NOWA SODA: Solvay Transformed

Nowa Soda: Solvay Transformed , Krakow, Poland April- July 2010

FIlm by Paweł Soja

Conceived and curated by Halfslant, NOWA SODA: Solvay Transformed was a month long artist in residency culminating in a two-month long exhibition which transformed the Contemporary Art Center Solvay with four installations found throughout the building. The residency challenges four international artists elected from a pool of nearly 300 submissions to create a site-responsive installation while bearing witness to the past and present of the building.

The four resident artists: Hagen Betzwieser (Germany), Ninar Esber (France/Lebanon), Tara Hughes (USA) and Luke Montgomery (UK) used the historical and present context as the framework of the building to create projects which enter into a direct dialogue with the space and the people that interact with it on a daily basis.

Located on the edge of Krakow, at the last stop on the tram-line is a nest of hyper malls and rampant development. In the middle of this sits the lone surviving building from the once massive Solvay Soda Ash Complex which employed at its peak three thousand men and their families. “Solvay” has a complex and fascinating history (Pope John Paul II worked there during World War II to avoid deportation) but stands today as a forgotten monument and symbol of the transformations that have occurred in Poland over the last 20 years. Solvay has quietly become the defacto community center of the area – the singular dedicated space for creation and production amid the giants of Capitalist consumerism.

American artist Tara Hughes’ cement and steel sculptures, as well as her drawings, evoke the destroyed forms that were created during the demolition of the Krakow Soda works, yet also show the potential of the very same materials which make up the CACS-building for creating alternative forms. Tara worked with the children that participated in Art Workshops to create sculptures with cement, showing them that his everyday building material can have be repurposed. The cement sculptures were displayed on the stairs throughout the building and in the main gallery. Tara Hughes participation was made possible by a generous grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Zygmunt Biel, a former employee of the Krakow Soda Works for over 35 years began documenting many aspects of life here as well as the eventual closure and demolition of the factory. His film depicting the demolition of the Solvay factory was shown publicky for the first time to an audience of art goers, former facotry workers, and current employees, to great success. He is still trying to organise a proper exhibition of his rich historical materials.

British artist Luke Montgomery’s was located in the back-stage of the auditorium. The large black structure memorialized the former factory that once surrounded the building as well as the basic chemical process used for creating Soda Ash. The black temple like structure was build into the stage, and viewers arrive from His use of lime, water, salt and glass link directly link to this history, while the installed sections repurpose and activate an otherwise rarely used part of the auditorium space.

German artist Hagen Betzwieser has repurposed the Promotional Gallery into a space distilling the very products and ingredients once created and used by the Solvay Ash factory. The focus is playful but poignant – using lasers, ants from outside, and intense smells to invoke a truly changed place, one that usually showed paintings or photographs in a traditional hanging format. Hagen’s unique blend of science, theatrics and architecture drastically changed viewers interactions with the space. His installation contains lime stones taken form the same quarry that the former factory used, and beckoned ants to join in the demolition of a silo made of sugar, which in the end fell due to the combination of trucks vibrating the room and the heat.

French-Lebanese artist Ninar Esber has constructed long ladders on top of the building leading up to the sky in the form of Katiusza rockets- a personal link with Ninar’s childhood in war-torn Beirut, where the rockets where staples of life and equally linked in Poland. These illuminated sculptures serve two purposes – to instill a sense of hope and to give us a place and moment to escape from the barrage of light pollution from the surrounding publicity.

All NOWA SODA music by Alex Bleeker and REAL ESTATE

The NOWA SODA graphic was created by New York based artist Ester Partegas and are available in a limited edition Tshirt, postcard and print.

Organizational Sponsors:
Centrum Sztuki SOLVAY, Dom Kultury Podgorze, Dwor Czeczow, Miasto Krakow,

Corporate Sponsors:
Castorama, New York Foundation for the Arts, RK24 Hotel, VM Associates, The Jams, Fastprint

Media Partners:
Les Flaneurs, FAD Website, Antresola.pl

This project is dedicated to Pani Theresa.

Special Thanks:
Robert Kardzis, The Napiorkowski Family, Anne Landsberger, Rafal, Przemek, Magda,Magda, Malgorzata ,The Solvay Orchestra,Chris Bliss and MG Weber, Nicole Wasilewicz ,The Ruiz’s, Melissa Unger, Barbara and Jerzy Czausz, Nico Fromont, Richard LaFrance,Frank Keller, Joanna Borkowska, Lori Kent and the patient and brilliant artists.