by establishing dialectical relationships, reciprocities, and implications.’4 The interstitial experiment is thus about, above all, calling things
into question, a questioning that diffracts into multiple
points of view at different levels of reality: a questioning that proceeds from within and by way of the inside,
making the experiment fundamentally undecidable.
‘[H]e who already knows cannot go beyond a known horizon. I wanted experience to lead where it would, not to
lead it to some endpoint given in advance.’5
There is no guarantee that a fissure, no matter how
distinct, will stay open. The initial impetus fades; the
rupture becomes difficult to maintain. Weariness, which
weakens the best of intentions, and institutionalisation, which insidiously assimilates and neutralises the
experimental process, can both cause some of the most
creative and radical experiments to end by succumbing
again to the given order. Once the interstice was alive;
now its perspectives are narrowing, becoming restricted.
There is no such thing as the unassimilable initiative or
the irrecuperable project. Nothing in the way they are
defined or constituted can protect them. Only their
movement toward autonomy, their ingenuity, and their
intelligence about particular situations allows them to
resist; only their experimental and existential performativity provides them with the resources to endure. Their
salvation is neither to be found in an alleged original
purity (the worm was in the fruit from the beginning,
the beautiful souls will tell us), nor in a great divide that
would infallibly separate the grain from the chaff (sellout was inevitable, the aspiring attorneys will conclude).
No, nothing like this could ever guarantee the outcome
of an experiment. Once opened, the interstice can only
stay active and creative by moving forward and relentlessly pursuing its task of recomposition, and by preserving its indestructible singularity. But in the case of
failure, the inventors of interstices, both those who find
them and those who create them — for those who find
treasure are indeed known as inventors — will find the
hypercritical and the dogmatic turning against them.
Instead of analyzing why an experiment was hijacked
or undermined, these critics prefer to ‘attack those who
took the initiative or put forward an idea.’6 This error in
analysis is tragic, because the fact that an experiment
was aborted ‘does not mean that during a certain period the concept or project was not potentially active.’7
Concentrating the criticism exclusively on the moment
of failure (the closure of an interstice, an experiment’s
return to the given order, the cooption of a project) prevents the assessment of the experiment as a whole and
does not allow for it to be grasped in its entire scope and
creativity. Focusing on the result (recuperation) prevents
taking stock of the process (autonomisation). Once the
answer is no longer in doubt, the question that was investigated in the experiment and activated in the interstice becomes relegated to the background. But is there
still time to concern ourselves with the nature of a process once its end is no longer up for debate?
Michel de Certeau urges us at length in his works to
shift our perspective, to reverse or divert it. For the
author of The Practice of Everyday Life, a society is
made up of certain prominent practices that are structuring, encompassing, noisy, and spectacular — and
others that are ‘innumerable, . . . that remain ‘minor,’
always there but not organising discourses and preserving the beginnings or remains of different (institutional, scientific) hypotheses for that society or for
others.’8 If our perspective is limited to what is most
immediately before us — what reality presents to us
as the most complete and legitimate — we will miss
numerous realities that are quietly in the process of becoming. The society described by Michel de Certeau is
a society of multiple ontologies that cannot be reduced
to its most visible and encompassing developments.
For it is also composed of a multiplicity of fragmentary
becomings, barely sketched, but waiting only to be activated: a multiplicity of becomings, minor or minoritarian, certainly, but with a constructive reach that should
not be underestimated. An interstice is a privileged
space where suppressed questions continue to make
themselves heard, where certain ideas rejected by the
dominant model affirm their topicality, and where many
fettered and blocked minoritarian becomings demonstrate their vitality. Interstices are there to remind us
that society never coincides perfectly with itself and
that its development leaves numerous potentialities
unexplored — opportunities for authentic sociality or
citizenship left lying fallow, when they could give rise to
the most ambitious experiments. It is often art that fulfills the role of disclosure or revelation, that deploys or
unfolds this potential accumulated by a society become
multitude. Such a society-multitude is far from cultivating all the prospects it opens up. It neither lives up to its
own strength nor manages to raise itself to the heights
of its own creativity. By working in the interstices, by
making breaks, by venturing off the beaten path, the
multiplicity of becomings — denied, scorned, obscured,
neglected — fights back and imposes its own perspectives. The interstitial experiment is a privileged opportunity to take up the potentialities and becomings that
have been disqualified by the general economy, that
have been kept on the fringes of society’s development
or buried under a mound of commercial products.9
The art of cunning
Interstices are at work both within and in opposition
to the city and its urban planning. They combine an-
processes it is able to initiate. Its gain in strength is realised and modulated according to the (lived, perceived)
intensity of its creations and experiments. The interstitial experiment is a form of radicality and subversion
that is essentially ‘positive’; it is directly pegged to the
dynamic it sets in motion itself. Its power of opposition
and contradiction comes not from the outside (in the
sense of a reverse reflection of dominant reality) but is
developed one step at a time from out of cooperations
and alliances among participants, from the intensification of living assemblages (sharing, human cont-
termined in a pure sense (such as an ideal or utopia)10.
If another world is possible, its possibility comes from
hybridisation, displacement, détournement, reversal –
but certainly not from the implementation of an ideal
or a program for the realisation of hope. As such, the
interstice is the perfect metaphor for what could be
a movement of antagonism and contradiction in the
post-Fordist city: a movement that establishes itself
at the pace of its own experiments, that increases
in intensity thanks to the modes of life and desire it
liberates, and that enters into opposition only to the
degree that it is capable of inventing and creating.
A politics of singularities
tagonistic (disjunctive) forces with constitutive (affirmative) ones. They are a counter-power emerging
at the heart of the very reality being confronted. We
could just as well speak of a counter-experiment or
counter-existence, given how much this form of antagonism is nourished by ‘positive’ forces. The interstitial
experiment distances us from the classical conception
of counter-power, which derives its energy (and reason
for being) from the negative relationship it has with its
institutional context. There is nothing of the kind in interstitial work: its force comes instead from the very
act), from the coexistence of multiple singularities . . .
The interstice disrupts the flattering, aestheticised, efficient image the city has of itself, but not from an external point of view — such as a competing image of the
city or an alternative program — but by being cunning
with the city, by playing with its internal tensions and
contradictions: it embraces what the city neglects and
disinvests, its vacant lots, whatever it no longer manages to integrate, its transcultural mobility. The interstitial experiment signals the end of the dream of purity
in politics, the idea that the alternative can be self-de-
Every interstitial experiment is based on very specific
interests and desires. It is difficult to transpose what it
does into other contexts or to have other actors integrate it into their own experiments. What it expresses
is not immediately translatable. It would be delusional
to think that, in an urban environment, interstices will
end up joining together, naturally unifying so as to
plot another kind of urbanity in the texture of the city
itself. The process is likely to be much more risky. Following Michael Hardt and Toni Negri, we have to admit
that such experiments do not mesh with each other as
do the links of a single chain of revolt.11 The impetus,
the trigger, and the motivations of the various experiments are certainly similar. In every case, there is a will
to share other forms of sociality, a desire for the ‘common’ and for cooperation. But these are desires and
wills that enact different perspectives and play out in
very different contexts (political, aesthetic, intellectual,
social, emotional, etc.). This multiplicity does not spontaneously form a discernible and legible unity; it is not,
in a word, politically coherent. But, according to Hardt
and Negri, what these experiments lose in extension
and generalization, they gain in intensity. They are
barely communicable; they are difficult to transpose.
On the other hand, each one of them, by the sole virtue of its own dynamic, achieves a high degree of experimentation and creation and a great intensity in the
elaboration and exploration of its assemblages. As the
authors point out, precisely because these modes of
struggle and resistance do not become extended or reinforce themselves horizontally, they are forced to leap
vertically and achieve immediately a high level of creativity and constitutive intensity.12 Because they define
themselves by their authentically biopolitical character
and are concerned with creating new forms of community and life, these experiments rapidly come into
contact with what is essential and engage with global
questions. This forces them to confront the kinds of
‘absolute’ problems that directly affect life and existence. What characterizes them is their own energy:
their ability to initiate, to put things into gear, to get
things started. Interstitial experiments are emblematic of a politics of singularities, that is, a politics that
derives its strength from its mobility and intensities,
from its ability to experiment and from the ‘quality’
of its assemblages, from its openness to questions
and its ‘commonplace’ and immediate relationship to
‘absolute’ questions. (These are ‘how’ questions: how
to cooperate, how to create, how to educate and think?
They are questions posed by the forms life takes).
The ground floor of the city
Vacant lots and abandoned buildings make up the
ground floor of our cities today.13 What does the ground
floor represent? It is an intermediary space between
the intimacy of a residence and the global nature of
the city. It is a building’s threshold that, once crossed,
opens onto the multiplicity and the transversality of the
streets. It is also a common area, neither private nor
public, but a space that is shared by all the residents.
The ground floor is a space-time where our paths can
cross, where we can meet or ignore each other, where
we can stop long enough to have a conversation, or
through which we can pass as quickly as possible. It is
a place shared by the most unlikely objects: bicycles,
strollers, pieces of furniture left behind after a move,
piles of junk mail, letters waiting for their addressees
on top of mailboxes . . . We use the phrase ‘on the
ground floor of the city’ to express a methodological
principle. A sociology of ‘urban interstices’ can indeed
have no better epistemological point of view than that
afforded by the multiplicity of the ground floor with its
interfaces and intervals, its intersection of many working and living communities. This ‘common space’ is
composed of a large variety of collective space-times,
each rejecting a withdrawal into identity or a supposedly protective intimacy as much as a verbose and intrusive ‘publicizing.’ Where are these ground floors of the
city located? Where are our common places? They are
to be found in the multiplicity of uncertain spaces — in
vague lots and abandoned sites, everywhere transitions
and transversality remain possible, everywhere we can
still imagine there is something common, something
shared, something that connects us.
7 Ibid, p. 106.
8 M. De Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life. trans. Steven F. Rendail (Berkeley: University of
California Press, 1984) p. 48.
9 M. Foucault, Il faut défendre la société - Cours au Collège de France, 1976, (Paris : GallimardSeuil, 1997) p. 8-9.
10 M. Hardt and T. Negri, Empire, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000) p. 46.
11 Ibid., p. 54.
12 Ibid., p. 55.
13 C. Petcou and D. Petrescu, ‘Au rez-de-chaussée de la ville,’ in Multitudes, n°20, 2005, p. 75-87.
The article can be found online on the magazine’s website:
1 This article came out of research on temporary urban interstices, intercultural spaces under
construction, and neighborhood localities that was conducted under the auspices of the
interdisciplinary research program ‘Art – Architecture and Landscape’ of the Ministry of Culture
and the Ministry of Infrastructure. The research was carried out in collaboration with Constantin
Petcou, Doina Petrescu, François Deck, and Kobe Matthys. The findings are largely based on
conversations we had with the inhabitants of La Chapelle and with the numerous artists,
activists, architects, and nonprofit groups who were associated at one point or another with our
work. More information on this project, initiated by Doina Petrescu and Constantin Petcoum
and undertaken between 2005 and 2007 can be found at (Activisme urbain)
2 P. Pignarre and I. Stengers La sorcellerie capitaliste - Pratiques du désenvoûtement, (Paris: La
Découverte, 2005) p. 149.
3 Ibid..
4 H. Lefebvre, Critique de la vie quotidienne 2 - Fondements d’une sociologie de la quotidienneté
(Paris : L’Arche éditeur, 1961) p. 25.
5 G. Bataille, Inner Experience, trans. Leslie A. Boldt (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988) p. 3.
6 H. Lefebvre, Critique de la vie quotidienne 3 - De la modernité au modernisme, Pour une
métaphilosophie du quotidien (Paris: L’Arche éditeur, 1981) pp. 105-106.
After losing its function, the Coliseum . . . took on
the character of a building concealing a strange and
secret past. It is also the quintessence of the pagan
city of the past, a place filled with the martyrdom
of the early Christians, a demonum templum, and,
thanks to its indestructibility, is associated with the
longevity of Rome both in ancient times and in later
Leonardo Benevolo
The European City
oday it seems only natural to refer to the Stadion
Dziesięciolecia, the 10th–Anniversary Stadium, as
an icon of post-war Warsaw, although it achieved
this status somewhat accidentally and in defiance of
the decision makers and then prevailing doctrine. Before the war, plans were under way to build a pavilion for the 1944 National Exposition (potentially the
World Exposition) on the site1; for obvious reasons
this project was never completed. The post-war years
provided a perverse epilogue to these unfulfilled
dreams. This area of land lay only a stone’s throw from
the centre, though isolated from the rest of the city.
From the west it was bordered by the overgrown banks
of the Vistula River, from the south by the ramparts
of the Poniatowski Bridge, from the east by those of
Zieleniecka Avenue, and from the north by the railway.
The land became a dumping ground for rubble brought
from all over a destroyed Warsaw, both a graveyard for
a real city and the past’s vision of the city of the future.
During the occupation, urban planners and architects
were already dreaming up the new and improved city
of tomorrow. In keeping with Warsaw’s age-old geographical determinism, the building of the main sports
arena was planned on many different sites, although
always on the left bank of the Vistula, the better bank
of the city.2 The rubble dump on the site of the unrealised National Exposition was designated for recreational use, but as late as 1953 the Head Commission
for Physical Education (today’s Ministry of Sport) was
planning to situate what was no more than a mere district stadium on the right bank3. Shortly thereafter, the
Warsaw branch of the Association of Polish Architects
announced a closed competition for a sports stadium
in Praga, the surrounding district,4 or a stadium built
‘between the bridges,’5 holding 37,500 spectators, with
the possibility of expanding to 60,000 (15,000 seated
and 45,000 standing). Major events were to be held
there only until a proper stadium could be built on the
left bank.6
The results of the competition were a surprise. Although Polish architecture had been dominated by the
official doctrines of Socialist Realism for at least four
years, all eight of the invited teams presented proposals stripped of the neo-classical pomp and overblown
iconography of propaganda. Indeed, the scale of the
complex was vast. And the degree of reduction in the
plans on the drawing-boards, showing the entire urban
context was, to say the least, impressive. This, in turn,
did not allow for any representation of architectural
detail. The reason for the reserve of the designers can
also be explained another way. Since the death of Stalin
in 1953, architects were becoming bolder in criticising
and contesting Socialist-Realist ideals. Secondly, even
in the darkest years of Communism, the planning of
utilitarian structures like sports arenas and commercial
or industrial buildings was a niche for those not wishing to follow the Moscow line.
The winners of the competition – Jerzy Hryniewiecki
(1908–1989), Zbigniew Ihnatowicz (1906–1995), and
Jerzy Sołtan (1913–2005) belonged to this group.7 Rather than building housing estates or government buildings, they repudiated Socialist Realism by designing
exhibition pavilions, factories, or furniture and interiors, and bided their time by teaching in colleges. The
writer Leopold Tyrmand, who had originally trained as
an architect and also found himself not fitting into the
norm of Stalin’s Poland, wrote in his diary: ‘There exists a handful of rebels — among them an excellent
architect, friend of Le Corbusier and a splendid indi-
vidual — Professor Jerzy Sołtan. They do not build; they
are frowned upon and vegetate in teaching jobs. Alongside them exist a few clever procrastinators who rebel
carefully and effectively, all the more so because their
knowledge and talent make them strong. First and
foremost among these is Prof. Hryniewiecki, a brilliant
and witty intellectual, the architects Leykam, Zieliński,
Zamecznik, and a few others.’8
The trio’s winning design contained a few decided
concessions to Socialist Realism. Firstly, the portico
surrounding the stands was classical in style yet simplified, a open-work design only slightly camouflaging
the basic concept of the space as a whole. ‘The authors based the arena on the circle, as drawn up in the
plans. As a form it is the easiest to position within an
area enclosed by two passageways; it is also best for
the spectators, allowing everyone the opportunity to
watch events from the same distance.’9 The height of
the stands varies in order to optimise viewing from different positions; because of this the crown of the Stadium curves in rather picturesque fashion, not unlike
a saddle. The shape of the Stadium was thus closely
related to its function and based on a geometric rationale.
Although a first prize was awarded, in the eyes of the
commissioners none of the designs appeared good
enough to build. This is hardly surprising; never had
a stadium on this scale ever been built in Warsaw, or
anywhere else in Poland. It is safe to assume that there
were no Polish architects with the experience necessary to undertake such a project. In January 1954, the
originator of one of the commended designs — not
one of the winners — was commissioned to examine
alternative urbanistic and functional solutions.
The all-consuming rebuilding of Warsaw was running
out of steam. Subsequent ambitious projects had
been cancelled and the building of a subway system
had ground to a halt. Everything suggested the ‘stadium between the bridges’ would meet with a similar
The Stadium, however, did not share the fate of the
underground, owing to a sudden change of plan. In
June, 1954, Warsaw was entrusted with organising the
5th World Festival of Youth and Students, an international cultural, sports and propaganda event held every
five years in a different socialist country. In the space
of thirteen months Warsaw needed to create a grand
arena, and the ‘stadium between the bridges’ became
the ‘Central Stadium’ with over double the previous capacity, with seating for 71,000, the maximum throughput allowed, with the possibility of increasing standing
room for up to 100,000 spectators.
Work on the final project moved in total ahead at Stakhanovite speed. The concept was developed between
July 1 and August 15, 1954. The ‘preliminary total project’
was completed by October 1, and technical project and
work plans appeared as the building progressed. The
Stadium was completed on June 1, 1955, two months
ahead of the opening of the festival.10
However, somewhere along the road there was a split
in the winning team. ‘Jerzy Sołtan and Zbigniew Ihnatowicz did not agree with the changes that needed to
be implemented for the work to progress and they
withdrew from the project.’11 What changes were they
objecting to? Were the decision makers trying to bring
the authors back onto to the Socialist-Realist path?
It’s no secret that Polish President Bolesław Bierut had
a foible for architects, which, as in the case of Hitler,
manifested itself in unannounced visits to architects’
studios, often lasting for several hours. ‘During these
visits decisions were taken by Bierut, and they were
final. They related not only to general urban-planning
concepts, but also to architectural details.’12
Was this sensible Stadium structure threatened with being covered with a thick and hard-to-swallow SocialistRealist sugar coating? Warsaw had already seen such
hybrids. On the other side of the Vistula, on the rubble
of the ghetto, the housing estate of Muranów was being
constructed. ‘Prof. Lachert, known for his obsequiousness,
agreed to ‘refine’ his design for Muranów, an area already
rebuilt in the spirit of Socialist Realism. Thanks to these
changes, we have buildings reminiscent of a costume ball
of schizophrenics posing as Napoleon, Julius Caesar and
Nebuchadnezzar, with glued-on beards, eyebrows and
mustaches, just like in a small-town theatre.’13
Despite the absence of Sołtan and Ihnatowicz the project
did not slip into Socialist-Realist farce. On the contrary,
the two monumental obelisks in the competition plans,
to be situated on the square by the Vistula, disappeared.
They were replaced by light ‘streamer masts,’ not real-
ised in the completed project.14 The simplified portico
surrounding the stands was also eliminated.
Why and to whom should we be grateful for this turn
of events? According to the well-informed Tyrmand,
Hryniewiecki succeeded in buttering up the regime
while at the same time openly acknowledging this architectural heresy15. The rush to complete the project and
the modest budget were also not without relevance, as
they forced the authorities to forgo unnecessary add-ons
and look for the most straightforward solutions. Thus
the noble geometry of the Stadium added by Marek
Leykam (1908–1983) came to the fore. Leykam was invited by Hryniewiecki to work on the final version of the
project.16 They had collaborated many times, for example, on the Reclaimed Territories Exhibition in Wroclaw
in 1948. Leykam placed great emphasis on the optimal
shaping of the Stadium’s curvature. ‘Leykam represents
the view that the verifiable portion of compositional factors should be an element that can be mathematically
calculated. That is the reason the Stadium’s shape is the
result of such calculations, for which the formula was
immortalised on the entrance to the stand of honor.’17
During the building process new functional and ornamental elements appeared, ultimately to vanish among
the monumental and pure geometric forms of the stands.
The crowns capping the west side no longer exist, replaced by a wooden press pavilion. ‘Light and glazed,
almost reflecting movement in its form, it fits well into
this athletic environment,’18 wrote Jeremi Strachocki in
Architektura years later. To this should be added a few
refined details, like the open-work clock and a number of
other details, which due to the rush and a lack of funds,
were created cheaply and primitively. For example, railings and barriers were made from pipes and bent rods.
Anything went, as long as the job was completed.
The Socialist-Realist décor was modest. Adam Roman’s
sculpture The Relay Race was installed on the crown by
the Poniatowski Avenue entrance. Sport, or in a broader
sense, the cult of youth and physical strength, is a permanent fixture of the ideology and iconography of
fascist totalitarianism or Nazism (as with Kraft durch
Freude, the ‘strength–through–joy’ movement). Sport is
an easy motif either to appropriate or cleanse through
ideology. The Spirit of Fascism, a statue adorning EUR,
Mussolini’s Rome district, was stripped of its ideological
significance in 1946 in a very straightforward manner.
Bands were added to the wrestler’s wrists and the piece
was renamed The Spirit of Sport.19 Similarly, The Relay
Race could be read as a glorification of the strength and
vitality of the regime in the age of Stalin, yet today is
simply an innocuous sculpture on the theme of sport.
The Central Stadium was ultimately named Stadion
Dziesięciolecia, the 10th–Anniversary Stadium. The
name did not refer to the tenth anniversary of the end
of World War II which occurred in 1955, but to the anniversary of the proclamation of the Manifesto of the
Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) on
July 22, 1954. This manifesto mapped out the basic
ideas and aims of the new Communist government, and
became one of the founding myths underpinning the
formation of post-war Poland. However, the monument
to this manifesto arose on the burial ground of the old
order (or was its foundations?). The stands arose from
the piled–up rubble of pre–war Warsaw, with the Old
Town buried underneath them, with its bricks, wrought
iron, and bones, vestiges so much more real than the
rebuilt, freshly stuccoed Old Town on the other side of
the Vistula.
On the burial ground, the first games took place on
Sunday, July 31, 1955: the Festival of Youth had begun.
‘The Stadium is imposing; capable of holding 100,000
spectators,’ noted the writer Maria Dąbrowska in her
diary. ‘The densely packed stands took on the appearance of a colourful mosaic. Everyone was given
a numbered, coloured kerchief in lieu of a ticket, and,
as these kerchiefs were waved, it gave the impression
that the human mosaic shimmered and changed colour
in the sunshine. Within the Stadium the colourful (in
both skin colour and outfits) delegations also looked
other-worldly, like multi-colour waves on an enchanted
lake. In sum, humanity as an ornament, but for what
purpose? From where in man does the need to present
oneself as an ornament arise?’20
Guests from other socialist countries who participated
at the International Festival of Youth and Students
included left-wing youth from the West. They were
dressed in imaginative clothes, listened to forbidden
music, and discussed degenerate art. The socialist
games, in spite of the organisers’ best intentions, became a beachhead for Western pop culture and arts.
Similarly the Stadium, although modern and therefore
politically incorrect in terms of its form, was too correct in content to go unnoticed or uncriticised. Earlier,
on July 22, the grandest monument to Socialist Realism
in Poland had been opened, the Palace of Culture and
Science (PKiN) in the center of Warsaw. In the span of
a week or so it transpired that, in terms of architecture,
the regime also had another face, a face beyond the
Party, that of a cosmopolitan intellectual. ‘Socialist-Realist sculptural decorum blinded contemporary political
commissioners to the whole complex play of the formal
ellipse inscribed within a circle. The carefully considered lines of the Stadium’s crown, easily visible from
a aerial view, historically belonged to the worldwide
modernist legacy so characteristic of the contemporary
topological fascination with the modelling of architectural curvature and functional everyday objects.’21
A photograph of the packed stands appeared on the
cover of Architektura, the only official professional publication.22 The most important element in the photo was
the crowd, the ‘human ornament’; this did not change
the fact that a ‘modern’ building made the cover of
a magazine controlled by Socialist-Realist ideologues,
publishing only articles relating to ideologically valid
work, architectural history, and vernacular buildings.
Anything else was mentioned only in passing and always critically. That issue contained an in-depth look at
the Stadium, in which the only criticisms are levelled at
functional shortcomings, and not at digressions from
the requirements of political doctrine.
Jerzy Hryniewiecki was awarded a state prize.
and the pages were filled with articles re-assessing and
re-writing the history of the previous years. Buildings
which had been previously either ignored, or at best
criticised as manifestations of cosmopolitan deviationism, returned to favour and were liberated on the wave
of political thaw, much like political prisoners granted
a new lease on life.
‘Opinions on the 10th–Anniversary Stadium generally
agree,’ we read in an article under the telling title On
the Architecture of the 10 Postwar Years: A New Perspective. ‘It is now acknowledged as one of the most
effective works of the post-war period. Everything here
suggests an outstanding mastery on the part of the
architects, from the overall lines as seen from a aerial
view, to the stands, pavilions, tunnels, even the banisters and sector numbers.’23 The author of the text
defends the structure’s abstract and well-grounded
mathematical forms: ‘It probably is not a valid statement to say that the classical tradition in sport compels one to derive formulas from classical architecture.
There are contemporary traditions to be found in sport
as well as in architecture.’24
Not quite ten years later the Stadium had already taken
its place in Poland’s canon of architecture. It was on list
of over 300 other masterpieces in Jan Zachwatowicz’s
Polish Architecture, a monumental album published
in 1966 on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of
Polish statehood. The Stadium was described as the
one ‘that broke with the tendencies of that time [Socialist Realism] and became an expression of new directions in architecture.’25
Shortly afterwards both the architectural community
and the Architektura discarded academic Socialist Realism. Colour collages appeared on subsequent covers,
The hastily built Stadium did not pass the test of
time. Of course, monumental events continued to be
held here, track and field competitions, international
matches, the final stage of cycling’s Peace Race, and
harvest festivals. That did not change the fact that
the Stadium was encumbered with certain flaws
from the start, like the weakness of ramps and stairs
leading to the stands, or an insufficient number of
sanitary facilities. Standards also quickly changed.
By 1956 television had taken off in Poland, but the
Stadium was not adapted to the requirements of the
new medium.
With time the truth emerged: primitive technologies,
sub-standard building materials, shoddy detailing, all
the typical things that happened during a ‘quick-build.’
Other problems were due to carelessness. The press pavilion situated on the crown of the Stadium went up in
flames and was never rebuilt.
The one thing that resisted decay was the noble
geometry of the structure as a whole: an ellipse inscribed within a circle of sloping stands adhering to
a hallowed formula. The surplus-value an architect provides for free, and which is more durable than the materials and independent of budget and circumstance, is
the concept.
‘There is a growing problem in already urbanised
areas relating to the difficulty of adapting the heritage of antiquity and public structures, the gigantic
buildings like bathhouses, theatres, amphitheatres,
circuses and warehouses,’ as was once written about
the downfall of ancient cities.26 The 10th–Anniversary Stadium hit bottom along with the empire that
brought it to life. In 1987, even the authors of the
official Warsaw guidebook sadly mused, ‘Architectur-
ally beautiful, this sports structure is drowning in the
undergrowth; though in the centre of the city, it is,
unfortunately, totally unused and still awaits a good
The more poorly it fulfilled its basic functions the
further the Stadium moved into the realm of myth.
The venue for the pagan people’s games even acquired its own martyr, Ryszard Siwiec who during the
harvest celebrations of 1968 immolated himself as
a protest against the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. On June 17, 1983, in a propaganda circus half
in ruins, the triumph of the faithful over the pagans
was celebrated, with 100,000 people taking part in
a Mass celebrated by John Paul II. To this day a cross
from this event remains installed on the crown of the
Stadium. The space sacred to the regime was shown
to be suited to completely different ceremonies, not
unlike a vessel which can be filled with anything, as
long as it’s liquid.
Shortly thereafter, a new chapter in the history of the
Warsaw Coliseum begins. Ritual was ousted by entrepreneurial zeal. In 1989 the Stadium was leased to
a company which converted it and the surrounding
unbuilt land into an open-air market. It took the name
Jarmark Europa, although because of the ethnic makeup of the traders, mostly Vietnamese, a more apt name
might be Jarmark Eurasia. Here again the decadence of
classical antiquity comes to mind, as when a residence
previously serving one ruler, like Diocletian’s palace in
Split, came to house a whole city within its walls, or
when Roman circuses became squares densely surrounded by residential buildings, as in the Piazza Navona in Rome or the Piazza dell’Anfiteatro in Lucca.
The Warsaw Stadium also spawned a new, spontaneous and fragmented urban structure, governed by its
own rules and its own scale, almost ignoring the huge
and majestic body slumbering underneath. ‘You know,
it is life that is always right and the architect who is
wrong,’ Le Corbusier might have chuckled from beyond
the grave. If they had allowed this spontaneous structure to live longer than 20 years, it might have grown
stronger and transformed into a new, diverse and picturesque quarter of Warsaw.
Today the Stadium is overgrown with wild vegetation,
the harbinger of entropy. There are almost no more
benches, staircases have caved in, and the barriers are
bent out of shape. As heavy construction equipment
unceremoniously excavates the stands, once again
turning rubble into rubble, the majestic architecture is
more evident than at ever before. It is difficult to avoid
associations with the ‘theory of ruin value’ conceived
by Hitler’s official architect, Albert Speer. ‘It struck him
sometime after the demolition of a tram depot what
a miserable impression rubble from contemporary
buildings offers. He realised that, devoid of form, concrete debris and rusty steel constructions were in no
position to evoke a historical shiver, a feeling which
gave particular dignity to ruins from the past. He came
to the conclusion that through the use old materials or
designs from antiquity, one could erect buildings which
even in a state of decay could evoke the power of the
Palatine ruins or the thermal baths of Caracalla.’28
The Stadium, with its precise geometry and primitive
heavy construction materials, took on the splendour of
an ancient ruin, the effect which Speer and Hitler were
seeking: ‘Were our movement ever to be silenced, then
even several thousand years later it will still bear witness. Within the sacred grove of primeval oaks people
will admire with pious wonder this first giant among
the buildings of the Third Reich.’29
Nobody will be admiring the 10th–Anniversary Stadium, not even its ruins. Until recently, amateur footballers still trained on a patch of grass surrounded by
the canyon of stands. A brief practice session for small
people in a space created for heroes, a space for break-
ing records and hosting major athletic events. Future
generations will know the Stadium only from photographs, as it is slated to join the list of other disappearing modernist masterpieces in Poland. They arose in
heroic circumstances, despite doctrine and in isolation
from worldwide intellectual trends, beyond the reach
of modern technologies and against a host of economic difficulties. Now they are also dying a hero’s death.
Warsaw, a place of dynamic change in urban space, has
recently sacrificed several such victims. In the autumn
of 2006, after a months-long battle and many attempts
to secure heritage status, the Supersam building on
Puławska Street, a self-service supermarket co-designed by Hryniewiecki was demolished to make room
for a high-rise block. In 2008 the Skarpa Cinema and
the Chemia pavilion went much more quietly. The 10th–
Anniversary Stadium was condemned in 2007, when it
was decided that for practical reasons it would be easier to build the new stadium not alongside, but on top
of the site of the old Stadium. Defending the refined
but useless building no longer made any sense. Instead,
a grand funeral was arranged in several acts of performance Boniek! cleverly recalled the glorious sporting
spirit of the Stadium, while Radio Stadion highlighted
the multi-cultural nature of the market, A tower of
Babel situated in the middle of a rather homogenized
city. Palowanie / Pile Driving by annas kollektiv was the
ideal spectacle for a performance audience obsessed
with spectacular catastrophes, and raised questions as
to the durability of total architecture and its relation to
the individual, Schengen told a story of borders which,
of course, also exist within a city.
covered by a sparkling new façade, and the stands of
the new National Stadium, or by one or two decorative
elements like The Relay Race sculpture, which are to
be incorporated into the sports/congress/commercial
complex. The relics of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium
will be its cornerstone: invisible, slumbering underground, the old Stadium’s rise and fall a mere memory
for the new stadium, still to be built but already enjoying the status of an icon.
1 S. Starzyński, Rozwój stolicy [The Development of the Capital]. Lecture delivered on June 10,
1938 at a meeting of the Warsaw branch of the Union of Reservists, Warsaw 1938, p. 86.
2 R. Wirszyłło, ‘Stadion Dziesięciolecia w Warszawie’ in Architektura, 1955 (no. 8), pp. 225–6.
3 Ibid.
4 T. Barucki, ed., Fragmenty stuletniej historii 1899–1999. Ludzie fakty wydarzenia. W stulecie
organizacji warszawskich architektów (Warsaw: SARP, 2001) p. 145
5 Wirszyłło, op. cit., p. 225
6 Ibid.
7 Ibid.
8 L.. Tyrmand, Dziennik 1954. Wersja oryginalna [Journal 1954: Original Version], (Warsaw:
Wydawnictwo Tenten, 1995) p. 201.
9 Wirszyłło, op. cit., p. 227
10 ‘Stadion Dziesięciolecia,’ in Architektura, 1958 (no. 8), p. 52
11 J. Gola, ed., Jerzy Sołtan. Monografia, (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Akademii Sztuk Pięknych,
1995) p. 141.
12 W. Włodarczyk, Socrealizm. Sztuka polska w latach 1950–1954 [SocRealism: Polish Art
1950–1954], (Krakow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1991) p. 96.
13 Tyrmand, op. cit., p. 203.
14 Wirszyłło, op. cit., p. 227.
15 Tyrmand, op. cit., p. 232.
16 The complete design team of the final version of the Stadium project consisted of principal
designers Jerzy Hryniewiecki, Marek Leykam-Lewicki, and Czesław Rajewski with structural
design by Konstanty Jankowski. See ‘Stadion Dziesięciolecia,’ op. cit., p. 47.
17 J. Strachocki, ‘O architekturze dziesięciolecia – na nowo’ [On the Architecture of the Decade,
Anew],’ in Architektura, 1957 (no. 1), p. 8
18 Ibid.
19 E. Gentile, Fascismo di pietra (Rome and Bari: Laterza & Figli, 2007) p. 191.
20 M. Dąbrowska Dzienniki 1951–1957 [Journals 1951–1957], T. Drewnowski, ed., (Warsaw:
Czytelnik, 1988) p. 219.
21 A. Czyżewski, Honorowa nagroda SARP [The Honorary Prize, Association of Polish Architects]
1966–2006, (Warsaw SARP, 2007) p. 58.
22 Architektura, 1955 (no. 8).
23 J. Strachocki, op. cit., p. 8
24 Ibid.
25 J. Zachwatowicz, Architektura polska, Warsaw, Arkady, 1966, p. 466.
26 L. Benevolo, Miasto w dziejach Europy [The City in the History of Europe], trans. H. Cieśla
(Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Krąg, 1995) p. 27.
27 K. Mórawski, W. Głębocki, Warsaw. Mały przewodnik [A Short Guide], (Warsaw, KAW, 1987)
p. 175.
28 J. Fest, Speer. Biografia, trans. K. Jachimczak, (Krakow, Universitas, 2001) p. 130.
29 M. Domarus, Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen 1932–1945, vol. I, (Würzburg, Schmidt, 1962) p.
527, cited in Fest, op. cit., p. 130.
Paradoxically, were it not for a heroic death and the
spectacular funeral, the Stadium would have remained
in obscurity. In the future we will be reminded of its ambiguous history only by fragments of its embankment,
lone, Swiss performance artist Massimo Furlan reenacted one of the most spectacular games in the
history of the Polish national football team — the
Poland-Belgium face-off (3–0) at the 1982 World Cup
in Spain, reproducing the choreography of the match’s
hero, Zbigniew Boniek, who scored all three goals. The
‘match’ was reported live by Poland’s leading sports
commentator, Tomasz Zimoch, and broadcast by Radio Kampus (97.1 FM). Zimoch’s commentary made it
possible to picture the action of twenty-five years ago.
Furlan’s projects often refer to childhood images and
memories, one of which is the voice of a radio commentator coming out of open windows in a deserted
Furlan is 42 years old, an age when most professional
footballers usually retire. As a teenager, like many of his
peers, he dreamed of becoming a football star, replaying famous moves or actions in his room to his own
commentary. As he says, he is happy to have had a banal childhood, and the memory he refers to is a common experience for virtually every boy. For many years
he subconsciously hoped that the Swiss national coach
would call him. Eventually, at the age of 40, he decided
to become a self-proclaimed football star. He was daring enough to fulfil his childhood dream by appearing
as a celebrated player in a audience-filled stadium. In
2002 in Lausanne, by himself he recreated the 1982 Italy-West Germany World Cup final as a fictional player
wearing number 23. In 2006 in Paris, he played Michel
Platini from the memorable, and for his team tragic,
France-Germany semi-final from the same tournament.
The 1982 Poland-Belgium match recreated at the 10th–
Anniversary Stadium and the figure of Zbigniew Boniek
were selected on the advice of Tomasz Zimoch. Furlan
chose Boniek, just as Andy Warhol portrayed Franz
Beckenbauer, the legendary German footballer and
coach, in his pop-star series. Boniek is a highly recognisable figure not only to Polish football fans, but also
to Furlan himself, who grew up in Italy in the 1970s.
Also important was the fact that the 1982 Poland-Belgium game became Boniek’s ticket to a professional
career at Juventus FC, and that it was precisely at that
time that the Stadium started falling into ruin. Besides
Furlan and Zimoch, the re-enactment also featured the
coaches originally present in Barcelona back in 1982.
Bogdan Hajdas (the assistant to then national coach
Antoni Piechniczek) and Ryszard Kosiński again, after
25 years, oversaw the game.
The figures of star football players, as well as football
technique as a strategy, have often fascinated contemporary artists. In his Rules of the Game, Mexican artist
Gustavo Artigas had two teams play basketball and two
other simultaneously play football on the same field.
In 2005, French artist Philippe Parreno and Scotsman
Douglas Gordon made the high-budget film Zidane:
A 21st-Century Portrait, in which seventeen synchronised cameras followed the brilliant footballer’s movements during a Spanish Primera Division match. Their
idea was to show a football player at work through
close-ups. Unlike Boniek!, though, the player there was
extracted from the context.
The audience also played a key role. The performance
was attended by a crowd of 700 people. In keeping with
the nature of participatory art, viewers were supposed
to co-create the action’s meanings and narratives.
Their very active and spontaneous participation (most
of the viewers had probably never attended a real football game, but after five minutes they were all cheering and chanting) distorted the distinction between
artist and audience, creating a non-hierarchical space
of social exchange where the viewer is co-responsible
for what happens. The situation in the Stadium was
a potential fulfilment of what creator and theoretician
of Happenings Allan Kaprow called for in his 1966 essay
‘Notes on the Elimination of the Audience’: he sought
an experience of daily life through art that would make
the viewers unaware of their own role. The ‘elimination’ in the title refers to a situation where the audience, while communing with art, does not know it is an
audience. On 14 October, 2007 in Warsaw, at the 10th–
Anniversary Stadium, Massimo Furlan was Zbigniew
Boniek, Tomasz Zimoch provided the commentary for
a game in Barcelona on a June day 25 years earlier, and
the spectators became football fans, waving Solidarity
flags in Spanish stands.
Boniek! A One-man Re-enactment of the 1982 Poland-Belgium Football Match by Massimo Furlan, commentary by Tomasz Zimoch,
10th–Anniversary Stadium, October 14, 2007, 4:15 p.m.
about the game, as well as about the commentary by
Jan Ciszewski, but decided against actually watching it
to avoid imitating his predecessor’s narration.
The initiatory situation described above presented itself as a highly complex one, especially if we consider
that the audience was not made up of football fans, but
rather of participants (both producers and consumers)
from the world of culture, of which sport can, of course,
be considered a part. The obvious risk of failure did not,
fortunately, prevent this project from being undertaken.
And all to the good, as that would have greatly complicated the realisation of the rest of the programme.
For the space that engrosses the deject, the
excluded, is never one, nor homogeneous, nor
totalisable . . . Julia Kristeva1
n most rite-of-passage stories about the transgression of boundaries, passing thresholds, entering
maturity or a new stage in life, the individual is
accompanied by a guide. This may be someone who
has himself passed through the same path of development, an animal or a spirit, a doll or a dwarf. We are
accustomed to thinking about these figures as being
endowed with special powers. If we are to consider Mas-
simo Furlan, the Swiss performance artist who mimics
Zbigniew Boniek in the Poland-Belgium football match
from the 1982 World Cup in Spain, as one who leads us
into The Finissage of Stadium X as a whole (and there
is nothing to prevent us from such an interpretation),
we should reflect on what his special powers are. We
should also remember that Furlan’s solo re-enactment
of the memorable game in Barcelona (with Poland’s 3:0
victory!) was accompanied by commentary from sports
reporter Tomasz Zimoch, who also appeared in a somewhat absurd role, providing commentating on a oneman replication of a match he had never seen, as he
said in an interview for the daily Polska The Times (he
had not revealed that fact earlier for fear of jinxing the
project),4 re-enacted by someone who did not understand a single word of what was being said.
So, in the first act, we have two helpers: Furlan, who
perfected the physical aspect of the game by memorizing and attempting to recreate Boniek’s movements,
and Zimoch, who constructs a narrative for the event,
a text that accompanies both artist and audience, delivered live. He constructed it intuitively, though expertly, Zimoch later said he had read as much as possible
Returning to the earlier question: what special traits
did these guides possess? They were obviously both
men, and the initiation involved a phenomenon clearly
associated with male culture, athletic competition. But
the audience was composed of people of both sexes
(or even more, perhaps: as Deleuze has said, ‘To each
his or her own sex’), and they seemed completely engrossed in the goings-on. Another characteristic of
the main protagonists of that autumn afternoon was
their childlike imagination, as well as an readiness and
willingness to impersonate celebrities. For both players, both Zimoch and Furlan, the roles assumed were
particularly important, not to mention desirable. Each
of them dreams of playing them as well as possible, the
difference being that Furlan will forever remain an athletic amateur, whereas Zimoch had for one night gone
beyond the bounds of his own profession, becoming
a performance artist.
So who are our guides in the Finissage project? I guess
they can be likened to children, at least in the sense that
Giorgio Agamben employs in Profanations. Children,
according to the Italian philosopher, have a surprising
belief in the possibility of changing reality magically,
a magic closely bound up with language. The word,
children believe, can change the world, a conviction
most grown-ups have abandoned. Just as in Katarzyna
Kozyra’s In Art Dreams Come True, here we have to do
with an artist who not only dreams of becoming someone else, but is also convinced that the word Boniek!
(with an exclamation mark) will be forceful enough for
him to become the player). Football per se does not
seem to have any special significance here, though
after reading Marek Bieńczyk’s essay about Leo Beenhakker’s face one might think otherwise.3 In any case,
a kind of childlike naivety and simplicity introduces us
to this series of events focused around the 10th–Anniversary Stadium. This game also contains an element
of nostalgia and melancholic yearning for something
that cannot be attained, and which is not really clear as
an object of desire. Just like the weird conglomeration
of authors introducing modern man to the meanders
of contemporary culture at the beginning of the 20th
century, Furlan does not resemble a typical artist. His
behaviour differs from the norm provided by culture for
a grown-up, mature artist.
And it seems to be precisely this untypical behaviour
and interests that drew first Tomasz Zimoch, and then
the audience, into a game with their own ideas. They
put us in the role of sports fans who ‘swallow the bait’
and eagerly join a non-standard game taking place
before their eyes. The action succeeds, the impossible
becomes at least imaginable, and we leave the stands
with a sense that the show has begun. As in Shakespeare’s Tempest, we are washed ashore in a strange
land on an allegedly familiar continent and experience a series of astonishing events. At the same time,
the participants in the events are treated with grace.
Neither the curator nor the artist seeks to play Philip
Zimbardo, and no one calls us ‘barbarians.’ The action’s political effectiveness is to be found together, to
be produced and utilised jointly. In this sense, this part
of the project is a serious proposition of participation,
which, though lacking a clearly defined goal (except
perhaps encouraging us to participate in the rest of the
programme), seems quite congruent with what social
thinkers mean by the term.
10th–Anniversary Stadium
‘On-site inspections are usually held in places where
something important has happened, and afterwards
eyewitnesses try to report this situation.’4 When
thinking of an on-site inspection, I think of Stanisław
Lem’s science-fiction novel Wizja lokalna, whose main
character is sent to the planet Entia. Having earlier (in
the Star Diaries) visited its fictional version, he now
travels to the actual planet. If we were to treat this
distinction seriously, the Finissage’s second episode
would be about a trip to a ‘fiction about the Stadium,’ whereas episode six — Schengen — seems to be
more like a voyage to an authentic planet inhabited
by the residents of Entia, in this case a cross between
Kurdlandia and Luzania, with a predominance of the
latter. Searching for genuine knowledge of Entia, Ijon
Tichy, the main protagonist of Lem’s novel, first struggles through a thicket of narratives created from so
many different viewpoints and in such different ways
that he cannot definitively ascertain anything about
the planet. In a sense, this is exactly what happened
during the On-Site Inspection: guests were invited to
wander around the turf, the parade stand, and the race
track, and met eyewitnesses to the venue’s history,
who either recreated feats from the events in which
they competed (Stanisław Królak, the first Polish winner of cycling’s Peace Race); shot films here (filmmaker Janusz Zaorski, creator of Piłkarski Poker [Football
Poker], a comedy about game-rigging in football); told
of more or less recent events connected with the Stadium (Adam Roman); architects fighting for the venue
to be listed as a historical monument; harvest-festival
dancers; CHD Stadion vendors; employees of the Central Sports Centre; Euro 2012 planners. After listening
to all these narratives, navigating the Stadium could
seem even more difficult than before. The On-Site
Inspection provided a certain excess of information,
thus proving that ‘there are no facts, only interpretations,’ as Nietzsche once put it.
On-Site Inspection also alluded to the Trip to Asia episode, an acoustic guided tour around the 10th–Anniversary Stadium, a 2006 prelude to the Finissage. That
time, ‘visitors’ were handed mp3 players with commentaries recorded by Vietnamese vendors that ‘guided’
them around the venue.
On-Site Inspection also proved, for me at least, an enhancement of the project’s ‘magical’ significance. Providing a reference to the universe of sci-fi literature, it
pointed not only to the paradoxes of narrational excess, but also, in a way, ‘disenchanted’ the Stadium,
initiating the audience more deeply into its complexity as a sports venue, and a place of trade, work, and
residence for a large crowd of very different people.
The ‘disenchantment’ (and deeper initiation) also lay
in the fact that many of the visitors were there for the
first time in their life. This reflected a certain potential
of fear felt by some Varsovians towards an unknown,
accursed, and unwanted place, which every successive
mayor has promised to close down, but then allowed to
remain as a space which respects the law in a very special manner. Whereas in Boniek! the Stadium seemed
a totally familiar and safe place to viewers, the second
episode alluded to media-fuelled fears of illegality (‘illegals’ is a peculiar idiom in every contemporary society
proud of its respect for human rights), kitsch, dirt, poverty, and organised crime. In this sense, the narratives
proposed by the project’s curator manifested them-
selves as something to replace those fears, and while
still not enough to generate any definitive ‘knowledge’
about the Stadium, they nonetheless helped at least
some of the tour’s participants to go beyond that dark,
fear-fuelled stereotype.
By this stage of the project, participants were able to
familiarize themselves with two dimensions of living in
contemporary society, so aptly portrayed by Lem in his
inhabitants of versions of Kurdlandia and Luzania, living, paradoxically, in one and the same country. Many
Vietnamese are in Poland ‘illegally’; since 2003 Poland
has tightened its immigration laws, so visas are not extended automatically, residence permits are more difficult to obtain, and so on. This makes them vulnerable
to direct violence from the government and other people inhabiting the same territory. Giorgio Agamben has
written that immigrants are the contemporary Homo
sacer, outlawed and exposed to direct confrontation by
law-enforcement agencies and the executive branch of
government in general. The brutal police raids on Vietnamese shops, bars, and market stalls do not always
have to do with their business; quite often they are just
a prelude to detaining their employees or owners during depor­tation proceedings, which means indefinite
arrest without the privileges enjoyed by criminal suspects in preventive custody (visits, the right to make
phone calls, legal counse, and so on).5
Though Kurdlandia is most easily viewed as a metaphor for direct totalitarianism, the policy towards immigrants, especially those lacking the necessary permits,
can also be seen as a version of the totalitarian system. They are forced to put up with extremely rigorous requirements by those whom their stay in Poland
depends on, the government included.
Luzania is a seemingly happy technocracy, where even
negative emotions, let alone actions, are tempered by
special technology. This tightly controlled community
is happy, if you can call prosperity combined with an
extreme degree of control happiness. This facet of contemporary reality is what we would encounter in episode sixth Schengen.
A separate question is the life in Poland of those Vietnamese who regard themselves as Polish. They speak
Polish, attend Polish schools, and work and feel ‘at
home’ here. I used to wonder whether in Poland we
would ever see the equivalent of American Latinos
singing the national anthem in Spanish. This practice
led two leading American theoreticians, Judith Butler
and Gayatri Spivak, to co-author Who Sings the NationState?, a book where they analyse the meanders of
a policy of national homogeneity verging on the nationalistic. Butler points out the rage in George W. Bush’s
reaction to the practice. He said, ‘The national anthem
will be sung in English,’ aiming at eliminating any linguistic diversification in the otherwise highly diverse
population of the United States.6 Polish Vietnamese
have not yet tried singing the Dąbrowski's Mazurka,
the national anthem, in Vietnamese, but they have already been banned from staging a street demonstration, a decision which they were able to appeal. In May,
2008, in Wólka Kosowska, the largest Asian-run shopping centre in Poland, Vietnamese employees went
on strike and planned a street protest to present their
grievances. A local official who refused permission
explained that ‘there was no point concerning Wólka
residents with the internal affairs of a privately-owned
At Gdańsk Technology University they say that most
Vietnamese shipyards have been built by engineers
with degrees obtained in Poland. The tradition of Vietnamese coming to Poland to study dates back to the
1950s, so we can now speak of three generations of Vietnamese immigration to Poland, tens of thousands of
people, most of them invisible to the native population.
Some Vietnamese organisations have suggested a figure as high as 200,000, while more recent estimates
are closer to 100,000. There are Vietnamese schools,
sports clubs, temples, and organisations in Poland, yet
Warsaw University has until now organised only one
conference wholly devoted to Poland’s Vietnamese minority, and that was a one-day event.
The fourth episode of the Finissage was inspired by
a piece by the Danish artist Jens Haaning, who broadcast
jokes in Turkish in the centre of Copenhagen, a rather
amusing form of intervention in public space, as the
jokes were understood only by those fluent in the language, hardly the typical target of cultural attractions
organised in the centre of a European capital. Seizing
control of the local public-address system broadcasting
in Polish to a predominantly non-Polish audience and
turning it for a few hours into a foreign-language radio
station was, as it soon turned out, a controversial enterprise. The market’s Polish-speaking vendors quickly
said they had no desire to listen to a radio broadcast in
‘strange languages.’ The anger with which they reacted
to such a change meant to last just one day highlights
the power of the sense of belonging and the difficulty
involved in having to function in a space dominated
by an unfamiliar language. Just as in Jane Elliott’s experiment, where participants who had seldom, if ever,
experienced racial or ethnic discrimination were asked
to enter into the situation of a discriminated minority, here, too, the negative ‘privilege,’ as it were, of the
Stranger proved unbearable even for a short time.8
annas kollektiv is a Swiss group of dancers, architects,
filmmakers, and sociologists who treat every space as
a potential city-set, inhabited by people situated within
certain socio-cultural and architectonic contexts. Their
performances usually take place at sites like high-rise
buildings, train stations, or underground parking lots.
This time, they ‘took up residence’ at the 10th–Anniversary Stadium, where for two weeks they worked on
a show that would present it in all its complexity and
transformation. During their stay, construction crews
began driving piles on the site in preparation for its
conversion into a venue for the Euro 2012 championships. The members of annas kollektiv became ‘intimates’ of the Stadium: they set up a makeshift field
kitchen in the stands for preparing quick meals, and secured the cooperation of the pneumatic drill operators,
who agreed to take part in the show. The performance
itself contained many of the melancholic moments
typical of post-industrial projects, where artists seek
no quick political or economic conclusion, but instead
try to grow into a space and build an image of it on
a symbiotic basis. The artists highlighted the Stadium’s
ornamentation, its dilapidated or aging fragments, at
times performing virtually meditative walks on top of
the venue. The show, comprising artist performances,
video projections, and the participation of workers and
machines, was accompanied by soundtrack by the musician known as m.bunio.s, the most distinctive element
of which was a excerpt from a Polska Kronika Filmowa
newsreel narration, ‘At last the Stadium has proved
useful for something.’ The experimental industrial music made it possible to see the space of the Stadium
as ideologically and politically tainted, thus creating
a space for reflection and interpretation charged with
both irony and distance, ans emotion and existential
It is perhaps worth adding here that a similar mood
has typified other projects staged in the recent past
in post-industrial spaces like the Nowa Huta steel
works9 or the Stocznia Gdańska shipyard.10 There, too,
the projects’ creators decided to shun hasty conclusions in favor of trying to become more part of the
place and its functioning, thus striving to create an
impression rather than provide a recapitulation. It is
interesting that the show’s ultimate form, along with
its post-industrial character, were influenced by the
presence of machines operating at the Stadium. This
made it possible to reflect, and reflect on, the relations
between monumental, ideologically charged architectural objects and political and material histories, with
their often quite violent shifts. The viewer was thus
‘safe’ in this confrontation with the Stadium insofar
as no single interpretation was imposed. Unlike the
second and third episodes, where specific interpretations were offered, here things were almost completely ‘tacit,’ and interpretations previously encountered
could be arrayed without direct intervention on the
part off the artists or curators. It is perhaps this part
of the project that best illustrates what curator Joanna
Warsza means in her interview with Kuba Szreder: ‘I’m
very much interested in the viewers’ intellectual par-
ticipation, but I try never to impose anything on them,
never to create any discomfort, never to be invasive.
Roman Dziadkiewicz recently told me that what matters in such projects is ‘love.’ I’d say it’s a conviction,
a strange certitude, that no one ought to be material
for someone else to sculpt. When no one objectifies
any one else, audience members themselves start
playing tourists, football fans, or gallery visitors.’11 My
own impression is that even though when we invite
anyone to participate in a project, we always assign
them a role to play, thus instrumentalising them, the
Finissage’s fifth episode was performed out of true
‘affection’ for the Stadium, the participants, and the
workers on site.
The performances and installations of the theatre
group Schauplatz International are usually paradoxical and ironic. The Berlin-Bern ensemble (as they call
themselves), among whose stagings have been plays
by Elfriede Jelinek, presented, for instance, a piece
about Keiko the killer whale, the hero of the Free Willy
movies, returned to the wild following an international
campaign begun in 1993. The group’s members decided
to visit Keiko/Willy, only to find he had died after just 18
months of living in the ‘brave new world’ he had been
delegated to with American taxpayers’ money. Their
2004 Geneva installation, in which Schauplatz ironically commented on issues like authenticity or freedom,
is a prelude to the mood of their Warsaw performance.
The idea was to build an observation point, a element
typical of the Schengen zone’s external borders. The
10th–Anniversary Stadium is a bit like a border zone;
it is where many ‘illegal’ immigrants are be found, and
inspections, police raids, or arrests take place daily. It
is also here, right near the Stadium, that Frontex, the
EU’s external-border management agency, had its official headquarters. It is interesting that it is this EU
agency Poland hosts, and not another, and the project’s
authors sought to emphasise that fact.
protection’ (and which under certain circumstances
can even authorize killing people). Through binoculars
viewers were able to examine a border line drawn by
the artists nearby, and to read about the manhunts
and deportations ordered and conducted by Frontex.
The artists also proposed a game involving the European Union flag, which they thought a fitting symbol at
a Schengen-zone border. They also considered the possibility of paying tribute to the political symbol, which
made it possible to tackle, in rather humorous fashion,
the issue of national identity-building and the exceptionality of the instruments used for that purpose by
different countries.
1 J. Kristeva, Powers of Horror. An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Rudiez (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1982) p. 8.
2 Polska The Times, June 16, 2008.
3 M. Bieńczyk, ‘Twarz Beenhakkera’ [Beenhakker’s Face], Tygodnik Powszechny, November 21, 2007.
4 Excerpt from the official press release.
5 I have written more extensively on the situation of immigrants in Poland. See E. Majewska
and J. Sowa, ‘W kwestii migracji – nowe formy zarządzania ludźmi?’ [‘On the Migrant Question:
A New Form of Administrating People?’], in Neoliberalizm i jego krytyki [Neo-liberalism and Its
Critics], Krakow: Ha!art, 2007.
6 J. Butler and G. Spivak, Who Sings the Nation-State?: Language, Politics, Belonging (Calcutta:
Seagull Books, 2007).
7 Gazeta Wyborcza, May 19, 2008.
8 In her Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes exercise.
9 The Futurism of Industrial Cities: 100 Years of Wolfsburg/Nowa Huta, 2005–6, curators Jakub
Szreder and Martin Kaltwasser.
10 The Gdańsk Shipyard: Confrontations, Stocznia Gdańska/ Łaźnia Contemporary Art Center,
2003–4, curators Iwona Zając, Ellyn Southern, and Ewa Majewska.
11 ‘O wyobrażeniowej produkcji miejsc,’ Ha!art, 27/2007 p. 56
12 G. Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2005) p. 3.
One problématique mentioned with regard to the second episode returned in a wholly new setting. Viewers had the opportunity to hear experts on all kinds
of national border-related issues, including Michał
Kozłowski, Ph.D, a social philosopher and editor of
left-wing periodicals, and a critic of racism and nationalism; Hubert Kowalski, an expert on border-management devices like thermal-vision cameras; a group of
young people who used to live in Schengen, where the
‘Schengen-zone’ agreement was signed, with its control instruments and the world’s largest migrant database. Their comments painted an picture of modern
democracy as a cross between two heretofore separate
orders, Stanisław Lem’s Kurdlandia and Luzania, and
what Giorgio Agamben, pointing out the ambivalence
of contemporary politics, sums up this way: ‘Indeed,
from this perspective, the state of exception appears
as a threshold of indeterminacy between democracy
and absolutism.’12 Now the walks in the Stadium will
only be possible in the imagination.
The observation point had been fitted out with all the
instruments of what is euphemistically called ‘border
Tomasz Stawiszyński: When I talked about Furlan’s
project to various people — both those interested in
football and those interested in art (and sometimes
those interested in both) — almost everyone said,
'How absurd! A guy running around the field, imitating
Zbigniew Boniek’s movements from 1982. What kind of
an idea is that'?!
Stach Szabłowski: Just because you employ absurdity,
it doesn’t mean the whole project is absurd. Watching
the action, I had no intention of visualising all twenty-
two players; on the contrary, what was most beautiful
for me in the project was the pathos and sublimity of
a lone hero. Our hero, the heroic figure of Boniek, running around the pitch, all by himself, in the Piranesian
ruins of the Stadium. There is no one else besides him,
and there’s no ball either: this firstly highlights the figure’s symbolic heroism, and secondly, rids the whole
situation of the randomness typical of sport, leaving
something you don’t see when watching an actual
game. That is, the very peculiar pantomime the player
performs. And of course the fact that a lone player runs
around an empty Stadium without a ball is an absurd
situation in the sense that there’s an obvious comical
moment here, which makes the whole action funny.
This clash between ironic loftiness and the situation’s
comicality creates fantastic tension. Which of course
doesn’t mean that you can't visualise twenty-two guys
running with a ball.
Anda Rottenberg: The way I think of it, the real hero
of that event was the artist. The effort he put into reenacting the game, repeating, alone, the player’s codified movements on the pitch, sheds light on him, in the
first place. This is an effort the artist makes unselfishly,
solely for the purpose of highlighting a pop-culture
hero . The artist is not a pop-culture hero, unlike a football player or a singer. To put it briefly, pop culture has
its heroes, which contemporary artists are not. Furlan
said that by impersonating Zbigniew Boniek he made
his own childhood dream come true. This is a rather
perverse statement, because the artist, of course,
maintains a sense of distance. It’s an impersonation,
quote, unquote. Furlan plays Boniek. The cheering that
goes on in this virtually empty and deserted Stadium
is not really for Boniek, but for him, the artist, who is
making this entire immense effort in order for fifteen
or a hundred-and-fifty people to applaud him. For the
sole purpose of making us aware that he, the artist,
is able to do something similar, even though he is not
a pop star.
lan effected made everyone acutely aware of that. I saw
viewers looking around, searching for Socialist-Realist
features which in fact were never there to begin with.
The only Socialist-Realist emblem is the eagle without
a crown on the parade stand.
TS: He actually states explicitly that he only aspires to
being Boniek. Nothing more than that.
AR: And Professor Adam Roman’s sculptures?
Cezary Polak: I think there were several protagonists
here. And let me start from the back. I think one of
the protagonists was the Stadium itself, commonly
perceived as a Socialist-Realist structure, which it is
not. I was sitting in the stands, and people around me
were asking, where’s the Socialist Realism? It turned
out this was their first time at the Stadium, where the
last sporting event had been held back in 1983. Let’s
also remember that among those present was coach
Bogusław Hajdas, national team coach Antoni Piechniczek’s assistant during the 1982 World Cup. He remembers the Stadium’s demise. The Stadium died for
sport when Poland drew against Finland there in the
European Cup qualifiers. It was an unfortunate draw,
Poland scoring both goals, one of them a suicide shot
by Paweł Janas, later to become the national coach. It
was then the Stadium died. Coach Antoni Piechniczek
said the pitch was bad, that the mammoth brought bad
luck. In fact, the history of the Stadium has been full
of inconsistencies. It was built for the eleventh anniversary of People’s Poland, not the tenth, so the name
was misleading to begin with. It had nothing to do with
Socialist Realism; instead it was a sculpture-building,
built the way stadiums were built in those days. It was
regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful land stadiums. During the Furlan action, viewers were able, for
the first time in many years, to experience a substitute
for a sporting event. And the deconstruction that Fur-
CP: Roman’s sculpture Relay Race near the Poniatowski
Bridge entrance is not Socialist-Realist. There was
some thing else ideological here — and it is interesting we do not realise that. The Stadium was open to
visitors; excursions came to view it, like the Palace of
Culture. The coaches parked from the Vistula side. The
venue was never closed for the night, so anyone could
enter at any time — that was Socialist-Realist.
AR: Socialistic.
CP: Yes, the people were to come into not only the city
centre, but also this sanctuary of sport. Only the Stadium had never really been a sanctuary of sport. Furlan’s performance showed what the Stadium had really
been. After certain point in time, it was used chiefly
for rallies, propaganda spectacles, and cultural events,
rather than sporting ones.
AR: The architecture was not Socialist-Realist at all. It
was modernist, ordinary, very progressive, sporty.
CP: It is amazing that during the rather Gomułka era
Polish architects would smuggle in such Western ideas.
AR: It was early Gomułka, in fact.
CP: Early Gomułka, especially. Take the pavilion of the
nearby Stadion train station, with its unique mono-
coque construction, or the glazed building of the now
nonexistent Kino Praha movie theatre; that’s the kind
of work leading Western architects did in the 1950s.
The case was the same with the Stadium. I was happy
when people came to see Furlan’s performance, when
they touched those weird railings in the stands, or took
pictures in front of the famous gate from the Zieleniecka Avenue side through which the Peace Race rode
in. What they saw wasn’t Socialist Realism, but interesting architecture.
TS: But I keep asking myself, why sport? He could have
chosen more popular pop stars, more spectacular ones
than Boniek, with all due respect to him. Michael Jackson or Britney Spears, say. . .
SS: I don’t think Boniek is a pop icon. What we are talking about here — Boniek and that particular match —
is a national myth. In our failure-rich country, there are
several such moments: the Sieg of Vienna in 1683. . .
AR: . . .The pole-vaulter Kozakiewicz and his gesture in
the stadium in Moscow. . .
SS: . . .And there are a number of the national football
team’s matches from the 1970s and early ’80s that have
become part of the glorious mythology. There’s the figure of Boniek, that is, a player who, though more than
twenty years have passed since the heyday of his career,
is still recognised all over Europe. When you say ‘Poland,’
people will say ‘Wałęsa,’ and then ‘Boniek.’ Or sometimes
the other way round, Boniek mentioned first. There are
people, though I am not one of them, who know these
matches by heart. They can recount these heroic battles
minute by minute. That’s why the action was so interesting, because it was so multilayered. You can analyse it on
many different levels. For instance, the television practice
of replaying the key moments of a game is also commented on in some way. That memorable performance
replayed once again here, in this Stadium. Cezary, you
said you were happy to see people visiting the Stadium
again after so many years, or for the first time ever. Well,
I felt rather sad. The lone figure running around the pitch
and its melancholic dimension reminded me that this
was a farewell party. Perhaps not a wake, but we feel that
something has ended. Someone said that the Stadium
dead, but I would not call it that. In fact, it has been very
much alive in recent years.
CP: I defend Boniek as someone who successfully confronted a myth and became a kind of idol in the 1980s.
Why did Massimo Furlan choose Boniek and not, for
instance, Jan Domarski and the famous goal he scored
against England at Wembley? Why not that game, which
lifted Polish football to the global super-league? Wembley
and the 1970s were a period when Polish football saw its
most spectacular successes. I think Furlan chose PolandBelgium from the 1982 World Cup simply because he
knew Boniek. Had he wanted to delve into our national
mythology, he should have chosen a different game, per-
haps Poland-Finland 1983, and used the opportunity to
show a kind of death, the death of the 10th–Anniversary
Stadium. There was no single hero at Wembley; Domarski’s goal was accidental, and the Polish team was on
the defensive throughout the game.
AR: And I would like sports fans to talk about art the
same way art people talk about sports.
TS: I think we can all agree there is a significant difference between the experience of a sports fan and
that of a consumer, let’s call him, of art. Communing with art conjures up different aesthetic qualities
than communing with sport. In the interview I had
the pleasure of conducting with Massimo Furlan, he
said that the viewers of his performances were gallery-goers rather than sport fans. And those gallerygoers then leave the Stadium sounding their horns,
whistling and cheering, that is, behaving like your
typical football fans.
AR: The key word here is catharsis.
SS: The viewer simply starts to behave according to
a certain convention.
TS: So distance — the distance that Anda Rottenberg
spoke of at the beginning – does not exist, after all.
AR: He does, but emotions also play a role here. Everything that is connected with experiencing emotions in
a crowd, with what a football game is about — the function of catharsis, invented to channel emotions. Football
matches, games in general, all kinds of events where
a large number of people can give vent to their emotions,
serve the same purpose. Football matches are in fact the
best example here, because other disciplines seem more
elitist and less well-suited to effect a collective polarisation of emotions, whereas a football game is a great
unknown from beginning to end. From minute one the
audience is divided between ‘us’ and ‘them.’ A football
game is a substitute for war. And this can be felt. It is induction of energy, which I’m not trying to examine here.
If we came to see art and are watching a football game,
additionally enhanced by commentary and the kind of
community I was talking about, we all start becoming
fans. We were not fans when we entered the venue, but
become fans when leaving it. If other events created by
Furlan end like that, then I understand it is absolutely
justified. That’s what happens.
AR: I imagine that the artist’s intention is multilayered
here. Not all of these layers can be guessed, and he
himself mentioned only two: the history of sport, and
his own childhood. In fact, one of the fans said it was
a very beautiful re-enactment of a childhood experience. This is an attempt to recreate a myth. To find the
taste of the madeleine. I recall another football match,
initiated by the Swiss artist Ingeborg Lüscher, who
dressed the players in very elegant suits, by Hugo Boss,
if I remember correctly, and told them, ‘I would like you
to look smart.’ They begin the game in those suits, but
because it is hard to play in them, they end it virtually
in rags. The match itself is serious; the need to prevail is
stronger than the desire to look smart. It is also a play
that somehow spans two different territories. One is
men’s fashion and the status it defines, and the other
is male sport, football. A confrontation of these two
worlds is very interesting; it was very funny to watch
how the players tore off their jacket sleeves, rolled up
their trouser legs, and so on. It was a fascinating event
to witness. There must be something appealing about
sport events and their connection with art if artists are
starting to develop an interest in them.
TS: Or perhaps, just as Furlan only aspires to being
Boniek, so do we, participating in this event, only aspire to being sports fans?
AR: First you enact, then you participate. It’s like when
you adopt a certain convention. First you only play-act,
but at some point the distinction between play-acting
and actually experiencing real emotions gets blurred.
CP: But we were not playing; we felt we were doing
something through a glass pane.
TS: Sport is a mass phenomenon, accessible to everyone. It is a game that stirs up strong emotions, often
extreme ones. Art is something elite, played out in rather sublime spaces, and here Furlan suddenly seamlessly
connects these two seemingly incompatible areas.
SS: But we know that this is not what is happening
here. Furlan is not creating a sports event; he only creates an image of one, and that’s a fundamental difference.
TS: Or rather, we create the image ourselves.
SS: He also creates an image, a representation of that
event, and that is an important shift; it also affects its
reception. Hence my theory, which I tried to smuggle
in here, that we played fans rather than actually being
them, that were an image of a sports audience rather
than an actual audience. As for art, we know that art
deals with all areas of culture and life in general, and
sport is one of them. Moreover, it is a broad and important area, where various forms of symbolic capital
are generated, where various social metaphors and
emotions are channelled, so it is quite obvious that
art should tries to tackle this area, because it is a broad
and important one. As for sublimity, which contemporary art does not aspire to — but even if it did — I do
not think it strips art of it, because sport is a theme for
art, and a good one.
You could see what a single footballer does during the
ninety-minute spectacle. It was incredible, because
the whole choreography of their movements is virtually limited to standing around, prancing about, taking
a few steps here and there, and then again just looking
around. The ball was not important for Farocki. Those
were brief spurts, a short kick, and then nothing more,
just scratching his head and prancing about. It was
one man — just as with Furlan — abstracted from the
whole game.
TS: And, unfortunately, I have to say stop at this point
(if I had a whistle, I’d use it), because the discipline in
which we competed tonight has just come to an end.
The conversation took place on October 25, 2008 on the Strefa Alternatywna television show on TVP Kultura
CP: It is precisely the sublimity of sport that Furlan in
fact deconstructed. For what did we see? A man standing, scratching himself, walking around — that is not
how a football player behaves. When we watch a football game, we see fluid play, we see beauty, we give
ourselves over to purely aesthetic contemplation.
SS: We see beauty in football because the ball very
much absorbs our attention. At the latest Documenta
in Kassel Harun Farocki showed an excellent piece, an
impressive media-art project, an analysis of the FranceItaly game from the 2006 World Cup, split up among
a dozen large monitors, using powerful computers to
generate, for example, graphs showing each player’s
speed, and with two monitors showing only two players, Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi. Tracked
by the camera throughout the whole game in a very
tigh frame, using some kind of movement detector.
n-site inspections are usually held in places where
something important has happened, where history
was recorded, one which eyewitnesses then try to
recreate through first-person accounts and a reconstruction of events. The second episode of the Stadium
X Finissage used the strategy of on-site inspection, often employed by police investigators or historians, to
stage meetings with people who in the course of their
personal history have encountered the Stadium in one
way or another. During an arranged walk, the audience
were able to meet, among others, Stanisław Królak,
winner of the 1956 Peace Race; filmmaker and sports
fan Janusz Zaorski; vendors from the CHD Stadion retailers’ association and the area’s commercial pioneers;
architects fighting for the Stadium to be recognised as
a historical landmark; members of a folk-dance group
that performed at the Stadium during Communist-era
harvest festivals; employees of the Central Sport Centre; the planners of Euro 2012; and, last but not least,
Prof. Adam Roman, creator of the well-known Relay
Race, a sculpture guarding the entrance to the venue.
Instead of verismo, On-Site Inspection offered a documentary theatre, in which the invited persons played
Throughout much of its history, the Stadium was used
for purposes other than just hosting sport events. Its
origins were propagandistic: built at a shock-troop
working pace in just 12 months, the venue opened
with great pomp on July 22, 1955 to coincide with the
opening of the International Youth Festival in Warsaw.
It was to be a showcase of the new Communist order,
its architecture meant to reflect the new thinking.
That is why the venue was neither fenced nor closed
at night; anyone who felt like it could enter any time
of day or night. Access was limited only during sporting events, music concerts, or stunt shows. The witty
people of Warsaw eagerly embraced that freedom, using the Stadium’s crown and stands as a place of intimate rendez-vous, plein-air drinking parties, and shady
business deals. The Socialist-Realist monuments that
were to decorate the arena’s gate from the side of Vistula River have never been realised; stone plinths were
put in place but remained empty. Nor was the mural
depicting Polish history in the spirit of class struggle
and Marxist theory, which a young Mexican artist fascinated with People’s Poland wished to paint on the gate
from the Zieleniecka avenue side, ever executed. The
only permanent emblems of socialism were the reliefs
on the marble-lined parade stand. Interestingly, their
Communist symbolism was only visible to the party
notables seated in the stand, not to ordinary viewers.
The Stadium’s architects had managed to steer clear of
the reefs of Socialist Realism. In the 1950s, this sporting
arena in Warsaw’s Praga-Południe neighbourhood was
a stadium-sculpture, one of the most beautiful stadiums in the world, and a state-of-the-art sports venue.
The participants, in order of appearance:
1. Jan Wacławik, employee of the Central Sports Centre, provided an
introduction to the history of the Stadium;
2. Stanisław Królak, winner of the 1956 Peace Race, re-enacted the
ride through the entry tunnel at the finish of the race;
3. Janusz Zaorski gave a sports fan’s account of the 1981
Poland-Finland football match, the last sporting event held at the
4. Merchants from the CHD Stadion retailers’ association spoke
of their more than twenty years at the Stadium, from camp beds
through makeshift shelters to steel stalls, and the dilemmas related
to the market’s closing and the search for a new location;
5. Dance lesson: members of a folk-dance ensemble demonstrated
excepts from choreography they presented during Communist-era
harvest festivals;
6. The queen of the relay race, Teresa Sukniewicz, Polish hurdles
racer, recounted breaking the world record in the 100-metre hurdles,
as well as other athletic events held at the Stadium;
7. Tomasz Kwieciński, from the ATJ Architekci architectural firm, spoke of the forgotten heritage of Socialist Realism;
8. The secret of The Relay Race: Prof. Adam Roman, creator of The Re-
lay Race sculpture visible from the Poniatowski Bridge, spoke to Cezary Polak about the Stakhanovite pace of the Stadium’s construction,
overinterpretation of meanings, and a certain error in construction.
On-Site Inspection With the Participation of Eyewitnesses to Certain
Events, 10th–Anniversary Stadium, November 18, 2007, in collaboration with Cezary Polak
All artists are alike. They dream of doing something
that’s more social, more collaborative, and more real
than art.
Dan Graham
uperflex’s internet tv station for elderly residents of
a Liverpool housing project (Tenantspin, 1999); Annika Eriksson’s inviting groups and individuals to
communicate their ideas and skills at the Frieze Art Fair
(Do you want an audience?, 2003); Jeremy Deller’s Social Parade for more than twenty social organizations
in San Sebastián (2004); Lincoln Tobier’s training local
residents in Aubervilliers, northeast of Paris, to produce
half-hour radio programs (Radio Ld’A, 2002); Atelier Van
Lieshout’s A-Portable floating abortion clinic (2001);
Jeanne van Heeswijk’s project to turn a condemned
shopping mall into a cultural center for the residents
of Vlaardingen, Rotterdam (De Strip, 2001–2004); Lucy
Orta’s workshops in Johannesburg (and elsewhere) to
teach unemployed people new fashion skills and discuss collective solidarity (Nexus Architecture, 1995–);
Temporary Services’ improvised neighborhood environment in an empty lot in Echo Park, Los Angeles (Construction Site, 2005); Paweł Althamer’s sending a group
of ‘difficult’ teenagers from Warsaw’s working-class
Bródno district (including his two sons) to hang out at
his retrospective in Maastricht (Bad Kids, 2004); Jens
Haaning’s producing a calendar that features blackand-white photographic portraits of refugees in Finland awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications
(The Refugee Calendar, 2002).
This catalogue of projects is just a sample of the recent
surge of artistic interest in collectivity, collaboration,
and direct engagement with specific social constituencies. Although these practices have had, for the most
part, a relatively weak profile in the commercial art
world — collective projects are more difficult to market than works by individual artists, and they are also
less likely to be ‘works’ than social events, publications,
workshops, or performances — they nevertheless occupy an increasingly conspicuous presence in the public sector. The unprecedented expansion of the biennial
is one factor that has certainly contributed to this shift
(thirty-three new biennials have been established in
the past ten years alone, the majority in countries until recently considered peripheral to the international
art world), as is the new model of the commissioning
agency dedicated to the production of experimental
engaged art in the public realm (Artangel in London,
SKOR in the Netherlands, Nouveau Commanditaires in
France are just a few that come to mind). In her critical history One Place After Another: Site-Specific Art
and Locational Identity, Miwon Kwon argues that community-specific work takes critiques of ‘heavy-metal’
public art as its point of departure to address the site
as a social rather than formal or phenomenological
framework.1 The intersubjective space created through
these projects becomes the focus — and medium — of
artistic investigation.
This expanded field of relational practices currently
goes by a variety of names: socially engaged art, community-based art, experimental communities, dialogic
art, littoral art, participatory, interventionist, researchbased, or collaborative art. These practices are less interested in a relational aesthetic than in the creative
rewards of collaborative activity — whether in the form
of working with preexisting communities or establishing one’s own interdisciplinary network. It is tempting
to date the rise in visibility of these practices to the
early 1990s, when the fall of Communism deprived
the Left of the last vestiges of the revolution that had
once linked political and aesthetic radicalism. Many
artists now make no distinction between their work
inside and outside the gallery, and even highly established and commercially successful figures like Francis
Alÿs, Pierre Huyghe, Matthew Barney, and Thomas Hirschhorn have all turned to social collaboration as an
extension of their conceptual or sculptural practice.
Although the objectives and output of these various
artists and groups vary enormously, all are linked by
a belief in the empowering creativity of collective action and shared ideas.
This mixed panorama of socially collaborative work
arguably forms what avant-garde we have today: artists using social situations to produce dematerialized,
antimarket, politically engaged projects that carry on
the modernist call to blur art and life. For Nicolas Bourriaud in Relational Aesthetics, the defining text of relational practice, ‘art is the place that produces a specific
sociability,’ precisely because ‘it tightens the space of
relations, unlike TV.’2 For Grant H. Kester, in another key
text, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art, art is uniquely placed to counter
a world in which ‘we are reduced to an atomized pseudocommunity of consumers, our sensibilities dulled
by spectacle and repetition.’3 For these and other supporters of socially engaged art, the creative energy of
participatory practices rehumanizes — or at least dealienates — a society rendered numb and fragmented
by the repressive instrumentality of capitalism. But the
urgency of this political task has led to a situation in
which such collaborative practices are automatically
perceived to be equally important artistic gestures of
resistance: There can be no failed, unsuccessful, unresolved, or boring works of collaborative art because all
are equally essential to the task of strengthening the
social bond. While I am broadly sympathetic to that
ambition, I would argue that it is also crucial to discuss,
analyze, and compare such work critically as art. This
critical task is particularly pressing in Britain, where
New Labour uses a rhetoric almost identical to that of
socially engaged art to steer culture toward policies of
social inclusion. Reducing art to statistical information
about target audiences and ‘performance indicators,’
the government prioritizes social effect over considerations of artistic quality.
The emergence of criteria by which to judge social
practices is not assisted by the present-day standoff
between the nonbelievers (aesthetes who reject this
work as marginal, misguided, and lacking artistic interest of any kind) and the believers (activists who reject aesthetic questions as synonymous with cultural
hierarchy and the market). The former, at their most
extreme, would condemn us to a world of irrelevant
painting and sculpture, while the latter have a tendency to self-marginalize to the point of inadvertently
reinforcing art’s autonomy, thereby preventing any productive rapprochement between art and life. Is there
ground on which the two sides can meet?
What serious criticism has arisen in relation to socially
collaborative art has been framed in a particular way:
The social turn in contemporary art has prompted an
ethical turn in art criticism. This is manifest in a heightened attention to how a given collaboration is undertaken. In other words, artists are increasingly judged
by their working process — the degree to which they
supply good or bad models of collaboration — and criticized for any hint of potential exploitation that fails to
‘fully’ represent their subjects, as if such a thing were
possible. This emphasis on process over product (i. e.,
means over ends) is justified as oppositional to capitalism’s predilection for the contrary. The indignant
outrage directed at Santiago Sierra is a prominent example of this tendency, but it has been disheartening
to read the criticism of other artists that also arises in
the name of this equation: Accusations of mastery and
egocentrism are leveled at artists who work with participants to realize a project instead of allowing it to
emerge through consensual collaboration.
The writing around the Turkish artists’ collective Oda
Projesi provides a clear example of the way in which
aesthetic judgments have been overtaken by ethical
criteria. Oda Projesi is a group of three artists who,
since 1997, have based their activities around a threeroom apartment in the Galata district of Istanbul (oda
projesi is Turkish for ‘room project’). The apartment pro-
vides a platform for projects generated by the collective
in cooperation with its neighbors, such as a children’s
workshop with the Turkish painter Komet, a community
picnic with the sculptor Erik Göngrich, and a parade for
children organized by the Tem Yapin theater group. Oda
Projesi argue that they wish to open up a context for
the possibility of interchange and dialogue, motivated
by a desire to integrate with their surroundings. They
insist that they are not setting out to improve or heal
a situation — one of their project leaflets contains the
slogan ‘exchange not change’ — though they clearly
see their work as gently oppositional. By working directly with their neighbors to organize workshops and
events, they evidently want to produce a more creative and participatory social fabric. They talk of creating
‘blank spaces’ and ‘holes’ in the face of an overorganized and bureaucratic society, and of being ‘mediators’
between groups of people who normally don’t have
contact with one another.
Because much of Oda Projesi’s work exists on the level
of art education and community events, we can see
them as dynamic members of the community bringing art to a wider audience. It is important that they
are opening up the space for non-object-based practice in Turkey, a country whose art academies and art
market are still largely oriented toward painting and
sculpture. And one may also be pleased, as I am, that
it is three women who have undertaken this task. But
their conceptual gesture of reducing the authorial status to a minimum ultimately becomes inseparable from
the community-arts tradition. Even when transposed
to Sweden, Germany, and the other countries where
Oda Projesi have exhibited, there is little to distinguish
their projects from other socially engaged practices
that revolve around the predictable formulas of workshops, discussions, meals, film screenings, and walks.
Perhaps this is because the question of aesthetic
value is not valid for Oda Projesi. When I interviewed
the collective for Untitled magazine (Spring 2005) and
asked what criteria they base their own work on, they
replied that they judge it by the decisions they make
about where and with whom they collaborate: Dynamic and sustained relationships provide their markers of success, not aesthetic considerations. Indeed,
because their practice is based on collaboration, Oda
Projesi consider aesthetic to be ‘a dangerous word’ that
should not be brought into discussion. This seemed to
me to be a curious response: If the aesthetic is dangerous, isn’t that all the more reason it should be interrogated?
Oda Projesi’s ethical approach is adopted by the
Swedish curator Maria Lind in a recent essay on their
work. Lind is one of the most articulate supporters
of political and relational practices, and she undertakes
her curatorial work with a trenchant commitment to
the social. In her essay on Oda Projesi, published in
Claire Doherty’s From Studio to Situations: Contemporary Art and the Question of Context, she notes
that the group is not interested in showing or exhibiting art but in ‘using art as a means for creating and
recreating new relations between people.’4 She goes on
to discuss the collective’s project in Riem, near Munich,
in which they collaborated with a local Turkish community to organize a tea party, guided tours led by
the residents, hairdressing and Tupperware parties,
and the installation of a long roll of paper that people wrote and drew on to stimulate conversations. Lind
compares this endeavor to Hirschhorn’s Bataille Monu-
ment, 2002, his well-known collaboration with a mainly
Turkish community in Kassel (this elaborate project included a TV studio, an installation about Bataille, and
a library themed around the interests of the dissident
Surrealist). Lind observes that Oda Projesi, contrary to
Hirschhorn, are the better artists because of the equal
status they give to their collaborators: ‘[Hirschhorn’s]
aim is to create art. For the Bataille Monument he had
already prepared, and in part also executed, a plan on
which he needed help to implement. His participants
were paid for their work and their role was that of the
“executor” and not “co-creator.”’ Lind goes on to argue that Hirschhorn’s work, by using participants to
critique the art genre of the monument, was rightly
criticized for ‘“exhibiting” and making exotic marginalized groups and thereby contributing to a form of social pornography.’ By contrast, she writes, Oda Projesi
‘work with groups of people in their immediate environments and allow them to wield great influence on
the project.’
It’s worth looking closely at Lind’s criteria here. Her
assessment is based on an ethics of authorial renunciation: The work of Oda Projesi is better than that of
Hirschhorn because it exemplifies a superior model of
collaborative practice. The conceptual density and artistic significance of the respective projects are sidelined in favor of an appraisal of the artists’ relationship
with their collaborators. Hirschhorn’s (purportedly)
exploitative relationship is compared negatively to
Oda Projesi’s inclusive generosity. In other words, Lind
downplays what might be interesting in Oda Projesi’s
work as art — the possible achievement of making dialogue a medium or the significance of dematerializing
a project into social process. Instead, her criticism is
dominated by ethical judgments on working procedure
and intentionality.
Similar examples can be found in the writing on Superflex, Eriksson, van Heeswijk, Orta, and many other
artists working in a socially ameliorative tradition. This
ethical imperative finds support in most of the theoretical writing on art that collaborates with ‘real’ people
(i. e., those who are not the artist’s friends or other
artists). The curator and critic Lucy R. Lippard, concluding her book The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in
a Multicentered Society, a discussion of site-specific art
from an ecological/postcolonial perspective, presents
an eight-point ‘place ethic’ for artists who work with
communities.5 Kester’s Conversation Pieces, while lucidly articulating many of the problems associated with
such practices, nevertheless advocates an art of concrete interventions in which the artist does not occupy
a position of pedagogical or creative mastery. In Good
Intentions: Judging the Art of Encounter, the Dutch critic
Erik Hagoort argues that we must not shy away from
making moral judgments on this art but must weigh
the presentation and representation of an artist’s good
intentions.6 In each of these examples, authorial intentionality (or a humble lack thereof) is privileged over
a discussion of the work’s conceptual significance as
a social and aesthetic form. Paradoxically, this leads
to a situation in which not only collectives but also
individual artists are praised for their authorial renunciation. And this may explain, to some degree, why
socially engaged art has been largely exempt from art
criticism. Emphasis is shifted away from the disruptive
specificity of a given work and onto a generalized set
of moral precepts.
In Conversation Pieces Kester argues that consultative
and ‘dialogic’ art necessitates a shift in our understanding of what art is — away from the visual and
sensory (which are individual experiences) and toward
‘discursive exchange and negotiation.’ He challenges
us to treat communication as an aesthetic form, but,
ultimately, he fails to defend this, and seems perfectly
content to allow that a socially collaborative art project
could be deemed a success if it works on the level of
social intervention even though it founders on the level
of art. In the absence of a commitment to the aesthetic, Kester’s position adds up to a familiar summary of
the intellectual trends inaugurated by identity politics:
respect for the other, recognition of difference, protection of fundamental liberties, and an inflexible mode
of political correctness. As such, it also constitutes
a rejection of any art that might offend or trouble its
audience — most notably the historical avant-garde,
within whose avant-garde lineage Kester nevertheless wishes to situate social engagement as a radical practice. He criticizes Dada and Surrealism, which
sought to ‘shock’ viewers into being more sensitive
and receptive to the world, for presuming the artist to
be a privileged bearer of insights. I would argue that
such discomfort and frustration — along with absurdity, eccentricity, doubt, or sheer pleasure—can, on the
contrary, be crucial elements of a work’s aesthetic impact and are essential to gaining new perspectives on
our condition. The best examples of socially collaborative art give rise to these — and many other — effects,
which must be read alongside more legible intentions,
such as the recovery of a phantasmic social bond or
the sacrifice of authorship in the name of a ‘true’ and
respectful collaboration. Some of these projects are
well known: Hirschhorn’s Musée Précaire Albinet and
24h Foucault (both 2004); Aleksandra Mir’s Cinema for
the Unemployed, 1998; Alÿs’s When Faith Moves Mountains, 2002. Rather than positioning themselves within
an activist lineage, in which art is marshaled to effect
social change, these artists have a closer relationship
to avant-garde theater, performance, or architectural
theory. As a consequence, perhaps, they attempt to
think the aesthetic and the social/political together,
rather than subsuming both within the ethical.
The British artist Phil Collins, for example, fully integrates
these two concerns in his work. Invited to undertake
a residency in Jerusalem, he decided to hold a discodancing marathon for teenagers in Ramallah, which he
recorded to produce the two-channel video installation
they shoot horses, 2004. Collins paid nine teenagers to
dance continuously for eight hours, on two consecutive
days, in front of a garish pink wall to an unrelentingly
cheesy compilation of pop hits from the past four decades. The teenagers are mesmerizing and irresistible as
they move from exuberant partying to boredom and
finally exhaustion. The sound track’s banal lyrics of ecstatic love and rejection acquire poignant connotations
in light of the kids’ double endurance of the marathon
and of the interminable political crisis in which they are
trapped. It goes without saying that they shoot horses
is a perverse representation of the ‘site’ that the artist
was invited to respond to: The occupied territories are
never shown explicitly but are ever-present as a frame.
This use of the hors cadre has a political purpose: Collins’s decision to present the participants as generic globalized teenagers becomes clear when we consider the
puzzled questions regularly overheard when one watches the video in public: How come Palestinians know
Beyoncé? How come they are wearing Nikes? By voiding
the work of direct political narrative, Collins demonstrates
how swiftly this space is filled by fantasies generated
by the media’s selective production and dissemination of images from the Middle East (since the typical
Western viewer seems condemned to view young Ar-
abs either as victims or as medieval fundamentalists).
By using pop music as familiar to Palestinian as to
Western teens, Collins also provides a commentary on
globalization that is considerably more nuanced than
most activist-oriented political art. They shoot horses
plays off the conventions of benevolent socially collaborative practice (it creates a new narrative for its participants and reinforces a social bond), but combines
them with the visual and conceptual conventions of reality TV. The presentation of the work as a two-screen
installation lasting a full eight-hour workday subverts
both genres in its emphatic use of seduction on the one
hand and grueling duration on the other.
The work of Polish artist Artur Żmijewski, like that of
Collins, often revolves around the devising and recording of difficult — sometimes excruciating — situations.
In Żmijewski’s video The Singing Lesson I, 2001, a group
of deaf students is filmed singing the Kyrie to Jan Maklakiewicz’s 1944 Polish Mass in a Warsaw church. The
opening shot is staggeringly hard: An image of the
church interior, all elegant Neoclassical symmetry, is
offset by the cacophonous, distorted voice of a young
girl. She is surrounded by fellow students who, unable to
hear her efforts, chat with one another in sign language.
Żmijewski’s editing draws constant attention to the
contrast between the choir and its environment, suggesting that religious paradigms of perfection continue
to inform our ideas of beauty. A second version of The
Singing Lesson was filmed in Leipzig in 2002. This time
the deaf students, together with a professional chorister,
sing a Bach cantata to the accompaniment of a Baroque
chamber orchestra in Saint Thomas Church, where Bach
once served as cantor and is buried. The German version
is edited to reveal a more playful side of the experiment.
Some students take the task of performing seriously;
others abandon it in laughter. Their gestures of sign language in rehearsal are echoed by those of the conductor:
two visual languages that serve to equate the two types
of music produced by Żmijewski’s experiment — the
harmonies of the orchestra and the strained wailing of
the choir. The artist’s editing, compounded by my inability to understand sign language, seems integral to
the film’s point: We can only ever have limited access to
others’ emotional and social experiences, and the opacity of this knowledge obstructs any analysis founded on
such assumptions. Instead we are invited to read what
is presented to us — a perverse assemblage of conduc-
tor, musicians, and deaf choir that produces something
more complex, troubling, and multilayered than the release of individual creativity.
It will be protested that both Collins and Żmijewski
produce videos for consumption within a gallery, as if
the space outside it were automatically more authentic — a logic that has been definitively unraveled by
Kwon in One Place After Another. Her advocacy of art
that ‘unworks’ community might usefully be applied to
the practice of British artist Jeremy Deller. In 2001 he organized the reenactment of a key event from the English miners’ strike of 1984 — a violent clash between
miners and the police in the village of Orgreave in Yorkshire. The Battle of Orgreave was a one-day restaging
of this confrontation, performed by former miners and
policemen, together with a number of historical-reenactment societies. Although the work seemed to contain a twisted therapeutic element (in that both miners
and police involved in the struggle participated, some
of them swapping roles), The Battle of Orgreave did not
seem to heal a wound so much as reopen it. Deller’s
event was both politically legible and utterly pointless:
It summoned the experiential potency of political demonstrations but only to expose a wrong seventeen years
too late. It gathered the people together to remember
and replay a disastrous event, but this remembrance
took place in circumstances more akin to a village fair,
with a brass band, food stalls, and children running
around. This contrast is particularly evident in the only
video documentation of The Battle of Orgreave, which
forms part of an hour-long film by Mike Figgis, a leftwing filmmaker who explicitly uses the work as a vehicle for his indictment of the Thatcher government.
Clips of Deller’s event are shown between emotional
interviews with former miners, and the clash in tone is
disconcerting. The Battle of Orgreave stages a political
grievance, but plays it out in a different key, since Deller’s action both is and is not a violent encounter. The
involvement of historical-reenactment societies is integral to this ambiguity, since their participation symbolically elevated the relatively recent events at Orgreave
to the status of English history while drawing attention to this eccentric leisure activity, in which bloody
battles are enthusiastically replicated as a social and
aesthetic diversion. The whole event could be understood as contemporary history painting that collapses
representation and reality.
Operating on a less charged symbolic level, Carsten
Höller’s project The Baudouin Experiment: A Deliberate, Non-Fatalistic, Large-Scale Group Experiment in Deviation, 2001, is strikingly neutral by comparison. The
event took as its point of departure an incident in 1991
when the late King Baudouin of Belgium abdicated for
a day to allow an abortion law of which he did not approve to be passed. Höller brought together a group
of one hundred people to sit in one of the silver balls
of the Atomium in Brussels for twenty-four hours and
to abandon their usual lives for a day. Basic provisions
were supplied (furniture, food, toilets), but otherwise
there were no means of contact with the outside world.
Though it bore some resemblance to a reality show like
Big Brother, the social action was not recorded. This
refusal to document the project was an extension of
Höller’s ongoing interest in the category of ‘doubt,’ and
The Baudouin Experiment forms his most condensed
consideration of this idea to date. Without documentation of such an anonymous project, would we believe
that the piece ever really existed? In retrospect, the elusiveness of Höller’s event is akin to the uncertainty we
may feel when looking at documentation of socially engaged art that asks us to take its claims of meaningful
dialogue and political empowerment on trust. In this
context The Baudouin Experiment was an event of profound inaction, or ‘passive activism’ — a refusal of everyday productivity, but also a refusal to instrumentalize
art in compensation for some perceived social lack.
Deller, Collins, Żmijewski, and Höller do not make the
‘correct’ ethical choice. They do not embrace the Christian ideal of self-sacrifice; instead, they act on their desire without the incapacitating restrictions of guilt. In
so doing, their work joins a tradition of highly authored
situations that fuse social reality with carefully calculated artifice. This tradition needs to be written, beginning, perhaps, with the ‘Dada-Season’ in the spring of
1921, a series of manifestations that sought to involve
the Parisian public. The most salient of these events
was an ‘excursion’ (hosted by André Breton, Tristan
Tzara, Louis Aragon, et al.) to the church of Saint Julienle-Pauvre that drew more than one hundred people despite the pouring rain. The inclement weather cut the
tour short and prevented an ‘auction of abstractions’
from being realized. In this Dada excursion, as in the
examples given above, intersubjective relations were
not an end in themselves but rather served to unfold
a more complex knot of concerns about pleasure, visibility, engagement, and the conventions of social interaction.
The discursive criteria of socially engaged art are, at
present, drawn from a tacit analogy between anticapitalism and the Christian ‘good soul.’ In this schema,
self-sacrifice is triumphant: The artist should renounce
authorial presence in favor of allowing participants to
speak through him or her. This self-sacrifice is accompanied by the idea that art should extract itself from the
‘useless’ domain of the aesthetic and be fused with social praxis. As the French philosopher Jacques Rancière
has observed, this denigration of the aesthetic ignores
the fact that the system of art as we understand it in
the West — the ‘aesthetic regime of art’ inaugurated
by Friedrich Schiller and the Romantics and still operative to this day — is predicated precisely on a confusion
between art’s autonomy (its position at one remove
from instrumental rationality) and heteronomy (its
blurring of art and life). Untangling this knot — or ignoring it by seeking more concrete ends for art — is
slightly to miss the point, since the aesthetic is, according to Rancière, the ability to think contradiction:
the productive contradiction of art’s relationship to
social change, characterized precisely by that tension
between faith in art’s autonomy and belief in art as
inextricably bound to the promise of a better world to
come. For Rancière the aesthetic does not need to be
sacrificed at the altar of social change, as it already inherently contains this ameliorative promise.
The self-effacing implications of the artist/activist position bring to mind the character Grace in Lars von
Trier’s 2003 provocation Dogville: Her desire to serve
the local community is inseparable from her guilty position of privilege, and her exemplary gestures perturbingly provoke an evil eradicable only by further evil. Von
Trier’s film does not present a straightforward moral, but articulates — through a reductio ad absurdum — one terrifying implication of the self-sacrificial
position. Some people will consider Dogville a harsh
framework by which to express reservations about
activist-oriented practice, but good intentions should
not render art immune to critical analysis. The best art
manages (as Dogville itself does) to fulfill the promise
of the antinomy that Schiller saw as the very root of
aesthetic experience and not surrender itself to exemplary (but relatively ineffectual) gestures. The best collaborative practices of the past ten years address this
contradictory pull between autonomy and social inter-
vention, and reflect on this antinomy both in the structure of the work and in the conditions of its reception.
It is to this art — however uncomfortable, exploitative,
or confusing it may first appear — that we must turn
for an alternative to the well-intentioned homilies that
today pass for critical discourse on social collaboration.
These homilies unwittingly push us toward a Platonic
regime in which art is valued for its truthfulness and
educational efficacy rather than for inviting us — as
Dogville did — to confront darker, more painfully complicated considerations of our predicament.
Text was originally published in Artforum, Feburary 2006
1 M. Kwon, One Place After Another: Site-specific Art and Locational Identity (Cambridge, Mass.
and London: MIT Press, 2002).
2 N. Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics (Paris: Les Presses du Réel, 1998).
3 G. H. Kester, Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2004).
4 C. Doherty, From Studio to Situations: Contemporary Art and the Question of Context (London:
Black Dog Publishing, 2004).
5 L. R. Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: The
New Press, 1997).
6. E. Hagoort, Good Intentions: Judging the Art of Encounter (The Netherlands: Foundation for
Visual Arts, Design and Architecture, 2005).
he Greeks, our primal primogenitors, Ur-pro- and
antagonists in the ever-polemic Hellas, measured
their distances and differences in stadia. That
is, the word stadion originally denoted the length of
a course run by naked contestants, some 200 meters,
one-tenth of a sea mile, in the simple and short footraces that constituted the core of these earliest of athletic competitions, at the hundreds of local precursors
to the great Pan-Hellenic ‘games’ (agōnes) that evolved
first at the remote Olympia and Delphi, later at Isthmia
(the latter two also involving competition in music and
drama), then ultimately at Athens. Agōn emerged as
the competitive struggle of an epic warrior-lord culture,
one of grace and disgrace, for kleos, ‘glorious fame,’
still grounded in the sacred ritual and sacrifice to gods
and heroes, as mythically portrayed in Homer, for the
specific distinctions and recognition victory imposes.
The agōnes, during which truce was declared, were its
regenerative expression. These were as seminal for the
creation and consolidation of a pan-Hellenic civilization as the Greeks’ political and poetic achievements,
both for holding together this otherwise fractious
people and resisting the crush of the several empires,
Persian, Macedonian, and Roman, this compact culture
had to negotiate over the course of nearly a millennium-and-a-half.
From a simple unit of length, stadion came to denote
the imposing semi-closed structures in which the increasingly institutionalised competitions came to be
held. This Attic form occurs as a regular phonetic alternation, perhaps under the influence of stadios, ‘fast,
firm, fixed,’ of the earlier Doric spadion, from spān, ‘to
draw (out),’ reflected in the German and English cognates span and spannen. With the spread of the Greeks
into a pre-Roman Italy, spadion was taken up in Latin as
spatium, to mean ‘room, a space,’ and more generally
‘extent, interval.’ It is preserved in modern languages in
the Latinate reflexes (e)space, spazio, and the like, and,
more charmingly in the German spazieren and its Polish
loan-word spacer, ‘(go for) a walk,’ for its own sake. This
ultimate devolution to a quasi-natural notion of ‘spaceing,’ as it were, is true to the origins of the physical
stadion, initially only a flat area for the race-track set
amidst the base of slopes that could gather and seat
spectators by the tens of thousands.
This kinetic and tensely wound idea of ‘space,’ drawn
and circumscribed, stands in stark contrast to the
more open figure of place, from the Greek and Latin
plate[i]ea, ‘broadway,’ derived from the Indo-European
root plat-, ‘flat, spreading.’ Other derivatives include
plant, and, from the more basic root pelə-, planet,
‘wanderer,’ flâneur, field (and also Poles, ‘the people
of the fields,’ from Slavic polje, ‘field.’) Here, too,
its most decorative manifestation (in the sense
of decorum, our world’s own sense of order) is the urban place, Platz, the open nodal points that help direct
our linear movements through urban space. ‘Place’
in this sense puts forth no agency of its own, evoking a mode more vegetal than animal, a rhizomatics
of aparallel perspectives and multiplicities, more anarchic than hierarchic, a ‘plateau,’ as famously proposed by Deleuze and Guattri — ‘A rhizome does
not begin or end;it is always in the middle [au milieu]’ — in their A Thousand Plateaux, a term they
borrow from anthropologist Gregory Bateson’s analysis
of Balinese culture based on a model of self-stabilising
Thus ‘space’ and ‘place,’ two great topiques, or perhaps
following Foucault, hétérotopiques, one nearly the negation of the other, that is, not different, exactly, but
with signs reversed. They are two great axes, spanning, in Spannung, a high-tension line, curve, or swerve
that might hold a topology. To grasp that tension, we
must strive to see them as kinēma, ‘being in movement,’ no matter how firm, how fixed they present to
our consciousness. In his ‘Building, Dwelling, Thinking’
Heidegger, attempting to span the gap between being
and doing, gnomically glosses the opposition:
For one thing, what is the relation between location
[Ort, ‘place’] and space? For another, what is the relation between man and space?
The bridge is a location. As such a thing, it allows
a space into which earth and heaven, divinities and
mortals are admitted. The space allowed by the bridge
contains many places [Stellen] variously near or far
from the bridge. These places, however, may be treated
as mere positions between which there lies a measurable distance; a distance, in Greek stadion, always has
room made for it, and indeed by bare positions. The
space that is thus made by positions is space of a peculiar sort. As distance or ‘stadion’ it is what the same
word, stadion, means in Latin, a spatium, an intervening space or interval. Thus nearness and remoteness
between men and things can become mere intervals
of intervening space.
Only things that are locations in this manner allow for
spaces. What the word for space, Raum, Rum, designates is said by its ancient meaning…. A space is something that has been made room for, something that is
cleared [Eingeräumtes] and freed up — namely within
a boundary…. As the Greeks recognized, the boundary is
that from which something begins its presencing. That
is why the concept is that of horismos, that is, a [visual] boundary…. That for which room is made is always
granted and hence is joined, that is, gathered, by virtue
of a location, that is, by such a thing as the bridge. Accordingly, spaces receive their being from locations and
not from ‘space.’
The place, for the Greeks, was the cultic site. Culture
was preceded by, proceeded from, cult, ubiquitous
throughout the Greek Mediterranean but always locally and strictly defined around transgression and pollution as resolved by sacrifice. (Significantly, Olympia
itself, in the far west of the Peloponnese, was a major
cult site in its own right, and where colonists set out
for Magna Græcia in Italy.) Initially through the mastery
of force, the organized violence of the Greek citizen-armies, then of technē (a concept Latin later required two
words, ars and scientia, to translate), the exercise and
control of symbolic aggression and power, the stadion
evolved over the centuries into alternate creations,
new species like the symposion, theatron, and agora.
These deployed collective lyric song, dance, drama,
and discursive debate, and were based in the dynamic
culture of a polis composed of citizens considered equal
before the law (and the typical population of which
was far smaller than the average capacity of a stadion).
In all its forms, action, like competition, was ideologically always directed es meson, ‘toward the middle.’
Under democrateia, the ‘middling’ (following classicists’
felicitous appropriation of this word from Walt Whitman’s Democratic Vistas) were constantly adapting
to threats of power unjustly imposed from elites within
or invaders without. This complex became the prototype
of what has become the ‘West,’ an Abendland now
three millennia ancient, our singularity of disruptive
and disrupted continuities, freely displaced and displayed violence unleashed in what we could self-consolingly call ‘deep play,’ to use the anthropological term
borrowed from Jeremy Bentham by Clifford Geertz in
his alternative analysis of the cock-fight and the ‘theater-state’ in Balinese culture).
But in order to more closely follow Heidegger here in his
Greek move, anthropologically and historically, not just
philologically and philosophically, we should take him
at his word(s) and return for a moment to the Greeks,
venturing across the bridge into that ‘Fourfold’ which
will always make the Greeks strange to us moderns,
even those who believe. As Nietzsche, Heidegger’s
ghostly guide, affirms in his gaya scienza, ‘All events
had a different sheen because a god shone in them.’
His god was the ‘twice-born’ Dionysos, with his ‘indifference to the differences’ a confusing and confounding ‘stranger’ even to the Greeks, and under whose
tutelage tragedy came to occupy pride of place in the
festivals of liturgical and civic production of self, and
thus of our cult of the self. It shifted senses as it went,
even the very forms and spaces it had inherited: chorus
went from meaning ritual ‘dancers’ to performing voices in the orchestra, ‘dance floor’; skēnē, the small tent
or structure to the side of the stage used as a coun-
terpoint in the action is now la scène, the stage itself
and the drama thereon; and, most famously, the divine
‘masked stranger’ generated a masked actor, a hidden
prosopon and persona.
But this late in our own long march, are we ready for
a Dionysian world, even? Whatever the vanishing point
of this perspectival ‘artist’s metaphysics,’ Nietzsche
himself, with his hyper-tuned sense of the follies of history and humanity, was able to resolve it, only barely, as
‘life as art,’ a solution not for the faint of talent or temperament. The Muses are leaving the Museion (and in
any case, artists have never had a Muse of their own.)
The musikē, too, is fainter, more dissonant, befitting
a world-agora that must increasingly govern precariously by dissensus; this may drive us to a less cruel art
of allegory, ‘speaking in another agora,’ as we drift, or
dérive, into new contexts, perhaps even new contests.
ers, the endless ‘talks’ before peace), to Rancière’s
‘displaced struggles,’ like the displaced persons of the
last war, many of whom contributed the labor to build
an ultimately non-lasting monument? Will that new
world also be, to perhaps fittingly cite from an obituary,
and of a great classicist at that, one where we must accept (as promise or as compromise) that ‘each citizen
is in turn or « en alternance » submitted [soumis] and
dominant?’ Perhaps, despite the urgency, the emergency, we shall take advantage of that truce at the Delphic
Games to listen to the enigma of the Oracle: Fac simile!
Make a difference!
In a stadion built to mark [×] the end of one of our own
great ‘democratic’ wars, the transmutating of and to
another world-historical upheaval (or a merely doomed
mutant?), we are happily in a place that never was. Much
of the project of which the present volume will now be
the historical record involved events of ‘[re-]composition in performance,’ either ‘in place,’ in a Schauplatz,
or as a ‘spacer over the ruins,’ in the words of one
of its texts. But as we re-think, re-build a new world
order, will it be only to run, to dance, to voice our vote,
or like Jacques Rancière’s ‘emancipated spectators,’
to seek an art of politics, a politics of art, that ‘frames
not only works or monuments, but also a specific
space-time sensorium, as this sensorium defines ways
of being together or being apart, of being inside or outside, in front of or in the middle of, etc.’? Or will we
have recourse more to a new kind of guerrilla, a ‘guerre
sans batailles,’ in Deleuze’s words (with its pourparl-
he Jarmark Europa open-air market was originally
founded by members of the Vietnamese intelligentsia, university graduates and doctoral students
who in the early 1990s seized an opportunity to make
a fast buck from street trading. It was the best students
from North Vietnam who were offered scholarships to
the Soviet bloc. The next wave of Vietnamese immigrants came to Poland for economic reasons at the
beginning of this century. What will happen to the Warsaw Vietnamese after Jarmark Europa has been closed
down? Many of them, discouraged by Poland’s harsh
immigration laws, are returning home. What does the
assimilation of Poland’s largest ethnic minority really
look like?
Asians are believed not to assimilate well. On the other
hand, they are well-organised; they have their political
organisations, civil associations, newspapers, schools,
and a copy of Hanoi’s One-Pillar Pagoda, a Buddhist
temple built near the 10th–Anniversary Stadium. The
better-educated Vietnamese have been assimilating
more rapidly; as graduates and students of Polish universities, they are the socio-cultural, and often also
economic, elite of their communities. The Polish Vietnamese, whose number has grown from about fifty in
the 1960s to some 30,000 today, belong to a three-million-strong diaspora known as Người Việt Hải Ngoại
(Overseas Vietnamese), or occasionally as Người Việt
Tự Do (Free Vietnamese).
The Stadion era and wild trading are drawing to an
end. Vietnamese vendors are moving to shopping
centers in suburban areas like Ursus and Wólka Kossowska. Many of them are heading back to Hanoi. As
one wanders through the Vietnamese capital, one can
spot numerous restaurants, bookstores, or car showrooms run by ex-vendors from the Stadium in Warsaw.
How has their experience of Poland, of history, been?
The political, civic, or private decisions of returning
Vietnamese emigrants reflect the attitudes and personal dilemmas of the last twenty years in Poland. Van,
a screenwriter, cannot work in his original profession;
he believes the Vietnamese choose Poland because of
its Solidarity past and its role in bringing about the end
of Communism. He is very sorry to see them arrive in
Warsaw and so quickly become disillusioned with the
unwelcoming attitude of the Polish authorities. Tuong
divides his time between Wólka Kossowska, a new
trading center on the outskirts of Warsaw, and Hanoi;
he is not a member, but won’t say a bad thing about
the Communist Party. Karol says he will go back to Poland in 2011 only to renew his passport and identity
card and then immediately come back. Together they
are creating a ‘Little Warsaw’ in Hanoi. They speak fluent Polish, spend time in a Polish-language bookstore,
and they know of a modern housing estate, ‘just like
Żelazna Brama in Warsaw,’ being built in Hanoi. As
one watches this rapidly developing country and its
elites, at least some of which have ties to Poland, one
wonders to what extent the Polish experience, the experience of free-for-all capitalism and democracy, will
allow them to critically examine — and find a place for
themselves in — modern-day Vietnam, given its political regime, dynamic economic growth, and controlled
chaos and charm.
There is one other, unexpected and tragic, Vietnamese theme to the Stadium. On September 8, 1968,
during the national harvest-festival celebrations, one
Ryszard Siwiec immolated himself in protest against
the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. Siwiec
chose a form of protest virtually unheard of in European culture. His inspiration probably came from the
protests of Buddhist monks against South Vietnam’s
religious policies. In June, 1963, a monk named Thích
Quảng Đức doused himself with gasoline and set
himself on fire in the middle of a busy intersection
in Saigon. The images of a figure in the lotus position
being consumed by flames were circulated around the
world. Siwiec’s tragic self-immolation, in contrast, was
quickly and completely hushed up. The significance,
reasons, and form of his act were noted only some
twenty years later.
The End of Jarmark Europa. A panel discussion at REDakcja of Krytyka
Polityczna and video screening of documentation from Vietnam, took
place on December 16, 2007. Participants included Ngô Văn Tưởng
Prof. Paweł Boski and Joanna Warsza. The panel was moderated by
Adam Ostolski
ike Janusz Józefowicz, I come from the provinces. I read
about this up-and-coming dancer and choreographer,
a young guy from the provincial city of Lublin, in the
magazine Bestseller one day in 1991 on a Szczecin–Świnoujście commuter train. I rode the train daily because
I was a market-trader in Świnoujście. I did not want to do
business in Szczecin, where several months earlier I had
completed my studies. I would have burned with shame
had anyone seen me: a newly graduated engineer, peddling
my merchandise on the dirt floor of an open-air market.
For the first time in my life I had to work to earn my living. For the previous seven years I had been on a Polish
government scholarship. It was not some petty sum, but
three-quarters of an assistant-lecturer’s monthly pay. The
dorm was free, with a change of linen every month, and
sometimes even a free roll of toilet paper.
scrapped a year earlier. Polish society had to adapt quickly
to the new, tougher economic realities, and so did the several hundred Vietnamese graduates and doctoral students.
Our savvy compatriots had secured permits to lease space
in state-owned department stores. They were now able to
sell what were known as ‘regional articles.’ They offered
merchandise, sent to Poland in parcels by post: souvenirs,
knick-knacks, embroidered housecoats, and so on. The
slogan ‘trade is life’ suddenly proved true. Trade flourished
everywhere, in open-air markets, bazaars, in underpasses,
here and there, and everywhere. The consumer market was
insatiable; you were able to sell everything you had on offer. It turned out that being a market trader was no problem either for me, a mechanical engineer, or for my friends
with degrees in steel production, metallurgy, mining, or
I had come to Poland in 1983. I had one year to learn Polish (having completed an introductory course back in
Vietnam), and five years for the studies proper. In theory,
I should have graduated in 1989. But those days everyone tried to stay in Poland for as long as they could. If you
wanted to take a year off, you had to secure permission
from the appropriate section of the Embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. That was also true in my case.
I graduated in October, 1990. A month later I had to move
out of the dorm, and my scholarship ended too. None of us
thought of returning to Vietnam. The free market had just
been reintroduced in Poland, and food rationing had been
In the early 1990s, my area of operations was the Szczecin
region, and especially Świnoujście, a relatively exotic place,
where I had one square meter to display my merchandise.
Early every morning I set off from Szczecin with a backpack
full of blouses. After standing in the cold for a couple of
hours, I returned with an empty bag and a wallet full of
cash. Hard cash turned out to be very much needed; it
was an incentive and motivation. I lived in a rented room
where I both slept and kept my wares. For supplies I went
to Warsaw. Initially the deals were made in private apartments rented by my compatriots, then on the crown of the
10th–Anniversary Stadium. By the early 1990s, most of the
former students had become retail traders. The smarter
ones, who had completed their studies earlier, as well as
the graduate students, traded wholesale in small spaces
serving as warehouses. In 1989 the Jarmark Europa market
was launched at the Stadium. On weekend days the crown
turned into a genuine flea market, complete with entry tickets. Of course, then, as now, it was not only Vietnamese
that traded. Poles, too, were leaving their public-sector jobs
and going to Turkey, Thailand, China, or India for merchandise. Pre-washed jeans, Indian jewellery, and decorations
were in high demand. Necklaces, agates, amethysts, and
other semiprecious stones lay on pieces of nylon on the
crown of the Stadium. No one cared whether the buyer
was Polish or Vietnamese. Praise to the tolerant Polish importers! Praise to the free market! Our Slavic brothers and
sisters from the former Soviet Union traded in all kinds of
stuff in those days: immersion heaters, irons, and the tiny
tubes of Vietnamese mint ointment, famous in cold Russia
and other Soviet republics, with its signature yellow star on
the lid. Is this what ‘re-export’ means?
After a year of intense market trading in the provinces, which
was always accompanied by a lot of philosophical reflection
about work for income, I bought a second-hand car, and moved
to Warsaw. I rented a small, cosy apartment in the city center on Krucza Street. Once in a while I went to the Stadium
to consider the possibility of trading there. There were few
Vietnamese at the time; there would have been room for
me, too. But the Stadium seemed too big; I felt at a loss
there. After several months of existential deliberation,
I was persuaded by my friends, the metallurgists and steel
-industry engineers, to move to Cracow. Trading at openair markets in Oświęcim, Tarnów or Nowy Targ was sheer
pleasure, in the exclusive company of holders of a master’s
degree or doctorate and engineers.
The market on the crown of the Stadium kept growing with
the inflow of Vietnamese traders from the former DDR,
Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union, and Bulgaria. Vietnamese Gastarbaiters from the former Soviet bloc very much
appreciated Polish freedom (and what was called the Polish
free-for-all), Polish hospitality, the kindness of Polish customers, and the amorousness of Polish women and men. The
Polish market had been taken! The bazaars around the Stadium were owned by the Vietnamese. The Stadium Bazaar,
or chó SVD, trên Sân is a familiar name all over Vietnam.
A couple of years later, Jerzy Urban, then the chief editor of
the weekly Nie, paraphrased the well-known proverb and
wrote, ‘The slanted eye makes the horse fat.’ And it does,
it does! And not only the Polish horse! If the ‘slanted eye’
had not been making the horse fat, we would not have had
the market around the Stadium, nor the Nhà Trâng (White
House), as the Vietnamese rightly, and ironically, called the
plot of land with the makeshift white trading booths. That
was quite an address! Many Vietnamese made a fortune
there selling imitation-leather jackets from China.
So one day in the mid-1990s I returned from the royal city
of Cracow to Warsaw, full of vexations and hang-ups. My
friends, who had begun trading roughly at the same time
as I did, had already accumulated substantial capital. They
were serious importers, wholesalers employing their cousins and more distant relatives to sell in the markets. And
I still operated by myself, all alone, like Kazik from the Kabaret Starszych Panów song, with a very low account balance,
that is, the all-important — everywhere and at all times —
start-up capital. And, as the idiom goes, I was hardly able
to make ends meet. Usually, if someone is not interested in
business, he or she will develop an interest in politics. In my
case, you could put it like this: I was incapable of becoming
seriously involved in business, so I became involved in opposition politics. Since 2003 I have been an editor and author for Đàn Chim Viêt, a Vietnamese-opposition periodical
published in Warsaw. I am one of the members of the Flock
of Vietnamese Birds. Since then I have called a journalist,
and people virtually pointed me out, which made it difficult
for me to do business at the Stadium. Besides, what kind
of journalism was that, anyway?! Anyone could write a few
stories for an opposition periodical. I never received any remuneration for either my texts or the translations from The
Gazeta Wyborcza. In fact, I had to put up my own money for
their publication! Highly unprofitable amateurism.
The magazine’s history was also closely connected to the
Stadium. One of its founders could not stand a poem that
and been published in honour of the Party in the Vietnamese Embassy’s official bulletin. Even for a party organ,
the poem was an extreme anachronism. A friend of mine,
a doctoral student in chemistry, but also a promising
businessman, wrote a short commentary on it full of irony and criticism. He photocopied it and distributed at the
Stadium. Vietnamese vendors snapped it up as something
bold and unprecedented. Thus another issue was published, and over time it transformed into a biweekly, and
then became an opposition monthly. As the periodical developed and I became involved in its publication, I started
hearing more and more ‘stadium legends’ about myself.
We increasingly experienced ostracism on the part of the
Vietnamese community, at the Stadium and in town. Well,
nothing is free, even at the Stadium. Things as intangible as
freedom of speech, democracy, or civil liberties have a cost,
a dear one sometimes. Since becoming involved in opposition activism, I had never visited my family back home.
I did not want to ‘tease the lion’; the authorities could have
withheld my passport for months. What would have then
happened to my booth at the Stadium, full of warm leatherette jackets? Today, as a Polish citizen, I have been unable
for a year to secure a Vietnamese visa, and I probably never
will. Most of my compatriots do not have this problem and
do not share my dilemma. When the Christmas and New
Year season has passed, at a time when trade is slow and
Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, approaches, my compatriots
flock home for a vacation. The family is happy, and you
get some rest and a breather before another round of the
struggle for survival at the Stadium. Combining the pleasant with the useful! Air-ticket prices soar ruthlessly during
that time! Live and let others live in Poland! That is the
maxim of the Vietnamese working at the Stadium.
People often ask me what is going to happen to the Vietnamese after the Stadium market is closed down. Well,
some will return to Vietnam, and not only because they
have nowhere else to go; they want to raise their children to be real Vietnamese. That’s what my friends who
run a grocery store told me. Some time ago they bought
a beautiful house in the posh district of Mokotów in Warsaw. Twenty years earlier they had been guest workers in
Czechoslovakia. They pulled every string they could to
secure a Polish residence permit. They returned to Hanoi
a year ago. What will happen to the Vietnamese? I trust
in my compatriots’ entrepreneurial spirit and ability to adapt, so my answer is: they will spread throughout Poland.
In America, second- or third-generation Vietnamese immigrants learn Vietnamese at schools and universities as a foreign language. And I know that my young compatriots in
Poland, too, are forgetting their native language. So I dream
of a cushy job as a Vietnamese-language teacher. The guy
who teaches Viet! At a public school or university. Surely
not at the Stadium!
local public-address system operates at the 10th–
Anniversary Stadium and in the surrounding market area, broadcasting all kinds of information,
from buy-and-sell offers to administrative announcements, but only in Polish. The project Radio Stadion
Broadcasts transformed the local PA system into
a weekend radio station broadcasting programmes
submitted by international radio artists or suggested
by the the 10th–Anniversary Stadium vendors in their
various languages, Russian, Vietnamese, Armenian, but
not Polish. The project was inspired by a work by Danish artist Jens Haaning, who broadcast jokes in Turkish over a loudspeaker in Copenhagen’s central square.
Naturally, they were understood only by members of
the Turkish minority. The installation temporarily suspended the power of official language, bringing out the
‘invisible’ and for once turning the majority into a minority.
Deriving from the concept of radio-arts, the project
aimed at creating a micro-community of performers
and listeners made up of people who have since 1989
been subtly enriching the homogeneous landscape of
the post-Communist city. Once, listening to Radio Free
Europe, we would hear the names of Western cities —
Frankfurt, London, or Paris. Now that the border of the
symbolic West has moved, it is Poland that has become
the West for Hanoi. The voices heard on Radio Stadion were voices that are not usually heard in Warsaw,
voices from the East: Izmir, Addis Ababa, Yerevan. The
standard programming — news, commentary, weather
reports, and the like — were prepared by Jacek Skolimowski and Adam Witkowski (a journalist and an artist
involved in radio-art, respectively) from Radio Simulator,
as well as by Pit Schultz and Diana McCarty from Berlin’s backyardradio, who fight for free access to radio
frequencies and encourage the creation of independent
local radio stations. Stallholders visited the presenters’
booth from which Radio Stadion was broadcasting and
conducted their own live programmes: you could listen
to Tibetan manifestoes and live coverage from various
spots across the market. The Radio began operating
on Sunday at 9 a.m., when business at the Stadium
is brisk, and was then but one of the hues in a larger
cacophony of sounds. As the day wore on, its sound
became more and more distinct. In the afternoon, the
broadcasting resounded among the market’s empty littered alleys like some alarming announcement.
In an essay on his own work, artist Krzysztof Wodiczko
cites the Greek term parrhesia, meaning the ability to
conduct public criticism, to include painful issues in the
discourse, to call to the blackboard. A parrhesia artist,
Wodiczko says, is one who uses tools and instruments
‘helpful in expression and communication and in facilitating communication between devices, actions,
and situations,’ and who himself constructs them.
Wodiczko’s own devices, like the Personal Instrument,
the Homeless Vehicle, or the Alien Staff used art and
technology for the purpose of performative urban actions aimed at amplifying the public presence of certain social groups or strata. Radio Stadion had a similar
intended function. It restored the critical and conflictgenerating value of public space. Many Polish vendors
were alarmed when, instead of second-rate Polish radio, the loudspeakers started broadcasting Arabic singing. They protested the ‘whining’ and ‘wailing,’ that
noise. The hitherto Polish sonic background turned out
to have been a transparent norm, and the ‘Arabic wailing’ became unbearable. The radio created a space of
disagreement, highlighting social exclusions and the
false compromise Chantal Mouffe writes of. Various
ethnicities coexist in the everyday life of Jarmark Europa, but this silent agreement is a compromise paid
for by the silence, frustration and oppression of some.
The distributors of the products sold by the Vietnamese collaborate with the Vietnamese embassy and are
loyal to the regime, so opposition-minded Vietnamese
have the choice of either selling Russian or Thai goods
or disappearing from the Stadium. One of the functions
of Radio Stadion was to inform the Asians of the situation, to make activist announcements in Vietnamese, to
seize control of the internal instruments of power and
communication. Finally, the Radio changed the face of
the market itself, with accidental listeners comfortably
stretched out in deck chairs, oblivious for a moment to
the fever of cheap shopping.
Radio Stadion Broadcasts. An International Radio Station for
the Weekend in All the Languages of the Market, Radio
Simulator, backyardradio Berlin, Sunday, April 27, 2008,
9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Jarmark Europa, The 10th–Anniversary Stadium
communication, not only the “great masses,” but also
to minorities, to marginalized and deviant groups of all
And thus the city is an œuvre, closer to a work of art
than to a simple material product. If there is production of the city, and social relations in the city, it is
a production and reproduction of human beings by
human beings, rather than a production of objects.
The city has a history; it is the work of a history, that
is, of clearly defined people and groups who establish this oeuvre, in historical conditions.
Henri Lefebvre
Rhythmanalysis of the Mediterranean City1
n this global age the building of the stadium
still relates to the ruins of the Coliseum in Rome,
inheriting the form of the Greek amphitheatre
and the Olympic stadium, scaled up to pacify the
population with popular mass entertainment. The
function of focusing the emotions of the citizens
within one central place is expanded into the sphere
of live broadcasts on TV and radio. Since the Roman
Empire, the spectacle unifies audiences, turns them
into fans, and lets them forget their freedoms and
In his classic article on computer culture ‘The Cathedral
and the Bazaar,’ libertarian programmer Eric Raymond
describes an anarchic bottom-up approach as the predominant process of open source software innovation,
in contrast to the top-down organization of monolithic
commercial systems like Microsoft.2 This approach could
be transposed to today’s centralized model of broadcasting, which must face the global reality of the decentralized end-to-end architecture of the Internet: digital
downloads, mp3 players and the (still) highly diverse
networks of self-organized niche audiences. These not
only transform the music industry, but also establish
fragmented cut-and-paste forms of listening as an alternative to the unified schedule of the radio broadcast.
Interestingly, with the decline of the record industry
a dramatic increase in live music has taken place. The
performative unity of body, time and location escapes
the digital copy. Unlike the data object, the singularity
of the event has an irreducible value which can only
be enjoyed and produced by being there and becoming a part of it. Felix Guattari describes the alternative
to mass media as a ‘direction toward miniaturized
systems that create the possibility of a collective appropriation of the media, that provide real means of
Microradio, as envisioned by the Japanese artist and
philosopher Tetsuo Kogawa, should focus on a recontextualisation of place: not a revolutionary takeover of
the medium of the radio by the listeners as producers, but rather a change of the micro-political situation
of listening itself, at the basic fabric of everyday life. It
is not, as Brecht demanded, a transformation of the
one-to-many broadcast into a gigantic communication apparatus to include a backchannel for everyone,
a storming of the cathedral of old media, so to say, but
rather the construction of temporary zones of immediacy, atomic structures of hyperlocal broadcasting which
allow heterogeneous forms of flows and social expression. In his performances Kogawa builds and uses
simple radio transmitters and modulates their fields
with his hands to create a radical local sound of imma
nence which, rather than containing communicative
messages fraught with meaning, is more a-significant.
The ‘logic of basho’ of the modernist Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida hints at an intercultural non-dualistic
ontology of logical forms in which the concept of place
plays a central role, by integrating differences into a field
of opponent actors, a field or shared space that gives
rise to the of enacting tacit knowledge, not so far from
the unsealed social graph of today’s Internet communities or the fundamental vagueness of quantum physics, with the difference that it leads to a mutual shaping
of these technologies. As he explains, ‘culture includes
technique. Technique is an expression of a people’s
spirit as it interacts with the environment, and through
that interaction forms itself. We create things through
technique and in creating them we create ourselves,’
and thus we relocate the process of production into
the area of human experience and cultural interaction.4
In 1984 Guattari noted, that ‘technological development, and in particular the miniaturization of transmitters and the fact that they can be put together
by amateurs, "encounters" a collective aspiration for
some new means of expression.’5 For the ongoing
movement of these temporary acoustic spaces of listener-producer alliances do not follow the logic
of communication, but rather one of creating acoustic
environments for a flourishing co-creation of subjectivity, much like a loudspeaker system or a boombox flash
mob in a public space. They are small interventions into
an organization of urban space dominated by commercial principles of efficiency, labor and consumption,
leaving an æsthetic of sameness and emptiness which
Rem Koolhaas calls junkspace.6 One goal might be in
the temporary creation of a positive emptiness, a lightness of being, and a unity of experience and human
exchange which still respects differences.
Applied to the notion of the bazaar, we were confronted with the fundamental model of radio functioning as
a distributed loudspeaker system. Much like a megaphone system or church bell, it establishes an acoustic
zone which organizes the diversity of activities within
the space into the rhythm of the day, emitting call
signs, speaking with an official voice, structuring the
hour into segments of silence, interrupted by broadcasting messages to coordinate the activity of the bazaar, to end the work day with a bit of music, while
resolving the occasional blockage by parked cars or
the announcement of a lost child. You can find these
public-address systems in warehouses, at public swimming pools, and sometimes even in small villages.
The sound signature is limited to the higher mid-fre-
quency bands, not intended to be high fidelity but to
resist wind and weather, and to be effectively heard.
The public megaphone system transmitting the voice
of public order might be seen as the original modernist model of radio. Here, at the bazaar, even with its
limitations and despite its chaotic bottom-up structure,
it helps to constitute the integrity of the space itself
and to be one area different from the outside. Depending on the program, such a loudspeaker network can
serve as heroic propaganda, crowd control, or merely
a subtle enhancement of the experience of the space.
Compared to Berlin, Warsaw as a city is an experience.
It lacks a center, and the scars and breaches of the war,
along with ruthless building projects even today, invite
us to use the city as a metaphor for cultural memory
as Freud described it. Here we find rebuilt Neo-classic
castles, impressive Stalinist palaces, empty signifiers of
Socialist modernism, every decade of the last century
in a disconnected, isolated, slightly hilarious and hasty
expression of its time, hotels, mini-skyscrapers, and
housing projects, all interrupted by ruins, empty spaces, even roads or sudden crossroads, disconnected but
nevertheless flowering and blossoming in back yards,
private paradises of small shop structures, pavilions and
recreational spaces, right behind some concrete wall or
cramped multi-floor Plattenbau. The lines of flight are
the opposite of a Hausmannian grid, and lead to a deconstructivist, cubist organization of space clearly lacking a functioning dominant central blueprint. It seems
to open up to a hybridity and dissonance of fantastic
building projects whose plans have changed en route,
fractures, battles, unnamed destructions and memory
loss, an expression both melancholic and stimulating.
Near the river you find one of the large parks opening
up to a particular monumental infrastructure built from
the rubble of buildings destroyed during World War II,
including the infamously annihilated Warsaw ghetto. It
is, in fact, an undeclared graveyard. Any piety was overridden by the heroics of the spectacle of national sports
events. Now you find a little city of its own. At the
center is a large Stadium structure built directly into an
artificial hill derived from the sheer volume of the available building material. From outside the security fence,
the little mountain looks more like a mix of Socialist
mausoleum, Aztec temple, and bunker system, giving
way on the southwest to a micro-network of small
gardens and fruit trees, garage-like huts, and a grid
a rhythmic cycle of early activity ending in an afternoon dinner in the food street and a two-hour ritual
cleaning, getting rid of trash, cardboard boxes with
Chinese lettering, and the other remains of shopping
activities. A small private army of large security guards
in black uniforms patrols the area, and occasionally an
organizer’s limousine with loud thumping bass breaks
through the crowd. Their main innovation is a highly
stylized free plastic bag that looks as if it could be from
any large chain store. Actually this kind of bottom-up
outdoor commercial village would be a welcome updat-
birthday party, a Tibetan activist, a protagonist of Bollywood music mixed with something that sound like
advertisements in Hindi, a Pakistani vendor/music fan,
or Romanian shows, interrupted by official bazaar announcements regarding missing children, daily menus,
and the like. All this carefully interwoven with microsketches by Adam Witkowski and global music selected
by Jacek Skolimowski, neither exotic enough to be world
music nor familiar enough to be pop. He called it exotic
pop, and I recognized a hodgepodge of rhythms and the
untuned organ of Fela Kuti, and called it Jazz. Jacek is
a music journalist and pop-culture theoretician writing
for mainstream newspapers, while Adam teaches art at
Gdańsk University and practices cultural multi-tasking
with three laptops and the occasional computer virus.
structure of countless tiny box-like houses: the stalls.
The Stadium itself is now abandoned. Access to it is
mostly forbidden, surrounded by fences and barbed wire;
you can only imagine what it might look like inside. Calculating the size from the time it takes to walk around it,
the Stadium is gigantic, almost big enough to be a place
for everyone. The miniature shop village, with its corrugated-metal roofs and colorful hand-painted advertisements, may invoke images of parts of Kingston, Jamaica,
the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, or a bazaar in Istanbul.
Week after week, this bazaar-village goes through
ing of those expensive and unattractive middle-class
paradises, indoor shopping malls. The market is mainly
focused on clothing of all kinds, for the lowest possible
prices, imported mainly from Vietnam or China.
A day in this imaginary radio station was not based on
a schedule, but on the rhythm of the place itself. Different phases need different programming. A Vietnamese
We were running into a situation which mapped the social climate at the bazaar. Since the event was officially
backed by the organization of the bazaar, the shop owners themselves fell into two different camps: those who
liked it or were indifferent, and those who complained.
While the first group of happy listeners consisted of
foreign residents, mainly from Vietnam, and relaxed
Poles, the second group was as small as it was vocal and
of Polish origin. The mapping of the cultural geography
which unfolded here realizes the worst nightmare of
a right-wing conservative: a commercial, obviously globalized, open market which is dominated by foreigners.
While the products sold by both groups mostly had the
same origin (‘Made in China’) and the consumers were,
for the most part, Polish, the majority of shopkeepers
were not Polish. This recent demographic shift reflected Europe’s tides. The rebellion against the polyphonic
sound setup consisted mainly of one slightly drunk man
who expressed his anger against this superiority of the
global market. The market model, as improvised and chaotic as it might seem to some, is infact well structured.
A small group of organizers found a way to promote the
whole bazaar through the medium of those colorful and
free plastic bags. Jacek S. ended the broadcast with the
announcement in German, ‘Radio Stadium ist tot.’
A small theory for a small medium. The practice of microradio must operate within the actually existing acoustic
spaces of a city: in the final chapter of our performance, after the horn speakers were switched off, a car
boombox took over the soundscape with a mix of Polish
polka, axel rose and teutonic techno. As an acoustic answer of the under-represented Polish majority it was
also an answer to the usual utilitarian message-based
program in the public-address system of the bazaar.
Sounds of people, a walk through the alley, passing
through various loudspeaker zones, all created overlapping soundscapes of rhythmic noise. ‘Collective
assemblages of alterance that absorb or traverse specialties,’ a spatial experience like walking in a bazaar or surfing a social-network shopping zone is not
merely an anonymous passage, as it may always lead
to an interaction. In the best case the transmission becomes an exchange zone, an informal micro-market,
unlike the classic department store or shopping mall.
This is not the Habermasian public sphere where everyone has been given a chance to make themselves
understood and heard, to express their interests and
identity. The authoritarianism and dominance of symbols from the Soviet empire have been replaced by
the those of the turbocapitalism of the last ten years.
The bazaar decentralizes and collectivizes all commerce
to the periphery. It enables the lowest-earning shop own-
ers to sell the lowest-price products to the lowest-paying
customer. A place of co-creation of low-end capitalism
where shop owners and customers together create
a rhythm of exchange which is sure to innovation to the
dull experience of metropolitan shopping malls.
Radio as a medium which gives voice to people,
which establishes a flow of music and information
to create a stable field of uncertainty, can no longer
be defined along the borders of national culture. The
more you zoom into the situation of a city, the more
you discover pockets of resistance to the dominant
flows, clusters of identity, and information which differs from the main channels in a way which cannot be
circumscribed merely as ‘colorful’ or ‘multicultural,’ but
needs to be understood in much more precise fashion.
From reboot FM to backyard radio. Our own practice of
exploring the potential of microradio is a movement of
zooming into urban space. Our experiments with larger
radio projects ended in the exploration of Net­-based
wireless LAN stations, which transmit both digital Internet and analogue radio. A network of people, events,
places and things, surroundings in which environments,
subjects and objects, external news and local work and
life are interwoven in an automatic as well as communicative process, can be created within performative
situations like this. They expose media architectures
which are not necessarily planned as such, but are nevertheless useful, meaningful, and significant.
1 H. Lefebvre, ‘Rhythmanalysis of the Mediterranean City,’ in Writings on Cities, (London: 1996).
2 E. S. Raymond, ‘The Cathedral & the Bazaar,’
3 F. Guattari, ‘Popular Free Radio,’ in N. Strauss, ed., Radiotext(e) (New York: Autonomedia, 1993)
4 A. Feinberg, ‘Technology in a Global World,’ in R. Figueroa and S. Harding, eds., Science and
Other Cultures: Issues in Philosophies of Science and Technology, (New York: Routledge, 2003);
K. Nishida, La Culture Japonaise en Question, trans. P. Lavelle, (Paris: Publications Orientalistes
de France 1991); K. Nishida, ‘Nihonbunka no mondai’ [The Problem of Japanese Culture],
in Nishida Kitaro Zenshu, (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1965) vol. 12, pp. 291–2, 294.
5 F. Guattari, ‘Plan for the Planet,’ in Molecular Revolution: Psychiatry and Politics, (London:
Penguin, 1984) p. 269.
6 R. Koolhaas, ‘Junkspace,’ in M. Akiko and H. U. Obrist, eds., Bridge the Gap, (Tokyo: 2001)
1 Radio #68, Hymne aux scories, by E. Jacobi, Brussels
KOKSAL AKA 2/5 BZ, Istanbul
3 Radia # 129, Kanal103 / Chess, Aco Stankovski and
Nikola Gelevski, Macedonia
4 Vietnamese ca-dao,
5 backyardradio, a tale of two walls #1, Fran Illich,
Mexico City, March 2008
6 Los tigres del norte / jefe
7 Radia #75, Underground, Marlena Corcoran, Munich
8 Radia #108, Eniac Nomoi, Joulia Strauss, Martin
9 retour à l’expéditeur dans la logosphère radia#11,
10 radia #97, season 10 show 8, Apocalypso: The Cosmic War Dance of Sun Ra’s Army of Athropodial Transistors, Peter Dennet, Darius James, Karlheinz Jeron
11 Radia/ tilosmix_the_fast_hungarian_lessons
12 Radia/ It all disappeared... adio lemurie, Prague, July
13 glossolalia. ubuweb ethnopoetics. collage of
religious performances recorded in Oklahoma in the
14 RADIA 161 — Reading, UK, Seville, Spain by Duncan
Whitley for Soundart Radio with James Wyness.
15 Repeated fragments: Hungarian frogs, helicopters
(by Karlheinz Stockhausen), skyfi (dancehall jingles),
guns, thunder, fireworks, rain, frogs, cocks (collected
via e-mail and chat)
16 Julian Tuwim, Lokomotywa, Polish Dadaist poem
for children, read by a Polish text-to-speech generator
Deleuze explores Leibniz’s descriptions of the body and
the soul as a two-level architectural structure: the lower
chamber, the body, with its sense-windows, the upper
a closed space, that of the soul, which reverberates to the
impressions of the lower according to movements which
Deleuze describes as folds, but which might equally be
termed waves.3 The activity of the soul, thinking, in this
description becomes a musical question: a mind can be
conceived of as a unique echo chamber that continually
modulates to the resonations caused by being a body in
space. This tonality of thought is a relation that is both
the product of and distinct from the situations in which
we find ourselves.
n his beautiful essay Jean-Luc Nancy writes that the
films of Abbas Kariostami are particularly significant
for the way they suggest that after more than a hundred years of film our perception itself has become cinematographic.1 Nowhere is this more marked than in
the question of sound. For the soundtrack is what both
exceeds a given space with which we engage, yet also
what gives the the whole its entirety. The desire to travel
while listening to one’s iPod is not just a need to separate oneself from one’s fellow passengers, but more like
the joy at hearing music from an unknown source. It
is also a quest to feel the Gesamtkunstwerk of space.
Arriving at the core of the Radio Stadion Broadcasts
project, coming across a group of people lolling in deckchairs in an island of idleness in the very centre of the
Jamark Europa, eyes shut, together apart, listening to
strange sounds expressing both their interaction and
separation from the space around them, was to get
a strong sense of spatiality that was ineffably cinematographic.3
This sense reflected the intimate and complex links
of space to sound. Sound is caused by things moving
in space, creating movements of air which arrive into
the frame of our organism, usually via the chamber
formed by the organs protruding on both sides of our
heads. These movements of sound are both inherent
to a space and the product of a dynamism that moves
outward beyond the space, its excess. It is true that
the technology of telephones and radios complicated
this relationship with the discovery of the potential of
waves, and digital technologies have further complicated this, enabling us to apparently pick up certain
sounds anywhere. Yet this mobility of contemporary
sound technology simply repeats the primary truth of
sound as space’s necessary component and that which
exceeds it: the feeling of listening to music in space is
that of being more deeply inserted into the space, the
necessary sound-track to space.
Space is thus what gives you sound, but sound is also
what you take out of a space, demonstrating that space
itself is a dynamic and open set of relations, not something that can be fixed within a frame: sound shows that
space is not pictorial. In his book on the Baroque, Gilles
For artists, sound constitutes an invaluable tool for
examining space. In his 4’33” of ‘silence,’ through the
disappointed expectations of hearing music, John Cage
radically turned attention to the space in which making sound occurs. Perhaps this was also a motivation
for Jarosław Kozakiewicz’s Projekt Mars, a landscape
intervention in the post-industrial Boxberg area of the
Lauslitz Lake District of Germany in the form of a giant
ear: a space enabling the production of the sound that
will be outside the shape of the landscape, but fundamental to it. In a work produced for the Whitechapel
Gallery, The Missing Voice: Case Study B, Janet Cardiff
sent visitors out of the gallery into the streets of East
London with a CD playing recordings of sounds from
the same streets, along with her recorded observations,
stories and narratives. The effect was to constitute
these streets themselves as a work of art, while also
making them strange. Another relationship to space
was constructed by David Cunningham in his series of
installations The Listening Room, which used the space
of the gallery as an echo chamber in which to record
the movements of the visitor through a microphone.
These reverberations were played back in a feedback
loop on speakers installed on one side of the gallery
until they reached a point of intensity sufficient to
close a barrier and start the process again. It was the
room that listened and reacted in an exer singular way
to the configuration of the visitor in reaction to the
particular space of that room.
Not the least of the merits of the Radio Stadion project
was to pose the question as to the role of sound in constituting a space: through its experiments with noise
and language, in a sense the Radio gave the the 10th–
Anniversary Stadium, back to itself as space, a space of
multi-coloured sound. Returning to the Stadion a week
later I was struck anew by the range of sounds and languages, of modes and tones of expression, of colours
of words I could not understand, and only sometimes
vaguely recognize, and by how much stall-holders talk
to customers and to each other.4 The loud-speakers
seemed wonderful in their sculptural visibility. This time
they carried not Radio Stadion, but Polish pop, abruptly
interrupted from time to time by a voice giving information about the Stadion for the coming day. And this
music came into conflict with electro-disco coming from
a CD-seller or Vietnamese songs emerging from the
store of a clothing seller.
In shopping centres, the loud-speakers blend unnoticed
into the ceiling, salespeople talk unheard, and even the
ubiquitous music mostly seems to aim at bypassing
your attention to infect your purchasing hormones:
there is musical overlayering between individual shops
and the space of the centre as a whole, but this is not
sonorous conflict of the same sort as at the Stadion. If
for Marcel Proust the songs of the sellers passing in
the streets under his window were a relic of the longpast structures of religious song, for me the ‘Piwo jasne,
piwo chłodne’ sometimes still to be heard in trains, the
‘Lody owocowe, lody czekoladowe’ of Polish beaches
have their charm in a similar source.5 Likewise, having
‘Smacznego!’ shouted at me as though it were a death
threat in cheap restaurants or having the local baker
shout me out for being psychically abnormal enough to
almost touch the bread seem constitutive of a different
quality of social relation. A nostalgia for the closure of
the Stadion is therefore also that for the passing age
of noise, of a space for the conflict between individuals’ sounds. The banning of musicians on public transport, while we are all the time assaulted by all sorts
of manufactured noise, partakes of the same sort of
de-democratizing of aural space.
Yet, the Stadion also raises the relationship between
sound and space in a further dimension. For the common sound of a joint language is what creates the
boundary of space defined as the modern nation. Minority languages, Lemko, Kashub, Ukrainian, Belarusian, ‘Po-Nashemu’ (‘our way’) are tolerated, but not
loudly trumpeted. What the cacophony of the Stadion
announces, however, is not the nation, but a particular
series of pathways made possible by globalisation. For
the birth of the Stadion from the 1990s is the truest sign
of the processes of globalization that Jadwiga Staniszkis sees the Communist bloc as heve been warped by
from the ’80s onwards.6 It speaks the changing paths
of migration made desirable by differentials in development, made possible by loosening regulations, and stigmatized and situated here because of the restrictions
and power relations contained in the misleading phrase
‘free trade.’ It is remarkable that the Anglo-Saxon version
of capitalism has been so successful in negotiating the
transformation from industrial to post-industrial capitalism and has achieved such total domination of the airwaves that, in the age of globalization, even alternative
music is in English.
The Babel of the Stadion is the noise of globalization
we would rather think, when we make our purchases
in other stores, does not exist, or at least just mumbles
somewhere far from here. Thus, Radio Stadion sounds
like a recipe for a taking back of power: of communities
that form part of the nation in the time of globalization
being able to speak in their own name. How refreshing
to hear a Polish song about a market being introduced
and then given commentary in a language I could not
understand (Vietnamese, I think), or the classics of
Polish poetry being read and sung in Vietnamese: in the
marked hierarchies of information flow, making public
other directions of translation and interaction holds
the potential for real change. Given that most of what
we hear on the radio in Polish or English is meaningless but comfortingly familiar, hearing things that we
can’t understand seems uncomfortable and interesting.
How does our world sound translated? Even hearing the
description of the functioning of an African bar in the
Stadion in English sounded like a use of radio as a tool
for exploring alternative cartographies of city spaces, of
letting other stories be told. Such alternative cartogra-
phy through sound perhaps moves in the tradition of the
socially engaged radio show Là-bas si j’y suis… hosted by
Daniel Mermet on France Inter ( or the
interactive Internet project to provide a sound map of
New York (
For if one of the challenges of capitalism is the way it
hides its systems of distribution, the Stadion is startling
evidence of the humanity and inhumanity involved in
extended relations of trade. In a sense the Radio project
simply reproduced what was already there: one need
only, for example, cross the Polish-Ukrainian border to
immediately be assailed by a different level and quality of music and sound in public space. Is this noise
a striking feature (often maddeningly so) just of postSoviet space, or it is perhaps characteristic of trading
spaces throughout the developing world? What does it
mean for underdevelopment to be associated with more
voices, more noises being heard on the street? Perhaps
authority in the developing world is both more dictatorial (as we continually read and see in the media) and
less complete, more vulnerable to the flows of globaliza-
tion, and thus more penetrated by a range of different
sounds. It is quite possible that the Vietnamese understand more about Poland than Poles, just as Poles may
understand more about the U. K. than the British. The
position of Poland in this respect, as a nation at the frontier of a new Schengen zone, is a delicate one: in this
light, the fact that the cacophony of the Stadion is being
displaced by U.E.F.A., global media power on a different
level, becomes depressing in a fresh way. What will this
mega-event mean for the dissonant voices that live and
work in Praga?
Lying in deck-chairs listening to the experimentations
with sound and place, we were transformed from the
bustle of trade into a different space. As we left the inner circle of those interested in art, a few alleys further
we came across a couple of traders performing their
own drunken rendition of Czesław Niemen’s Warszawski
dzień, complete with extravagant dance. This earthy performance seemed like a return to the real Radio Stadion,
traumatic but moving, and brought up the uncomfortable question of how artistic experiments interweave
with the day-to-day concerns of the people who work at
the Stadion. What did the Radio Stadion project mean
for people who work there? The question is unanswerable: perhaps the couple sang with such energy as a reaction to the project; how many other such unobserved
events could the Radio Stadion project have caused?
What could the (to me) exotic broadcasts in Vietnamese
have meant for those who understand the language?
But the verve of this singing couple was a stark reminder
that as well as being a force for unification, art can divide, and that in the new configurations of post-industrial capitalism art has a quite different power to generate
revenue than do traders at the Jamark Europa. The new
paradigm of work and value is profoundly artistic, thus
making art a great tool for criticism and potential change,
but one intimately entwined in the dominant paradigms
we are trying to resist. Here I speak less as critic than as
an organizer of concerts in public space acutely aware
of the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of making such
events inclusive. One of the positives of such artistic
events lies in the way they themselves can become diagnostic tools. For instance, only after Radio Stadion did
I realize that those who clean up after markets in the
U. K. are very often from ethnic minorities, whereas at
the Stadion they are noticeably Polish. What would it
mean, therefore, to analyze the sounds not just of cultural difference, but also of poverty? This could also lead
to reflection on a linked and important question in an
age of fear of populism: why do people like pop music?
1 J.-L. Nancy, ‘L’Évidence du film. Abbas Kariostami, in L’Evidence du film (Brussels: Yves Gevaert,
2001) pp. 13–43.
2 This sense of space as cinematographic has also been an object of research for Paweł
3 G. Deleuze, Le Pli (Paris: Minuit, 1988) p. 7.
4 Reactions to Bruce Nauman’s sound installation Raw Materials at the Tate Modern also
suggest that a powerful impact of this installation was how it resonated in viewers’ heads
when they were back in the real world outside the gallery. The Radio Stadion project had
a similar quality for me.
5 M. Proust, La Prisonnière (Paris: Flammarion, 1984) pp. 211–15.
6 J. Staniszkis, Postkomunizm (Gdańsk: slowo/obraz terytoria, 2001).
The Radio Stadion project offered the sonorous space
of the Stadion in ways that were both exotic and familiar, poetic and banal, incomprehensible and indicative
of a world that we know exists and cannot or do not
want to hear. It expressed both the space as it is and the
space as it might be. As part of the events associated
with The Finissage of Stadion X was this project a chance
or a liturgy? In the context of today’s Poland, radio and
Stadion seem to go well together, signalling two dying
media: the unimaginative health of radio in this part of
the world currently is a serious cause for concern. But
perhaps the project was also a chance: of sounds speaking strangely of the essential, ineffable quality of space.
Can we listen to our surroundings differently? Rather
than letting the mechanisms of the media tell us what
our city looks like, can we find ways to enable those who
constitute our city to let their voices be heard? Perhaps
then, like the do-it-yourself radio project from Berlin,
‘Broadcast Your Own Backyard’ (
blog/), that also participated in the project, Radio Stadion was not a lament, but an exciting beginning.
nnas kollektiv is a Swiss collective of dancers, architects, filmmakers, and sociologists. They confront architecture as a potential city-set raising
questions about the social, urban, or cultural meanings
generated by it. Their interventions dematerialise architectural objects by, for instance, optically disturbing
gravitation, changing emergency-exit systems, or using
lighting effects. Their site-specific performances often
take place in settings like underground parking lots,
high-rise buildings, or train stations. In Warsaw, the
artists created a performance meant for, and inspired
by, the 10th–Anniversary Stadium. They worked at the
site for two weeks in the spring, as tests were already
beginning for the construction of the new stadium for
Euro 2012, and became intimate with the place. Despite the cold May nights (though the temperature
inside the Stadium is always slightly higher than outside), they took breaks during their rehearsals to picnic
in the parade stand. In collaboration with musical artist
m.bunio.s, they created aone-time night show on the
construction site, where excavators and pile-driving
machines danced together with people. The artists
addressed the site using very simple means (a bicycle
lamp illuminated the track in the darkness; four bodies cast shadows over stands seating many thousands;
the Stadium breathed regularly and loudly). Using light
and sound installations and construction equipment,
the artists subjected the Stadium to artistic acupuncture, showing the disappearing portions of the monumental sports-place, like the historic fragments of the
tribunes, tunnel entrances, or piling points. Pile Driving
was also an attempt to respond to the lack of debate
in Poland on the architectural heritage of the Socialist Realist period. Inspired by the architecture of the
Stadium as a multilayered space of history, the Swiss
collective offered its own interpretation of the disappearing object.
Since 1999 annas kollektiv has worked in the closed
spaces of factories, army barracks, and former military
zones. It is interesting that this group, fascinated with
architectural disintegration, with areas of decay and
neglect, was established in a country known for its perfectly organised cities and generous spending on urban
revitalisation. And also, importantly, in a country where
space is consciously and responsibly shaped not only
by institutions, but also by people. This is an important
context for the collective’s practice, eaten away by an
equivalent of the Polish yearnings for PRL-era architecture. The Swiss group points to the constantly diminishing material heritage of the past, as it is covered
by contemporary meanings, privatisation and ghettoisation. They alert us to places from which life has already evaporated and which have not yet been filled
with new meanings. ‘No-man’s-sites,’ deserted and
degraded places. Citing historical clichés, they wonder
how those places might function today.
Pile Driving took place on a late May evening in the
bowl of the Stadium. An audience of some 800 seated themselves on the turf. In the thick darkness, only
vague outlines of silhouettes, blinking cellular phone
lights, and glowing cigarette ends were visible, and
the only sound was that of the opening of beer cans.
The picnic-like atmosphere was a counterpoint to what
the Swiss group offered. First we watched a slow and
contemplative run by one of the performers across the
stands. Barely visible, he blurred in almost completely
with the grey concrete background. The jog was on
the verge of invisibility. The same, initially microscopic,
figure then turned into an enormous shadow. But Pile
Driving was not just a play with scale; annas kollektiv
also played on the public’s expectations, bringing out
sentimental tones and historical tropes. Over the remains of the dugout was a large screen on which an
excerpt from a historical newsreel was projected. ‘Finally the Stadium has been useful for something,’ the
narrator’s voice said. The pile-drivers machines were
started up. Illuminated by spotlights, they looked like
spaceships ready to take off. In the action’s final chord,
funerary candles were used to illuminate the Stadium’s
tunnel, down which Jadwiga Fołtasiówna walked so
sadly in the movie Mąż swojej żony, and through which
Peace Race cyclists used to ride into the venue.
As with the Berlin Wall or the Palast der Republik, the
parliament building of the former German Democratic
Republic, here the artists highlighted the entire ambivalence inherent in the 10th–Anniversary Stadium.
Palowanie / Pile Driving: A Night Show On a Construction Site, annas
kollektiv, Saturday, May 31, 2008, 10 p. m.
and re-definitions (alternatively we can term this the
demystifying of ruins). As such, sites of ruin determine
a place for ideological and contextual games. They can
become places of grief, shame, poignancy and glory as
well as places of absurd manipulations.
I am convinced that the future is lost somewhere
in the dumps of the non-historical past; it is in yesterday’s newspapers, in the jejune advertisements
of science-fiction movies, in the false mirror of our
rejected dreams.
Robert Smithson
A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic
he passion for ruins, which has been rooted in the
mentality of the old continent for a hundred years,
goes hand in hand with the contemplative consideration of the past that can be compared to a casual
stroll through the site of a fire, or gain to a superficial
reading of pages accidentally torn from a book. There
can be no denying the spectacle of lifeless architecture,
destroyed by the forces of nature, war and neglect. The
fascination with elegant rubble, jagged vertical columns, or headless and limbless torsos reached its peak
during Romanticism — an era acutely obsessed with
disintegration and erosion. In his essay ‘Fragments
from a History of Ruin,’ Brian Dillon writes: ‘In the
eighteenth century, the ruin is an image both of natural
disaster and of the catastrophes of human history. In
fact, it is difficult to tell the two apart. The aesthetics
of the sublime is in part an effort to name the confusion that comes over us when faced with wholesale destruction: we experience storms, battles, earthquakes,
and revolutions as equally impressive facts of both
nature and history.’1 From the romantic eulogists of
splendour, dozing among the splintered remains of antiquity, we inherit the belief that the perfect monument
is a flawed monument, one that ostentatiously flaunts
its own disintegration. Ruinophilia is rooted in carefree
contemplation of downfall: irrespective of whether it is
the ashes of Pompeii, the shell of the Chernobyl nuclear
plant, or a disused platform used for Apollo missions
in Florida. The past, including what took place barely
yesterday, imprints itself, then fades away within the
urban landscape; it is cracked and pictorially illegible.
It is in this ‘suspension’ of functional duties that the
attractiveness of history manifests itself through silent
ruins — frozen and ready for instant contemplation,
yet also susceptible to quasi-archaeological operations
The pretext for the following reflections is the phenomenon of a specific ruin — Warsaw’s 10th–Anniversary
Stadium, a post-war architectural structure whose fate
can be recounted as an interesting and multi-layered
story. After the catastrophe of the World War II the Stadium arose from the rubble (literally) of the crushed city
of Warsaw, and it was the proud venue for propaganda
and sporting events. The economic transformation of
the 1990s accompanied the next phase of its metamorphosis. Deserted a decade earlier, the Stadium was
appropriated by traders during the free-market rush,
until it was eventually almost completely abandoned,
as it awaited the time when it would become part of
another architectural organism — the new Stadium to
be built on its ashes. At the same time a new force
began to appear on the site, this time organic, of which
the most symptomatic manifestations are the rows of
trees and bushes densely growing throughout the Stadium’s stands. The destruction of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium and the endeavours of the last few years
towards its temporary conceptual revitalisation seem
to have set the context for contemplation. A series of
artistic happenings under the banner of The Finissage
of Stadium X in Episodes, curated by Joanna Warsza,
seems to provide a suitable pretext for summoning up
theoretical reflections on ruins (rare in Polish literature)
from the turn of the 1960s and ’70s based around the
texts and earthworks of Robert Smithson.
In October, 1967 the exhibition Sculpture in the Environment2 opened in New York. The aim of the show
was to present a new phenomenon, characteristic of
a particular contemporary American art scene; the
idea was to ‘abandon’ gallery walls and take sculpture
(usually on a monumental scale) into urban spaces.
Abstract welded steel sculptures by artists like Alexander Calder or David Smith were not created with
the traditional interior exhibition space in mind. Their
aggressive character suited the challenges of the chaotic metropolis, where buildings, people, vehicles and
plants competed for ever-shrinking enclaves of free
space. Twenty-four works adhering to the concept
of Sculpture in the Environment were spread all over
Manhattan, in squares and parks and at commercial
Robert Smithson was not one of the exhibitors, though
from today’s perspective he is seen as one of the key
reformers of the art scene of the second half of the
twentieth century. Smithson’s role in form the action of a new creative ‘work ethos’ cannot be overestimated; he encouraged artists to reach beyond the
studio and interact with the landscape on a scale of
1:1. In an unprecedented way he brought thinking on
ecology and science into art, while at the same time
mercilessly criticizing stagnant art institutions. This did
not affect him in the realization of his ‘arrogant’ monumental works created in the deserts of America and
clearly visible from an airplane.3 Smithson was sceptical
of the concepts behind Sculpture in the Environment,
and he questioned the point of placing giant abstract
welded sculpture in urban settings. In December, 1967,
two months after the exhibition, Smithson published
an essay in Artforum magazine entitled ‘Monuments
of Passaic.’4 The article can be viewed as a wayward
‘contribution’ to the project, a response to the guiding principles of Sculpture in the Environment. The text
was a philosophical, guidebook-style description of
a walk to view the most important local ‘monuments’
of Smithson’s hometown of Passaic, New Jersey (earlier described by the artist as ‘the type of decaying
industrial town where they build highways along the
river’)5. During the walk, lasting many hours, Smithson
observed, and later noted with great fluency and imagination, a rusty port crane on pontoons, a closed bridge,
part of a highway under construction, and an artificial
crater filled with dirty water. His emphasis was on both
the technical aspects of the objects, and their potential for metaphor or harmonious integration into urban
space. Of course, the objects selected by the artist were
‘unintentional’ monuments that arose as the result of
building malpractice, neglect, or clerical mix-ups, and
not the result of intentional artistic action. However,
the ‘monuments of Passaic’ were rediscovered and
pointed out by Smithson, using text, to endow them
with specific meaning, and to some extent he inscribed
them into the context of the international art-world.
At the same time he entered into a critical dialogue
with artists gagging on the promises borne by the intervention of sculpture in public places by bringing the
scale of his work close to that of architecture. Instead
of creating new objects in public spaces, Smithson
took note of those already in existence, those subject
to independent, unplanned transformations. This approach reveals a quasi-scientific curiosity, which was
combined with a tendency to taxonomically omit preexisting natural phenomena. The aforementioned text
from 1967 does not so much pass a travel guidebook
(which almost immediately lessens the very eloquent,
poetic, and allusion-laden language) as it constitutes
an attempt to draw attention to the profanity of artistic excess. At the same time it emphasises the role of
language in the process of an object becoming an objet
d’art. In this sense Smithson is one of the precursors
of art as a form of ‘alternative tourism,’ of exploring
unrecognisable exotic regions of the banal, of decay
and provincial exotica. A direct continuation of this
approach can be seen in The Center for Land Use Interpretation, a series of projects ranging from geological wells to sightseeing tours.6 CLUI is an organisation
run by theorist Matthew Coolidge, who first met with
Smithson while a student. Many of the CLUI projects
are based on excursions to contemporary ruins: abandoned military bases, power stations, hypermarkets in
the suburbs, as well as to the remains of classic landart sites from the 1970s.
The tradition of trips, walks and guided tours as artistic happenings is also echoed in the projects initiated
by Joanna Warsza at the 10th–Anniversary Stadium. It
is enough to recall the second instalment of the Finissage entitled On-Site Inspection, a theatrical narration
concerning one of the icons of communist-era Poland.
During the performance, spectators could meet well(or lesser-) known ‘heroes’ involved in the creation of
the Stadium’s history (sport figures, architects, female
Party members, and so on) and was based on the concept of a walk to the site, where the artistic happening
serves the function of a pretext or framework permitting the participants to concentrate on neglected or
overlooked aspects of reality. Under closer scrutiny
these trivial details (gestures, anecdotes or ostensibly
trivial events) become a part of the cultural landscape,
formed by scripted behaviours rendered by artists and
cultural producers.
Apart from the phenomenon of ‘overlooked exotica,’ the most important repetitive motif appearing
in subsequent scenes of the Finissage, one that si-
multaneously played a key role in the philosophical
understanding of Smithson’s art, is the subject of
entropy, seen as the inevitable conclusion to a single
architectural structure additionally weighted down
by its ideological function. Here we are dealing with
ideological and linguistic disintegration, illustrated
by the presence of a gigantic building located in the
city centre and devoided of its original function. In his
text on Passaic, Smithson describes one of the encountered ‘monuments,’ a sandpit; he calls it a ‘model
of a desert.’ The artist considers this object an excel-
lent example of entropy. To illustrate, he uses the
story of a child who initially mixes the separated dark
and light sand as he shuffles about in the box. After
a while the sand turns gray, and walking backwards
does not reverse this process. In fact, it only serves
to deepen it. In the box of sand Smithson saw the
disintegration of entire continents, the drying up of
the oceans; all that was extant was millions of grains
of sand, a vast deposit of bones and stones pulverized into dust.7 Entropy was one of the key notions
used by Smithson, providing a theoretical skeleton
for his later earthworks, constructed beyond the confines of the gallery, far from city centres, and usually
in places which were difficult of access. He used the
terminology of entropy in an orthodox scientific manner, recalling the one used in the physics of the mid19th century for the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
On the basis of this principle arose the hypothesis
known as ‘the thermal death of the universe.’ Entropy
is a force causing the universe to irreversibly head
towards its own dispersal. As Smithson stressed, the
drama of the irreversible processes of decay, leading to utter chaos and exhaustion, are inseparably
inscribed in the existence of architecture and artworks, as in everything that is material. That is why,
more than the shape emerging from a piece of marble
modelled with a chisel or a recently inaugurated
building, fragments and rubble held such importance
for him. As time went on, rather than mythical ‘Wild
West’ as explored by artists like Walter de Maria
and Michael Heizer, Smithson became more interested
in places on the outskirts of urban environments,
‘worse category’ terrain like landfills, disused
factories, refuse tips, excavations, and all forms of the
‘side effects’ of connected to industrial excesses and
the expansion of the human race. The fascination with
decay, ‘suspended’ halfway to catastrophe in places
it would be difficult to call spectacular, is illustrated by Smithson’s work 1970 entitled Partially
Buried Shed, Kent, Ohio, in which earth dumped onto
a small building by a digger led to its partial collapse.
At the same time the artist prioritised the urban,
neglected yet ‘living,’ outskirts of American cities
over European mausoleums. For Smithson the old
continent was one big ruin because of its sentimental
passion for centuries-old architectural wrecks condemned to the never-ending adoration of their ashes. A symbolic act of revenge on the museum-heavy
continent was the work Asphalt Rundown from 1969,
created in a disused quarry near Rome. Trucks poured
hot asphalt into the space, and it spread over the sides
of the quarry, creating an amorphous form when set.8
Smithson’s masterpieces and his influence on the
artistic practice of today must be analyzed not only
through spectacular artistic creations like the canonical earthwork Spiral Jetty (1970) on the Great Salt
Lake in the Utah, but also through and essays which
established his position as the leading ‘ideologist’
of Land Art. The artist’s work on the landscape and
that connected with language are linked by one of
the artist’s drawings from 1966, entitled The Heap of
Language. This modest work on graph paper simply
represents the ‘heap of languages’ of the title by noting words relating to grammar and the functions and
mythology of language (euphemism, alphabet,
sentence, Babel, ABC, terminology, hieroglyph, and
the like). At the same time this ‘concrete poetry’ is
reminiscent of a geological formation seeming to
suggest that natural elements (massive mountains,
ravines, reservoirs, etc.) and architecture are letters
in the landscape which combine to form words and
sentences, their disintegration being the disintegration
of semantics.
For similar reasons we can treat the ruins of the 10th–
Anniversary Stadium as a specific store of information,
knowledge coded in an unusual manner, on the basis
of erased ‘letters’ and shattered ‘syntax.’ The Finissage
was not exclusively a direct operation on materials and
the textures of architecture. It was also a piling up of
an additional layer of language (The Heap of Language),
creating new narratives and urban legends. The specific projects which made up the Finissage manifested
themselves, for example, through sports commentary,
specialised lectures or radio plays. Limited in time and
leaving no permanent traces, the happenings were not
accessible to the majority of the public. Despite that fact,
information in the form of the written or spoken word
circulated with no difficulty. As in the case of the Land
Art projects decades earlier, coming into contact with
the performances in this case was, more often than not,
made indirectly through documentation or through stories and gossip in the first place. Acknowledged by some
critics as the first Land Art work, Placid Civic Monument
(1967), a hole in the ground dug by Claes Oldenburg in
New York’s Central Park, existed for barely a few hours
before it was once again filled with earth.9 It was seen by
a small number of people, mainly passers-by; nevertheless more people heard about it through word of mouth,
even if only as a cheap thrill. The work thereby reached
a far wider audience.
Analysing the fate of the abandoned Stadium, along
with that of other buildings pushed out of history, it is
worth drawing attention to the aspect of spectacularity, which may refer both to contemporary or ancient
architectural ruins, monumental Work of Land Art (peculiarly designed ruins) from the 1960s/’70s and to the
phenomenon of sport ’important when we speak of the
Stadium,’ a facility intended for sports spectacles.
In the pioneering age of Land Art spectacularity was
linked to desperate attempts at competing with the
landscape and architecture, a true ‘male’ trial of domination, an almost grotesque example of which would
be Heizer’s Double Negative (1971). The artist created
the piece in the Nevada desert, by moring 240,000
tons of earth in order to cut a transverse fissure in
the canyon. A reference to this destructive tradition
in relation to the urban landscape can be found in
the contemporary work of Monika Sosnowska, particularly in her project 1:1 (2007). The skeleton of an
anonymous modernist pavilion was ‘crushed’ by the
mass of the Polish national pavilion located in the
Giardini of the Biennale in Venice. The sight of the
building’s ruin, frozen in time inside another representative structure, was something spectacularly
tragic. One can also view spectacularity in an athletic sense. Imagine the dramatic clash of two boxers
in the ring: we freeze the action and undertake
a critical scrutiny from every angle. One of the entry
points for Sosnowska’s work was the removal of scaffolding from outside the Silesia Stadium. This structure, built to the glory of working-class labour, is part
of a larger health resort and recreational centre. In
the 1960s it was the venture of this type in Europe.
The destruction of the tower, rising above the stadium
and abandoned many years earlier, is a gloomy metaphor for the slow demise of this social and recreation centre, which was to provide rest and recreation
for the elite of Silesia’s workforce. In recalling this
spectacularity, in the athletic and artistic sense,
and in linking it to the heroic struggles of the creators of landscapes in the 60’s and ’70’s, we might
also turn our attention to the inaugural project
of Warsza’s cycle of happenings at the Stadium:
Massimo Furlan’s Boniek!, a one-man re-enactment
of the 1982 Poland–Belgium football match. The
artist’s effort was a work before and on an urban
landscape and it referred directly to the site, with
its entire historical baggage, its need for heroic
achievements, emotions that emphasized the scale
and discipline of the architecture of the Stadium.
In that sense, Furlan’s performance can be linked
to the individual bravura of other artists working
with landscape and architecture like Gordon Matta–
Clark, Richard Long and Dennis Oppenheim, or even,
a few decades later, Christian Philip Müller’s action
Illegal Border Crossing Between Austria and the Principality of Lichtenstein (1993).
exactly the site artist-researchers imagine: a capsule
for unwanted things, multiplying independently, submitting to their own organic dynamism of growth and
death. Along with their historical ‘bowels,’ vegetation
pushing up through the concrete slabs, and the smell
of Vietnamese bars, the Stadium constitutes one of
those sites designated to be explored by artists and
whose history we will shortly be reading, but exclusively through documentation, exhibitions and books — in
other words via travels to a non-site. The ‘uninvited’
remains are testament to the mute and wounded pres-
In Robert Smithson’s artistic dictionary, alongside entropy we also find other terms relevant to reflection upon
the ruins of the Stadium and similar structures: site,
non-site and displacement, in particular. Art, according
to Smithson, is played out in two arenas. One of them
is the Gallery, where the viewer has access to ‘geological’ samples of sites, documentation, and records. The
other, more important field is the Site itself, frequently
difficult to reach, and which directly establishes the terrain of the artist’s operations. The Stadium constitutes
ence of what occurred before; they take on the function of ‘found’ monuments, illustrating the process of
de-industrialisation, rushed privatisation, or undesired
urban change. These ruins are evidence of something
that Smithson used to call a ‘quiet catastrophe,’ the
awareness of which brings out in us a troublesome,
sentimental pleasure. As Brian Dillon wrote in the forementioned essay on the historical splendour of ashes,
‘For all its allure, its mystery, its sublime significance,
the ruin always totters on the edge of a certain species
of kitsch. The pleasures of the ruin — the frisson of
individual wreckage, endlessly repeatable, like the postcard that is so often its tangible memento.’10
1 B. Dillon, ‘Fragments from a History of Ruin,’ in Cabinet, no. 20 (Ruins), 2005­–6, p. 55.
2 The curator of the exhibition was Sam Green, and its organizer the New York City Administration of Recreation and Cultural Affairs. See the chapter ‘October 1967: A Corner of a Larger
Field,’ in Suzanne Boettger, Earthworks: Art in the Landscape of the Sixties (Berkeley and Los
Angeles: University of California Press, 2002) pp. 1–8.
3 In 1966 Smithson started working as a consultant with the company Tippets-Abbett-McCarthy
-Stratton (T. A. M. S.), responsible for the design of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. This fact had
a great impact on the way he considered the execution of his sculptural works, their location
and scale. An example being the unrealised 1967 project Sculpture Park, to be viewed from an
aircraft and containing works by Smithson, Sol Le Witt, Robert Morris and Carl Andre.
4 Smithson’s text ‘Monuments of Passaic’ was originally published in Artforum in December
1967. It was later reprinted as ‘A Tour of the Monuments of Passaic, New Jersey.’
5 S. Boettger, op. cit., p. 62.
6 The Center for Land Use Interpretation was set up in 1994 as a research organisation
concerned with the understanding of nature as well as the scale of human influence on the
earth’s surface. CLUI’s headquarters are located in Los Angeles, although the institution also
has other research centres in various parts of the U. S., for example, the Wendover residence
programme in the state of Utah, not far from the site of Smithson’s Spiral Jetty and Nancy Holt’s
Sun Tunnels.
7 Boettger, op. cit., p. 63.
8 In connection with this kind of artwork, one project realised during the ‘The’ should be mentioned: Palowanie / Pile Driving by annas kollektiv from Zürich, where the culmination of the
event was the ‘trepanation’ of the Stadium’s field using appropriate building equipment.
9 This work is widely known as The Hole, and was realised as part of Sculpture in the Environment.
10 Dillon, op. cit., p. 55.
chauplatz International, one of the most interesting Swiss independent theatre groups of the moment, employs journalistic methods in its work.
The artists always begin by conducting thorough research: interviewing people, searching for information
on the Web, inspecting the site, and comparing various
viewpoints. The result is a theatre that is communityoriented, political, and documentary. Schauplatz has,
for instance, recreated onstage the interviews immigrants have to go through when applying for asylum in
Switzerland, re-enacted live the movie Free Willy, and
exposed tax fraud in the Swiss town of Zug through
the active participation of tax experts and corporate
managers. Poland’s admission to the Schengen zone
and the fact that Frontex, the European Union’s external-border security agency, is located in Warsaw, were
the reasons for Schauplatz’s interest in Warsaw and
the 10th–Anniversary Stadium. In the middle of the
field of grass that had overgrown the pitch the artists
recreated a portion of Poland’s eastern border, which is
also Eastern border of the EU, on a scale of 1:1. A control observation point was constructed on the crown of
the Stadium, from which viewers were able to monitor
the EU’s Eastern frontier. During the eight-hour-long
live installation, the artists picnicked on the pitch, held
discussions about the abstractness of borders, the construction of national identity, and the meaning of the
EU flag. Their voices were relayed to the crown of the
Stadium, and binoculars and telescopes were provided
for spectators to view the action.
The starting point for the performance was the reflection that stadiums and borders are meant to build
national identity. While stadiums are concrete architectural objects whose construction takes several years to
complete, borders are products of our imagination, involving contracts, symbols, and potential violence. Both
borders and stadiums are supposed to tell us who we
are. Until recently, Frontex had its offices near the Stadium. The agency, in collaboration with the police, the
military, and the secret services operates rapid-intervention teams and organises people-hunts and charter deportations. As a result, illegal immigrants resort
to ever more dangerous ways of crossing borders. On
their way to work every day, Frontex employees passed
the Stadium, a place that, like national borders, used
to divide people between legals and illegals. Schauplatz’s one-day live installation required close observation. When the artists saw the 10th–Anniversary
Stadium for the first time, they immediately realised
that their performance had to dialogue with scale,
with dimension — ‘large’ vs. ‘small,’ the hugeness of
the Stadium vs. the littleness of the individual within it.
They wanted to give the viewer the possibility of different views. One of those was looking through binoculars
at an ordinary piece of grass, where nothing happens.
The artists did not force themselves on the Stadium;
instead they created a situation of live exhibition, turning themselves into objects of display. White also inviting special guests.
One of those was software expert Hubert Kowalski,
who described the functioning of software that makes
it possible for border guards to tell whether a human
or animal is crossing the border. He described robots
that can recognise movement, objects, or the presence
of living organisms, and explained the functioning of
heat-sensitive cameras. A little earlier a refugee from
Chechnya, Aslan Dekaev, had appeared on the pitch,
followed by someone who re-enacts events from World
Wars I and II. The artists then wondered a loud whether
fifty years from now military-history-enthusiasts will
be re-enacting the events in Grozny. The situation of
obliqueness, uncertainty, and non-action created by
Schauplatz was intentional, as the artists consciously
renounce control of the situations they set in motion.
With their subdued inaction, they provoked viewers to
stroll about the Stadium, to enter the field of action —
as if the artists’ presence were not important. ‘We had
the impression we had become a sonic background
for the audience. It may be somewhat disappointing for an actor, because it means he has failed to
attract viewers’ attention. But the Stadium seems to
have simply been more important than us.’
Experts who appeared at the Schengen Control Observation Point:
Jan Węcławik, employee Central Sports Centre; Filip Pawlicki, Schengen correspondent; Michał Kozłowski, philosopher, alter-globalist;
Wiesław Nowicki, ornithologist; Radek Pyffel, Sinologist, author of
China in the Year of the Olympics; Aslan Dekaev, refugee from Chechnya; Hubert Kowalski, expert on military technologies; Ngô Văn
Tưởng, Vietnamese journalist; Professor Barbara Sudnik, botanist,
researcher of the flora at the 10th–Anniversary Stadium, and Marek
Ostrowski, landscape information expert; Ewa Masłowska, linguist;
Tadeusz, 10th–Anniversary Stadium security guard, employee of the
Ekotrade security company
Schengen Control Observation Point / Schauplatz International: Martin
Bieri, Albert Liebl and Lars Studer, June 15, 2008, noon–8 p.m., top the
crown of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium
Daytime differences in temperature between the sunheated concrete slabs and the cooler grass-covered
field could sometimes reach more than 10C°, 18º F. The
effect was the creation of thermal chimneys, ‘columns’
over the Stadium formed by heated air rising and manifesting itself through a characteristic upwardly pushing movement on the clouds.
n 1954, on the sodden marshlands of a former island in the Vistula, land which was joined to the
right bank of the river a century ago, a sports facility was built. After World War II, rubble from Warsaw’s
left bank, an area reduced to ruins after the Warsaw
Uprising in 1944, was transported to this wasteland.
From this rubble emerged a large flat-bottomed bowl
with a sports field in the centre. The concrete interior
sides of the bowl were shaped into 62 rows of terraces,
which in turn were divided into 42 sections, creating
a grandstand for tens of thousands of sports fans.
For the first 30 years of its existence, the 10th–Anniversary Stadium was a hive of activity. Countless sports
events, state ceremonies and meetings took place
there. The arena was kept in perfect condition, and
any plant appearing within the stands was methodically dealt with. However, the end of the 1990s saw an
end to the mass celebrations. Suddenly the Stadium
changed functions and its whole life was transferred
to the crown. Within the Stadium and the surrounding
area arose the largest bazaar on the European continent, what came to be called Jarmark Europa. Thou-
sands of market stalls were knocked together using
plywood and sheet metal, creating a peculiar kind of
shantytown. Among the traders and clients were people of many different nationalities and races. Business
boomed, but the structural state of the Stadium suffered with each passing year. The grandstands, formerly the showcase of the Stadium, were now relegated to
the role of a storage area for an open-air bazaar.
The Stadium was more than a sports and public-events
facility that later became a marketplace in Warsaw.
These were merely the functions it served in its official capacity. As an urban space it was also of interest
because of its specific climate. In the bowl of the Stadium, many metres high, there arose a unique and autonomous environment. The immense concrete stands
heated by the sun meant that the ambient temperature of the stands was often higher than that of the
Warsaw, like every big city, is an enclave of warmth surrounded by cooler suburban areas. Within this enclave,
the Stadium proved to be a particularly significant
site. Heat accumulated by day was released at night.
The overall shape of the structure brought about the
creation of a very specific system of vertical and horizontal air currents above the Stadium. The prevailing
winds would generally blow high above the whole area.
When strong winds blew over the top of the Stadium,
the interior of the structure was always calm. However,
during the formation of thermal chimneys formed by
vertical movement of air, additional currents appeared
above the Stadium; they arose from differences in
ambient pressure and extant underlying pressures.
Air sucked in from the surroundings of the structure
flowed into the centre of the Stadium and circulated
around the stands. Incoming air was generally cool and
moist, owing to the vast and shady expanses of Skaryszewski Park to the east and the marshy meadows of
the Vistula River nearby to the west. Air masses circulating above the Stadium brought with them all kinds
of particles like pollen, along with light seeds borne by
the wind from fruit plants growing in the area.
One important regulator of the Stadium’s interior climate was the flat expanse of seeded and sprinkled
grass on the field in the bowl of the Stadium. In the
beginning, this was the only part of the structure
where a dense blanket of plant life could be found. Today the turf is much neglected and has not been cut
for a long time. It is interesting that various types of
cultivated grass still prevail; they flower and grow in
abundance. Among them English rye-grass (Lolium per-
enne), the most important and highly regarded grass
used in sporting surfaces is still dominant. One can
also find oat-grass (Arrhenatherum elatius), various
types of festue grasses (Festuca), meadow-grass (Poa)
and bent-grass (Agrostis). However, less desirable varieties of grass also appear, e.g., the rapidly spreading
wood small-reed grass (Calamagrostis epigejos), as well
as dicotyledonous weeds like wormwood (Artemisia),
goosefoot (Chenopodium) and field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis).
And this is how the Stadium looked and functioned
over the last few decades. Individual plants undoubtedly
appeared in the stands, on the stairs and in the aisles
between sectors, but they were generally ‘de-selected’
varieties, resilient to mechanical damage or being trampled on. These were such varieties as the greater plantain
(Plantago major), common knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare), annual meadow grass (Poa annua), and pearlwort
(Sagina procumbens). Today the list of species growing
in places which for years have been minimally under the
threat of direct impact from man is much longer.
For years nothing has been happening at the Stadium
apart from its ongoing demise. Nobody paid any attention to the fact that alongside the bustling market, in
the abandoned and devastated stands, new life was
being born. The Stadium began to fill up with new organisms. Initially the changes were insignificant, even
invisible to the untrained eye. A speck of fluff from
a poplar was carried by the wind and lodged in a gap
in the cracked concrete; a few weeks later it had germinated, and in its place was a growth a few millimetres long of the seeded poplar. Birds had stopped for
a moment’s rest, leaving behind the stain from a blackand-white dropping which contained small seed stones
from a wild elderberry. These seeds, partly digested
in the bird’s alimentary canal, were thus activated for
germination. Someone from the bazaar spat out some
grape seeds. These seeds fell on the stands, and after
a few years the creeping vines had grown to a few meters in length.
Warsaw’s rubble, mixed with soil, cracked concrete,
rubbish from the bazaar, as well as bird and human
excrement, created conditions conducive to the development of many plant varieties. At first flora was
dominated by pioneer organisms with a short life-cycle, effectively spreading with the aid of seeds. In time,
there was an increase in the role of perennial herbaceous plants, capable of multiplying via budding shoots,
rhizomes, and bulbs; there was also an increase in arborescent varieties. The abundance of plant life grew;
in the case of some varieties current estimates run into
the hundreds and thousands of specimens.
From the west the Stadium is surrounded by woodland
and overgrown marsh meadow adjoining the banks of
the Vistula. These certainly constituted a rich source
of seed from light seed trees like the numerous poplars growing in the Stadium. Seeds from indigenous
herb plants also came to the Stadium from the marsh
meadows, including bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara),
common nettle (Urtica dioica), as well as common hop
(Humulus lupulus), whose shoots have thickly entwined
the decaying benches of the stands. From the riverside
also came the winged fruit of the ash-leaf maple (Acer
negundo), an aggressive newcomer from North America which is now taking over Warsaw’s empty lots and
semi-natural woodlands.
The idea of foreign visitors in the Stadium thus relates
not only to people of various nationalities, but also to
plants. We find wind-dispersed North American varieties in abundance: Canadian fleabane (Erigeron canadensis), redroot amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus),
gallant soldier (Galinsoga parviflora), shaggy soldier
(Galinsoga ciliata) as well as Canadian golden-rod
(Solidago canadensis) and giant golden-rod (Solidago
gigantea). Golden-rods used to be commonly called the
‘Polish mimosa,’ but they are neither Polish nor mimosas; it is an invasive variety originally from North America. Also noteworthy is stinkgrass (Eragrostis minor),
an inconspicuous grass native to southern Europe and
western Asia and brought to Poland in the nineteenth
century. In its native land this species is found in semidesert areas; in Warsaw it has found itself a suitable
habitat in cracks in walls, between pave stones, and
along railway tracks — and at the 10th–Anniversary
Stadium! On the other hand, the introduction of edible
juicy fruits like mulberry, cherry, black cherry, plum, apple, strawberry and tomato, may be of two kinds; either
their seeds reached the stands as organic refuse from
people, or they were brought to the Stadium by birds.
Excellent sunlight and the fact that the bowl of the Stadium is sheltered from the wind created a favourable
environment for herbaceous plant varieties demanding
lots of light, for example, the two goldenrods native to
the American prairies, as well as prickly lettuce (Lactuca
serriola), white-leaved goosefoot (Chenopodium strictum), toadflax (Linaria minor), narrow-leaved meadowgrass (Poa angustifolia), and drooping brome (Bromus
tectorum). This last variety covers whole areas in the
sunniest sectors which are exposed to the south and
west. In turn the prickly lettuce is easily recognisable,
as its leaves form on stalks oriented north to south.
These species feel perfectly at home on the grounds of
the Stadium, as do certain prominent heat-loving tree
varieties like the common grape-vine (Vitis vinifera)
mentioned above, the common walnut (Juglans regia),
or the tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), a Chinese
variety invasive in southern Europe but still relatively
rare in Warsaw. Why, here one can even find a pomegranate tree! This pomegranate, now more than ten
centimetres tall, seems to have survived the somewhat
mild winter of 2006–7 (and possibly the previous year
as well) in a sheltered crack in the concrete.
Plants that spread via long underground shoots employ an interesting expansion strategy. They can grow
over large areas by spreading roots beneath the con-
crete slabs. Thanks to this method, plants that multiply
vegetatively can occupy new areas and in the process
take over from the competition. In this way, the lowest
rows of section 35 and 36 are dominated by a show
of 1.5-metre high wood small-reed (Calamagrostis
epigejos), and hairy sedge (Carex hirta) has become
a permanent fixture in the middle rows of section 36.
With good access to sunlight, elevated temperatures,
and fairly fertile soil, the major problem is the lack of
moisture. The majority of heat- and light-loving species
can withstand drought very well, whereas moistureloving plants must make do by drawing water from
deeper layers.
basin of the Stadium (involving humidity, temperature
and heat capacity). During the early years of this century, one notes the first plants large enough to be seen
from a plane, including individual shrubs, and, in a few
places, small clusters of herbaceous plants. Things continued in this way until 2007, when there was a sudden
explosion of growth in the stands, and overall plant
cover in the Stadium significantly increased. Trees and
shrubs created large areas of thick growth easily visible
from an aircraft. In the two sections to the left of the
VIP grandstand, in the part of the Stadium neighbouring the marsh meadows of the Vistula, there even appeared an area of dense scrub.
Nitrophile weeds, plants which need soil with high nitrogen content, also prevail in the Stadium: European black
elderberry (Sambucus nigra), greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), spiny sow thistle (Sonchus asper), common
dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), bitter nightshade (Solanum dulcamara), as
well as whole areas of saltbush (Atriplex) and goosefoot
(Chenopodium). Strengthened by the nitrogen found in
waste and fæces, these species are unusually abundant,
and they are frequently found to be double the height
of specimens from other parts of Warsaw. They can be
found among the highest rows of the stands, an area
which previously served as informal toilets for the market traders. The appearance of nitrogen-loving species in
soil containing this particular chemical element can only
be viewed as evidence of human intervention.
One of the authors of this article, Marek Ostrowski, has
been observing plant migration processes in the Stadium’s stands for years, and he has documented them in
a series of aerial photographs. Additionally, Ostrowski
has documented the temperature ranges within the
Stadium by using an infrared camera. This made it
possible to record the specific microclimate within the
A more detailed analysis of the Stadium’s flora required an expansion of the study group. In 2007 Barbara Sudnik-Wojcikowska and Halina Galera, two
experienced researchers of Warsaw’s plant life, joined
our team. On the basis of their fieldwork (autumn 2007
and spring and summer 2008), a register of all plant
species appearing at the Stadium site was compiled. In
total the register listed 160 entries. Some of the varieties appeared in very small numbers and quite often
in the early stages of development. For example, there
were seedlings and young specimens of trees like the
bush-cherry plum (Prunus ceracifera divaricata), alder
buckthorn (Frangula alnus), European rowan (Sorbus
aucuparia), Siberian dogwood (Cornus alba), rockspray
cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis) as well as bird
cherry (Prunus padus). Yet there were also varieties
which grew by the thousands in the arena. Among
the dominant native herbaceous perennials one can
find are the common wormwood (Artemisia vulgaris),
wood small-reed (Calamagrostis epigejos), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), and hairy sedge (Carex
hirta). Among the incomers one can find the pineapple
mayweed (Chamomilla suaveolens) and the two types
of golden-rod already mentioned. Annual varieties are
mainly represented by annual meadow grass (Poa annua), drooping brome (Bromus tectorum), mouse-ear
chickweed (Cerastium semidecandrum), as well as some
particularly abundant North American varieties: Canadian fleabane (Erigeron canadensis), gallant soldier (Galinsoga parviflora), shaggy soldier (Galinsoga ciliata)
and red-root amaranth (Amaranthus retroflexus).
The overgrown Stadium stands are quite impressive
with their shapely specimens of trees and shrubs, frequently in dense clusters, sometimes reaching heights
of many metres. Tree species above 50 cm in height
were numerous and varied; 24 varieties were catalogued. The most abundant varieties were the native
black elderberry (Sambucus nigra), ash-leaf maple (Acer
negundo) and white mulberry (Morus alba), a species
native to China (and seldom grown in Poland). No one
could have expected mulberry bushes in the Stadium.
It is worth noting that trees dug up in the autumn of
2007 were already found to be growing back the following year. Attempting to rid the Stadium of certain trees
seemed to make them come back with a vengeance. In
the space of one vegetation season some managed to
grow to their previous height of several metres.
Another great surprise was the abundance of a variety
not previously recorded in Warsaw, the red hemp-nettle
(Galeopsis augustifolia). This fragile annual can usually
be found growing among rocks in the Polish mountains
or, very rarely, as a weed dispersedalong railroad beds.
Who knows what brought the red hemp-nettle to the
devastated grounds of the 10th–Anniversary Stadium?
Without answers there remain only questions. From
where (and in what way) did the seeds of the hempnettle reach the stands of the Stadium? Could it have
been brought unwittingly from the nearby Warszawa–
Stadion railway station? We have looked for it there,
but could not find even one specimen of this plant. Another botanical ‘discovery’ was a young tree, the common hackberry (Celtis occidentalis), naturally occurring
in the damp and fertile soils by riverbanks in the United
States. In Poland the only documented case of spontaneous sprouting of this species was at the Arboretum
in Kórnik, and its presence at the Stadium came as
a complete surprise.
At the same time as the Stadium’s plant cover was developing, changes were taking place in the structure’s
microclimate. The mass appearance of plants on the
stands caused a reduction in thermal contrasts and
a mellowing of the climate. Gradually an interdependent system was formed between the habitat, its climate
and ground conditions, and plant and animal species.
The subsequent chronicle of events could have been
predicted on the basis of the plant expansion observed
so far. Had the reconstruction of the Stadium not been
undertaken, within a few years the bowl of the Stadium would have developed into a forest of trees, visible
from afar in the shape of a green ‘mop of hair’ swaying
over the Stadium’s crown. With the contribution by the
plants, a new and startling form of architecture would
have arisen — a living monument to nature in a place
abandoned by man.
associate Professor in the Art History department
at CUNY Graduate Center, New York, and visiting professor in the Curating Contemporary Art department
at the Royal College of Art, London. She is the author
of Installation Art: A Critical History (Tate, 2005) and
the editor of the anthology Participation (Whitechapel/
MIT, 2006), and is a regular contributor to art journals
including Artforum, October, IDEA and Ramona.
philosopher, feminist, social activist living in Warsaw.
Participant in the campaign No Man is Illegal, the women’s network of artists, and Initiative Index 73,
and a member of the association W Stronę Dziewcząt
[Towards the Girls].
sociologist, art critic, curator at the Museum of Modern
Art in Warsaw. His particular field of interest is the influence of Conceptual Art and Land Art of the ’60s and
’70s on contemporary art practice.
political scientist and sociologist. Assistant Professor at
the Université de Montpellier III. Member of the editorial committee of the journals Futur antérieur, founded
by Jean-Marie Vincent and Toni Negri, and Multitudes.
His research focuses on phenomena of dissemination
and dispersion and their influence on art, research, social intervention, and education.
philosopher, curator, musician, and presenter of Wojna
Francuska-Angielska (Pod flagą białą-czerwoną...) [The
Anglo-French War (Under the Red-and-White Flag)]
on Radio Kampus in Warsaw. Co-founder of the Laboratory of Critical Urbanism, European Humanities University, Vilnius, and co-curator of Other city, other life
and the Academia programme at Zachęta National
Gallery, Warsaw.
was born in a Polish refugee camp in Germany
after the World War II and was raised in the United
States. During the 1970s he performed with the Bread
and Puppet Theatre throughout Europe and in Iran.
For the last several years, after studies in linguistics
and social theory at Harvard College, he has been
working with and for artists, first at P.S.1 in New York,
and then independently, as a writer, speaker, translator,
editor, and collaborator.
has a doctorate in botany, and works at Warsaw University. Her research interests include phytogeography, ethnobotany and plant motifs in culture, as well
as diverse aspects of urban-flora synanthropization.
naturalist and photographer. His main interests focus
on image information, remote sensing, the ecology
of the environment and urban studies. He lectures at
Warsaw University and is a member of the Committee
on Space and Satellite Research of the Polish Academy
of Sciences and of the Association of Polish Art Photographers.
is a Professor at Warsaw University conducting
research in phytogeography, plant ecology, and urban
flora, as well as on the role of kurgans as refuges for
steppe flora in the agricultural landscape of southern
architecture critic, staff editor at Architektura-Murator
monthly since 2005, co-curator of the exhibition Hotel
Polonia: The Afterlife of Buildings, which was awarded a Golden Lion for the best national participation
at the 11th Architecture Biennale in Venice in 2008,
co-ordinator of the architecture section of the Polish
cultural season in the U.K. 2009–10.
journalist, Varsavianist, and contributor to the daily Dziennik daily is currently writing a book about
the Praga-Południe district, where he organizes the
series of events Literatura na Peryferiach for the Creo
art historian, critic and exhibition curator, active in the
field in Poland and internationally. She has authored
hundreds of publications translated into in several languages, and has curated or organized over 200 projects
(exhibitions, conferences, congresses), at the Venice,
Kwangju and São Paulo Biennials, among many other
numerous venues. She has created several foundations,
and was the former director of the Zachęta National Art
Gallery from 1993 to 2001.
curator for contemporary art and public-art projects,
teaches Sound and New Media at the University
of Applied Arts in Vienna. From 2004–7 he was
director and curator of publicartvienna, and from
2002–5 curator at the OK-Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Upper Austria. More than 1800 art
portraits and reviews for the Austrian Radio ORF.
He studied history and linguistics.
author, radio-art artist, and sound activist based
in Berlin. He is co-founder of Bootlab. Currently he is
the project manager for, a Berlin-based open
radio that is a local and international P2P network
of groups, individuals and non-commercial radios
that combines ‘old radio’ and new’ open-source software. Together with Diana McCarty he runs backyardradio.
art critic, curator at the Center for Contemporary Art
Zamek Ujazdowski in Warsaw. Contributor to many
art magazines like Obieg, Newsweek, Zwierciadło, and
the Dziennik daily. His principal exhibitions include:
Scena 2000, Rzeczywiście młodzi są realistami [Really,
the Young Are Realists], and Betonowe dziedzictwo
[Concrete Legacy: From Le Corbusier to the Homeboys].
arrived in Poland from Vietnam in 1983 on a government
scholarship, and has a degree in naval construction from
the Szczecin Polytechnic. Formerly a trader, he is now
a journalist for the independent dissident Vietnamese
magazine and website He also
collaborates with the art foundations Arteria and Inna
Przestrzeń on intercultural and social projects.
curator on the cusp of the performing arts, participatory art, and everyday life. She runs the Laura Palmer
Foundation, which takes its name from the character
whose absence organizes the action of David Lynch’s
Twin Peaks. The label produces actions, situations,
conceptual exhibitions, participatory events, and performances.
journalist and editor at the Polish edition of Newsweek,
doctoral candidate at the Institute of Philosophy at
Warsaw University. He also works with the television
channel TVP Kultura. Lives in Warsaw.

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