The Polish residency was located in Młynów, a subdistrict of the Wola district of Warsaw – the capital city of Poland. The residency was hosted by local Partnership “Młynów na Woli” (Mill in the Wola district). The population of Wola is estimated to be about 140,000. Wola was a typical industrial area of the city before and during World War II. Nowadays, Wola is developing rapidly and at the same time it remains a district of many contrasts.
The Partnership “Młynów na Woli” is an initiative involving local government institutions, non-government organisations such as e.g. Polish Scouting Association Warsaw Wola, Social Welfare Centre Wola District Capital City Warsaw, Association Office of Social Initiatives “BORIS”, Association of Education and Social Animation Praga Północ, Primary School No. 166 “Z´ wirki and Wigury”, Common Children’s Cultural Centre “S´ wietliki”, Municipality Office of the Wola District in Warsaw and residents of the district. The aim of the Partnership is work for the benefit of the residents of the area between Okopowa, Leszno, Tyszkiewicza and Młynarska streets and to provide them with support in dealing with neighbourhood problems and starting new local initiatives.
The artist chosen for the residency by the “Młyn na Woli” Partnership and the Institute of Polish Culture was Nina Scholz from the Plattformer collective. Plattformer is a British based, not-for-profit group, founded by Carl Richardson, Tim Mitchell and Nina Scholz. It is an umbrella organisation of artists, architects and designer makers who have been working together on projects in the public realm since 2004. In the past they have worked with the London Borough Councils of Hackney and Islington, the Building Exploratory, Breeze Landscape Architects, Remapp Landscape Architects, St Mary Magdalene Academy and the general public.
Nina Scholz started her residency by meeting different group of residents from various clubs or activity centres as well as people met on the streets. She, together with Tim Mitchell, another member of the Plattformer, began collecting local knowledge from different age groups: children from Kids’ Club “S´ wietliki”, adults from the Gibalskiego street and seniors from the “Gold Autumn” club.
The constant themes of these different talks focussed on the understanding and use of the public space, the history and stereotypes of this part of Wola and also the circumstances that influence the civic engagement and cooperation of the residents. Starting from these initial interactions, Plattformer focused their activities on creating friendly, comfortable spaces, that can be “public” in a real sense; providing circumstances for meetings
of different kind of residents and ways to share individual and varied opinions and stories.
One of the important topics for the Plattformer was how to challenge the stereotypical view of the neighbourhood. During the first few weeks of the residency they initiated a few meetings with residents and passersby. They focused on the construction of an installation that resembled stairs, but it demanded an action from the user in order for them to be defined. The stairs were used by the residents to sit, to go up and see the yard from a different view point and even to practice acrobatics and to take photos.
The next part of the residency was focused on the Gibalskiego/Okopowa yard and was aimed at common reflection on the imaginary inside and outside space of this area. The inside space being the yard itself and the outside referring to the place the residents were born, where they spend free time or which provoke strong memories. Plattformer collected different stories about the use of outside spaces by the residents. They built a special installation called Stacja Nadawcza (Transmition Station), on which they attached the hand-written local stories in order to make them visible within the space of the yard. While building the construction and collecting the stories they also asked the most important question connected with future action and change: what is possible here?
During all different discussions in the yard, where some people expressed their expectations towards both local government and their neighbours, it occurred that, what is possible is a deal, is a barter, where everybody is giving something on the conditions that there will be an exchange. The logic of a “barter”, are close to the concepts of the Everyday Urbanism, and this served as a theme for one of the next actions in the yard called “something for something”. So the team of the residency proposed the residents organised the common feast in the yard. They offered different kind of plants, which residents could take home on the condition that they promised to bring something or somebody for the feast: food, a chair, an idea for activity, another plant or a neighbour. More than 50 exchanges took place in the yard and next week Podwórkówka (the yard feast) was full of participating people, the table was full of food and many people enjoyed the fact that everybody took a part in organising one of the first common gatherings in this yard. The constructions built by the Plattformer were important parts of many different activities organised together with residents and members of the Partnership.
“Not Paris, not Rome, not Praha or Bratislava. Only here, where we have the Vistula river, Warsaw, Wola and its Mill. Here is a nice yard. Here you can hear the neighbours’ voices, here many things can be done and can happen, despite frost or heat. The youngest generation will start and the adults will slowly join them. We invite everybody to improve the state of our yard. It will happen, because we have great neighbours.”
Mrs Ela, neighbour from Gibalskiego