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Greetings from Gdansk

July 15, 2012

It’s end of my first week (back) in Gdansk, Poland…and the beginning of my second week, working towards the 4th edition of the Narracje Festival I am organizing this November. For more details please see this link to the Narracje home page, but in brief, my proposal for a 21st century phantasmagoria (here in one of Europe’s most historically important, and some may say conflicted, cities) was selected from a global call for applications earlier this year. The collisions and confusions of time – one end begetting another beginning – are fitting for the theme of this show, titled art thou gone, beloved ghost? (with credit to Lewis Carroll‘s 1869 long form poem).

Seeking out the ghosts that both titillate and torment, I am congregating 17 international artists from such countries as Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, Germany, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, The Netherlands, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States who work in video projection, and video/film/projection in the expanded field. As a whole, a city-wide seance takes shape where video art becomes the lens with which to conjure the apparitions, phantasms, specters and selves that speak to the traumas embedded in identity; and the theatre that can be made in catharsis.

I was in Gdansk for a week in March to get to know two districts in particular – Old Town and the Shipyard – by walking up and down the streets, back and forth, side and back; each footstep adding a new understanding as I listened closely to the whispers of buildings and streets. I then returned back to Winston-Salem, and spent the next couple months refining a list of artists and reaching out to them – gathering both existing works that spoke to the theme of the show, as well as inviting new commissioned work from artists such as David Hoffos, Charles Sandison and Claire Harvey. I thought closely and carefully about connecting each work to a particular site, enlisting the city of Gdansk as an active collaborator whose architectural complexion would both enrich, and be enriched, by video interventions.

This July trip to Gdansk has been a time to test those assumptions, light up the beamers, and evaluate my “matchmaking” skills when the sun goes down. The results thus far have been as winding and curious as one would hope any ghost story to be. Some video works find a quick home upon their chosen wall surface, and the synergies can be breathtaking. Others just don’t come together for a variety of reasons, from aspect ratios and color balances to scale, brick color, viewing angle, public permissions, etc. The rush I feel when concept and site click, are tempered by other cases where the stars simply cannot, or will not align. A wise woman commented to me, what did you expect when trying to harness the ghosts that continue to haunt?

The testing will continue during the week ahead, so please check back on this blog for more stories from the fray. I will forge ahead with purpose and passion, seeing this city anew – seeing it for the first time, in a timeless place – through the eyes of magic lanterns. For now, please enjoy some photos from the first round of tests:

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