This Q&A column focuses on the indeterminate borders between off-/project-/artist-run spaces and the people that keep them going [#Off Space Q&A].
UL is an independent art space located in Gdańsk, Poland. UL means ‘beehive’ and it is run by a group of people who playfully call themselves Bees. Founded by Piotr Tadeusz Mosur and Piotr Szymon Mańczak in 2018, soon after Natalia Dopkoska joined the project and since then, the main curatorial/management team remains like this. UL is co-run by around twenty artists and art lovers that participate with fluctuating intensity. Several of them run their own, separate art spaces or projects.
As a beehive, we stress hard work, cooperation, and self-sustainability. In the art field we seek competence and sensitivity to the outside world. We do not favour the idea of art as a purely aesthetic, isolated, or completely individualistic activity.
At the same time, we are not a “collective” (overused word nowadays). UL is independent as it has no official bureaucratic status and is self-funded by the Bees, and the Bees themselves are free to participate in UL’s life as much as they want to (unlike the small insects that we took our name from). We also do not necessarily share the same ideas — UL is rather a playground/workshop where we can confront and test our ideas and practices, or even invent new ones.
As we value discourse, we publish the art review magazine Dyskurs Lokalny, which focuses on local (Tricity-based) art events, serving also as a platform for documenting local phenomena that are poorly represented in mainstream Polish art media. Through writing we try to “mine” the value (≠ meaning) of art, as it is often not obvious. Art criticism also seems to be a good tool for stirring up local communities, which helps to prevent them from becoming mutual admiration societies.
One of our biggest projects is Kick Off Perfo – a festival of performance and video arts, founded by Patryk Różycki and Marian Stępak. In 2020 and 2021 we managed to host a bunch of great young performers and video artists, bringing them together with the audience into intensive show & discussion sessions.
Website — https://ul.gda.pl
YouTube — https://ul.gda.pl/yt
Facebook — https://fb.com/galeriaul
Dyskurs Lokalny — https://dyslok.pl
Instagram – visual archive — https://www.instagram.com/galeriaul
Piotr Tadeusz Mosur — https://www.instagram.com/piotrtadeuszmosur/
Natalia Dopkoska — https://www.instagram.com/dopkoska/
Piotr Szymon Mańczak — https://www.instagram.com/pszmanczak/
Alicja Jelińska – Fundacja Artystów Kolonia Teraz — https://www.instagram.com/rezydenc.ja/
Kara Lewandowska, Tomasz Szabłowski, Hanna Kur – Pracownia Artystyczna PA3 — https://www.instagram.com/pracownia_artystyczna_pa3
Agnieszka Piasecka – Studio 57 — https://www.instagram.com/studio57.com.pl
Was it a good idea?
Piotr Tadeusz Mosur: For sure, it was needed due to the stagnation of Tricity’s artistic circles at that time. Gdańsk used to be known for its counterculture, which provided space for opinions independent from the government and what was in vogue within cultural institutions, which were typically aligned. At the time when we started, you could feel some popular tendencies, which did not necessarily correspond with our expectations as spectators.
Who/what has held you up?
Piotr Tadeusz Mosur: At the time when we started, nothing, except the poor state of the building. After some refurbishment and many vernissages the pandemic broke out – that, first of all, put the question of the right medium and transforming the gallery’s ‘content’ into something compliant with ‘new type of relations’; secondly, the pandemic strongly influenced our managing abilities (or maybe focus), which caused a significant decrease in the number of events compared to the time before COVID-19.
Is there a limit?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: Yes. Manpower limit.
What do you need?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: More focus.
What has been given and what do you take?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: We’ve been given a lot of help and support from our friends. We took great amounts of old plaster and oil colour from the walls.
Is it sustainable?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: Hardly.
What is the shape?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: Two rooms and a few auxiliary corners in the shape of a Fibonacci spiral.
Does it fit?
Piotr Tadeusz Mosur: The relatively small space mixed with a lack of bureaucratic dependence is easily converted into environment-type works. The mills of big institutions grind slowly, first of all because of the necessity of obtaining proper allowances to interact with the space, secondly because they require bigger efforts. Small, independent art spaces can afford to produce complete artworks in a short period of time. It’s very valuable considering the will of responding quickly to reality.
Future or Past?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: Both: it’s called “now“.
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: We’re one of a kind.
What do you measure?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: I don’t understand the question, but I like when what we imagine is confronted with competent measurement.
Digital or physical?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: In the realm of art they can be equal.
Why do you stay?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: Our space is cheap and close to everything. And I think we kind of like it there. But honestly, every place is temporary. We prefer to think of UL as a set of practices.
Is it enough?
Piotr Szymon Mańczak: No
And a new question, in acknowledgement of the continuing Russian war on Ukraine: do you have anything you would like to share?
Russia is responsible for unimaginable crimes against the Ukrainian nation and state. This war must be stopped as soon as possible. Western governments and societies should support Ukraine, even at the cost of becoming less rich and comfortable. It is our duty because the russian regime grew on Western money and ignorance to russian crimes such as cruelty in the Middle East and Chechnya, suppressing free speech and minorities, covert corruption of Western democracies, political murders (even in European territories) and much more. russia is ostentatiously commiting genocide in Ukraine to intimidate the West. Remember Bucha, Borodianka and Mariupol. We should be brave and respond firmly. The West is not doing enough.
We encourage everyone to support Ukraine and its refugees in every possible way. Every gesture of solidarity is valuable.
|Kathryn Zazenski Natalia Dopkoska Off Space Q&A Piotr Szymon Mańczak Piotr Tadeusz Mosur UL