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Artists take on the topos of modernisation

The Grolsch ArtBoom Festival, which this year takes place under the theme of “The transformation of the village into the city”, considers the life of those who changed the village into the city.

This year marks one hundred years since the plan to create Greater Krakow was finalised. Between 1910 and 1915, neighbouring towns, including several villages, such as Zwierzyniec, were incorporated into the city. It was the first regulation plan in the history of Polish urban planning, several years ahead of the similar plans of Greater Lviv and Greater Warsaw. The idea theoretically served to order new territory and developing rural fallow areas, and even farmland, for urban buildings. After World War II, according to the urbanisation and industrialisation plan for the country, the town of Nowa Huta was built over the suburban Krakow villages. Nowa Huta was the place of emigration in search of work and a better life for people from many parts of Poland. These transformations and migrations brought with them the collision of two lifestyles, the contrast between rusticity and urbanity. This theme is particularly visible in the works presented at this year’s Grolsch ArtBoom Festival.
At the entrance to Krakow’s Main Railway Station, there are colourful stripes, painted on a wooden floor. This is the installation Waliły-Kraków-Waliły, by one of the most famous Polish artists, Leon Tarasewicz. The very title itself conveys the meaning of the work. On the one hand, it sounds like a train route. On the other hand, Waliły is the name of the town where the artist lives. He does not shy away from the rural life – he raises chickens and paints. “Even the railway station has its meaning. I was born in a village called Waliły Station. Railway workers settled there with their families, and that’s where the name comes from. That’s why this place is significant,” says Leon Tarasewicz. The Installation, resembling folk fabrics, which everyone has to walk over, is a symbol of migration from the village to the city. As the paint wears off, the installation will start to disappear – it is a metaphor for the transformations; as they become part of the city, people forget about the traditions they have brought with them.
The CENTRALA Group has created the housing estate Doorstep. The installation conveys the spirit of modernist architecture, which wanted to adapt rural elements so that the new residents would not feel quite so uncomfortable. This is why in modernist buildings, there are railings with spaces for flower pots and frames for hanging laundry. This is the source of the artist group’s idea to create a place that would be a social keystone. On the one hand, the abstract bench refers to modernity, one the other – it is intended to be a place for resting and conversations.
In turn, Daniel Rycharski and Szymon Maliborski’s Village People: Museum of Alternative Social Histories, set up on Bulwar Czerwiński, is a temporary pseudo-institution. It is a place that gathers not only its own collection of exhibits, but above all, a collection of histories that show social changes. Objects created in collaboration with village residents are a reflection of the processes we witnessed in the 20th century. It is a collision of notions with the actual situations. The problem of the open-air museum, the arrival of big capital, gentrification – the displacement of former residents, but also the traditional way of life – there are plenty of subjects here.

The festival, which runs from 25 September to 9 October, is organised by the Krakow Festival Office.

A full description of the festival projects can be found at

Fot. Michał Ramus,