Life in Bytom – introduction to project

Exhibition at the CSW Kronika in Bytom

Curated by Stanisław Ruksza

Assistant in the project Radek Ćwięląg

November 24th 2012 to January 26th 2013

5 performances

video project Wywrotka / Capsizing

Printed matter

Seminar with Akseli Virtanen and Mikko Jakonen at CSW Kronika

CSW Kronika will publish publication Life in Bytom in 2014.

The performance has been presented at the CARPA3 colloquium, at the Theatre Academy of The University of Arts Helsinki, in February 2013, New Performance Turku festival in June 2013 and Sesc Pinheiros, São Paulo in August 2013.

Bytom is a former mining town in Upper Silesia, Poland. This area is famous for mining industry, which, however, has almost disappeared during the past twenty years of economic transformation. Bytom is exemplary of the transformation, which neo-liberal politics produces. In 2011 I was invited by the curator Stanisław Ruksza from CSW Kronika to do a project in Bytom, and thus visited this city on several occasions during the year 2012. These visits were composed of workshops, interviews, field trips and other events, which aimed to produce source material for an affective interpretation of the situation. Eventually, the final results were presented at the Kronika as a scripted performance, an installation and a video piece. 

During my visits, I encountered many individual and singular stories and events, which revealed things not particular only to Poland, but are signs of a general transition in neo-liberal Europe. At first, my rather theoretical plan circled around the problem of economic transformation, or as I call it: the mess of capitalism. Mess has no certain centre, which in the case of Bytom is in straight dissymmetry with the previous, state controlled socialism in Poland. However, right from the start, after the first meetings with Ruksza, one aspect of Bytom became clear, that Bytom is not going through a controlled transformation period, but a series of arbitrary changes. He called Bytom, “the Detroit of Poland”. In other words, a place without an ideology or roadmap, but a mess of collapsing buildings and infrastructures where no one knows what will be the duration of this process or what forms it will take. It is in the precariousness of this mess, where my endeavour took place, and where I asked myself what could a performance do? In the project Life in Bytom these questions were approached with aesthetic and theoretical apparatuses, with intention to produce an aesthetic device of resilience or resistance for neoliberal engulfing of subjectivity.

I was working almost a year in shorter periods in Bytom encountering people from all walks of life, paying attention to the material differences as well as my self-reflections, expectations and desires. My artistic work, a scripted performance and a twenty-minute video work, was based on these encounters, meetings, interviews, workshops, images, reflections, recordings, archives and questionnaires from Bytom. The project was not an objective socio-political articulation of the effects of neoliberal politics in Poland, but an affective interpretation, as such. 

After collecting material, having conducted workshops and interviews, the next step was to assess and process the material. Aside from the narrative of the people from Bytom, it was a project reflecting an artist’s projections and desires – how life becomes interpreted and structured through my practice? This reflection is not disinterested, but loaded. How does the approach in a performance as a subjective interpretation of the material, relate to the matter of the heterogeneous information and reality of this site? It articulates tensions, which come across generally in quotidian life and in particular situations in neo-liberal Europe.