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By: Magda Stawarska-Beavan
A blog following "Krakow to Venice in 12 hours" - sound project which maps a journey from Krakow, Poland to Venice, Italy, crossing the borders of 6 countries: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, Slovenia, and Italy. The project is attempting to capture the unique sonic identity of 12 places; searching for similarities, connections and divisions between the sites travelled through. The project is supported by Art Council England.
# 17 [29 August 2012]
Katowice shares a lot of similarities with Ostrava; the town has mostly developed in last 180 years after industrialization; it used to be the most important mining town in the post war Poland. Over the years it became a cultural centre as the capital of the Silesian region.
We arrived in Katowice station on Sunday afternoon. Our hotel was the highest building in town and the view from 27th floor stretches for miles. I couldn't decide if I preferred the look of Katowice from above or below. The city landscape with monumental mining shafts erected almost in the city centre with high tower blocks from each side of the town left from communist area of the town are overwhelming when viewed from the top of the tower hotel. When you are in the centre itself there are many opportunities to appreciate the dynamic town of Katowice. The central part of town formed in 19th century and in the present day is a mixture of 19th century eclectic buildings, examples of Art Nouveau mixed with modernist architecture and communist "giants" such as Spodek (concert hall) and Superjednostka (15 floors block of flats almost 2km in length, housing up to 30,000 people).
The Rynek - main square (which is not square at all) is under reconstruction at the moment. The streets are dug up and some of the traffic is stopped. During our stay the trams were still going through the partly blocked square, but it was obvious they will be redirected soon too. From the square there are some nice streets with cafes and restaurants such as Starowiejska or Mariacka street with neogothic Mariacki church at the end of the street. Mariacka street is a popular night destination for students who are a large part of population of Katowice in term time.
The main train station has been under reconstruction for last 2 years. The new design of Katowice Station created lots of controversy and protests from architects and local activists. The original station was built 1972 and it was the best example of the Brutalist form of Modernism in Poland. The building was designed by Wacław Kłyszewski, Jerzy Mokrzyński and Eugeniusz Wierzbicki. Using reinforced concrete they constructed 16 pillars of parabolic hyperbola shape popularly called "goblets" (kielichy); making a sculptural form that created the main station hall of 76 314 cubical meters. The station alongside Spodek became an iconic symbol of Katowice and its architecture. Unfortunately over the years the building became neglected and in 2008 there was a discussion about whether to renovate or rebuild the station. The Spanish Neinver firm won the design competition to rebuild the station, with a plan for an integrated shopping centre on the side of the station. To start with a decision was made to keep the original "goblets" form of the building but the developer using an excuse that the pillars were unsafe proposed the demolition of the vital part of the station (the developer wanted to build a road under the pillars to a new underground car park). Unfortunately despite the protests and efforts to list the building, the original pillars were pulled down, the last one fall in January 2011.The developer rebuilt all 16 pillars in the new structure. In my opinion it is a real shame that original pillars had to go and that the main form of the station is now going to be covered by new shopping centre.
I'm sad that I didn't get a chance to record in the large hall of this iconic building. It made me think of projects that try to preserve the acoustics of the places, which will disappear with the time. Unfortunately I was too late.
I have decided to try to capture the sound of Katowice just as they are now with the sounds of a giant building site. It is interesting how much investment is going into this post-industrial city. There is a positive note in these sounds of construction sites; they give the city a feeling of growth and vibrancy, which is at once alarming with its jangling and crashing but also reassuring; sounding a positive note for the future growth and development of the city.
# 16 [24 August 2012]
Next town to record on the route is Bielsko-Biała. I know the town quite well. Some of my family lives here and some years ago I used to go to art school in Bielsko. I visit this town on regular basis and I thought, that it would be much easier to find sites to record in a familiar location but I have realized that I work much better in places where I had to discover locations during my journey. I think I am more sensitive and responsive to the acoustics of unfamiliar surrounding than places that I know well.
Bielsko-Biała until 1951 was composed of two towns situated on opposite sides of Biała river: Bielsko which was part of Silesia and Biała part of the Małopolska region. Bielsko's first settlement began in the 12th century and Biała started to develop in 16th Century. Today's population of Bielsko- Biała is around 175,000 people. Before the World War II Bielsko was multinational; alongside Polish citizens there were German, Jewish and Czech nations, which is reflected in the architecture of the town. The textile industry brought wealth to the city in 19th Century. Bielsko was then part of Austro-Hungarian Empire. The factories owners strongly connected with Vienna looked to Viennese fashion for their inspiration commissioning new buildings in the town. Although Bielsko is certainly not as grand as Vienna it has always been known locally as "Little Vienna". The town is surrounded by beautiful mountains of Beskidy Range it is also a popular tourist destination.
Bielsko was know also for production of Fiat 126 (1973-1993)
Visiting Bielsko reminded me of Simon Starling's project Flaga (1972-2000)(2002). Starling drove 1290 km in a red Fiat from Turin (originaly where Fiat was produced), to Cieszyn (A Polish town on the border with Czech Republic) where he replaced the boot, bonnet, and doors for white parts produced at the Fiat Bielsko factory. Italian 1973 Fiat 126 with the white inserts resemble Polish flag. The work questions national identity, and the role of borders Europe and globalization. As a child and teenager many times I had a pleasure to be a passenger in Fiat 126 and I think it is a massive commitment to art to take 1290 km (12h at list) journey in this vehicle.
The hour for Bielsko-Biała on my clock is 10-11am. The train station in Bielsko is not as lively as some of the other stations I have recorded during my project. The station was built in 1890 (design by Karol Schulz) and it has been recently renovated. Bielsko was already connected in 1855 to Emperor Ferdinand Northern Railway - Kaiser Ferdinands-Nordbahn connecting the town with Ostrava, Brno and Vienna. The station main hall looks very attractive with ornate ceilings and walls. The high ceilings and stone floor give interesting reverb in the recording. On the wall there is an old-fashioned rotating timetable spinning every 10 minutes giving a great sound. I have noticed this board only in the Eastern part of Europe on my journey.
Following day between 10-11 am I wondered around the town recording the market, various squares and conversations on the streets. Bielsko has beautiful neo renaissance Town Hall with a clock tower. For the first time on my journey I have recorded a Town Hall bell, which was produced by an electronic signal. Bielsko-Biała along with Trieste and Venice on the journey hasn't got a tram network in the city centre. The only transport through the city are the buses and taxis.
# 15 [8 August 2012]
As the first orientation point we visited the Nove Radnice (new town hall) - largest town hall complex in Czech Republic, it was build in 1925-1930 and it is one of many examples of modernist architecture in town. In the central part of this monumental building is a 85m high viewing tower. The green copper tower gives you a great view of this postindustrial city. Nove Radnice have a clock on top of the tower with a bell which stride every quarter and an hour, which of course I have recorded between 11 and 12 of following day.
The other interesting example of modernism architecture from 1920s is Art House – town gallery on Jureckova street. This time it’s only two-story very simple and functional building. My attention was also captured by near by Palace Electra originally a base for miners’ union, also built in 1924. Palace Electra placed on the two corners of three streets has equally important façade from three sides of the building.
The town is surrounded by vast residential areas from 1950s such as the District of Poruba (a manifestation of the so-called socialist realism in architecture) consisting of 1960s and 70s housing blocks which grew with the modernization of the city in under communism.
I was very surprised how quiet the town was during the weekend. On Saturday late morning we visited the main square in Old town with Baroque Stare Radnice (old town hall). The square was almost empty; there were only few people passing by and a handful of kids playing in the water fountain. I have made some recordings of screaming kids running in and out of the water. Stare Radnice clock played interesting an interesting tune on an hour which I also managed to capture.
The Stare Radnice has been home to the Museum of Ostrava since 1931, but unfortunately it closes by 1pm on Saturdays, so by the time I finished recording, the museum was closed for the day. I sat down in museum café sneakily recording a snippets of conversation between an American researcher and an old miner. The conversation was through a translator, so there were Czech and English sentences passing my microphones.
Later on, when I realized, that I need a new set of AA batteries for my recorder I have discovered that all the shops in the old town are closed by 1 pm. After a conversation with a local man he directed me to new build large modern shopping mall were we found the rest of Ostrava’s population.
On Sunday morning I made my way to the Ostrava train station; a very interesting piece of 60s architecture. The station is constructed in such a way that it connects all city transport together; a large crescent canopy integral to the main station building which shelters the waiting commuters from rain or snow on tram, electric bus or taxi stops. This spot made a fantastic location to record sounds of all of this forms of transport. The reverb of inside of a large1960s station with frequent announcements made a very successful recording for the project. The rail connects Ostrava with Brno, Vienna, Bratislava, Katowice, Warsaw and even Moscow.
# 14 [8 August 2012]
After few months of editing my previously collected material I am back on my journey recording four new locations to complete the 12 hours sound clock of “Krakow to Venice” project.
The first location to visit after the break is Ostrava in Moravian-Silesian part of the Czech Republic it is a city only 50 km from Polish border. We arrive in the third largest city of the Czech Republic on Friday afternoon which gave me enough time to have a quick look around the city centre for recording sites for the 11-12 am hour. Although the population of Ostrava is over 300 000, the town centre was very quite during our two day stay.
Ostrava covers over 214 km2 and is divided to several districts.
On the site of the old city centre is the industrial Vitkovice – district established in 1828 after the discovery of large layers of black coal. With the birth of industrial Vitkovice , the city developed rapidly, several coalmines and steel works were built. The steel works originally belonged to Viennese Salomon Mayer von Rothschild with direct connection to Vienna by Kaiseer-Ferdinands Nordbahn in 1847 which gave Ostrava the industrial boost.
After the World War II the steel works were privatised as VZKG by the Czechoslovak state as was the the rest of the industry in Eastern Europe.
The industry in Ostrave slowly declined after the 1989 Velvet revolution when major changes took place in the structure of the state and as a result the coal mining in Ostrava was stopped in 1994 and the steelworks of Vitkovice were finally closed in1998. The only plant which continues production is Arcelor Mittal (Nova Hut in it’s communist past)
Unfortunately Ostrava remains the most polluted city in EU with the highest concentration of PM10 dust. In Vitcovice there is a museum of mining but unfortunately we ran out of time to see it on this visit.To be continued
# 13 [21 May 2012]
It has been a month since I came back from Venice. During last four weeks I have been listening to 30 GB of sound material and backing it up on my cloud storage. It sounds so ephemeral but it gives, so much reassurance. This 30 GB has become the most precious of my possessions and I feel that I am so not ready to loose it. The last few weeks gave me an opportunity to reflect on the project
and the journey itself. Many times I thought how different this journey could be if it took place 23 years ago before the collapse of communism. During our journey we crossed and recrossed, what had once been the Iron Curtain 3 times and our passports were not even checked once. All the countries, which we travelled through, are under the Schengen treaty, which allows free unrestricted travel in the countries of EU who are signatories to the treaty. There is no passport check on the
train, you only realised that you moved from one country to another when the language changes. The language defines the geographical location and acts as a point of orientation. The borders of Europe
have changed so much in recent history but the national and ethnic identities are still strong even in this globalised era.
I am fascinated by the recording of conversations on streets and
stations, which I can barely understand but I can tune to the unique melody of the speech sounds. I almost became obsessed with the sound of announcements in the reverberated acoustics of the train station. My favourite train station and the voice of the announcer at the moment are in Brno and Trieste. Please listen, I hope you will also fall in love with these sounds … I have made the first edits for all the cities that I have visited so far. At the moment these are samples of only a few minutes each but you can be listen to them on the website which has been put together especially
for this project: www.krakowtovenicein12h.com
# 12 [24 April 2012]
It is a strange feeling to be in Venice when the Biennale is not on, all my previous visits were in conjunction with my visits to the oldest established art festival La Biennale di Venzia. I have thought April would be a quiet time on the island but I suppose this place is never empty of tourists. Venice is a great place to just wander though the walkways and passages without using the map for a while. After an hour of exploring you can check your location and you are never in the place where you expected to be. The small alleys with many turnings, canals and bridges feel like a labyrinth or maze.
The sounds of the city are so different to Trieste (my previous Italian location) to start with, there is no traffic, so the sound of car engines and scooters is replaced with that of the vaporetto - the waterways buses and motor boats engines with the constant sound of the water splashing against the walls of the building and edge of the boats. The place is so much busier with tourists, speaking every language of the world, although Italian definitely dominates the streets at least in April.
With such a choice of plazas and campos with bell towers and fabulous acoustics it has been a very difficult to decision where to record. The hour for recording in Venice was between 7 and 8 pm. The evenings were still chilly but that didn’t stop locals and tourists hanging around the streets. I recorded an hour passing by on the Campo Dei Santi Apostoli with the bells of the church under the same name and of course an hour at the St Lucia train station. On the last day my hour recording was a walk thought the streets and allies, which I finish like a real tourist on Plazza San Marco.
Venice is my last location during this journey. I will return to my recordings this summer to capture four more soundscapes of the cities for my clock. During this last three weeks it has been great to explore the eight cities on my route and to have time to focus my thoughts on the project. I would like to say thank you to my two assistants Frank Beavan (my husband) and Oliver Stawarski-Beavan (my 5 year old son). Also thank you to Rob Griffiths for capturing some sounds of Vienna with us.
# 11 [21 April 2012]
Trieste lies on the north-eastern edge of the Adriatic Sea it face northwest across fro the Iberian peninsula which on a good day allows a view of the snow capped distant Dolomites mountain range.
The Trieste we see today began life as a sleepy coastal fishing village in the 14th Century, though its roots are in the Roman Empire. The village it allied itself with the Habsburg dynasty which was then building an empire across Europe. In 1719 Trieste was given the status of Freeport and it expansion began. A small canal was a created and large piazza and streets with villas for prosperous merchants were built according to a grid plan. Deep-water quays were built reaching out into the harbour. The railway arrived in 1850 and this marked a rapid expansion of the city becoming the main transit point for goods arriving from all over the Mediterranean Sea destined for central Europe.
The city drew in a cosmopolitan mix of peoples from Germany the Balkans and the Mediterranean each leaving their mark on the architecture and the local dialect “Trestino”.
The city today is a thriving vibrant working port with beautiful city centre and it is surrounded by mountains.
It was nice sunny weather for our stay in Trieste although the wind from the sea made the recordings sometimes rather challenging. I went for a walk in the harbour trying to capture the sound of the rigging of the yachts. I had to find shelter from the wind for my microphones within the port’s buildings, sometimes being stared by puzzled shipyard workers. Trieste is a busy city; the sound of traffic in Italy is so different to northern part of Europe . High revving scooters the hum of the car’s engines punctuated by frequent short tempered beeping of horns, make a very satisfying sound recordings.
We visited the castle built on the hill in the centre of the city and the Romanesque Cathedral di San Giusto with a bell tower with historic bells that are now to fragile to be used .
I sat and recorded an hour ambience between 6-7 pm on the Piazza Unita d’Itallia with a chimes of town hall’s clock and the reverb announcements at the train station. I have tried to visit local Revoltella Museum – Gallery of Contemporary Art but it was closed on Tuesday, well what an excuse to sit with a nice glass of vino bianco and watch the world go by…
# 10 [17 April 2012]
We arrived to Ljubjana by car, we got a lift with Miha who I met last night at the Ex-Garage gallery space. Miha was on the way to Trieste to play in an artist’s football match. We only met at the station by chance and it was lucky coincidence. I was very impressed with his commitment to art and football to travel 216 km on a Saturday morning. The journey was a great opportunity to find out more interesting facts about Ljubljana, politics and art in Slovenia. I was sad to find out how badly recent Slovenian government cuts had affected the arts and the public sector.
I met for a quick coffee with Miha Ciglar founder of the Institute for Sonic Arts Research (IRZU). IRZU irzu.org is based on an interdisciplinary concept and is conducting artistic productions in the field of electro-acoustic music / inter-media performances and installations, as well as audio technology research and educational activities. Miha kindly gave me link to very interesting website with European filed recordings http://www.soundsofeurope.eu/
Ljubljana is another city that we have visited with a hill and a castle on the top (as Brno, Bratislava and Graz ). There is a river running thought the city too, which is much smaller then Mur in Graz or Drava in Maribor. The main square in the town is called Presernov Square, it is next to the river and the three bridges designed by Slovenian architect Joze Plecnik. The town is full of beautiful buildings and plazas and there are a lot green spaces in between. Surprisingly among the 5 story buildings you can find single story 19th century houses with triangular roofs. They look little bit out of a place in the city centre, as they look like they could belong to suburbs or villages.
It was a pleasure to wonder around the streets with the recorder capturing the general ambience of the relaxed weekend in the city. Unfortunately Sunday afternoon rain made the outdoor recording much more complicated. I think I captured enough for the project but if not I will be more then happy to return to Ljubljana again.
We had a day and a half in Ljubljana and most of my time I had to spend on the streets recording, so I missed visiting all the museums and contemporary gallery spaces this town has to offer. The only gallery, which I managed to visit, was Metelkova Museum of Contemporary Art which opened in November 2011 http://www.mg-lj.si/node/60.
The gallery is built within a former Yugoslav Army barracks at Metelkova Street. In 1994 the Moderna Gallery Ljubljana was given the use of one of the buildings of a former Headquarters’ of the Yugoslav army within the Metalkova barracks to convert into a new Museum of Art. This new gallery would build its collection around avant-garde art created in Eastern Europe and later it formed the seed of a new Museum of Contemporary Art.
My next destination Trieste is only 110 km away but I have discovered that there is no direct train route connecting these two cities. Unfortunately there appears to be a dispute between both countries rail companies, which has severed international rail links for the last few years. This means I will have to rise at 04:50 to catch a bus at 06.30, which I am really looking forward to.
# 9 [14 April 2012]
Maribor is the second largest city after Ljubljana in Slovenia with population of 95,200 so far is the smallest city on our journey. In 2012 Maribor is a European Capital of Culture, the city is decorated with flags and large balloons on the side of the road advertising this fact. It has been very easy to meander around the streets of the town and we felt that within a few hours we knew the city quite well. Wandering around I have recorded various sounds of: a railway station, almost empty of people but still full of vibration and the reverberated sounds of rolling stock idling at the platforms; sounds of an outdoor fridge generator; the general ambience of sound on the various squares where time was very slowly passing by and music of the Romani band who played walking around the town advertising the Gypsy Night event in a local bar.
In the evening I was invited to the opening of the performance of Croatian artist Sinisa Labrovic http://labrovic.com/ at the Ex-Garage - the contemporary arts venue Ex-garage which is run by the son:DA artistic tandem in a former garage in Maribor. http://www.culture.si/en/Ex-garage
Labrovic in his performance walked into the space of the garage where the ceramic urinal was placed on the floor, he picked it up and did what a man would normally do with such an object, with the only difference was that the urinal was not connected to a wall or the sewage system. The performance brings the Duchampian ready made to it’s use in the gallery environment. As Duchamp brought the ordinary everyday object which is connected with everyday necessity to the state of the art, Labrovic brings the everyday bodily function to the same level. Central Europe and the Balkan’s states have gone through so many political and social changes in the last 80 years but at the same time the every day cycle of life has to remain the same. To me although Labrovic performances work on so many levels this is how I read this piece in context of my journey.
It has been great to meet artists running the gallery space Metka Golec and Miha Horvat and artists attending the opening.
# 8 [12 April 2012]
Graz - Day Two
In between looking for sounds in the streets of Graz I have decided to have a closer look at Kunsthaus Graz; an extraordinary building designed by London architects Peter Cook and Colin Fournier, standing on the bank of river Mur. The oblong dark-blue structure juxtaposed against the read tile roofs enhances beautifully the skyline of the city.
“The aesthetic dialogue between the new biomorphic structure on the bank of the Mur and the old clock tower on Graz’s famous Schloßberg (Castle Hill) is the trade-mark of a city aiming to create a productive tension between tradition and avant-garde. In content as well as from an urbanistic point of view, the new Kunsthaus Graz acts as an interface between past and future” (http://www.museum-joanneum.at)
I was amazed to find out that there is a permanent sound piece installed on the outside walls of the building. The sound comes up 10 minutes to every hour from 8.50 am till 9.50 pm. It is an amazing haunting sound which gives a impression that the actual building resonates with humming noise. The sound piece entitled: “Time Piece Graz” was created by Max Neuhaus; a pioneer of artistic activities with sound art. The piece came to life as the building had been constructed in 2003 and it is a new addition existing time references in Graz. http://www.museum-joanneum.at/en/kunsthaus/time-piece-graz
The Kunsthaus building is equally interesting inside as well as outside, although I can imagine this very architecturally stimulating structure can sometimes compete with the artwork presented in the exhibition space. It certainly invites and challenges the curator and the artist to work with the inner structure of the gallery. Michael Kienzer “Logic and Self –Will”, presented in the Space01 certainly does play with the space context, blending the boundary between the exhibition space and his sculptures. “…he has integrated a large-scale sculpture that surveys and covers the room, where one could imagine the line of a drawing gone out of control or a billiard ball that has crashed into the room. The other related pieces, all sculptures made over the past few years, were adapted to fit into the new circumstances of the presentation. The sculpture goes beyond the usual formats of what can be visually grasped and shows a level of relativity with respect to viewer perspectives”” (http://www.museum-joanneum.at)
Sofie Thorsen’s work was presented in the exhibition Space02. Thorsen’s work investigates how we perceive architectural places when we see them for the first time? She is interested in spaces where the stories of past and present are connected within the identity and representation of the place.
It is a shame I had a very short time to spend in both of the exhibitions.
Over the course of my artistic practice I have worked predominantly with sound, moving image and print, often connecting traditional printmaking processes with new technologies such as digital audio. In my audio work I attempt to capture sonic identities of places, looking for the rhythms within the city soundscape and defining the multilayered role of a public space, which changes and shifts during the course of the day.