SOBIESZEWO ISLAND CONFERENCE (GDAŃSK, PL)

THE AFTERMATH OF THE Sobieszewo Island conference

The Sobieszewo Island Conference took place in Gdańsk, Poland in May 2022 with the below-listed participants and the schedule that was planned carefully beforehand.

Several discussions were held and our participants shared their feedbacks and reports on the conference, its content and our mutual concerns and individual ideas regarding the artistic researches and issues that lie in the heart of the Nature of Us.

Nature of Us has strengthened my belief in how events aimed at producing knowledge together should be organized.

The first important point is the place. Sobieszewo Island is an amazing, multi-threaded place, constituting a kind of intertwining of human and non-human activities. Created by the hands, the friction of ice floes, the rolling of grains of sand by the coastal wind, and the influence of the presence of huge phosphor compositions. I think that Sobieszewo Island is one of those places where the concept of nature shows its political nature in a very tangible way. Nature as a space of what is protected and defenseless, and implicitly passive, helpless, at the mercy of man. Nature as primal, preceding artificial(cultural)neoplasms. These are just two of many examples.

The second important issue is the selection of those with whom we will produce knowledge. I think the mistake, or an unbearable limitation of most (academic) conferences, is to bring together people from one discipline. In such an arrangement, it is difficult to be creative, because of the lack of diversity that would make us see the issue of interest from many perspectives. Nature of Us was a group of people from various fields of art, science, and humanities. If the conditions are favorable, and this is what happened, we will find a cluster of humans and non-humans open to each other. As Donna Haraway would say, “choose carefully those with whom you want to tell a story”.

Such conditions create space for the third key issue, namely the transdisciplinary model of knowledge production. Meeting people representing various fields of knowledge, their mutual openness is one thing. What is also needed is the enthusiasm for mutual learning, getting to know other than one’s own methods of producing knowledge. A dancer who uses the tools of oceanographers and their measurement methods can perceive something more than a specialized scientist. What questions will he ask them? What will their attention be drawn to? Oceanographers focused on breathing while walking in silence among the trees will introduce a different type of perception than a dancer. What will the sea be for them after such a walk? Transdisciplinarity is not so much cooperation as a voluntary blurring of boundaries. This kind of production of knowledge requires the abandonment of the familiar ways of thinking and moving that we generally call disciplines. Disciplinary division enables a very efficient, specialized form of work in a narrow scope, but prevents the production of what is new. This is because the creation, the calling of what is new, requires us to go beyond what is already there. In other words, creating a new one is possible through connections that are not obvious. Disciplinarity makes us sterile, and at the same time gives us the ability to very effectively and efficiently repeat known procedures and processes. Transdisciplinarity, although burdened with the enormous possibility of failure, provides us with a chance to create something that we did not know yet, new.

Humans and non-humans who met in May this year on Wyspa Sobieszewska as Nature of Us gave me the feeling that telling a story together, developed in many ways, through thinking (in) movement gives me a chance to create something new. I hope that I will be able to meet you once again among the coastal trees in the sound of the spring and summer wind, to begin becoming again the environment in an environment.

Bartosz Ostrowski

Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek

NATURE OF US

Reflections by Kinga Szemessy (HU)

It has been 3 months since the Nature of Us conference in the Sobieszewo Island. The more the time passes, the greater my appreciation is as I am juxtaposing it to experiences of other conferences, workshops and performances either related to or taking place at natural environments.

Departing Hungary I was filled with curiosity and excitement, because of knowing that it will take a 10-12 hours of a drive to an island which reminds me of Népsziget that I live only 3 km far from in Budapest. So, I was not filled with the usual fantasies of wandering through an undiscovered landscape, but rather with a sense of ‘let it go’. Suspecting the potential lack of network coverage and the sheer camping style of accommodation all increased my enthusiasm. Why? Because I deeply believe in changing the usual conditions of absorbing information and of decision-making when one has the desire to leave behind familiar ways of knowledge production and exchange. Probably, all my formerly expressed criticism stemmed from that it had not been pushed to the edges: for instance, in my point of view, the different categories of attendees (partners, artist researchers, scientists, delegates) created a hierarchical division instead of a sweet sense of interconnectedness. I am aware that due to funding regulations these boxes had to be ticked, but it does not mean the necessity to use them throughout the whole event.

Beside these, I am very grateful for and will remember of all the emerging intensities: the unfolding debate after Jana Tereková’s presentation, and the reflection circle at which I was addressed as a ‘delegate for the second time’. My belief lies in letting problems to arise and then forming professional as well as personal bonds through somewhat inconvenient negotiations. This applies not only to intellectual discussions, but to bodily practices, body and land encounters, too. In the first occasion, I was questioning the responsibility of the ‘partners’ in Jana’s research: to what extent did you guide her to stay ethical, and to avoid the exploitation of animals in captivity? Why is she that surprised by the feedback and incapable to respond to it? Unfortunately, due to the rich programme, we never had enough time to unfold these questions.

Was it clearly articulated to the artist researchers how far they are expected to go until the sharing in May 2022? Were they offered any initial guidance on what to look at? What made them to be ‘researchers’ and ‘artists’ not on the basis of their formerly submitted CVs, but on the basis of their residencies? The questions pop up not by my lack on enjoyment trying out their scores or listening to their PPT presentations, but by claiming some of their findings still very preliminary. What guarantees that their works will bring further outcomes? A note to be added: I have my own weakness of assessing everything by the smell of hard work, and I often miss considering the different pace we operate by.

It makes wonder what if honorary fees would have been offered in an alternative currency – like the Bristol pound – only belonging to this network? Would that better guarantee the sustainability of these precious attempts and discussions? Would it have shown different commitment? Also, maybe it would have been great to gather our strategies how we make our lives liveable these days. I am consciously trying to avoid the word sustainability, because recycling and composting is one thing, but practicing something to maintain our joy and sanity day by day might be another. And moreover, we could have made a list of where we fail (finding liveability/sustainability), according to our own terms. You could take all these as complaints, but they are ideas popping up thanks to the very realisation of the Nature of Us conference, so thank you. By no means I wish to sound disappointed or pretentious.

Kinga Szemessy

Tomek Zerek

The „Nature of Us” research session and conference showed that while the marriage of art and science is possible, the big unknown is still the answer to the question: how to combine them in the service of ecology. 

As an artist, I understand these collaborations in two ways:

1/ I use science for my artistic needs so as to enrich my project and give it a broader scientific context, but not necessarily legible to the viewer. Then you need a text that describes this activity. The weakness of this collaboration is that if the artistic action is abstract then you can fit (almost) any content to it;

2/ I use science to create an artistic educational projects or at least one that carries clear (here: ecological) content;

I don’t know if I am an artist-activist (artivist). When I make art I speak about things that are important to me, and the climate catastrophe is certainly one of them. I find it hard to imagine creating without commenting on the current socio-political-ecological situation. Events like Nature Of Us provide answers, but raise even more questions. And that’s a very good thing, because it’s easy to get carried away by hurrah optimism in one’s art practice, losing sight of the capitalist, patriarchal or colonial contexts closely related to the environmental crisis. 

Łukasz Wójcicki
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek

Dear Nature of Us, 

It has been nearly two months since we met each other in Sobieszewo Island. 

I need to confess to you that it was one of the best things that could happen to me – to travel out from my mother/wife/dancer/performer/creator overwhelmed life and dive into a precious moment of here and now, to observe, to receive, to process inspiring artistic presentations and discussions, to touch the forest silently, to listen to a lecture about the ocean, … I could be with you without any pusch, any tension, any expectations. You stimulated my senses and let me be in the present moment. What a gift! 

I very much appreciate the magical place you chose, the fantastic people you invited, the delicious food you prepared and all your great care for me. 

Thanks to you I could get to know very inspiring artists. I was worried about traveling by train for so many hours to meet you in Sobieszewo, but finally it was a precious time for me. I could talk with Michal Kindernay while travelling who inspired me a lot for my next creation dealing with trees and female bodies.

So I want to thank you for all of that, dear Nature of Us! 

I wish you to keep going, growing and discussing the vulnerable connection between human and nature!

Hope to see you very soon! 

All the best,

Martina 

Martina Hajdyla Lacova
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek

Nature Of Us was called a conference, but for me certainly was not: it was an experience and a

chance to exercise my perspective. Most of time, I observed, listened and was moved (by the

scores or by some unexpected ideas coming my way).

I consider the proposed experience (called as presentations or workshops) in the frame proposed

by Elisabeth Fisher: the Carrier Bag Theory of Human Evolution, that was later reframed by Ursula

K. Le Guin into the Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction.

I feel like both in performative practices, as well as in science and humanities, one can find the

elements, bits and pieces that are treated with equal attention and care, not prioritized by their

economical or cultural value. I like to see myself as one of those lucky ones who were invited to

reach freely to the bags of narration presented during the Nature Of Us and use it according to my

and my close-ones current needs. By the close-ones I understand human and non-human actors

involved in the process of creation, or in the process of healing and growth. The latter is coming

straight out of my practice as a therapist with MA in clinical psychology.

It definitely was an interesting process to be a part of, I could feel the immense size of practical

and theoretical background of the delegates and organizers who were also actively participating in

the presentations. Thanks to the proposed frame of rather loose timeframe I could really loose the

track of time or reality outside the Island and just be surprised by the ever evolving discussions

and discoveries.

Long story short: the meeting in Sobieszewo created a container for all sorts of experiences and all

sorts of participants coming from different backgrounds; be it art, oceanology department,

production, nearby beach or forest (mind the ants!). It was safe, even when the discussions led to

some outburst of emotions. I appreciate the work of the organizers, their will to give the space to

sense the surroundings and letting those of us who needed it (myself included) the time to

incubate and reflect before responding to this beautiful happening.

some loose questions:

How to deromanticize the act of creating „art and science” events?

How to distribute and use resources?

How to parasite an institution?

how to stop feel entitled to take nature into custody?

some organizational notes:

Noticed the need to debrief after each discussion – maybe more time in smaller groups for naming

/reframing the conclusions would be good to minimize the ‚gossiping’ after hours

Moderation during the discussion (especially where there was little to no time left)

I would appreciate more clear description of themes – maybe even some blocs / areas of interest.

More activities and exploring rather than listening to presentations.

Coming to eat together was great. Coming to dance together would be also great, as those who

dance together think together.

Last but not least:

However quirky and odd it may look, I kind of wrote this after I came back to my home and my

kitchen. For me this is a very organic proof that your project was very substantial, although I might

still not be getting a solid grasp on it.

Wera Morawiec
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek

The Nature of Us is asking:

For two sunny days in May 2022 a group of dance researchers, artists, scientists, theoreticians, producers gathered at the Sobieszewo Island, near the city of Gdańsk to share their practices and reflect on a relationship between art and science in a confrontation with the natural world and its most calling demands.

We’ve got something here. Now, how can we keep the flow going?

Nisa Sevim

How can we have a chat between art and science?

Maja Hriešik

How can we communicate effectively art and science and between them?

Paulina Pakszys

How can we use the concept of nature in the context of the project? How nature activates us?

Bartosz Mroczkowski

How do we share the knowledge developed by performative formats?

Katarzyna Kania

What kind of practice can we share that has an impact or inspires others to explore new directions?

Ewan McLaren

What method of transdisciplinary work do we need to work together?

Anna Majewska

What conditions do we need to create to make communication with different paradigms working? 

How to enhance reflection?

Magdalena Siemaszko

How can we use resources (institutions) to communicate our public in a sustainable way so that we can fully experience the project?

Katarzyna Słoboda

How to make sustainable work?

Michal Kindermay

Where are hard scientists? How to make them involved?

Bartosz Ostrowski

(How) should we understand existing and coexisting?

Bárbara Cordeiro

How to include political and ethical perspectives in our practice ?

Ida Ślęzak 

How to work on ecological themes without words, only using body in time and space?

Jana Tereková

How much is longing for nature romanticising the nature and whole reality? Is it ethical or is it morally destroying living creatures? Are we allowed to do that? 

Zsuzsanna Rózsavölgyi

How can we improve our own relationship with nature? Nature is going to be ok. What is my (human) part in the ecosystem? We need to work on a genuine and sensitive connection with Nature and encourage others. That is how real change can happen.

Nico de Transilvania

Can we identify issues meaningful for Central Europe in the project?

Gergelly Tallo

Nature doesn’t need art

The „Nature of Us” research session and conference showed that while the marriage of art and science is possible, the big unknown is still the answer to the question: how to combine them in the service of ecology. 

As an artist, I understand these collaborations in two ways:

1/ I use science for my artistic needs so as to enrich my project and give it a broader scientific context, but not necessarily legible to the viewer. Then you need a text that describes this activity. The weakness of this collaboration is that if the artistic action is abstract then you can fit (almost) any content to it;

2/ I use science to create an artistic educational projects or at least one that carries clear (here: ecological) content;

I don’t know if I am an artist-activist (artivist). When I make art I speak about things that are important to me, and the climate catastrophe is certainly one of them. I find it hard to imagine creating without commenting on the current socio-political-ecological situation. Events like Nature Of Us provide answers, but raise even more questions. And that’s a very good thing, because it’s easy to get carried away by hurrah optimism in one’s art practice, losing sight of the capitalist, patriarchal or colonial contexts closely related to the environmental crisis. 

Łukasz Wójcicki

What is the perspective that we are speaking from? 

Zden Brungot Svíteková 

Can you feel that the wind has changed today? What does it feel like, what does it speak to you?

Alicja Czyczel

Does art need nature? Is nature art? Nature is kitchy.

Martin Krištof

What does sustainability mean for arts and how is it related to the sustainability of the environment?

Aleksandra Koroza

How to (and if) deromanticize art and science projects? How to distribute and use resources?

How to parasite an institution? How to stop feeling entitled to take nature into custody?

Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek
Tomek Zerek

Program of the Sobieszewo Island conference | 18-21 May 

18.05 (Wednesday)

Arrival day (individually confirmed transfers to the island including public transport)

18:30-20:00 – Welcome evening gathering for the participants (venue: GAK)

19.05 (Thursday)

10:00-11:00 – Opening Circle RITUAL with Alicja Czyczel (around the huts)

11:30-13:30 – Local Guides – interactive guided walk prepared by The City Culture Institute (walking tour) 

13:30-14:30 – lunch (venue: Art Lab)

14:30-14:50 – Presentation of the Art Lab Wyspa – prof. Grzegorz Klaman, Wyspa Progress Foundation (venue: Art Lab)

15:00-16:30 – Presentation and discussion with Zsuzsanna Rózsavölgyi and Zuzanna Berendt & Anna Majewska, Curatorial Workgroup (venue: Art Lab)

16:30-17:00 – coffee break

17:00-18:30 – Presentation and discussion with Zden Brungot Svíteková and Zuzanna Berendt & Anna Majewska, Curatorial Workgroup (venue: Art Lab)

18:30-19:30 – Presentation by Nicoleta Carpineanu AKA Nico de Transilvania (venue: Art Lab)

21:00 – 22:00 – Moderated wrap up of the day and discussion with Maja Hriešik and Ewan McLaren (venue: Tawerna pod Łososiem)

20.05 (Friday)

10:00-11:00 – Morning practice – audio walk Choreography of Imagining the Future 2022 by Aleks Borys (location: forest near the huts) – https://soundcloud.app.goo.gl/g4AL5gAX7Fc5mvfz9

11:00-12:30 – Ocean of changes – interactive workshop with the Climate and Ocean Research and Education Laboratory, IOPAN (location: beach entrance no 7, Trałowa street)

13:00-14:00 – lunch (venue: Art Lab)

14:00-15:30 – Presentation and discussion with Jana Tereková and Katarzyna Słoboda (venue: Art Lab)

15:30-16:00 – coffee break

16:00-17:30 – Presentation and discussion with Bartosz Ostrowski and collective and Katarzyna Słoboda (venue: Art Lab)

17:30-17:45 – coffee break

Moderated wrap up of the day and discussion with Maja Hriešik and Ewan McLaren (venue: Art Lab)

19:30-21:00 – Closing circle RITUAL on the beach with Alicja Czyczel (location: beach entrance no 7, Trałowa street)

21.05 (Saturday)

Departure day – individually confirmed transfers to the island including public transport

Participants of THE NATURE OF US conference

Project Partners:

Maja Hriešik – PlaST – Contemporary Dance Platform (SK)

Soňa Kúdeľová – PlaST – Contemporary Dance Platform (SK)

Ewan McLaren – Live Performance Bazaar (CZ)

Lucia Simáškova – Live Performance Bazaar (CZ)

Nisa Sevim Live Performance Bazaar (CZ)

Gergelly Tallo – Workshop Foundation (HU)

Karolina Wycisk – Polka dot Foundation/Performat Production (PL)

Ula Zerek – Polka dot Foundation (PL)

Project Artists of research sessions:

Zden Brungot Svíteková (CZ)

Bárbara Cordeiro (PT)

Bartosz Ostrowski (PL)

Matthew Rogers (CZ/USA)

Zsuzsanna Rózsavölgyi (HU)

Jana Tereková (SK)

Katinka Wissing (DK)

Conference Delegates:

Martina Hajdyla-Lacová (CZ)

Michal Kindermay (CZ)

Martin Krištof (SK)

Bartosz Mroczkowski (PL)

Magdalena Siemaszko (PL)

Katarzyna Słoboda (PL)

Kinga Szemessy (HU)

Łukasz Wójcicki (PL)

Conference Guests and Experts:

Zuzanna Berendt – Curatorial Workgroup (PL)

Anna Majewska – Curatorial Workgroup (PL)

Aleksandra Koroza, M.Sc. – the Climate and Ocean Research and Education Laboratory, IOPAN (PL)

Paulina Pakszys, Ph.D. – the Climate and Ocean Research and Education Laboratory, IOPAN (PL)

Ida Ślęzak – University of Warsaw (PL)

Marta Wojewódka-Przybył, Ph.D. – Polish Academy of Sciences (PL)

Nicoleta Carpineanu AKA Nico de Transilvania – artist (RO)

Alicja Czyczel – artist (PL)

Tereza Ondrováartist (CZ)

Petra Tejnorova – artist (CZ)

Conference Local Partners:

Grzegorz Klaman, Prof. ASP – Wyspa Progress Foundation (PL)

Aleksandra Kminikowska – The Baltic Sea Cultural Centre (PL)

Magdalena Pałka – The City Culture Institute (PL)

Beata Szalkowska – Gdańsk Archipelago of Culture Wyspa Skarbów (PL)

Practical information

Accommodation:

Wakacje z Alicją huts

Street: Trałowa 20

+48 503 176 509

www.wakacjezalicja.pl

Venues:

  1. Art Lab 

Street: Kempingowa 95
www.wyspaart.pl

  1. GAK Wyspa Skarbów

Street: Turystyczna 3
www.gak.gda.pl/placowki/wyspaskarbow/

  1. Tawerna pod Łososiem
    Street: Trałowa 20
    www.tawernapodlososiem.pl
  2. Beach entrance no 7

Following Trałowa street

Practical map of the island:

http://wyspa-sobieszewska.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/mapa-wyspy1.jpg

Public transport to the city centre and the railway station:

Bus 112

From the railway station (city centre) to the island:
Direction: Przegalina (from stop: Dworzec Główny to stop: Trałowa Szkoła)
From the island to the railway station (city centre)

Direction: Wały Piastowskie (from stop: Trałowa Szkoła to stop: Dworzec Główny)

Time line: https://ztm.trojmiasto.pl/trasa/112/

ABOUT

At the Sobieszewo Island Conference (Gdansk, PL), the project’s four invited performing arts creators currently developing new work and natural or social scientists working with them will share their experiences to date, with an emphasis on chosen approaches. It’s an opportunity for all delegates to work together to think outside the box, take part in panel discussions with artists, experts and researchers, follow diverse formats of workshops, site specific and participatory events, interactive walks and exploration of Sobieszewo Island and get a deeper understanding of our project’s artistic research sessions.

The location’s natural surroundings are meaningful: included in Polish nature protection programs Natura 2000 and Protected Landscape Area; the widespread natural land and seascapes with visible traces of human interference provide context for discussions on maintaining ecological balance with active care for the natural environment and development.
Creative meetings will take place partially in the Art Lab venue in the middle of the forest, at local partner venues like the Gdańsk Archipelago of Culture, and last but not least – in the open air.

The AIMS of the conference are to:

  • explore within interdisciplinary groups new ways of communicating through the innovating performing arts,
  • present approaches developed by the artists invited to the artistic research sessions 
  • provide participants with conditions to meaningfully reflect on the complex themes concerning our natural world through the arts
  • trigger future new collaborations between innovating performing arts and science,
  • The long-term goal of the project is to introduce new models and roles in the innovating performing arts in a changing World, with an overall approach to creating a sensitive and responsible communities.


photo by Grzegorz Czyczel
photo by Grzegorz Czyczel
photo by Grzegorz Czyczel
photo by Grzegorz Czyczel
photo by Tomek Zerek
photo by Tomek Zerek