LAZNIA 2 2014 - Conference “Art’s Impact on the Image of the City”
Conference “Art’s Impact on the Image of the City”  
Laznia 2 - Centre for Art Education, ul. Strajku Dokerów 5, 80-544 Gdańsk
Public space and the place occupied in it by art is one of the key focal points of international project “Close Stranger: promoting mutual understanding between the population of Gdansk, Kaliningrad and Klaipeda through facilitation of exchange in the field of contemporary arts and culture”. Polish, Lithuanian and Russian partners of the project share experiences in that area and organize an exchange of artists who are given opportunities to work in the cooperating cities. We have also planned a theoretical conference during which we would like to first and foremost critically review the works which are being created and secondly focus on how art can contribute to the shaping of the image of a contemporary city.
Both artists, curators as well as organizers of artistic life who work in exhibition centers have emphasized the role of art in the shaping of social relations over the past dozen years. Creator the notion of relational art Nicolas Bourriaud writes that as recipients of literature, music, film or theater arts we act as individuals. Only visual art gives us an opportunity to meet, be together and share our esthetic perceptions. This postulate is met to the fullest in situations when the opportunity to meet art takes place in a city space, sometimes even in a manner which is unexpected to potential recipients. Therefore, it is not difficult to notice that over recent years such presentations of art in the city space have enjoyed enormous popularity. One can definitely say that there is a “fashion” for them. People no longer have to be convinced to organize and finance events of this kind. Time has come to consider their evaluation. This shall be our goal during the conference. However, we want to make our stance and key point of interest more precise.
A reflection upon a city is inherently joined with the ethics of the public life. Referring to it, we would like to emphasize in particular the phenomenon of hospitality as an exceptionally important feature in the creation of positive relations among the residents and users of the public space. In this case, hospitality is perceived as our fully sympathetic meeting with both other residents as well as our opening to the Other. Acceptance and tolerance as well as suspension of the so currently present polarization distinguishing “us” from the “Others” is the basic condition for its realization. “Since I welcome someone, to behave like a host worthy of that name, I do not give orders, I allow them to come in, I avoid any pressure, any force”, says Derrida. Only then can we function TOGETHER, a not only ALONGSIDE.
To make things more precise, one should define who the Other is in the case of our three cities: Gdańsk, Kaliningrad and Klaipeda. A Visitor? A Traveler? A Tourist? A Wayfarer? A person who has come to work? After all, it does not necessarily have to be an immigrant as it is the case in Western European cities. Perhaps in Lithuania, it is a member of the Russian or Polish minority? Perhaps in all those cities, it is still a woman, an elderly man, a disabled person since urban planners still tend to design space adjusted to the needs of healthy and fit men? In such a case, can art contribute to making EVERYONE feel good in the city? And in this light, what is the potential that is brought about by the projects realized in the public space as part of the Close Stranger project? Are they dialogue-related, are they exclusive or are they just an ornament of the city life? In other words: do they make things more esthetic or are they carriers of change? To what extent can we, as creators and organizers of such activities, contribute to the meeting of the postulate of Irish artist and curator Paul O’Neill for the “creation of a sense of existence outside” by creating conditions in which “various social groups can mix, coexist and look for a >>(per)formative basis for the emerging community<<”?
Municipal Institution of Culture