Projekt Fundacji Bęc Zmiana
Conversation with Ola Litorowicz and Agata Radzińska, founders of the Puszka.waw.pl, a web portal devoted to the documentation and description of street art, graffiti art and other forms of public art around Warsaw (www.puszka.waw.pl). Interview by: Ewelina Bartosik
Is there a selection process for the works in your documentation of Warsaw’s public art collection?
Ola: We consider the contents of Puszka (ed note: the noun puszka translates to can in English) as a collection without a theme, a collection of many objects, starting with small forms like stencils or stickers, through drawings, murals and graffiti, applied on monuments, sculptures, installations and street furniture. We’ve been running the project for more than two years, sometimes we look at what we already have and try to find various links, interesting aspects, reactions, contexts amid this stream of images. I think the whole collection comes together as a portrait of the city, its streets, its space and its residents, its authorities, strategies and tactics.
We are not curators of art or artistic expression in the public space. We try to be objective, so we preserve and present everything that comes up. On the site we have works that belong to our own personal canon, works that we appreciate and admire, as well as those that we think are worthless for one reason or another and, in our opinion, foul up the city, or are in some way inauthentic.
Agata: We’re often at odds about whether certain works can be considered along the lines of art in the public space or street art, and by the same token, whether they should be found within our documentation. At first we wondered about the structure of the descriptions for certain works. On the site you’ll often find objects, such as mała vlepka-style stickers, which are only described by their formal characteristics. We can only assume that we don’t know what will happen one day with the visual part of our documentation and even such banal descriptions – which are often perfectly illustrated in the photographs themselves – could prove handy at some point.
Ola: There are some works that are a spontaneous form of expression without any artistic intent, but which function in the public space. Also, more and more often a particular work is simply an ambient form of advertising. Comments also help us provide the proper classification. We want those people visiting our site who might know more about a particular form of street art and, for example, recognize a certain stencil as an advertisement to tell us about it. And this came into practice after some time.
Analyzing the catalog of Warsaw’s art collection, one might venture the assessment that art in the public space dominates, which means that it is most frequently supported by the city. Why is this?
Ola: I don’t have the exact numbers, but certainly this type of art is the most visible. Public art helps people familiarize themselves with the city, even though it still remains in the experimental sphere. After the first major Warsaw debate about art in the public space, we have begun to learn about our city as its residents and function within it on another set of standards; most of all we are learning about the concept of communal space.
Agata: There’s a general idea going around that art in the public space must be appealing. Last year we witnessed a great deal of controversy around Olafur Eliasson’s pavilion on Krakowskie Przedmieście. People were appalled that something like that, a spider, came about from public money.
Ola: We were asked, via Puszka, how much such a work cost to produce. A work that stands there are doesn’t contribute much – what is the point?! Perhaps it is so that we are more open to murals and or smaller sculptures, but we’re not ready for something more daring. We definitely need more time to get accustomed to these sorts of projects.
What do you think about the grant model of supporting art in the public space of Warsaw?
Ola: The concentration of funds and certain decisions on the part of the city is necessary if we want to create a collection of public art. What is most important for this is: daring, a consistent influx of relevant knowledge and opinions from an interdisciplinary group of experts, the development of patronage. This model should function beside the participatory model, particularly significant in the context of stricte local works, created for the residents of a district or housing estate.
Aleksandra Litorowicz – cultural scholar and cultural animator involved in urban culture. She collaborates with such organizations as the Institute for Research in the Public Space (IBPP). Cofounder of the Puszka Foundation and of the Futuwawa.pl website aimed at presenting art projects for Warsaw, which for one reason or another did not come to fruition. Author of the book Subkultura hipsterów (Hipster Subculture).
Agata Radzińska – cultural scholar and cultural animator. Coordinator of a number of projects related to the culture of the city, such as an alternative guide to Warsaw titled Warsaw City Alive. Cofounder of the Puszka Foundation, which supports street art and public art projects: Puszka.waw.pl, Futuwawa.pl and Szablon Dżem (Stencil Jam).