HISTORICAL SUBSTRATUM

- the history of TNS foundation, New Gdansk's School and gallery Spiż 7.

publicated in 2000 in TNS album.

 

We publish below excerpts from the text "Historical Substratum" as we are convinced that getting acquainted with the text in question will enable the reader to settle the activity of the TNS foundation in a wider historical context. The text was printed in full by the ed. "Żywa Galeria" /Łódź nr 1/97/.

 

HISTORICAL SUBSTRATUM OR THE HISTORY OF THE RISE AND FALL OF THE OPEN ATELIER IN THE FORMER CITY BATHS IN GDAŃSK... AND WHAT CAME OUT OF THIS
/a guide for the not initiated/

"Electric herdsman is seemingly an innocent and safe device that serves to set bounds to freedom. It orders the world and allows a free grazing within one adequate pasture. Fight against the electric herdsman should not consist in trying to destruct it, as it is indestructible, and the ease with which one can use it, makes thousands of candidates wait for an opportunity to flaunt their competence in turning it on again. There are only two effective methods of resistance: to crawl under it or to jump over it".
/This fragment comes from an interview given to "Gazeta Morska" on 31.10.1992 in the gallery C14~~~/ Witosław Czerwonka.

The tendency among artists to organise themselves into groups and communities has a long tradition in the history of art. The adoption by particular individuals of a strategy favourable to group activity has its justification in the possible profits. It is not by accident that one of the chief aims of artistic communities is obtaining buildings and other places of accommodation for galleries and studios. Artists acting in this way usually belong to the so-called underground: they are apart from the official aspect of art. In the course of last years in Gdańsk we could see various more or less "independent" artistic groups make efforts to obtain premises for galleries and studios. So was in the period of the fight for the Community Assembly Hall on Święta Barbara Street, where the gallery C14~~~ settled in 1991. It was also so when the artists from the galleries C14~~~, Tot Art and Island were trying to obtain the building of the prior City Baths on Jaskółcza Street, with the intention to organise Open Atelier there. This last enterprise did not succeed, which led to a repeated division of the artistic environment into several groups. /.../ The events in question were a process that lasted for several years. We can investigate this process with regard to a particular situation of the artistic environment of the 1980's and 1990's. It seems desirable to outline it in this place. Here we face an interesting situation of an exchange of artistic ideas and attitudes. Still two artistic formations, important in the above context, were active and their creation was referring to the political situation of the times. These were Tot Art and Island Gallery. Both these groups, informal at that time, carried out their artistic programs already in the middle of the 1980's, each in its own way. Tot Art went into dadaistic - "not caring a damn" and provoking actions, composed manifestos and was clashing with the socialist reality and a vagueness of social and cultural life in a perfidious, humorous and sometimes dramatic way /.../. As Zbigniew Sajnóg put it: "Tot Art used a clue which is perfidious and simple at once: it was a result, a product and in a way a worshipper at the same time of the situation of decline, as it made this situation the basic principle of its activity".1 The second formation, i.e. the Island Gallery, was concentrating itself on another artistic domain. Its activity was contemporary to the new artistic trend coming from the West, a trend called Neue Wilde /the New Wild/ in reference to the expressionists from the beginning of the century. In 1985 Ryszard Ziarkiewicz organised a great all-Polish exhibition "The Expression of the 1980's" in Sopot. It is held to be one of the most important exhibitions of the Polish artistic scene of that time. Ziarkiewicz co-operated with the artists: Grzegorz Klaman, Kazimierz Kowalczyk, Jacek Staniszewski, Eugeniusz Szczudło, and others. The gallery was functioning mainly on the Isle of Granaries in the area rent by ASP /Academy of Art in Gdańsk/. It was concentrating on actions related to fine arts, mainly on making sculptures and spatial installations.2 /.../ Later in 1990, this gallery, conducted at that time by G. Klaman and for some moments by Robert Rumas, moved to the premises in the hostel of ASP. In this way, it became a part of the institution of an artistic high school, due to the financial system, means of subsistence and the place of abode. By the time, in the same school, almost hermetically closed with regard to modern ideas in art, young graduates could count only on themselves in their explorations. A few teachers who promoted modern stylistics did not have any influence on the general profile of the school. To those belonged Witosław Czerwonka who taught intermedial plain-air and promoted video art, and who was later a co-organiser of the intermedial studio in ASP, together with W. Zamiara. In such conditions, it was impossible to get to the truth and phenomena of the modern artistic expression but only on the base of one's own experiences. This non-compromising strive for own solutions was in harmony with the changing political situation. It was indeed the time of deep changes in Poland, changes not known to the generations before. One looked through the window for the radioactive cloud from Chernobyl but one also felt the pressure of the historic, political changes-to-come. Those young artists who did not agree with the profile of the school, used to organise their studios and exhibitions on their own. Those exhibitions took place always outside the school. In contradiction to the previous generation /.../ young graduates did not try to find their way into the structures of the school, finding it not in-teresting and little creative. They sought the background for their actions rather in their own relationship with the world. In those times, among the graduates of the school were: Jarosław Fliciński, Maciej Sieńkowski, Jarosław Bartołowicz, Sławomir Góra, Marek Rogulski, and later Robert Kaja, Andrzej Awsiej, Robert Rumas. In 1988 the independent studios on Osiek Street were open. They were the converging point for young artists undertaking the first independent trials of intermedial activity. In 1988 the Pampers Maxi group started activity /R. Kaja, S. Góra, S. Laskowski, M. Rogulski/. One year after, Marek Rogulski together with Piotr Wyrzykowski initiated the activity of a group of action and performance art, called Ground Mindel Wurm.3 The actions of this last formation were referring to prehistoric Epoques and archaic rites. It performed a range of "ritual" actions perversely settled in the context of a civic agglomeration, on the Isle of Granaries. The group was acting musically as well. Andrzej Awsiej and Joanna Kabala brought to life the editor "Cuban Boobs". The society of artists "Sfinks" has set up. Some of the mentioned above artists co-operated at that time with both Tot Art group and the Island Gallery, and also with other artistic groups. However, it was not enough for them. In January 1991 Andrzej Awsiej, Joanna Kabala and Marek Rogulski established a gallery adjoining the club KIS in Dolne Miasto. This gallery can be held from the perspective of time as the most underground, the most extreme in its manifestations place in Gdańsk of the turn of the decades. It was a happy coincidence that this place was dominated by artistic activity. The founders of the gallery named it the Gallery and Studio C14~~~ in reference to the method of establishing the age by means of radioactive carbon. The expression "the Gallery and Studio" deserves a special attention as it influenced the character of Open Atelier opened two years later.

THE GALLERY C14~~~ AND THE THOUSAND BRIGHTEST SUNS FOUNDATION

The Gallery and Studio C14~~~ started its dynamic activity with a whole range of artistic propositions. Those events were organised independently and financed by the artists themselves. The gallery participated in the international festival of performance art "Real Time - Story Telling", in 2nd Yach Film Festival and in the Profusion Film Festival organised by Tot Art. It also financed the activity of +- 10Hz Formation, The Ground Mindel Wurm, the editor "Cuban Boobs" and others. The events took place in the former Community Assembly Hall on Święta Barbara Street in Dolne Miasto in Gdańsk. As Jolanta Ciesielska put it in her text "What is a New School of Gdańsk?": "a progressive form of the consciousness of energy" was concentrated for a moment of the creation of the catalogue of the exhibition "Konception PL" in the gallery C14~~~. She also finds very important for the project of the gallery this moment in which "the religiousness as an emotional space evades a canonised form of cult."4 This is symptomatic that a conglomerate of alternative qualities from various aspects of life and art has become in the popular opinion /also in the opinion of galleries and artistic centres outside Gdańsk/ specific for the whole environment of Gda?sk, as it was happening in the case of C14~~~. It has become a feature constantly ascribed to actually whole initiative of underground galleries at that time.5 It was just during the activity of the gallery C14~~~, in the year 1992, that Marek Rogulski opened the Thousand Brightest Suns Foundation.TNS Its activity would lead in the future to the establishment of the gallery Spichrz 7, and then also Spiż 7. More or less after one and a half years of the gallery C14~~~'s activity the artists started looking for a new place as it was more and more difficult to maintain and manage the place. The officials were aiming at closing the gallery. The fights took place not only on paper but even in the streets. A new idea arose - the project of Open Atelier.

THE PROJECT OPEN ATELIER

The artists from the gallery C14~~~, Tot Art foundation and the Island Gallery meet in order to discuss their common front against the City officials. They wanted to establish a place for the artistic environment of Gda?sk serving the purposes of an exhibition place and a studio. For these purposes, the artists found out the building of the former City Baths in Dolne Miasto. They wrote in their manifesto: "The way in which we carry out our project Open Atelier is forming open studios of multi-medial character with a wide consideration of the forms and methods of shaping artistic expression. The studio is to be accompanied by a gallery functioning also as a concert hall, a room for projections and lectures, editorial office, the office of the foundations Tot Art and TNS, a library of the new culture, a philosophical studio, a storing place for artistic objects and also a place for planned musical studies, photographic, computer, and video studios."6 The place was obtained after a long fight. The Tot Art foundation published the first and the last at the same time edition of a quarterly devoted to art and entitled "Social Metaphysics". Its chief redactor was Zbigniew Sajnóg. The artistic environment was triumphing and the next great exhibition, called the Days of Independent in Gdańsk could have its place in the City Baths - Open Atelier. The gallery opened in place of the gallery C14~~~ - "Roman, the Painter of Women Project" - also took part in the exhibition /with its new team of leaders/ as well the Island Gallery, Tot Art and Sfinks from Sopot.

THE NEW SCHOOL OF GDAŃSK

More or less in the same time the whole artistic underground received the name of the New School of Gdańsk /compare Jolanta Ciesielska "From the reverse archaeology to the postmodernism. What is the New School of Gdańsk."/
The founders of the Open Atelier did not enjoy, however, their success for long. The close co-operation of artistic groups of so different strategies of action could not be stable. The artists parted company. The leaders of the Island Gallery were tending towards the introduction of officials of artistic institutions to the body managing the gallery in the City Baths. It was to result in the submission of the place to the cultural institutions and led to the deprivation of most of the artists of the possibility of deciding on their own about the fate of the studio they fought for. Some of the creators of the project Open Atelier rebelled. They did not agree to the lost of independence with respect to the outer structures. Resisting the pressure, and according to the aims of their statute, they were trying to carry out their own artistic projects, free from the institutional restrictions. Andrzej Awsiej and Joanna Kabala created an independent program action, called "Cottage-workers' virtual reality", and the rest of the members of Tot Art withdrew from the project.That was the time when the Gallery of Vibrations "Auto Da Fe" was formed. Thanks to the help of the TNS foundation, it tried to defend the status of the City Baths as a place serving the artistic underground environment and it organised a program of exhibitions competitive towards the Island Gallery.7 Fighting for the idea of the free realisation of artistic visions, the gallery Auto Da Fe was, nevertheless, ignored by the official factors and some representatives of the local media who favoured the Island Gallery, settled within the structure of ASP. In this situation, in the end of 1994, the rebelling artists had to leave the City Baths, as they did not want to be dependent on cultural institutions /the permission for holding the place expired/. /.../ In the context of these events8, one year later, when the gallery Spichrz 7 would already function, Paweł Leszkowicz would write in his text "Artists split up" composed on the occasion of the exhibition "Focus": "The independent from the Spichrz 7 /.../ through the manifestation of their independence show the mechanism of exclusion functioning in the artistic environment. /.../ The paradox of the conflict lies in the fact that all the artists involved in it, rely on a similar, originally the same, attitude of the independent environment and they use similar methods of transcending the traditional limitations of painting and sculpture."9 /.../ In the beginnings of 1995 the building of the City Baths was taken over by the foundation "The Island of Progress" created by the Island Gallery. Before that, although aware of being officially deprived of the studio they had been striving to obtain, they kept officiating the Management of the Open Ateliers and maintained the cash flow of Łaźnia as they kept in mind Solomon's rule: do not kill your own child /i.e. Łaźnia/. This attitude enabled Łaźnia to operate without a cease as a place, which served the needs of the art in Gdańsk. The very existence of Wyspa Progress foundation, attached to Academy of Art, as well as The Centre of Contemporary Art, the official gallery, owes much to the situation described here. It is however hard to deny that the existence of these two took place at the sacrifice of the Open Atelier project, though it is for the very project that the building had been admitted in 1992. The Centre should have been created in another place and parallel to the Open Atelier project. Instead it made the project to be ceased. The artists who participated in the project became temporarily homeless and their efforts to create a stable base for the independent artistic activity was wasted. /.../ In that situation the time began for the independent artists to seek new solutions and new places. The situation was complicated additionally by the fact that in the meantime the City devoted the previous seat of the gallery C14~~~ for different purposes. So, in 1995, the TNS foundation motivated by its experiences from the period of its activity within the gallery C14~~~ and then in the Baths, launched the work on a new, also virtual gallery. It obtained for this purpose, a part of an old granary nr 7 in 10/13, Chmielna Street and it established the gallery Spichrz 7 there.

GALLERY SPICHRZ 7 GALLERY SPIŻ 7

The Spichrz 7 gallery in Gdańsk and the Centre of the Research on the Internal Space in 1995

The first action "Secret Order" took place in May 1995, and the first great exhibition "Phantom Hermeticum" in June 1995. The space for the exposition was extended by the building of a gas plant of the area of 1000 m2. The gas plant was on the border of the town. From then on, the gallery Spichrz 7 has been a non-commercial gallery in the area of Gdańsk. It functions also as a studio and it maintains itself and carries out actions for its own money. Neither is it influenced nor manipulated by cultural institutions such as the Academy of Art in Gdańsk, ZPAP or PGS and "officials of art". The gallery gathered at that time, among others, those artists who were forced to leave the City Baths. The gallery co-operated with A. Awsiej, A. Baumgart, J. Kabala, N. Walczak, P. Wyrzykowski, J. Bartołowicz, A. Kuczyńska, T. Bielak and various musical formations e.g. W. Mazolewski Bassisters Orchestra, Mazzol & Arhythmic Memory etc. Many of them were coming up with and carrying out their own projects. /.../ In June 1996 the foundation TNS, due to the help of Yach Paszkiewicz and the editor IDG Poland, undertook the first steps to the realisation of the project of moving Spichrz 7 to the Internet and the Cyberspace /the address: www.comnet.com.pl./spichrz7/. The City, being not interested in the fate of the artists, deprived them of their seat in 10/11, Chmielna Street. However, the artists pushed to the margin of the cultural life in Gdańsk did not give up. In the beginning of 1997, for the millennium of Gdańsk, Marek Rogulski would obtain for the purpose of a gallery a building neighbouring to the Spichrz intended to be pulled down. The gallery was moved to Internet. Its physical continuation - the gallery Spiż 7 - found place in 113, Chmielna Street /due to the help of the Jung Baltic Brotherhood/. This change of the place would begin a new stage of the activity of the TNS foundation, which would extend the scope of its projects.10 --------look at Beyond Postmodernism project
Prepared: T. Łukowski, UG Gdańsk 1996/1997
Consultations: M. Rogulski, Fundacja TNS