After each trip to Bytom, I started to go through the materials collected in each of these trips in Helsinki. Then, in September 2012 I started to work with a structure for the performance. I worked in a studio space at the Theatre Academy, with randomly chosen seeds, or keywords. Seeds or keywords meant heterogeneous imagery, live footage, text and objects acquired, which I tried to embody. For instance, based on some of the reference material, such as a Polish science-fiction film Seksmisja (1984) by Juliusz Machulski, I tried to set the scene as a science fiction performance, but only very little was left from this practice – a white, fabric tube in the beginning of the performance – to the actual performance. A difficulty that I noticed was, that compared to the work on site, in Bytom, the neutral practice space with tables and chairs would lead to very obvious structures in the performance practice as well. The objects carry a refrain within them, and they invite a certain milieu. Only by linking my bodily action with specific tools, material objects or machines, ruptures would take place in the practice, and I would be able to manipulate the obvious refrains.

The following material was used in this part of the process. They resulted from the meetings, workshops or archive materials from the local newspaper “Życie Bytomskie” and The Upper Silesian Museum in Bytom. The references are only external refrains, which link to the actual material acquired from the meetings, and they were not explicitly referenced. 

Bytom was an important industrial site aside from Katowice and Gliwice in the Upper Silesia region. This area was a centre for the Silesian uprising against the German rule between 1919-1921. The uprising is a central theme in the first film in The Silesian Trilogy, in the film Sól ziemi czarnej (Salt of the Black Earth) by Kazimierz Kutz from 1969. Two other films – Perla w koronie (Pearl in the Crown) from 1972 and Paciorki jednego rózanca (The Beads of One Rosary) from 1979 – in the trilogy are centred around Silesia and the development of industrialism in Soviet Poland. Aside from these clearly ideological films, some other Polish films, which have acquired a cult status, such as Seksmisja or Miś (1981) by Stanislaw Bareja, affected my working process greatly on the aesthetic choices. These choices were not made with any rational decision, but on the basis of affect. Similarly, works in the collection of the Upper Silesia Museum, such as Murzynka (Negress) from 1897 by Aleksander Gierymski or Wacław Koniuszko’s painting W Pracowni (In the artist’s studio) from 1885 appeared indirectly in the performance, as well.

The films Da Vinci Code (2006) by Ron Howard and Poseidon (2006) by Wolfgang Petersen, were the last films showed in the cinema Kino Gloria. Kino Gloria started to show films in 1935 and the first film shown was the Treasure Island (1934) by Victor Fleming. Aside from other cinemas such as Kino Bałtyk, Kino Gloria was one of the independent cinemas showing both foreign and local films, and it was the last one closing its doors in 2007. In 2011, the cinema-hall burned down.

Structurally, Spalding Gray’s performance and the film about this performance by Jonathan Demme titled Swimming to Cambodia (1987) and Vito Acconci’s performance Undertone from 1972, affected my choices in the style of performance. There were direct links to industrial, American popular culture as well, due to the affective slogan, where Bytom is referred to as Detroit of Poland. Thus, I used two songs from this era from the ‘Motor City’: Working in the Coal Mine from 1966 by Lee Dorsey and a version by Flying Lizards of the song Money (That’s What I Want) from 1959 by Barrett Strong. These songs were not chosen only as background music, but as essential links with the situation in Bytom: the transformation from industrialism to post-industrialism.

Practice in Helsinki

Documentation of the performance Life in Bytom.

CARPA3 colloquium at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki, February 28, 2013.

Camera: Marek Pluciennik.