Echoes of Wrocław

Echoes of Wrocław is the title of a residency project intended to examine the changes in Wrocław’s soundscape by focusing on three buildings selected by artist Anka Kasperska. Its aim is to recall and imagine the sounds that once reverberated through the walls, rooms and entire urban structures. This is the most recent soundscape project by the young artist, who attempted to extract the acoustic environment from the urban fabric and encourage the audience to perceive soundscape as a structure that not only co-creates the current landscape, but also undergoes changes. As such, it is simultaneously an excellent research tool and a means of creative expression.

“We have a mental need to grasp that we are rooted in the continuity of time, and in the man-made world it is the task of architecture to facilitate this experience. Architecture domesticates limitless space and enables us to inhabit it, but it should likewise domesticate endless time and enable us to inhabit the continuum of time.” – J. Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin. An Architecture of the Senses, Wiley-Academy, London, 2005.

This quotation can be treated as a starting point for a reflection on memory, identity and history – issues that constitute the core of the residency. These issues, however, are not approached in a traditional way – history, this peculiar continuum of time, is examined here through sounds that co-create the soundscape of given places and convey information about their past and present at the same time. Due to its unique character, soundscape is subject to invisible changes. It emerges imperceptibly and vanishes with the passage of time and people, changes in the urban structure, or social, political and technological transformations. Because it is ephemeral and sensitive to the slightest of changes, it is an interesting research subject and tool, especially when it concerns urban spaces and the history of concrete buildings existing in it. After all, architecture creates places with various functions – spaces for living and working, private and public places, factory halls and sacred venues. By being endowed with a specific function, each of these spaces produces its own soundscape, acoustic or phonic environment, which records almost every change.

Over the years, architectural structures change their functions by adapting to the current needs of people and the times in which they live. Architecture and its soundscape is a silent witness to urban history whose memory – metaphorically speaking – is inscribed in the walls. Buildings are patient listeners. Day by day, month by month, more sounds are created that reverberate and then disappear amidst the brick walls. Sound is one of the tools at our disposal that gives us the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the past and decipher spaces while serving as a unique medium for recording the specificity of a given historical period and venue, being an example of intangible cultural heritage.

During the residency, interactive sound compositions will be created by the artist to describe three architectural structures: the Oppenheim House, the House of the Ladies of Trzebnica (the Romanesque House) and the Monopol Hotel. The pieces will resemble recordings capturing the sounds of everyday life, determined by the functions that these buildings have fulfilled over the centuries. The three locations have been selected for the project due to their diverse and multilayered historical identity as well as their significance for the city. Each of them has had various public and private functions over the centuries. Their history dates back to the 13th century (in the case of the Monopol Hotel, this is the context of the place – the churchyard cemetery where it was erected). Each of them serves as a reminder of historical periods that proved to be crucial in the city’s history: the Romanesque body of the House of the Ladies of Trzebnica refers to the historical origins of the city, the construction of the Monopol Hotel took place during the industrial revolution, which redefined the function and structure of the city, whereas the Oppenheim House, due to the history of the Oppenheim family, emphasises the history of the city in the first half of the 20th century, the socio-political changes connected to the second world war and the broad context of cultural pluralism in Wrocław.

The artist invited to take part in the residency is Anka Kasperska, a young audiovisual artist. She has graduated from the Faculty of Media Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and finished Intercollegiate Multimedia Specialization at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin. She has also completed the Development Lab, an intensive directing course at the Wajda School, and studied at the Department of Visual Communication at the Universitat der Künste in Berlin. She was the laureate of the Panavision award in the 2017 Papaya Young Directors competition and recipient of the scholarship of the Minister of Education and the city of Warsaw. She has directed documentary and feature films, including Together, Written Separately, Farewell to Summer, Bridge and Between, and worked with sound installations. Echoes of Wrocław is a continuation of her research project whose first edition was done in Warsaw.

The project is carried out in cooperation with Culture Zone Wrocław as part of the AIR Wro programme.