Field Trips

I described some locations such as the main tram depot of Bytom:

 “Red tram 19 is waiting, wagon number 280. Doors close, tram leaves. Woman with a bag of bread, eating bread, passing by. A couple with back bags, girl is bit stubby. Skinny old man walking with an umbrella. A group of teenage boys. The sound of tram engines, when it is at halt. Long and slightly alternating pitch, in a slow tempo. Hum of passing cars. Young voice. Girl yelling at a distance. Fountain, sound of water splashing. High heels on the pavement, passing by. Softer shoes, also. The doors of a tram, higher note by alarm. The sound of running sneakers, and a plastic bag while it touches runner’s legs. Two women voices. Younger boys, teenagers arguing. Running sneakers. High heels. Still the sound of a tram. Ring of a door in the tram and doors close. Wheels on tracks make noise, rumbling. Jack-daw yapping.” (Plac Sikorski, June 5, 2012)

I asked the workshop participants to draw and describe “dreamlike, fantastic or delusional” landscapes of some particular site in Bytom. One of the participants, and my assistant in the project Radosław ‘Radek’ Ćwięląg described one of the places:

“So, these are heaps in Bytom, or slacks. The rest of the coal. It looks like another planet, lot of hills, and all of this is of course black, different structures of this material, but generally the colour is the same. This place is characteristic also, because they build there the first golf field, post industrial golf field, actually. It’s not only grass, but you will play on the slack. So it’s like that you are walking around, and you are slowly coming up, and you see something like a desert, like oasis. You can see this green flat field, really nice grass and colourful, small flags, and also you have something between this green and black. And everywhere you have on this slack, small or bigger plants, which are starting to take over this area, just the horizon and the railways.”

“I feel like on another planet, lot of space. This space which you don’t know, like if you are sleeping and wake [up] in such a place, you cannot at first moment [know] where is it and when is it? Because you have not any, or just a little information about the reality, the world you live [in] actually.” (Workshop, June 5, 2012, CSW Kronika, Bytom)

Radek told me a lot of details of the history and everyday around the defunct factory sites and the neighbourhoods of Bytom. One area specifically seemed significant, the area of Bobrek.  Bobrek used to be a rich working class area in the Soviet times8, when there was almost hundred per cent employment rate. Right now, Bobrek is a so-called ‘trouble’ neighbourhood, even though one out of the six defunct mines still functions. Radek described some of the industrial refrains of site:

“So, we have here few refrains, I think. First, I come here often with tourists, then just showing this place. Second refrain is the process of this coke plant, because if you will stay here for few minutes, I mean it depends on the time, you will see the process, and one moment you will see the fire there, after that the small wagon is filled with burning coke, and there is really lots of smoke, with water. Actually it is like small rain, like water as a gas.”

“Was your father working here?” I would ask.

“No, my father was working there, there is a mine. This mine has tunnels everywhere, so here is just the office part. There was a steel work, but now you have only chimney. It's like that people are buying only chimneys, to renting it for senders. [Mobile phone antennas]”

“What more refrains. Lot of refrains actually, moving here, you have lot of sounds, and in the past it was really much more. And those chimneys over there are from old power plant, will go there later. So, it is like one circle, network of connecting one to other. And it was like that, in the shaft you have the circles [Wheel for mining-lift], when they are moving, it means that people are going up. So people who were living here, it was like a refrain everyday. At each day, at the same time it was working. If you saw that it was not working at the right time, it was meaning that maybe there was some kind of accident, and my husband don't come back from mines, or something had happened there.”

“People were coming back and going out at the same time, there were three shifts. It was like a machine. It was like rotating working class, but in the night everything was changed.” (Field trip to Bobrek, June 6, 2012)

Going through these audio recordings, photographs and my affective memories eventually lead to contradictions between theory and practice. I ask myself if these refrains were reflections of my own nervousness of being in some alien terrain or if they were actual affects of the site? I found it difficult to use some theoretical metaphors such as ‘refrain’, ‘mess’ or ‘sponge’9 to describe situations, confusions or the sense of loss, which I encountered particularly in Bobrek. Theoretically I produced a distinction for instance by defining social situations as ‘swarm’10, ‘mess’ or ‘sponge’. However, a metaphor, which created a distance, also made it difficult to have affective access with the material conditions of the everyday life, and further on made the practice more difficult, being too abstract. A particular problem may be eluded by a snappy metaphor.11 

8. The documentary film Pierwsze Lata / De Erste Jaren / The First Years / Les Premières Années (1949) by Joris Ivens depicted the idealist point of view of the quick development, which took place in Bobrek after World War II – aside from the other industrial areas in Soviet countries of Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

9. These concepts will be elaborated in the following chapters. 

10. This concept has been particularly fashionable in the early Deleuzian jargon, aside from the most famous, and often abused term ’rhizome’. See, for instance the introductory chapter in A Thousand Plateaus. (1980/2005, 7)

11. A metaphor is very different from ‘concept’, where the latter defines a particular problem and the prior eludes it.

Interviews of Radosław ‘Radek’ Ćwięląg

1) Three shifts of Work

2) Coke plant refrains

3) Going to Bobrek wasteland

4) Going to Bobrek