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On Leaving the Building: Thoughts of the Outside


#1

What if, rather than speaking or dreaming of an absolute beginning, we speak of a leap?
— Søren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments (1846)

A couple of months ago I was invited to the historic Polish port city of Gdańsk by the Wyspa Institute of Art, the city’s leading contemporary art center, to participate in a conference on the work of locally-based artist Grzegorz Klaman—the founder, so it happens, of the art institute that was hosting both his retrospective and the accompanying conference in his honor (Klaman was sitting, imperturbably, on the first row of a makeshift auditorium throughout the proceedings). Apart from a mandatory visit to the house where Arthur Schopenhauer was born in 1788, I spent most of my time on the grounds of the Gdańsk Shipyard, formerly known as the Lenin Shipyard, which is now also home to the aforementioned art institute—and this is only one reason why Klaman’s work is so closely bound up with both the history of the place and the life and times of the shipyard’s most famous former employee, Lech Walesa.

One of Klaman’s many “pieces” that traverse, or have inserted themselves (either physically or merely metaphorically) into this picturesque post-industrial wasteland is a project called Subjective Bus Line (2002/2011). It consists of a guided bus tour—which art buffs and “regular” tourists alike can sign up for at Wyspa or in one of the city’s tourist information centers—around the docklands, courtesy of a small platoon of former and/or retired shipyard workers. As one of the announcements publicizing the artist’s project puts it:

The first version of the project took place in 2002 within the framework of the International City Transformers Project and in a month it attracted more interested people than a small bus could hold, which clearly convinced us how great the need was to open the former shipyard to visitors. … Lasting about 90 minutes, the tour of the shipyard begins at a special bus stop near Gate no. 1. The itinerary will include several selected important places connected with the history of Solidarity and the shipyard. The places and the events are selected jointly by the visitors and the “guide” escorting them on the day of the trip. The guides include selected former shipyard workers.

Read the full article here.