September 21, 2012 - Laznia Centre For Contemporary Art - Unwanted Visitors
September 21, 2012

Unwanted Visitors

Oskar Hansen, A Dream of Warsaw, Foksal Gallery Foundation, 2005. Photo: Jan Smaga. Courtesy Foksal Gallery Foundation Warsaw.

Unwanted Visitors
15 September–25 November 2012

LJMU Cooperas Hill Building
Copperas Hill, Liverpool L3
Hours: 10–6pm

The exhibition is a part of City States, a project presented by Liverpool Biennial in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University

Artists: Yael Bartana, Oskar Hansen, Alicja Karska&Aleksandra Went, Robert Kuśmirowski, Jan Simon, Kama Sokolnicka
Curator: Agnieszka Kulazińska
Organizers: Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdańsk, Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Partners: City Culture Institute in Gdańsk, Polish Institute in London.

Hospitality is usually associated with something positive, disinterested human kindness shown to another. In Christianity it is understood as a practical way of serving God. Sometimes, however, we are forced to be hospitable. This happens when the guests are uninvited.

The exhibition Unwanted Visitors is based on stories told by three sites in Poland: the Old Town of Gdańsk, the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, and the 10th Anniversary Stadium in Warsaw. Their story begins in the same period, the 1950s, and is derived from the ideology of the Stalinist era. Unwanted Visitors aims at investigating their meaning: what do they state?

Gdańsk, a city with a 1000-year history, was rebuilt “from scratch” in the 20th century. World War Two left 90 percent of the downtown area destroyed. In the 1950s, the decision was made to rebuild the city. “We are building Gdańsk more beautiful than ever” was the motto of those undertaking the task. The project involved not only reconstruction of the architectural fabric of the city, but also of its memory. A new ideological construction appeared, one that was socialist in form and national in content.

The 10thAnniversary Stadium was completed in one year, and literally rose from the ruins of Warsaw, with the debris of the destroyed city being in its construction. The stadium was a monument to the 10th anniversary of communist rule in Poland. It was a place for official celebrations but also the site of anti-government protests.

The Palace of Culture and Science, a copy of the Lomonosov Moscow State University, designed by Lev Rudniev, was Josef Stalin’s gift to the “brother nation” of Poland.

“It will last like the love for a child. It will last like Polish–Soviet friendship”, wrote the Polish poet Jan Brzechwa, describing the palace in 1952. Polish–Soviet friendship has long since ended, however, there are buildings which still remind us about it. Gdańsk’s Old Town and two public buildings that were designed to be calling cards of the new, communist order became visitors which, although unwanted, were firmly integrated into the urban landscape. These buildings tell stories about recent history, when ideology was an uninvited guest imposed on cities. The project Unwanted Visitors aims at revealing meanings hidden in the buildings and using them to raise questions about how politics shape the urban mentality.

The artists’ works presented within the exhibition create a fiction, the possibility of an alternative urban narrative. The work of each artist reflects perspectives of different generations, analyse the state of being at the same time host and guest in a country. They sometimes are in search of ghosts, and, following the thinking of Jean Baudrillard, history and politics are their natural environment.

Center for Contemporary Art Laznia presents Unwanted Visitors
Laznia Centre For Contemporary Art
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