Created in 2009, NARRACJE is a festival of artistic visual installations that illuminate the Gdansk public space after dusk. NARRACJE explore urban contexts and plots and build new tales of Gdansk.
Until 2011 the Festival programme was created by a German curator, Bettina Pelz. In 2012, the curator was Steven Matijcio – a Canadian based in the United States. The author of last year’s edition was Rob Garrett, an independent curator from New Zealand. Curators of this year’s edition of NARRACJE are Anna Witkowska and Adam Witkowski.
NARRACJE 6: CURATORIAL CONCEPT mędrzec i duch | the sage and the ghost
This year’s NARRACJE are held in Wrzeszcz, a district radically different from the former festival locations (Długie Ogrody, Dolne Miasto). Here, modern facades stand in stark contrast to the architecture of the 1960s and 1970s as well as the beautiful but much degraded pre-war urban tissue – Wrzeszcz suffered minor damages during World War II. The sheer sound of some of the names of places around is enough to drive imagination into a mythical and enigmatic world (Święta Studzienka – Holy Well, Królewska Dolina – Royal Valley).
Wrzeszcz owes its name to forests with plenty of heather – “wrzos” in Polish. The characteristic local microclimate and richness of flora left the travellers roaming the area in awe. One of them was King John III Sobieski. In 1677, upon his wish, the place was to bear forever the name of Royal
Valley. The nearby hills hid springs of natural health-giving water (Holy Well), whose healing properties were spread among people in stories. Therefore, it hardly comes as surprising that with time Wrzeszcz became a charming resort adorned with manor houses of Gdańsk’s super-rich surrounded by beautiful gardens and parks. In 1904, the Königliche Technische Hochschule zu Danzig was founded here, which exists until the present day as the Gdańsk University of Technology. Its seat was also the centre of the main Masonic Lodge in Gdańsk, and the building has preserved until nowadays an abundant decoration of Freemasonry symbols. Important for Wrzeszcz, like for the entire city of Gdańsk, should be the memory of the history of its German dwellers, who formed a majority until World War II. Apart from the history of the district – at times corny, sentimental, or even romantic – there is also its contemporary life. Seat of banks and shopping malls, Wrzeszcz is treated by many in Gdańsk merely as a transit area. It is somewhat of a prism of the city.
Currently, it is a place to live for many young people (they came here throughout the last decade), including artists. We were also the ones to move here (2003).
The title of this year’s NARRACJE the sage and the ghost is a metaphor of two seemingly contradictory worlds: the lenses and learning of the sage and the romantic aura and legend of the forgotten places in the district.
Thus, it is not by chance that this year’s edition has been set to extend in the area of Wrzeszcz Górny between the temple of reason – the Gdańsk University of Technology and a place of religious reflection – the New Synagogue.
Do artists really divide into “enlighteners” and “romantics”? Or do they merge characteristics of the two? What reactions will the aura and history of Wrzeszcz Górny elicit from them? What we are looking for is a new vision of the place – independent, revealing a different meaning, formulated in
short video narrations, visual essays, installations, sound histories.
May the tales and legends invented anew allow us to discover together the identity of today’s Wrzeszcz.
Ania Witkowska, Adam Witkowski