Themed as an examination of globalization’s effect on labor trends and patterns in the new Millennium and an exploration of the ways that art can spur discussion about urban redevelopment of post-industrial areas that are left behind when jobs migrate.


In 1919, Marcel Duchamp brought to New York a glass vial filled with Parisian air. The vial’s contents were less important then the outwardly questionable act of lifting such a utilitarian object into the realm of art.

As much by happenstance as by design, that same spirit of transference - and, indeed, transcendence - has come to characterize the transRobota exhibition. Themed on the migratory nature of labor in the era of globalization and what role art can play in determining the future of disused sites of industrial activity, the 7th edition of the Baltic Biennial of Contemporary Art itself was forced to move, repairing to the Museum of Contemporary Art, a branch of the National Museum in Szczecin. By doing so, the exhibition, much like the artists whose works populate it, has surpassed the expectations of organizers as a vehicle for highlighting the fragile nature of the temporal and the ways that art can both celebrate the past and frame the future of inner-city redevelopment.

As conceived by Anne Peschken and Marek Pisarsky, the curators invited for co-operation with the Museum, transRobota was to be a site-specific exhibition for the island of Łasztownia that sought ultimately to reveal to planners, developers and residents the dormant and unseen possibilities of this moribund area in Szczecin's harbor. Building on patterns of urban renewal experienced in other cities that have seen the presence of artists attracted by cheap and plentiful space act as a precursor for the development of a service economy that replaces lost industry, transRobota seeks answers to fundamental questions about art's role in shaping such rebirths. 

With the city mulling the area's fate, luring artists to Łasztownia seemed an ideal way to generate interest and open a multi-faceted discussion to a wider audience.

The process of implementing this plan took over two years to complete. Its key moment was a conference organized in Szczecin in October of 2006 that brought planners together with artists and cultural practitioners, offering perspectives on the history of the area, the transition away from industrial activity and the types of proposals that the city is considering for redeveloping Łasztownia.

Curators working in sites of similar nature – Marius Babias, who put together a program that was realized in a former coking plant in Essen (Kokerei Zollverein), and Grzegorz Klaman, co-founder of Instytut Sztuki Wyspa (Wyspa Art Institute) at Gdansk Shipyard – shared their experiences.

Meanwhile, artists from Austria, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Germany, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Turkey, Great Britain and Italy – thirty five in total – responded to the invitation.

The process of soliciting projects drew more than 40 submissions for site-specific installations which then were displayed in February 2007 in the National Museum in Szczecin. The exhibition's curatorial board, comprised of museum representatives, organizers and guest critics from Poland and abroad, then selected the fifteen works that comprise the final exhibition. 

Still transRobota's site-specific third stage presented several obstacles. Increasingly, it appeared that security issues in the harbor area seriously limited the possibility to create and maintain the infrastructure that would allow visitors to freely access the site. That begged additional cost that the organizers could not afford.

Eventually, the decision was made to move the exhibition to the Museum of Contemporary Art. While the move understandably was viewed by some among the partnership responsible for producing the exhibition as a setback, the decision demonstrated almost allegorically the virtually gravitational power of transferring artistic acts of social criticism into the institutionalized sphere of aesthetics.

A plan to readapt transRobota to gallery conditions worked thanks to the commitment and collaboration of the artists involved. They were asked to take an outside look at the problem of the metamorphosis of the harbor areas that the Museum had postulated as the site of its new branch, the Naval Museum. The task, therefore, fit with the program of transforming the area into the public sphere. The Museum was to thus ‘catch up’ in the future with a sphere already claimed by art. For the moment, however, instead of expansion, the project was wound up back into museum space.

The participating artists reacted to the exhibition’s relocation with a sense of cheerful irony and boldly confronted the challenge of readapting their site-specific concepts, so as to demonstrate art’s ability to create intimate connections with a place, and at the same time to exist outside it. They suggested various ways of reformulating their initial proposals into the language of multimedia presentation.

Maciej Kurak’s installation, recreating three different fragments of Łasztownia using authentic objects found on the site, annexed the Museum entry hall, forming a kind of sluice distorting the perception of space and locale. In his sound installation ‘Stacja Paliw – Matins for Łasztownia’, Tilman Künzel generated a new ‘soundscape’ by mixing the tracks recorded on Łasztownia with Krzysztof Penderecki’s oratorio.

Other works discussed the various aspects of Łasztownia (Roland Stratmann, Adam Page’s and Eva Hertzsch’s ‘Artists of Łasztownia’); referred to the character and history of the place (Julita Wójcik, Marcus Draper, Otmar Sattel, Roland Fuhrmann, Kuba Bąkowski, Saim Demircan), and to the social, economic, and political consequences of the project’s relocation (Urban Art, Laura Horelli, Oliver Ressler).

The artists’ presentations were supplemented by a virtual simulation of the project’s realization in the originally planned location, developed by Bogdan Achimescu and Urban Art. A visual and conceptual connection between the Museum exhibition and Łasztownia was established through Ulrike Mohr’s ‘The Timeball Station’ the only work to be installed on the island in line with the original proposal.

As a site-specific installation themed on transition that itself is then forced to move, transRobota stands as one of those exquisitely rare reversals of the maxim about life imitating art. If the cheeky Duchamp were alive today, he no doubt would approve.

The long process of turning transRobota into reality finds its climax in this publication. Besides an explication of the project’s initial outlines written from the point of view of its originators and co-authors (Anne Peschken and Marek Pisarski, Bogdan Achimescu), broader presentations of the artistic projects slated by the board of curators for realization, it features materials documenting all the other entries, submitted by the following: Mira Boczniowicz, Hubert Czerepok, Danuta Dąbrowska, Marcin Doś, Gints Gabrāns, Otto Karvonen, Raul Keller, Ali Kepenek, Grzegorz Klaman, Monika Matraszek, Roberta Silva, Stefan Sous Andrzej Syska, Joulia Strauss, Waldemar Wojciechowski, and the group rio.pool (Georg Winter, David Baur, Lukasz Ledzinski, Peter Weigand).

The presentation of the concepts and projects is accompanied by critical essays by Faye Tzanetoulakou, Adam Mazur, Christoph Tannert, and an essay by Bogdan Twardochleb about Łasztownia in the context of its history and present.

We wish to sincerely thank to all the artists and curators engaged in the creation of the project, the conference participants, and to the authors of the featured essays who offered a multifaceted ‘reading’ of Łasztownia.

The translocation of trans/Robota offered a new perspective of looking at Łasztownia. It introduced the question of its future to public awareness more successfully, perhaps, than would otherwise have been the case. This voice will be impossible to ignore in the further debate on what should happen on the island of Łasztownia.

Marlena Chybowska-Butler


TransROBOTA. The 7th Baltic Biennial of contemporary Art of was organized within the “Artventure – Visual Art Network” project, supported by the Culture 2000 program of the European Commission.

3D Animation: Bogdan Achimescu, Urban Art

Organization: Museum of Contemporary Art, dept. of the National Museum in Szczecin