The Gdańsk Outdoor Gallery
Jadwiga Charzynska

Stim­u­lating and thema­tising public space by artistic inter­vention is an extremely complex matter. Choosing the right location, coop­er­ation with resi­dents and assessing exterior condi­tions are just some of the prereq­ui­sites. There are many successful examples and just as many failed ones and taking all this into consid­er­ation, it is “very difficult to gauge the impact of artistic projects on the socio-economic (…) chal­lenges encountered.”(1)
In the beginning there is always an idea. In 2005 we launched the project The Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdańsk (GZMG). It stemmed from the desire to completely change the look of Dolne Miasto, an area of the city which, despite being in a good location, was neglected and “forgotten”. When planning the project real­i­sation, which was going to take several years, we referred to the urban devel­opment plan for this area. This took into consid­er­ation not only today’s condi­tions, but also the historical back­ground. This marked the beginning of the artistic involvement of Laznia, the centre for contem­porary art in whose imme­diate vicinity the public space project was planned.
We have been able to find curators from all over Europe to work together on this project. The compe­tition rules stip­u­lated amongst other things: “A work of art that is to be realised within the framework of the Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdańsk must tie in with the idea of the revi­tal­i­sation of the Dolne Miasto area of the city. Through its modern char­acter and its thought-provoking content it should represent an inspiring artistic realisation.”(2) The project concept therefore involved more than merely putting together art works in public space. Just as impor­tantly, it also involved educa­tional work.
Every two years an organ­i­sa­tional committee put together by the Mayor of the City of Gdańsk decides together with the coor­di­nators and the jury where the project real­i­sation is going to take place. They then choose by closed compe­tition the artistic proposals to be realised. The real­i­sation of the hitherto best projects was linked to building projects in the streets of Dolne Miasto. This enhances the area and gives it a new func­tion­ality, turning it into an open and friendly place unique in Gdańsk’s urban land­scape.
Up until now, four compe­ti­tions have been held for permanent works in public space. These have to be permanent art projects, because the compe­tition rules oblige the partic­i­pants to submit projects which have at least a ten-year lifespan. The projects chosen and realised in the past have not only improved the aesthetic quality of their loca­tions; they also make it possible for the resi­dents to get involved in social activ­ities. The first project to be realised was the studio LKW Gallery by Lex Rickers and Daniel Milohnic, situated under a railway bridge which had until then been seen as a kind of barrier between the areas of Śród­mieście and Dolne Miasto. This until recently unwel­coming place has now been trans­formed into a gateway to Dolne Miasto. Since the beginning of spring, the voices of people partic­i­pating in work­shops and other get-togethers have been heard there.
The partic­i­pants of the fourth and last round of our compe­tition, the winners of which include Thorsten Goldberg, were inspired by the bank of the river Motlawa. Goldberg’s unpre­ten­tiousness and the lightness of his works were a decisive factor in his nomi­nation for the competition.(3) His project proposal Pink occur­rence won first prize and the jury suggested its real­i­sation — as a complement to the equally excellent work by Bert Theis, The Blind. Goldberg’s project will lend another dimension to Bert Theis’ work. “With its fleeting char­acter as well as the moment of happy surprise which it will trigger in passers-by, it has the potential to create a meeting point.”(4) said the jury, explaining its decision.
Five works of art now shape the Dolne Miasto area — the winners of the two first compe­tition rounds, i.e. the above-mentioned LKW Gallery and the Invisible Gate project (1st round), and Under Cover, a painting project by Esther Stocker, and the instal­lation Staging anonymous by Dominik Lejmann (2nd round). In 2011, the light instal­lation Amber Drops was the first of three works of art from the 3rd compe­tition round to be realised.(5) Those works were placed in loca­tions which connect the closed urban structure of the area with the rest of the city, thus creating gates which are now aesthet­i­cally defined by the works of art. In the same way the project Pink occur­rence, together with the project The Blind, is intended to become an artis­ti­cally enhanced gate leading to Dolne Miasto. Goldberg’s idea dove­tails nicely with the concept of creating socially alive places.
Piotr Winskowski states that in order to revi­talise an urban area through works of art in public space, it is important to “thor­oughly inves­tigate the given social condi­tions of the location and the cultural potential of what is already there”, and also “to stim­ulate the formu­lation of cultural expec­ta­tions with respect to the changes which should occur in the given location”. This defi­n­ition also perfectly describes the activ­ities of the Laznia Centre for Contem­porary Art(6).
An intensive education programme is carried out parallel to the compe­tition. With some projects a dialogue with resi­dents has already started, hope­fully encour­aging local activ­ities involving young people. The workshop cycle The Wanderer, for instance, was based on this idea. Partic­i­pating in it, children and adoles­cents found out about the history of the area on the one hand, and on the other learned how to tackle negative emotions and problems they might encounter in their daily lives, by drawing pictures, shooting films, sprucing up play­grounds and gaining knowledge of all those digital tech­nologies that are used in all areas of life today. By opening the LKW Gallery in 2008 the Laznia Centre for Contem­porary Art has extended its range of work­shops and educa­tional art events in a way to encourage young people to find them­selves.
It was in this communal spirit that Thorsten Goldberg was invited by GZMG as an artist who, with Pink occur­rence, encourages the viewer to interact. Being prepared to cross the bridge is answered imme­di­ately by the personal appearance of the cloud.

(1) Adam Jeans, Sztuka nie zmienia świata, ale pomaga mu dostrzec zmianę: rewital­izacja miast poprzez kulturę współczesną, in: Kultura dla rewital­izacji. Rewital­izacja dla kultury, published by L. Nyk, J. Szczepański, A. Kulaz­ińska, Gdansk 2010, p. 57.

(2) Cf. the GZMG compe­tition rules.

(3) Thanks to Eulalia Domanowska, who suggested an exhi­bition with the artist to us and thus drew him to our attention.

(4) The jury verdict of the fourth round of the compe­tition of the Outdoor Gallery of the City of Gdańsk (GZMG), Gdansk 2011.

(5) More infor­mation on the winning projects at: www.laznia.pl.

(6) Piotr Wisnkowski, Dzieło rewital­izacji jako obiekt po-sztuki?, in: Kultura dla rewital­izacji. Rewital­izacja dla kultury, published by L. Nyk, J. Szczepański, A. Kulaz­ińska, Gdansk 2010, p. 62.