Lech RowińskiTheatre in the apartments in Stary Mokotów, Mirów and Bródno in Warsaw

Impressions of X-Apartments/Mieszkania-X
in Mirów, Mokotów and Bródno in Warsaw.

fot.: Adam Walicki, Vera Kondratiuk

Beneath the paving stones, there is the beach!

Vivre sans temps mort — ‘Live without any dead time’ — was the call of the Situationists in the 1960s. Let us not be bored, and let us not vainly chase after unfounded desires, the fulfilment of which contributes to the accumulation of capital and the legitimization of the society of the spectacle. For Guy Debord and Raoul Vaneigem, author of The Revolution of Everyday Life, the best field for creation was urban existence. The Situationists called for creating situations and not material objects of passive contemplation; they summoned us to recover the nature of immediate experience, to stimulate cultural diversity, and to ‘Be realistic — ask the impossible!’ As a project drawing on the economy of experience and participation in situations located in the private spaces of walkable city districts, X-Apartments relates to the postulates proposed by Situationism and its psycho-geography — the emotional impact of space on the individual.

The artists, architects, filmmakers, theatre directors, or musicians invited to participate in the project have been asked to create a situation based on two parameters: time (each episode lasting up to 10 minutes) and place (within a given private space). Working with time belongs to the daily experience of directors; for visual artists, however, creating an action in a set number of minutes (and not in the measured space of a gallery) changes the fundamental principles of the way they work. Artists like Pierre Huyghe or Rirkrit Tiravanija posed the question of what would happen if art were not present in space but in time? The role of the spectator has been similarly changed here: theatre is usually experienced collectively by the audience, in a ritual silence and comfortable passive position. In the case of this project, the audience can enjoy its freedom, just as when visiting an exhibition, where the perception is individual, freer, and where conversation is allowed. The project is also a dialogue with the contextualization of art in public space, which relates to a grid of data: the nature of the place, its history, the consecutiveness of events and geographical, as well as dramaturgical, links, not just the fragmented experience of the location. In the 1960s, Daniel Buren urged artists to leave the studio and go out into the street; this time, the artists in X-Apartments go back to enclosed spaces, and a whole network of public experiences with them.

This will be the first edition of the project ‘behind the old Iron Curtain,’ where private spaces were often of a semi-public character: as roving universities, art galleries, places of gatherings (tapped), art studios, or hideaways for fugitive oppositionists. We are interested in the relationship of a certain social order vis-à-vis the individuality and limitations of these places. During London Design Days, private flats were opened to public as examples of ‘true design.’ In our case, it will be about ‘live experience’: someone’s private collection of home videos, an abandoned apartment still bearing traces of its old inhabitants, or a hotel room — which, after all, is a surrogate home.

X-Apartments has been carried out a number of times in different cities throughout the world. Each time the project related to the heterogeneity of the city, the given district, the history of its inhabitants, or their daily practices. In Warsaw, we have selected boroughs which seemed particularly interesting and ambiguous. Mirów is an area around the Hala Mirowska, an indoor marketplace, which is characterized by an explicit multilayered history: beginning with the topography of the Jewish Ghetto from the time of World War II, through the city of ruins, the residential estate Za Żelazną Bramą (Behind the Iron Gate), new building projects, minority discourses, and the problems of gentrification. As in other places in Warsaw, the one striking characteristic is the unresolved ownership situation of individual buildings, flats, or land plots. The district of Mokotów has the most interesting history, as a historical suburb of Warsaw, turned into a German residential area during the time of the War — a fact which has saved the borough from destruction. It is also where Nowy Teatr is located; hence the project in this case is a question of mapping out and taming the surroundings. Seeking out what is happening in the neighborhood, X-Apartments will also include a special version in the district of Bródno, this time more participative and network-based. It is the tenants of the various flats, neighbors and collaborators of artist Paweł Althamer, who are the authors of the situations taking place there. The seven balconies looking out to the same courtyard make up a single story consisting of numerous plots.

X-Apartments is mainly based on research into places and their inhabitants, on mapping out problems and trails: from the issue of Ukrainian physical laborers, through the mass phenomenon of refurbishing homes in the style of early capitalism, buying property with mortgages, rejecting the heritage of modernism, forgetting the method of exchanging correspondence with other inhabitants by letters sent on string stretched between windows and balconies, the historical views from windows, flats that once hid Communist oppositionists, or galleries housed in private spaces. The other aspect of the project, equally important, is how one has to walk from one flat to another, what has been called ‘promenadology.’ Promenadology, a term proposed by Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt of the University of Kassel, is a discipline of urban planning and sociology. It aims at focusing on and consciously perceiving our surroundings, at a time when perception is first and foremost dependent on technological and scientific progress, often alienating the individual from his or her own environment. When applying promenadology, one switches off the GPS device in the car, or travels the trail by bike or on foot. X-Apartments brings back the dérive, free drift and deliberate urban confusion. After all, ‘Beneath the paving stones, there is the beach!’

X-Apartments has been produced with great success in several European and non-European cities, among them Berlin, Caracas, Duisburg, Istanbul and Sao Paulo. In Warsaw three very heterogeneous parts of the city will form the stage for this interdisciplinary performative event.

Matthias Lilienthal, „X Wohnungen. Duisburg - Theater in privaten Räumen“, Berlin 2003.

© The Promised City, photo: Adam Walicki

Theatre in the apartments in Stary Mokotow, Mirów and Bródno

Link SymbolVideo X-Apartments/ Mieszkania X in Warsaw
More information, places and tickets

Situations staged by the artists, architects, filmmakers, theoreticians and inhabitants in the private places.
Artistic directors: Stefanie Peter, Anne Schulz, Joanna Warsza
Idea: Matthias Lilienthal

Producer: Nowy Teatr / Nowy Teatr Warsaw
Project manager: Zuza Sikorska

Produced by NOWY TEATR, in collaboration with Hebbel-am-Ufer, Berlin. Supported by the Deutschen Klassenlotterie Foundation and the German Federal Foreign Office.


Districts of Górny Mokotów, Mirów and Bródno
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