|ART & APPARATUS|
|Type of project: exhibitions|
Kulturcentrum Ronneby, Ronneby, Sweden;
Art Centre Gallery EL, Elbląg, Poland
6 June–2 September 2012, Kulturcentrum Ronneby;
14–23 March 2012 in Art Centre Gallery El
Additional: conference about art and technology was arranged by Art Centre Gallery EL on the 14th March 2012
Alexey Chebykin (RU), Sylwia Galon (PL), Jakob Ingemansson (SE), Kordian Lewandowski (PL), Magnus Peterson (SE), Mariusz Białecki (PL), Linas Kutavičius (LT), Diana Rönnberg (PL/SE), Tomasz Skórka (PL), Ruzica Zajec (DE), Izabela Żółcińska (PL)
Additional at the exhibition at Art Centre Galery in Elbląg:
Anders Jönsson (SE), Maciej Wojnicki (PL), Jarosław Nowak (PL) and Maciej Olewniczak (PL)
Kulturcentrum Ronneby, Ronneby, Sweden;
Art Centre Gallery El, Elbląg, Poland
|Type of project: workshops|
Machine Art Design/MAD Studio, Karlshamn, Swedish Waterjet Lab, Ronneby, Sweden
14–15 June 2011,
17–21 October 2011,
30 January–3 February 2012
Alexey Chebykin (RU), Sylwia Galon (PL), Jakob Ingemansson (SE), Kordian Lewandowski (PL), Magnus Peterson (SE), Mariusz Białecki (PL), Linas Kutavičius (LT), Diana Rönnberg (PL/SE), Tomasz Skórka (PL), Ruzica Zajec (DE), Izabela Żółcińska (PL)
|Organizers: Kulturcentrum Ronneby, Ronneby, Sweden|
At the first meeting between the artists and the
engineers (…) I told the artists that they could ask for anything
they wanted, and I asked the engineers to respond
with suggestions on how to accomplish these ideas, if they
could be realized at all.1
Experiments in Art and Technology
Recently, when visiting Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, I came upon documentary films from performances of Nine Evenings of Theatre and Engineering in New York in 1966, reconstructed by Barbro Schultz Lundestam. Robert Rauschenberg and Billy Klüver arranged the series of performances, which incorporated new technologies from that time. This was after having previously organized interdisciplinary collaborations between artists, engineers and scientists at Bell Telephone Laboratories. As a result, the legendary organization E.A.T. (Experiments in Art and Technology) was founded by the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman and the engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer.2
In their first newsletter E.A.T. wrote that “E.A.T. will guide
the artist in achieving new art through new technology
and work for the professional recognition of the engineer’s
technical contribution within the engineering community”3
E.A.T. was groundbreaking in several ways and facilitated
collaboration between artists, engineers and industry. One
can’t say that an explosion of cooperation of this kind has
been organized since, but cooperation has taken and continues
to take place.
The first experiments in art and technology in the 1950s and 1960s are maybe the ones we remember the most because of their presence in museums and the optimistic position that technology held then. During the 1950s, there was boundless optimism regarding the limitless prospects that were to be opened up by the wonders of science and technology. Magazines and films contained various proposals for futuristic utopian societies.4 Although many of us spend hours in front of a computer and with our smart phones, our attitude toward technology is more ambivalent today. It is an integral part of our reality, though we sometimes call it “unreal”.
Artists and laboratories
The idea of collaboration between art and technology was the starting point for the project Art & Apparatus. Eleven artists from Poland, Sweden, Germany, Lithuania and Russia were selected to work in experimental research and laboratory environments in Sweden.
Waterjet cutting, 3D modeling, 3D scanning and 3D printing techniques were available in the studios. This time the invitation to collaborate, as well as the funding for it, came from the arts and not from engineering companies. We discussed the ideas with two research and experimental studios. Kulturcentrum Ronneby arranged a series of workshops together with MAD Studio (Machine Art Design) in Karlshamn, and the Swedish Waterjet Lab in Ronneby. Art & Apparatus was organized bearing in mind the earlier history of collaboration between design and industry in Ronneby. Kockums industries played a vital role in the Swedish design history and exported goods all over the world through the enamel factory. For the Art & Apparatus project, Ronneby offered recent technologies to the artists involved. The artists could not ask for anything they wanted, since the technologies were limited to waterjet cutting and 3D modeling technologies, but within these limits, anything could be discussed.
We anticipated an exchange of knowledge, skills and experience in the interdisciplinary field of art and technology. The main idea was to give artists access to new technologies, and to give the studios and researchers access to artistic methods and ways of approaching their technologies. Allowing artists and experts to meet and see what happens created what one of the artists described as a win-win-situation. The process was important, as well as the mutual exploration of working methods and knowledge in different fields. Our focus was also cultural and social, to get to know one another and create new contacts across geographical borders as well as across the art-versus-technology barrier. A cross-media perspective was employed, and the projects were situated in the borderland between the digital and the physical, where both sides influenced the other.
Art and science
Art and science have a long-standing relationship, and until the 19th century the two were closely intertwined. Our habit of thinking that science is only about rational thinking and art is about emotional reactions is not a fruitful approach for either art or science. The pursuit of critical awareness in art and science is the same. Furthermore, not all things can be explained, neither in art, nor in science.
A series of workshops
Art & Apparatus was designed as a series of workshops. The introductory presentations and a workshop took place on the ferry between Gdynia and Karlskrona. The following week-long workshops took place in the laboratories, where the artists chose which studio to work in. 3D models were made and generated on computers and digital sketches were transformed and processed into physical objects using powder and glue, or waterjet cutting of different materials. The models that came out of the workshops were as different as the artists in the project, and ranged between advanced architectural models, sculptures, projects for public space, spatial forms, narrative art and experiments with the possibilities inherent in different materials.
For the final workshops, four artists had a chance to return to develop and dwell more deeply into ideas and technologies. Jakob Ingemansson and Izabela Żółcińska worked at the Swedish Waterjet Lab, and Sylwia Galon and Magnus Peterson at MAD Studio. The studios were faced with the tough task of trying to execute the artists’ ideas and overcome difficult obstacles. Knowledge about the technologies was expanded when the possibilities and limitations of the technologies were tested and joint creativity from both the artists and the laboratory staff was needed to solve problems and develop new ideas.
Izabela Żółcińska wanted to use water in a double sense, combining waterjet technology with the bodies of rivers running into the Baltic Sea: the Ronneby River, the Polish Wisła, the Peene in Germany, Neva in Russia and Niemen in Lithuania. The rivers join like a giant symbolic bloodstream. They are thinly cut in red acrylic glass and very different in shapes. It is visible in the artworks that the Polish river, for instance, is elaborated by nature in many small diverse formations, while the German river was constructed by humans in an attempt to create symmetric order.
The two works of Jakob Ingemansson also included water. He presented a concept for an eroding waterwheel in the award-winning city park of Ronneby, Brunnsparken. The idea was to enhance the effects of water in the landscape and create an eroded space in the ground. His second project was the Sun and Rain Pavilion, a site-specific proposal for the park. The many parts of the model were cut using waterjet technology, and the parts joined together in a complex structure during the last workshop. The Pavilion functions as a large sundial depending on the sun’s position, and creates a waterfall in a 180-degree panorama during rainy days. The same black acrylic and technology used in the model can be used for a full-scale pavilion. I recall the immersive dome, the Pepsi Pavilion, at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan, made by E.A.T., with sound, kinetic and optical effects. It was the result of collaboration between over 75 artists, designers and engineers. A water vapor cloud sculpture, a synthetic weather phenomenon, was one important part of the dome.5 The water vapor cloud seems up to date with our awareness of humans affecting nature and climate change, as does the pavilion of Jakob Ingemansson. Transformations in nature are part of us and we are part of them. We affect nature, nature affects us. Jakob Ingemansson uses unpredictable weather elements as co-creators of his pavilion.
Sylwia Galon continued her exploration of the expansion of time and space, creating sculptures in 3D print. In The Atomic Mushroom she created a nuclear mushroom cloud. A temporary accumulation of particles, gas and smoke combined with intensive light and a blast – creating beautiful and deadly radiation at the same time. It was made up of billions of powder grains joined together in the printing process, as if trying to bind together an unstable explosion into a solid and safe form. Little Boy was the name of the first atomic bomb used in warfare; the bomb was released over Hiroshima in 1945. The name of the bomb implies that it should be safe and familiar – as does the sculptural mushroom of Sylwia Galon.
Magnus Petersson builds his own imaginary dreamlike worlds. The worlds seem like they have been inhabited, but no humans are in sight. He made use of 3D printing to create pieces for his large-scale model installations and for his photographs taken of these constructed environments. His small-scale sculptures became a part of an unknown and a bit dystopic, yet familiar and uninhabited archipelago or cityscape of the twilight zone.
The inspiration for the sculpture, Nerd’s Thinker by Kordian Lewandowski can be found in the famous bronze sculpture, The Thinker by Auguste Rodin. Both Rodin’s naked man and Lewandowski’s character are deeply immersed in thought when sitting up on their pedestals. While Rodin’s sculpture was conceived in the late 1800s with Dante Alighieri’s The Poet as its inspiration, Lewandowski’s figure is rooted in the computer gaming world. His sculpture is inspired by the character Donkey Kong from an arcade game in the early 1980s. The gorilla figure is familiar to gamers worldwide. The sculpture idea might be realized at the Blekinge Institute of Technology in Karlshamn to symbolize both academic studies and the many digital programs, including Digital Games, on campus.
Ruzica Zajec made a minimalistic transparent container, which consisted of shadows and mirrors, with the text, Ich habe alles. Her works recall the ideas of existentialist philosophy and the human condition of feeling empty. An attempt to fill the existential void with consumption leaves nothing behind. The writer Antonio Porchia wrote, “We become aware of the void as we fill it”, but Ruzica Zajec, also in reverse, tells us about an acceptance.“This is it, there is no more, and I have what I need”.
The work of Aleksey Chebykin ranges from monumental layered 3D portraits of icons of the digital revolution, to waterjet cutting on vinyl and in porcelain. He presented his work in the Waterjet Lab for artists in Kaliningrad upon his return. It was like a satellite-workshop intending to inspire more artists to use the possibilities of waterjet cutting. Linas Kutavicius created prototypes for a public art project in the Thing-O-Matic, while Mariusz Białecki made a 3D print of an extract of the Baltic Sea bottom. Diana Rönnberg made artworks connecting handicraft and new technology, inspired by curve-stitching and string art from the 19th century.
Tomasz Skórka tried out a series of works in metal and plastic on a small scale. He also arranged for a car to drive over plastic PET-bottles, to make their surface flat and rough and then symbolically returned them to nature by creating a heap of maple leaves. Skórka and Bialecki both work at the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk in the Sculpture Department, and share their knowledge of techniques with their students.
Models and sketches were shown at Kulturcentrum Ronneby in an exhibition that presented the working processes. A selection of the artists showed more artworks connected to digital media, technology and machines, in a curated exhibition by Oscar Guermouche.
The combination of art and technology is rarely shown in museums and art halls. Techniques like painting and sculpture are more common and are an obvious choice in group exhibitions, while the union of art and technology is not. Video and photography had that role a few decades ago. Video could be shown in the basement of a museum, e.g. on a TV-monitor as an exotic object. The main thing was not the artwork, but the technology itself. The ensemble of art and technology has its own institutes, its own biennales or festivals. Only a few art/tech works are in museum collections.
Some of the works made in the Art & Apparatus workshops have travelled to new exhibitions in Europe and to other contexts.
Art and industry cooperation in Elbląg
The works from Art & Apparatus were also shown in an exhibition in Galeria EL in Elbląg alongside an Art and Technology seminar. Elbląg has a tradition of cooperation between art and industry. The almost fifty sculptures in the city of Elbląg are a visible reminder of this tradition of cooperation. The sculptures were shown in The Biennale of Spatial Forms, which was the largest recurrent art event in public space in Poland during the 1960s and 1970s.6
The First Biennale of Spatial Forms is widely recognized as one of the most important artistic events in the post-war history of Poland. It had an unprecedented scale, both in terms of realization, as well as in terms of funding provided by the state. It was the first manifestation of a new idea for state patronage of arts, which subsequently focused on joining art with industry. The Biennale was initiated by Gerard Kwiatkowski, a decorator at Zamech Mechanical Works, at a local marine equipment plant, and the manager of Gallery El.7
DIY, humans and technology
One day, the technician Leonida Andonyadis brought the Thing-O-Matic 3D printer to the workshop. It is a DIY-kit for 3D printing. “Soon in everybody’s home, affordable to many”, he told us when presenting the small machine, which uses plastic layers to print out a 3D digital model. In the near future, you will be able to print an extra chair, or your own cutlery when you happen to need it.
Digital technologies are a part of our everyday lives. We understand the world through digital techniques. Our children shop for virtual clothes, we meet people all over the world face to face on Skype or FaceTime; we send text messages by mobile phone to somebody on the other side of the globe who receives our messages at the same moment we send them, we e-mail, take photos and send digital postcards, we interact in virtual worlds, we buy a book on the internet and are able to read it a moment later. At the same time, we sometimes have an ambivalent approach to technology. The Swedish Television series Real humans last year titillated our minds when the robots, or hubots, started to demand human rights and proclaim their feelings. 8
The performance artist Stelarc recently gave a lecture at CCA Laznia in Gdańsk at the Art & Science meetings program. He talked about the human body as obsolete. He enhances his own body with electronics and robotics to acclaim new skills and uses his body as an arena for experiments.
He talked about a shared reality through our bodies, about being connected to the sensory experiences of others in other locations when extending himself into the virtual world. He claims that his body is impersonal. “I am not only me, but you are me, too”. We all share a collective world. Stelarc presented the future of human prosthesis, a sketch of a 3D printed heart.9
The I, the human touch and authenticity are vital parts of the romantic and modernistic idea of an artist. Underlying is the notion of a unique artwork, created by a genius. The artwork should be eternal, not on a DVD or made to go in a 3D shop or on a street corner. It is also related to the mechanisms of the art market, which sells unique works or limited editions. Robots have been used for industrial painting for decades and smart machines for domestic use. The interactive Robotic painting machine by Benjamin Grosser uses Artificial Intelligence to listen to the surroundings and paints what it hears.10 There is a talent show for Artbots.
“Art can be defined as a word for all the duties we are not willing to delegate to robots”, the author and researcher Rasmus Fleischer writes, and admits that it might not be the very best definition of art. “Drummers, graffiti artists, opera singers, authors and sculptors work with art. From them we expect (at least in theory) a unique personal expression. That is why they can’t be replaced by robots. To do the dishes or trade with currency are not art forms. That is why nobody complains if those duties are taken over by robots. Preferably, dishwashers and fiber cables should not have personal expressions but should perform exactly what we expect from them”.11
Artists do not do what we expect from them, and this is a true relief. In Art & Apparatus, we could not imagine the results beforehand.
“Are there dangers to this sort of technology?” Professor Neil Gershenfield at MIT asked this question in his paper on 3D printing, How to make almost anything. He wrote about one threat, which is that digital fabrication could be used to produce weapons. “Even though 3D printers could be controlled, hurting people is already a wellmet market demand. Cheap weapons can be found anywhere in the world. CBC’s experience running fab labs in conflict zones has been that they are used as an alternative to fighting. And, although established elites do not see the technology as a threat, its presence can challenge their authority”. Another concern regarding digital fabrication that Gershenfield writes about is the risk of intellectual property theft; he also writes that it can be solved, like in the music industry.12
In the future there is only one thing that we can take for granted, that 3D technologies can transform our conception of art.
Researchers and technicians Art & Apparatus:
Peter Bengtsson, MAD Studio (Machine Art Design), Karlshamn
Anders Jönsson and Anna Harding, Swedish Waterjet Lab, Ronneby
1. Klüver B. (1966), 9 evenings: theatre and engineering at the Regiment Armory, New York. Eine Dokumentarfilmreihe Oktober 2012-Juli 2013, Nationalgalerie im Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin.
2. Klüver B. (2004), E.A.T. Experiments in art and technology. Teknologi för livet. Om experiments in Art and Technology. Billy Klüver. Trans lator Barbro Schultz-Lundestam. Schultz förlag.
3. E.A.T. News. Volume 1, No. 2, June 1, 1967. Experiments in Art and Technology, inc. 9 East 16th Street, N-Y., N.Y. 10003.
4. Goodhe M. (2003), Morgondagens exporter. Tekniken, ungdomen och framsteget i populärvetenskap och science fiction I Sverige under det långa 1950-talet, Michael Goodhe. Carlssons.
5. Klüver B. (2004), E.A.T. Experiments in art and technology.
6. Spatial Forms in Elblag (2006), Open Gallery/Galeria Otwarta. Centrum Sztuki Galeria EL Elbląg, Ed. Jarosław Denisiuk. Translated to English by Sławomir Demkowicz-Dobrzanska.
7. Artmargins (online). On the Void: Elżbieta Tejchman and The First Biennale of Spatial Forms in Elbląg, Poland (1965) Written by Sylwia Serafinowicz, 27 December 2012.
8. Äkta människor, Sveriges television/Swedish television. Ten programs start January 2012. Matador Film in cooperation with YLE.
9. Stelarc’s lecture Meat, Metal & Code: Zombies, Cyborgs & Chimeras, 18th May 2013 at Laznia CCA, Gdańsk. Art & Science Lectures as part of The European Night of Museums 2013.
10. Grosser B. (2011), Interactive Robotic Painting Machine, http://bengrosser.com/projects/interactive-robotic-painting-machine/; http://vimeo.com/23998286
11. Fleischer R., Hackers vägrar välja mellan konst och teknik www.metro.se/metro-teknik/hackers-vagrar-valja-mellan-konst-och-teknik/ Objkbg!65294/Metro2011-02-07. Translation from Swedish to by the author.
12. Gershenfield N. (November-December 2012), How To Make Almost Anything. The Digital Fabrication Revolution, Foreign Affairs, Volume 91. Number 6.
Kordian Lewandowski, Nerd's thinker, 2011
Sylwia Galon, Self-portrait, 2011
Sylwia Galon, The Atomic Mushroom, 2011
An artist´s practice is often dependent on alternative solutions and the ability to use whatever is at hand – commonly not least due to economics. Making use of what is available in daily life is also an approach used to formulate and comment on this everyday life.
Today, digital technology and high-tech equipment is a
natural part of our life, it is easily accessible and relatively
inexpensive. For many artists it has therefore become
natural to work in these areas; using the same techniques
and media that characterize the society that they intend
to comment on.
The exhibition Art & Apparatus gives examples of what this encounter between two different worlds can result in. The works are for example based on video games, robotics, Internet pornography and sonar, but simultaneously, the links to art and art theory are clear. As a part of the exhibition there are objects, sketches and models on display from a workshop series at MAD Studio in Karlshamn and the Swedish Waterjet Lab in Ronneby. During these workshops, which started in autumn 2011, the artists experimented with water-jet technology and 3D modeling.
In total there are twelve artists, originating from Poland, Germany, Lithuania, Russia and Sweden. The exhibition and workshop series is a collaboration between Kulturcentrum Ronneby, Swedish Waterjet and MAD Studio. It is also part of the project Art Line, an international and cultural exchange between the five nations in the southern Baltic Sea.
The earth, apparatus
Ever since the steam engine was invented and the start of the industrialization, humans have been co-authoring the geo-processes of the earth: climate, geology, evolution. These processes can no longer be perceived as something “around” or “outside us”, but rather as something that is part of human existence. Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen uses the term “Anthropocene”, suggesting is a new and ongoing geological era.
As humans, we have a need to stimulate our sense of
perception. Widespread awareness of the energy and
climate challenges faced today have, somehow contradictory,
resulted in a contemporary architecture that
increasingly isolate itself from its surrounding. Using the
working title Antropocenska Rum, Anthropocenic Space. I
investigate the potential of an architecture with, for the
Anthropocene era, adequate spatial experiences, used
especially during the Anthropocenic Era. The intention
is to include the geo-processes of the surroundings the
Architecture is hence considered as a membrane which facilitates a conversation between the body’s physical perception and the geo-processual state of the surroundings. In this exchange the immaterial forces – the conditions of architecture – is meeting its materiality. Acid rain, wind-borne carbon particles, temperature fluctuations, irregular precipitation, storms and radiation can all decompose and fertilize building materials and landscapes.
The Eames, a couple active in California, were some of the first architects to embrace the new technologies that became available after World War II. Their own home, Eames House, was built using prefabricated elements and simple and refined materials. Their joint artistic achievement was influenced by the technology of that era – and vice versa. In the short film Powers of Ten (1977), produced in collaboration with IBM, they investigated the possiblities and potentials of contemporary video technology. In this audiovisual piece, which starts on a picnic blanket in Chicago, the scaling of perception is examined: the relationship between human bodies and the universe, and the relation between molecules and the human body. The film tangent the visual experience of the Google Earth map service with apparent accuracy. Google Earth, however, was launched approximately 40 years later.
Using contemporary technology to develop art, or using art to give an edge to technology, is thus a well-tried strategy, which both creators and industry can benefit from. During the Art & Apparatus event, I had the opportunity to explore the possibilities of water jet technology in collaboration with the Water Jet Lab. As an architect, the technology jet fascinates me, since it can be used in creating architectural models, i.e. scaled representations of spaces, at the same time as it can be used to spaces, furniture and building details rooms in full scale.
As a part of my thesis project Streaming Potential - An Investigation of the Architectonic Potential in the Physical Spaces Hosting Internet from the Aarhus School of Architecture, I developed a pavilion to facilitate an experience of two common weather phenomena – sun and rain. The pavilion is designed to be placed by a pond or a lake, and to face south. When hit by sunshine, the surface of the water mirrors the sun beams through different openings, and the pavilion works like a sundial. During rainy weather, a waterfall is formed over the same openings, which then form a panoramic 180 degree waterfall. In a collaboration with the Water Jet Lab, a 1:10 scale model of the pavilion was created, with the intentions to investigate how the work could be placed in Ronneby Brunnspark. During the work in Ronneby, the idea to another project arose. A sculpture or an architectural machine, influenced by, and created for all the streams in and around Brunnsparken, was developed. The intention is to use the energy from the flowing water and by using a dynamic construction enhance the eroding effect it has on the landscape. Thus, the architecture is facilitating the inherent geo-processual flow, whose effect is reinforced and can be read as a negative form in the landscape.
To investigate the direct spatial experience and embodied perception of the exchange between space and the geoprocessual state of the place is the goal of Anthropocentric Spaces. The models and sketches discussed this text are not end stations, rather representations of spaces in an iterative process which is targeted towards realizations in scale 1:1.
Jakob Ingemansson is a Swedish architect; since 2011 he has worked as a teacher in Aarhus School of Architecture, Denmark.
Our bodies consist of 70% water. Water also covers 70% of our Earth. Is there a border between the human body and what is outside it? What kind of a shape does our body take in the process of the exchanges it is constantly undergoing? Does the shape of a river have something in common with our bodies?
The first recorded spelling of the name of Ronneby is Rotnæby, “the village upon the roaring (river)”. My attention during the workshop was attracted to Brunnspark, located on the bank of the Ronnebyån. This idyllic place is currently acclaimed the most beautiful park in Sweden, and includes a relic of a glorious past. The sanatorium, renowned for its healing spring waters, rich in iron, was at the height of its popularity with visitors in 1870. According to the knowledge of those days, the waters at Brunspark were said to, among other things, increase the level of hemoglobin in patients. The spa was hightech for its day. The sanatorium invested in new water pumping technology and high-efficiency machines. The Waterjet Lab – the workshop’s partner – can be seen as an extension of this water technicalization process. This laboratory provided us with the possibility to check different water cutting materials and equipment, and as a research platform, gave us the possibility to have professional support in our search for nonstandard solutions. Because of the international character of workshops, I decided to focus on several rivers from the Baltic Sea area. I was also personally crossing borders at this time. I choose the Ronneby, Penne, Vistula, Oder, Neva and Neman as samples of “bodies” of rivers to investigate in water jet technology. All of them flow out into the Baltic Sea, and all of them are samples of water from the countries of the participants.
An organism isolated from other map elements betrays the nature of the place in which it is rooted. The nudity of the technically obtained shape allows me to observe it from a distance. Sentient, a body of water adapts to the conditions of life. It also creates, stimulates and destroys. It enters into a relationship with the water economy in its area, the relief of the land, the climate, the invention or indolence of humans. Just as our bodies’ social power imprints its tracks in this organism. Its shape is also a resonance of our personal attitudes towards ourselves.
Considering technology as the first impulse for the project was challenging for me. I was put out of my comfort zone. Usually the choice of a medium was the last decision in my art realizations. Collected experiences encouraged me to explore and recreate the natural “shape of water” with the same medium, but controlled by human beings. The water jet method is based on the same technique as that found in nature in the erosion process. Lab professionals searched for a way to apply this technology at the fringes of its practical usefulness. We achieved very thin (0.4 mm) samples, which visually resembled the capillary vessels that circulate blood. My attention was caught by precision cutting. Another inspiration was my introducing a miniature cutting with kerf widths down to 0.05 mm. This micro technology creates objects that can become part of the human body, and is used in medical equipment – particularly implants. This information about the development trends in water jet cutting consolidates my intuition of flexible borders between technology and nature.
The water jet is widely used in industry, and there are many examples of applying this technology in everyday life. The workshop gave me a platform to sample this technique as an art tool, but also as the subject of my art research. It is difficult to achieve such cooperation making common orders as a client.
As acrylic glass objects, The Bodies of Rivers arouse individual associations. For some audiences, they connote the history of Ronneby. In 1564, the city was the location of a bloody battle between Swedish and Danish armies, and the water turned red from the blood of the victims. A different background is that given in an incident published July 23, 2012, in the Norwegian Aftenposten entitled: Hva er det som farger sjøen rød? This alarming situation was caused by iron oxide – color additives rinsed out by rain from a swamp. The non-toxic substance was left there by an Askøy dweller, and dyed the bay red. The water has recorded many stories.
Izabela Żółcińska graduated from the Academy of the Fine Arts in Poznań, Poland. Her fields of activity are painting, installation and culture animation.
Founded in 1961, Elbląg’s EL Gallery, and its work in close cooperation with Zamech Mechanic Works, is unlike anything else of its kind in Poland. In the 1960s and 1970s, the gallery helped develop and strengthen the technological and later intellectual trends in Polish art.
In 1961, in cooperation with Zamech, EL Gallery’s founder Gerard Kwiatkowski set up the Biennial of Spatial Forms. The first of five such events was focused on connections between art in urban space and its infrastructure. This resurrection of First Avant-garde mottos in Elbląg resulted in almost fifty sculptures by some of the most famous representatives of Polish art at that time, among them, A. Abakanowicz, M. Bogusz, H. Starzewski, and K. Sosnowski. The spatial forms created then still shape the ‘artistic face’ of Elbląg, forming a unique ‘Open Gallery’. Consecutive biennials continued to redefine the model of cooperation between artist and worker, and introduced the slogan of altering the city structure. The criticism of faith in the linear development of art and its abilities in terms of spatial organisation, expressed during the 1st and 2nd Biennial, resulted in subsequent editions emphasizing the role of process in art, rather than in permanent realisations. This was in line with emerging tendencies worldwide and with the Polish art of conceptualism, embodying a redefining of categories and notions, and, finally, of the thinking in Elbląg about the power of industry patronage.
An egalitarian programme, printed on a paper which in its title included the word ‘worker’, expressed the attitude of stripping the artist of their romantic aura of inaccessible genius. In this way, the programme also expressed contrariness towards snobbery and a feeling of uniqueness. This programme was ideally set in an avant-garde narrative and conceptual ideology, moving the sphere of art closer the physical matter of reality, orienting it towards a dialogue with the viewer.
The Art Laboratory, established in 1969, alluded to the strategy of blurring the ideology of modernist art, and was supposed to become (according to Kwiatkowski’s idea) a mediating institution between artists looking for new technologies and solutions, and local companies offering technological support and patronage. It came into being as a result of the support given for three editions of the Biennial of Spatial Forms by Elbląg’s industrial plants. Furthermore, from this extended conception of the gallery, Kwiatkowski was planning to create a place of utility, open to cooperation with, among others, art schools.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Elbląg was marked by the emergence of a new generation of artists, who were more interested in different types of relations between art, technology and science. These young artists were fascinated by cybernetics, computer science, new TV image generation, etc., techniques. An expression of this evolution between art and technology is ‘Gra na wzgorzu’ by Morel from 1972, a representative production of a cybernetic interactive model of feedback based on the Open Form by Oskar Hansen, or the first Eastern European artistic ‘zine ‘The Notebook of the Art Worker’, which was printed on photocopiers. This situation was very similar with the last Biennial of Spatial Forms carried out by Gerard Kwiatkowski in 1973. This event was organised jointly with the Film Form Studio in Łódź.
The pressures on experimental cinema and, above all, experience with video technology, were unprecedented. This is how the first Polish artistic video tape came into being in Elbląg. A Polish TV broadcasting van is coming, and Wojciech Bruszewski, Paweł Kwiek and Paweł Biernacki are recording their first artistic video, ‘Pictures Language’.
W. Borowski’s actions are worth mentioning here, as they refer to the concepts of syncretism, which was an attempt to construct an interactive tool. Borowski set himself a goal of constructing an instrument that instead of keys, had a system of sensors and switches, which would allow him to organise shows during which it would be possible to examine the audience’s reactions. Such an instrument would be able to play a syncretic piece of work, depending on the performer’s composing invention, and the proper programming of the instrument.
P. Pereplys’ project was headed in a similar direction. He was continuing research projects that he had worked on in cooperation with H. Morel. Pereplys proposed for Elbląg a two-storey structure – a floor made out of 81 boards joined by a cushioning system, and a ceiling equipped with sound and light devices. The pressure on the tape was transferred to a suitable element in the ceiling by sensors, and this would react with the appropriate sound and illumination.
After Gerard Kwiatkowski – the founder of El Gallery – left for Germany in 1974, Elbląg’s institutional activity collapsed, only to return in the 1980s. It is interesting that the exhibition policy has not been limited only to organising exhibitions, but creatively continuing the guidelines set by ‘the first’ EL Gallery. In this way, again in cooperation with Zamech, the ‘implosive’ sculptures of Dutch artist Ewerdt Hilgemann were created. There were also pioneering International Computer Art Workshops organised with experiments in computer graphics.
The last activities of EL Gallery referred to the problem of making communication more ‘mass medial’. Ada Ronżewska-Kotyńska’s audio mural, created on the facade of an Old Town tenement in 2012, undertakes the problem of undisturbed communication in a perverse way. The field recordings of Old Town residents transferred to a spectrographic analyser served as fabric for the mural. The artist giving Elbląg’s residents the right to free expression has recorded their statements in a non-coded by us image of sound wave. Only by using a QR code scanner through the information board is the viewer allowed to ‘read’ the art work correctly. This audio mural thus becomes a Baudrillardian metaphor for simulated reality.