Residential districts are our own spaces in the city. We spent last autumn on squares, yards and streets of Wzgórze Świętego Maksymiliana district. The area, its name abridged to WZG, is located near the city centre and has a strong identity, enthralling history coinciding with the development of the whole city, as well as its own lore and ghosts of the past. It is exceptional, but at the same time many of its urban, sociological and cultural characteristics correspond with other districts’.
We had known WZG for years and have attentively examined it for the past months. We walked across it many times, looking for places and non-places. However, we were lacking a synthesis of identity and spirit that could become a link between history and local lore, simultaneously expressing the rhythm of neighbourhood roads and lanes, yards and places where residents’ and outsiders’ paths can cross.
We invited Salcia Hałas, an artist with a particular ability to grasp the spirit of places, to join our collaborative efforts. She conducted an art experiment during which she was participating in the daily life of WZG. Salcia found herself cleaning the floor in an off-licence store on a Sunday, taking part in autumn clearance of a community garden and meeting with Public Library’s Club members. Everything, to create an opportunity to talk to the residents. The stories she collected became an inspiration to write a short story titled “The Fog”. From the fog emerge spirits who act as guides, taking the reader to the streets of WZG.
The fog, as a weather phenomenon, makes us strain our eyes, but also lets us focus on the details. From this fog emerge vital features, defining the atmosphere of the district. These were the main topics of the 2020 Biennale. Joined by invited artists, we seeked pedestrian-friendly spaces and pondered the possibility of transforming a street into a well-knit neighbourhood using just graphic design. We constructed see-through public sculptures, only to use them for play. Finally, we lit up the dark gaps between buildings and jump started a non-governmental bird housing programme.