Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Strange nights in Warsaw

On April 25th I took part in Hożarty - a festival of the Hoża Street in Warsaw. It was a one day event with exhibitions, actions and music along the whole street. Everything went smooth although I have had some adventures.

the ARRIVAL

I have packed all my things and my works - the "German Lesson" project (6 paintings, 2 pink banners - 8 meter long each - with "Achtung!" sign on them, metal wire, 2 turnbuckles), my computer, 20 Galerie ZERO catalogues and off I went with the train to Warsaw. I must admit that my luggage was incredibly heavy. Not to mention I also took my computer. I was very happy that my best friend, Frau, came to pick me up on the central station. It was not far to Hoża Street, but I was glad she helped me to carry all that stuff. Those of you who know Warsaw, especially the central station surroundings, you know that walking there can be problematic - there are no real street crossings (it is the centre of a capital of a big european country, whatever) - one has to walk down and up the stairs and go through underground tunnels and passageways. So with all these kilograms of my luggage at some point I have decided to take an elevator. Well, it was just there, you walk in, push the button and go down to the lower level. Seems easy - but it wasn't. My friend Frau, she said she won't go with this old dirty lift. I though - what the heck, I'm brave and I am tired of that suitcase - I should go with the lift. Normally I am very scared of lifts, really, but this time I thought it was just 1 "floor" - from the upper street level to the underground passageway, so what can happen? But the lift got stacked. I thought it was not real. In my worst fears and nightmares I always see myself stacked in an elevator, which is then broken and falls down and I die. So I was not at all happy about being stacked between 2 stupid floors on the street.

I was stacked...

I don’t really have any claustrophobia but for one moment I was really scared when the lift made a strange noise… I thought I will fall. So I lay down on that dirty floor, imagining that the lift falls down and I break my legs, I die, all burns down… I pushed the “red button” – it was supposed to be an “alarm” button, but as I heard the beep there was actually nobody hearing it.

Trying to push the red button (ok, it was yellow, but meant emergency anyway)

There was nobody on the other end. If not Frau, who had a mobile phone, I would have been there stacked till today. She called the elevator security and after half an hour a man came, and opened the lift with a key.

My saviour with the key

Can you believe it? In the centre of Warsaw I got stacked… if I didn’t have a phone…

the HANGING

When I was released from my metal prison we went on (only using stairs, no more lifts!) to Hoża Street. There I met Kasia, the organiser of the festival. We decided that I will hang the paintings in Kawangarda (a bar in the nearby street) on the next day – tonight however I was supposed to hang my pink banner on the street. It was getting late, so I thought ok, I need a man to help me. In the end, about 9 pm (it was already dark), Kasia’s boyfriend and me, we went to hang the banner. We had some tools, like metal cutter and a screwdriver but as the banner was supposed to hang high enough so nobody can destroy it, we needed a ladder. As we passed by that cool bar, Cykloza, there we were supposed to meet somebody with a ladder, but that person didn’t come. We were waiting there a bit and suddenly a young (like 20 years old) local boy came, he was totally drunk and he started to chat with guys from the bar that they should not have bar tables on the street, that some people (older people) who live there, they don’t like that. Of course he didn’t mind, he just came to warn the bar owners. Let’s not exaggerate – there was just 1 table, a small one, but in Poland such initiatives are usually not understood. It is a real shame. That is why I am sometimes glad I live in Berlin. Here we can put a table on the street, have a beer, have a dinner, and locals wish us bon appetite! Different culture. Ok, enough of small talk. We had to get moving. We went to the corner of Hoża and Marszałkowska to hang my banner. All legal. But we had a problem – we were supposed to hang the banner between 2 big columns, and without ladder it was impossible. And again, the young drunk boy – Paweł - appeared. He was carrying a plastic bag with sandwiches and he said he just broke up with a girl and he just walks around (drunk) and wants to be helpful. He was a bit annoying but in the end I asked him if he had a ladder. Indeed – together with Kasia’s boyfriend Janek, they went to his flat and they brought a ladder! Cool. And in the end it was that drunken boy who went on the ladder and hanged up my banner really high. I was so scared when I saw him dangling and holding on to that column… I thought he would fall… but he didn’t. In the meantime the guys with a ladder appeared, but we have already (almost) hanged everything with drunken Paweł.

Drunken Paweł with a stick...

Afterwards he wanted to drink vodka with us but we were not really interested. We thanked him for his amazing help. Without him we would have never ever hang that banner. He was glad he could help and he said that the last time he had helped a hedgehog... weird.

the EVENING

As we got back to Kasia’s and Janek’s home I have decided to stay there for the night. It was practical. The only thing was that I had to share the room with 2 artists from Berlin 2 guys! I didn’t really have a problem with that, although I didn’t know them. Although I imagined it they were Germans then definitely I would have to sleep on the floor, but as these guys appeared not to be Germans (Vietnamese and Israeli) they have given me the bed and they slept on the floor. Before I went to sleep I helped Kasia, who is pregnant, with her collection of clothes for children. It is funny, but the last time she was in Berlin she was inspired by self-made children clothes and not she decided to make her own collection with cool silkscreen prints. So I helped her sew the brand tags on the clothes. I like to sew so it was actually a pleasure.

the EVENT

On Saturday morning I have hanged my paintings, I must admit in 20 minutes. Comparing to the banner it was a piece of cake. And so I was ready. The Hożarty festival have started in the courtyard of the Department of Physics where the students were presenting some experiments, there was free coffee (very good!) and some grilled sausages and meet.

I will update this post with photos as soon as I get my camera back – I have left it in Warsaw. All these fotos are made with my mobile, so they are not too good.

It was really cool to see a young student doing an experiment with liquid nitrogen… he was putting different objects into a bin with liquid nitrogen and it made all these objects really frozen… and then he was breaking them. Cool!!! Along the whole street there were many other events – music and some street art in Cykloza, some performances on the street, artworks in windows of some shops, and in one bookstore one could present and sell self-made products for children. I have met some friends and many people I didn’t know but we hanged around together. It was a good atmosphere, I must admit. About 4 pm we were gathering on a courtyard in front of LETO Gallery where an artist from Berlin (the one with whom I shared the room) was supposed to cook. Artistic food! Everybody was hungry and everybody wanted food for free.

Everybody waiting for the free artistic food

Due to small problems with gas, we had to wait… impatiently. As I am realistic (at least in some cases, when it comes to food) I knew it was better to eat something elsewhere before everybody gets a piece. So I went to a shop for a herring salad, I also bought a little bottle of white wine (I don’t drink beer anymore) and a small vodka (Żołądkowa! The best!).

I have hanged spontainously my second pink banner

As I got back some people were already eating their microscopic portions of artistic food, I was glad I had something before. You never know if you get a chance to eat free food when there are so many people waiting for it.

Artistic food

the OPENING

As we were sitting on this yard, the opening of an exhibition started in Gallery LETO. More wine, more art.

To make it short – I have spent that vernissage inside of one of the installations (work by Konrad Smoleński) which was a little hut made of paper and cardboard.

Konrad's installation in Gallery LETO (that black object on the left). foto: LETO

We (some friends, Konrad the artist and some strangers) were sitting inside that installation, in the middle of the gallery, drinking and smoking (surprisingly it was allowed) and we have missed all the cool “Warsaw” crowd walking around the gallery admiring art on the walls.


Inside: Daniel, moi, Ivo, Ania. Foto: Konrad Smolenski

On the way to Kawangarda for the party I have met a large group of people leaving the famous Raster Gallery, and there was my writer friend from Berlin (he is polish) and I have made him carry my other pink banner stretched on the street as we walked to the bar. Why not? He agreed. In the end I have finished my long day in that bar, but the very end of that evening slipped out from my memory.

My paintings in Kawangarda, my last photo on that evening... I don't know who is that girl.

after the PARTY

I woke up with a hangover. Instinctively I have decided to go out, to leave the city for one day. I went to the station to get a ticket to a town nearby Warsaw where my friends live. I felt still drunk. At the station in a Vietnamese bar I bought chicken soup and coke. As I sat there alone, at the table in front of the station, an older drunken guy came up to me asking for money… but as soon as he saw my tired eyes, he smiled and said: “I could kill a rooster for you” and went away. Weird?

In the end I have spend Sunday in my friend’s house, chilling in the garden, getting better after a hard days (last) night. And on Monday I have collected all my works from different places along Hoża Street and went by train to Poznań, to visit my parents and stayed there for a week. And there I really chilled, I was reading a book, some comics, doing almost nothing, sitting in the sun (so unfortunate that I have burned my legs and they look like I wear red stockings), I was planting vegetables in our small vegetable garden (new experience) and that was basically it. I really relaxed…

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