The Art of urban legends.
Paweł Leszkowicz

The album we provide is the documentation and the final part of Urban Legend Festival in Poznań. The festival as the ephemeral event, may endure in our publication as well as in our website: www.urbanlegend.ua.poznan.pl. The album In Your Hands is aimed to be an alternative and extraordinary guide book of Poznań.

The artistic project itself had caused a lot of emotions and plenty of comments, it attracted both complaints and complements. In the book one may find the ideas which constitute the festival, as well as the works that emerged during the event. The conclusion is left to our readers, who may join or rejoin the artistic journey in our city.

Urban Legend, the art festival in urban space took place on Saturday, the 13th June in 2009. The event was organized by Prof. Izabella Gustowska, Raman Tratsiuk and Paweł Leszko-wicz. The project was endowed by the city budget as part of the Poznań – “European Capital of Culture” program, and the institutional organizer - The Academy of Fine Arts Foundation in Poznań. The audience was invited by the artists to discover the alternative stories of Poznań, created in art work which emerged to intervene in the original face of the city. The contemporary art was used here as the media of alternative mapping and the works themselves were an attempt to create the stories on the realm of history, fantasy and every day life. The aim of the festival was to reveal the inner, psychological core of the town experienced by its dwellers and its visitors. The works explored the unknown cultural and sociological layers of our urban environment. In course of the event, some new stories emerged and were depicted and told on the walls of banks, in the parks and in the entire quarters of the town.

The urban legends as a cultural phenomenon, are apparently probable information which flow in the circuit of historical traditions, media and social situations, which provoke emotions, which share the area of facts and myths. Urban legends were then perceived as spoken stories, whispered from face to face on diverse aspects of the urban space.

The artists who were invited to the project inspired by notorious legends, unofficial and transitory narrations, as well as those who created original history proposed a different experience of the space, architecture, society, contemporaneity and the past of Poznań. Some of the works refer also to the German history of Poznań and due to this, the most important themes of history are raised and reconsidered.

The festival emphasized the presence of the new trend in public art which one may call the art of urban legends. It offers an individualized and personalized glimpse of the town, which are created by personal works of art rooted in specificity of a place. The art of urban legends causes the metamorphosis of experience based on clichés. Poznań has revealed its multidimensional mythical social sphere, where the official organization is interrupted by deeply personal feelings and reflections of the dwellers, diagnosed and explored by the works of art. The forgotten, the unknown, the objected aspects of the town, its demons and angels, the psychology and the politics, the tragedy and the entertainment have reappeared. The festival was an attempt to make all those powers explode on a day with a hope for a metamorphosis of our perception of Poznań and trigger an impulse for a new reflection.

The festival - performance took place simultaneously in the most important spots of Poznań – on the tourist route, (the Old Market Square) The Działyński Castle, the Pillory, The Półwiejska Street, The Old Brewery) and on the communication route (the Railway Station, bus stations, on the trams and buses, on locations were they would often be looked at by both the involved spectators and passers-by).

The Works shown during the festival renewed the memory of The Bałtyk cinema, which no longer exists, but had almost a cult status in the past, confronted Kupiec Poznański with a single merchandiser in their almost a traditional duel (Rafał Jakubowicz, Wojtek Duda), and invited hundreds of wedding pairs to the Park of Sołacz (Izabela Gustowska). The butcher’s sparkled with the erotic aspect of food (Aleksandra Ska), in The National Museum the stories of beggars’ were presented (Bergamot), in front of the Old Brewery one might witness a sophisticated allusion to the notorious Equality Parade which was banned by the authorities (Marek Wasilewski).The event also recalled the death of the Nazi – Emperor of Poznań (Piotr Bosacki). One might travel in time to he era of Renaissance by the work which connected the erection of the Pillory with feminine jealousy in Poznań. (Katarzyna Podgórska-Glonti).
Also the witches from Chwaliszewo (Virgins Deluxe Edition), as well as the global economy crisis (Andrzej Syska) and the old dweller of Jeżyce (Sławomir Sobczak) “haunted” here again and the stirring stories of the orphans of the Old Market touched everyone deeply (Agata Michowska). The artists created also their own legends such as those of sphere thunders (Jakub Czyszczoń, Honza Zamojski), or kidnapper-trees ( Alicja Wysocka), a bridge raised with balloons (Przemysław Nowak), unhappy romances (Daria Giwer), animated greenery (TASAK) and the dim contacts of Edgar Allan Poe (Piotr Kurka).
A mysterious lorry loaded with sand surrounded by a cloud of smoke traversed the town (Mirosław Bałka), where the pedestrian crossings were covered by the paintings constituted by the passers-by’s footprints (Piotr Kurka). The spectators were also accompanied by a character wearing a gorilla costume (Magdalena Szczurzewska).
All the legends could be looked at when taking part in a performance – sightseeing trip on special bus which traversed the route of the legends (Paweł Leszkowicz). The last, but not least, the controversial event, which took place in the evening: the concert of a star of new kind right from YouTube, Gracjan Roztocki, accompanied by the band Napent and Mr. Mama TV, our guests from Cracow, who wrote and arranged a song about Poznan specially for the festival.
The final act – the video show of the films by Paweł Leszkowicz, Agnieszka Lech, Justyna Misiuk, Paulina Płachecka, Magda Szczurzewska and a crazy party with extraordinary music mixed by dj of Greatest Hits group took place in The Spot.
Moral tales, criminal histories, terrifying, funny, spicy and provocative narrations as well as the ordinary ones, they all made the town so lively on one day. Through the art of urban legends the town breathed in the imagination and created new urban experience of fantasy. Yet, by the touch of profoundly problematic aspects of the urban space, the art inspired the democratic debate in the public sphere. The idea of the engaged urbanism of imagination, where the imagination inspired by the town combines with actions in the reality of social conditions.

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One may find the key traditional reference of our festival in the trend of situationism. Even though Urban Legend was hardly stigmatized by the clearly political or contestant character as endowed by the local authorities and The Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, its reference to revolutionary urbaninism of the situationists seems significant.

Situationism was a socio-artistic trend (1957-1972) which gathered artists, architecs and radical student activists in Western Europe. Guy Debord, the author of “The Society of the Spectacle” (1967) was their main critical theorist. The situationists searched the links of life and art, creating performative and conceptual situations on the streets instead of the works of in the museums. The group acted against the art institutions. The idea of a festival was in their concept an alternative form which they confronted with the domination of capitalist society of spectacle, where the indifferent dwellers take their passive attitude.
The urban festival, based on the activity of the spectators, may return the rights conquered by the market and institutions, because through the art and the action of socio-political participation in the urban space, the liveliness of the individuals free from their routine may now flourish. The urban festival of participation returns people the right to their town and neglects its everyday triviality and functionalism, acting against officialism of a bureaucratic society of controlled consumption and labor.

The Urban Legend seems far from the radicalism of situationists, nevertheless the time and the context in our XXI century have also changed. So, urbanism of imaginations is now incorporated in the art of plenty of towns and countries, and the Poznań festival is our experience of participation as the event was created by an interdisciplinary team of artists, theoreticians, designers and students. The project acted rather by means of soft power - sophisticated strategies of resistance, subversion and fantasies. Some strange impulse, bizarre signals have been efficiently smuggled into the formula of an urban spectacle. The surreal and dada character was also typical for the situationists whose works explored the area of absurd, paradox and ephemerid. The stable urbane spectacle has been completed by the performative interruptions - so appreciated by the sitautionists.

As discussions proceeding the event have proved, such a mélange had provoked serious debates. Even the discussions, which were apparently over, questions such as who may and who may not be the artist, and what may be the art reappeared as lively themes which wouldn’t let the spectators stay indifferent.

The Festival has disturbed the standards of the artworld as one of the corporations, and it became an urbane situation in terms of the situationists’ standards. The strategies rooted in dada are still not understandable and unacceptable as they escape the control of academic and institutional standards.

Our event became the festival of transgressions, which disturb the system of beliefs and perceptions concerned with the town and culture. The only permanent – the real remnant of our festival is a wall slab commemorating the fictional activity of a sphere thunder in Chwaliszewo. The work may then be a symbol of paradoxical nature of our event.

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The album In Your Hands is aimed to approximate and commemorate The Urban Legend – the festival of art in Poznań. The book is our contribution to the fiction of eternity. The book consists of the texts devoted to the festival, as well as those concerned with particular works and those about the bizarre legends themselves. Your attention may be attracted by the photographic design of the book by Ludwika Gnyp.

In the first part, the theory, one may find the text by Iza Kowalczyk, who participated in the wandering and describes the event from the inner perspective of a commentator, art-historian and art critic. Filip Graliński, the passionate of legends introduces their brief theory. We also decided to select several extraordinary traditional legends of Poznań, which we were touched by or just made us laugh. The legends were introduced and elaborated by experienced city guides: Oleksiy Artyshuk and Armin Mikos. Traditional legends were completed by contemporary “alternative” folk of Poznań by Edward Pasewicz.
The other part of the book consists of work descriptions and explanations prepared by the artists accompanied by critics’ voice as well as historical references about Poznań by Iza Kowalczyk. Ludwika Gnyp’s photographies provide a full view of our event.

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Last, but not least the Urban Legends means people, thanks to whom the event was brought to realization. On behalf of the organizers: Izabella Gustowska, Raman Tratsiuk and on my own I would like to thank all the artists who performed their projects during the festival. Here are the authors of the urban legends: Mirosław Bałka, Bergamot, Piotr Bosacki, Sylwia Czubała, Jakub Czyszczoń i Honza Zamojski, Wojtek Duda i Rafał Jakubowicz, Daria Giwer, Izabella Gustowska, Leszek Knaflewski, Piotr C. Kowalski, Piotr Kurka, Paweł Leszkowicz, Agata Michowska, Agnieszka Lech, Justyna Misiuk, Przemysław Nowak, Paulina Płachecka, Katarzyna Podgórska-Glonti, Gracjan Roztocki + Napent & Mr. Mama TV, Sławomir Sobczak, Maria Toboła, Marek Wasilewski, Aleksandra Ska, Andrzej Syska, Magdalena Szczurzewska, TASAK, Grupa Virgins Deluxe Edition, Alicja Wysocka.
The coordinating crew is no less important. Without Mira Skrudlik, Dorota Grobelna and Katarzyna Czarnecka nothing would come true, even on a single day. Special thanks go to Mirosława Skrudlik, our life boat. The volunteers should never be unmentioned. They looked after the artworks “lost” in the brutal urban space, and protected them with their whole attention. This Caring Crew wearing red T-shirts with Urban Legend inscription consisted of: Magdalena Adamska, Katarzyna Alichniewicz, Anna Aniołek, Marta Bartosz-Strzelecka, Katarzyna Beszterda, Daria Buchnajzer, Sylwia Czachór, Natalia Drewniak, Martyna Hellen, Aleksandra Glinka, Anna Gruszka, Maria Pozerska, Weronika Mikołajczak, Maria Skrzypczak, Weronika Starga, Radosław Szczygieł, Anna Wesołowska, Daria Wieczorek, Maja Witt, Anna Wziątek, Beata Zięba, Anita Zych. As the Urban Legend art guide I would like to thank all the participants and itinerants for their attention, enthusiasm and patience as well as their words of support and criticism on the 13th June 2009. Yet, as a member of the editorial crew of this book I would like to invite the readers to take part in the journey following urban legends, to experience the festival as they flip the pages of the book .

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