From Under the City is a project that questions how, where and why the concept of borders is – or can be – relevant in the city of Lublin. This theme was explored following two main directions: charting the city’s mental or possible borders and exploring how the broad theme of borders is experienced by Lubliners.
How it was done
This exploration took the form of creative and discussion-based workshops as well as photographing the city’s outskirts and research using historical and online material. The methods and media used were very diverse:the collected and produced material took such diverse forms as photographs, maps, interview transcriptions, drawings,sketches, collages, internet screenshots and historical archives. For instance, participants would answer questions such as which party of the city they never go to and why; Lubliners born abroad were given disposable cameras and documented their days; the list of arrivals to Ellis Island of all people originally from Lublin was compiled; a proposal for a “Memorial of Migration” was sketched…
The collected material was presented in the form of an archive : the data was cataloged and inserted into envelopes that were then classified in alphabetical order. The exhibited material finally consisted of more than 1000 filled envelopes and around 120 separate photos. This Archive was publicly presented in the House of Words, a cultural institution under the mantle of the NN Theatre. The aim of the project was to materialise and make visible silent, hidden or unconscious memories – stories stemming, so to say, from under the city, like the underground sources from which the city’s water comes.
Created through a cooperative, living process, the Archive had to keep these properties; belonging to all Lubliners, it was to be distributed amongst them. All visitors of the exhibition are able to take home the parts of the Archive they wish to keep. In order to do, they only have to sign a contract, specifying the parts they took and pledging to keep them safe and to show them to anyone who would ask for it. Thus, more than a simple invitation to visit an exhibition, From under the city is an opportunity for every visitor to become a keeper of the memory of the city.
From Under the City was the first time I used this type of methodology to implement such a project; I hope to be able to implement it in other cities/regions as well and continue exploring its possibilities.
Main lessons learned
Marcin Butryn (guide&assistant)
All participants to the workshops
House of words&NN Theatre, in particular Alina Bak
Marcin Serdeczny (photography)
Four workshops were conducted with senior citizens in public libraries. During these workshops, we discussed their personal experiences of migration and travel as well as how they subjectively experienced Lublin’s urban layout – trying to charter its borders, its limits, its open- and closeness.
During workshops, maps of Lublin were used by participants to chart their own experience of the city, sketching its boundaries and limits.
Preparation of the exhibition
Preparation of the exhibition at the House of Words: classification of the material in alphabetical order.
Opening of the Archive at House of Words
The Archive was presented to the public on the 27th of July.The visitors were able to take with them what they wished by signing a contract with me.
Signing contracts/distributing the archive
The to-be-completed contract (available in Polish and English) and signing of the contract that makes official the distribution of the relevant parts of the Archive
The Archive remains accessible and retrievable in the House of Words