Thank you and looking forward to your contribution!

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Dear all,

Thank you all for the amazing and inspiring exploration of Warsaw and for your willingness to contribute to the Warsaw Guide. When we left we had the feeling we were just getting to know all of you and, through you, the city. Like all grand cities it takes time to find your bearings.

That said, it is time to move forward with the Warsaw Guide! And to do this we want to give you guys three points that will make the editorial process as smooth and easy going as possible:

1) We attached a first and very tentative Table of Content as we understand it now. It’s basically no more then a list of contributions. Most titles are descriptions of the contributions for our own use. Please check the excel document. If you don’t see your subject of name in there, or you want to adjust the title of idea, please send Christiaan your adjustments or ideas: christiaan@monnik.org

2) The deadline of the first draft is the 30th of November. After that we’ll need some days to make sense of it all and than we’ll contact you about the next steps!

3) Your contributions have to be formatted in a particular order so that we don’t get all confused about it. A) Deliver text in a word.doc with, as the document name, your name and the proposed title of your piece. B) List inside the word document title, name, word count and proposed format for the contribution: game, essay, tour, etc. C) Don’t put your photo’s or images in the word document but refer to them and send us the image or photo in the highest possible resolution via wetransfer. Dimensions of the image are of no concern. D) If you use vector files send them in PDF or illustrator files. E) Send the contributions to both Anna, Rani, Edwin & Christiaan.

Thank you again and we are truly looking forward to your ideas and contributions. Rani will be in Warsaw until the 24th. Don’t be shy, take the opportunity to bother him if you want to discuss ideas and questions in person. Anna will also be around if your stuff is to fragile and precarious for any other language then Polish. Edwin and me will be available via email.

Anna, Edwin, Rani & Christiaan

Attachment: TOC WARSAW.xlsx – Sheet1

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Today’s program, 6 November: HOUSES

13:00 Joanna Kusiak will give a presentation on: Urban Chaos and the “Glass-Jar” Citizen: Revealing the Political Roots of the Cultural Conflict / (Miejski chaos i obywatel „słoik“ – odsłaniając polityczne korzenie konfliktu kulturowego)

18:00 Kacper Pobłocki will give a lecture/workshop on: “Na salonach Warszawki” or gentrification in the true sense of the word. A workshop on Warsaw as a capital rather than a city.

At Lokal A-I-R Laboratory (old Porthos hat shop)


Urban Chaos and the “Glass-Jar” Citizen: Revealing the Political Roots of the Cultural Conflict

(Miejski chaos i obywatel „słoik“ – odsłaniając polityczne korzenie konfliktu kulturowego)
Joanna Kusiak

Joanna Kusiak: “In my presentation I will show how the nexus of urban financialization, land-use planning and local government politics forms the deeper root of a purported cultural conflict between Warsaw’s newcomers (disdainfully dubbed “glass jars” – słoiki) and its “native” inhabitants. To reveal the spatial and political dimension of this conflict, I point to Warsaw’s peripheral district of Białołęka, known for its booming development of cheap, multi-family housing fuelled by the rise of foreign exchange denominated mortgages.”

Joanna Kusiak is a sociologist and an urban activist. She studies urban transformation and she’s interested in the concept of chaos as seen from an urbanism perspective. She conducted research in Warsaw, Tirana, Berlin, Hamburg and Cairo.


“Na salonach Warszawki” or gentrification in the true sense of the word

Kacper Pobłocki

“When I was a kid, cars with Warsaw number plates (also distinguished by lowered windows and loud music) passed through our town. They ran over small animals and left us covered in dust. Like noblemen amongst peasants.”

– Dorota Masłowska, (“Pieszczoszek warszawki”, Gazeta Stołeczna, 11.11.2003)

The central phenomenon that provides the linchpin for Warsaw’s “structured coherence” (David Harvey’s term) is the tension between its urban and capital functions. In this workshop, instead of focusing on how Warsaw works as an independent urban form (with its own, idiosyncratic predicaments), I wish to look at it as a central node in Poland’s both spatial and social hierarchy. In other words, I will understand Warsaw not as a place but rather as a space, and analyze the way Polish class mechanism is mediated through Warsaw’s relationship with the rest of the country.

Poland is a relatively sparsely populated and spacious country, and Warsaw houses only 4,4% of its entire population. The opening quote from one of Poland’s leading writers (born, as she put it, “in a place where everybody is a nobody”) indicates the tense relationship between Warsaw and Poles at large. If saying that Warsaw is a hated city would be an overstatement, I think it’s fair to admit that the mounting inequalities that have been exacerbated over the last 25 years generated many grudges, some of them justified and others less, and Warsaw sits at the very center of those sentiments. Prejudices held against the capital city are nearly universal. I’m interested in how they communicate the spatiality of the enormous concentration of power, resources, wealth and prestige, that we have witness over the past 25 years.

There is a number of “key symbols” that encapsulate this tension. One of them is “warszawka” – “petty” or “crony” Warsaw. As I have already argued elsewhere, it is the Polish equivalent of the idea of “champage (post)-socialism”, and the topic of the interview that Masłowska gave. Warszawka, however, is a very a-spatial concept, in the sense that one cannot put one’s finger on it when examining the actual city. One cannot put it on the map. It is so because there is no single “warszawka” but rather this fugitive concept captures both the fracture and aloofness of Poland’s elites, each stranded on its own collective topography. The warszawka of the political, media or art worlds do not necessarily brush shoulders. In a way its notorious a-spatiality is a token of how detached and non-approachable Poland’s elites are in the eyes of the “common” people.

“Salon”, a concept germane to warszawka, on the other hand, is quintessentially spatial. It is often noted that the “warszawski salon” stretches from the Łazienkowski Park through Aleje Ujazdowskie and Nowy Świat to the Royal Castle and the Old Town. It is alongside this part of the “Royal Route” (Trakt Królewski) that Poland’s most important institutions are perched. It is not surprising that the seats of the President, Prime Minister, the Parliament, Primate, Stock Exchange, the University or National Gallery and many other key institutions are clustered together – this, again, is fairly universal. What is interesting is the spatial form this clustering of “central functions” took. And what it teaches us about class.

Despite its historical veneer the “Royal Route” is uncannily modern. The “Old Town” was nearly entirely re-constructed after the Second World War, the Royal Castle was (re)built in 1971 and the Ujazdowski Castle is a baroque building from the late 1980s. What is striking in this re-construction of Warsaw’s spatial “backbone” is the deliberate elision of the 19th century. After the Second World War, there were only 6 original buildings left on Nowy Świat (out of 71). When the street was re-opened in 1949, it did not resemble the one from 1939, but the city from before the industrial revolution. For most of the post-war history, it was an 18th century highway, with narrow pavements and a substantial traffic on four lanes. The street got its contemporary look only after 1996.

What happened in the 19th century that was so unsettling? Well, urbanization, actually – with all the messy strings attached, such as the emergence of the working class and the bourgeoisie as the central agents of political, social and economic change (serfdom was officially abolished only in 1864) and a generally chaotic, agile and unruly urban world that the nobility wholeheartedly despised. When Polish intelligentsia, heir to the nobility, got the chance to refashion Warsaw as they pleased, they opted for sanitizing the urban life-forms that they deemed ill-suited for the capital of a modern nation. So the most important aspect of Warsaw’s salon is what is actually not visible there.

“Is not good form here to whistle or sing in the street. People do not talk on the tram. Nobody laughs. Nobody is joyful and nobody smiles. Even whores strut the streets puffed up as if they were matriarchs” – this is how a foreign tourist described Warsaw’s street life in the 1930s. It was of course slightly exaggerated but nonetheless it well captured the efforts to gentrify (in the true sense of the word!) Warsaw’s public space. It was not easy – Leopold Tyrmand, one of most perceptive observers’ of Warsaw’s life, revered in his novel The Man with the White Eyes (Zły) in this chaotic urban life. The so-called “riding grape” (jazda na winogrono) was perhaps its best symbol – a tram so packed with people, many of them riding outside, only holding the car or one another, than the whole structure resembled a moving bunch a grapes.

Aleksander Wallis noted in his “Informacja i Gwar” that Warsaw’s center started being gentrified already in the 1960s. The imposing of the urban “solemnity” onto the space was achieved by transposing a domestic category onto the public realm. “Salon” also refers to the living room – the public space within the domestic one. It is said that during the turbulent 19th century, when Poland did not exist as a state, and Warsaw was part of the Russian Empire, Polish culture “survived” because it was nurtured in people’s homes. Different classes, however, nurtured it differently. The lower classes often shared one room – if not, then the most important space of socialibility was the kitchen. Vestiges of this form of public togetherness can still be found in so called “domówki” – parties organized at homes, where it turns out that the mingling starts in the kitchen, and often that’s where most people hang out anyway (even though the snacks are elsewhere). But “salon” is a quintessentially aristocratic idea, and this very idea, and the space attached to it, has been the linchpin of Warsaw’s gentrification. I do not think it accidental that Warsaw’s “central place” is not a market, or a square, or a building, but a long monumental street that back in the 17th and 18th century used to connect two residences of Polish kings (one in the Royal Castle, and the other in Wilanow).

So in this workshop I wish to unravel the many meanings of “salon” and follow some of the tropes and places that lend this concept its meaning. I will present a number of threads I have found, but I’m also very much open to the discussion, feedback and new ideas. I’ve already written two the papers on the topic (one on “warszawka” and the other on “urban solemnity”) and those can be accessed at the links below. You can check them out. But, of course, reading them is not required for the workshop 😉

1. Class, space and the geography of Poland’s champage (post)socialism:

https://repozytorium.amu.edu.pl/jspui/bitstream/10593/9835/1/poblocki%20space%20class%20and%20champagne%20postsocialism.pdf

2. Urban solemnity and warped public space in Poland:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B75IZPwnSiAmYS1QcmVCNDNnZFU/view?usp=sharing

Kacper Poblocki – assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Poznań. He is a graduate of the Central European University. In 2009 he was a fellow at the Center for Place, Culture and Politics (CUNY Graduate Center, directed by David Harvey) and in 2010 taught urban studies at Utrecht University. He has published (e.g. in Critique of Anthropology) mainly on urban movements, uneven development and class. Next year his book “Urban capitalism: an anthropology of global urbanization and uneven development” will come out (in Polish) with Bęc Zmiana.

Tuning Warsaw App – Our On-the-fly Collective Notebook

During the workshop you can use the Tuning Warsaw App (available for iOS and Android). The App is our collective notebook. With it you can share your ideas and observations, and other people in the workshop can respond and add to them. The app is location based. What you post is attached to your current location, and only people in Warsaw can communicate with each other.

Download: Tuning Warsaw (iOS) or Tuning Warsaw (Android)

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Tune in to the Workshop

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After a successful  kick-off on the 1st and 2nd October at CSW, we’re moving forward in order to get everybody who wants to participate on the same frequency. In other words, to set up some basic infrastructure so we can get to know each other and to communicate easily. For this i’ve set up a Tuning Warsaw Facebook group, and made a sign-up form. So for those on FB, please join and make use of this to share thoughts, resources, ideas and proposals running up to, and during the workshop.

The other important thing is that we’d like everybody to fill out a sign-up form. This is not because we are such astute administrators, but more for communal, communications, and practical  reasons. Just in order to make the most of the workshop, and to get a bit of a feel for the people who are involved. See below, or follow this link.

Make Yourself at Home / Tuning Warsaw

[What follows is our initial idea of what the theme of a subjective guide on Warsaw could be, and the research lenses with which we could enagage this theme and the city. We welcome critique, enrichments and problematizations. You can also download it as a PDF
!: Please note that the workshop starts at 5 November. not 3 November as stated in the PDF]

Cities are notoriously difficult to navigate. They are too dense, complex and synergetic to grasp as a whole. In these strange and emergent places the only recourse left is to trust the subjective. A subjective compass does not only make the metropolis more understandable, and approachable, it will make it yours.

THE NOTION OF HOME

Humanity is increasingly surrounded by herself and her own fabrications.
In 2001 it was estimated that 9 in 10 children born in the United States or the European Union will never see the Milky Way, the galaxy we life in, in its monumental and nocturnal glory. They will never have the experience of reading a book by starlight, something that is possible when there is no moon, no clouds and no artificial lights. Just with the shine of billions upon billions of neighboring stars. The Modern project of mental and physical enlightenment has obscured the mystery of the night’s sky.
Since 2008, for the first time in history, more people live in cities than in villages and somewhere in 2011, the seventh billion person was born. In 2014 four-and-a-half billion people were electronically connected to each other via mobile phones, of which one in five is a Smartphone with GPS. Increasingly we navigate our social and physical surroundings through an electronic prism. Day-to-day human experience is rapidly becoming more urban, more technological – more artificial. Mankind seems to be slowly retreating inside a controlled environment.
This is a transformative development for the human experience. We navigate an increasingly artificial surrounding that is full of purpose, in the sense that a bridge has purpose while a mountain has not – it’s just there. This sense of purpose is as multi-layered as our cultural realm is deep. It consists of countless claims of numerous stakeholders. Everything in a city – from street curbs, zoning laws to a stray bicycle – is emotionally, scientifically, creatively, politically, economically, judicially and technologically claimed by people. People who made it, people who use it, people who claim it. Our ever-growing urban environment is also increasingly abstracted and fragmented. This sense of purpose is not only present in our physical surroundings but it also affects our collective and personal ambitions and memories. Who, in these days of purpose, wants to wander aimlessly through life?

“(…) Manhattanism, whose program – to exist in a world totally fabricated by man, i.e., to live inside fantasy – was so ambitious that to be realized, it could never be openly stated.” — Rem Koolhaas, Delirious New York (1978)

The urban condition increasingly takes place in our own imagination – a place where natural limitations and benchmarks are of less and less interest. Cities increasingly feel like endless interior spaces. But what does it mean to experience something in an environment where everything is conceived, created, marginally tolerated, moved, packed, or contested? To know that everything you do, will contribute to the man-made totality?

“SOUS LES PAVES, LA PLAGE!” 

The concern for our increasingly artificial lifestyle isn’t new. In the fifties and sixties situationists and psycho-geographers, such as Debord, Vaneigem and Nieuwenhuys, criticized the mediation of human relations by objects. They held capitalism responsible for the shift of deeply felt individual experiences and expressions towards ritualistic and consumerist second-hand experiences – the modern spectacle. They purposed the ‘derive’, the subconscious wandering and adventuring, to shed oneself of preconditioned attitudes and habits. Basically, they wanted to replace the consumerist spectacle with a sensory one. And they were not the first (nor will they be the last). For more than two hundred years romantics and bohemians – from lonely William Blake to crowded hippie subculture – have tried to heal the increasingly rational, efficient and thus fractured urban world.

With our Guide Projects we consider ourselves a part of this movement.
With the guides are trying to develop subjective narratives that can serve as instruments that enable the user to navigate and appropriate the ever chaotic and emergent urban environment. Not to make cities more understandable or approachable, but to make them yours – to make them home. The underlying fascination in our efforts is undoubtedly this strange paradox that is hidden in the human condition: The more we are able to shape and control our environment, the more we feel alienated from it. It is the burden of consciousness, or, in more Catholic terms; the fruit we picked from the tree of knowledge.

THE WARSAW CONTEXT

Warsaw has had little time of its own. Its inhabitants consider themselves unlucky to have been occupied by outsiders, may they be Prussians, Tsarists, Nazis, Sovjets, Catholics or Neoliberal Multinational Scoundrels. According to Krzysztof Pijarski, the last transition made them feel like immigrants, moving through new cultural realms without changing place. Like most immigrants they long for home, an idea of belonging somewhere – a place they are part of and feel ownership over. We also feel this longing in the omnipresent Right to the City movement, to which most of the people we met could relate.
Homemaking is first and foremost an internal process, on both the individual as the cultural level. From this internal process one can draw strength and legitimation to expel any invaders.

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[October 2nd we did a first brainstorm/exploration together with a group of about 25 participants on the ‘home’ theme and the suggested research lenses]

RESEARCH LENSES

These research lenses, or urban layers, are open categories that we can use to measure, probe, scan, observe, navigate and reshape our environment. In one way or another these research lenses expose or approach certain elements that are important in the making of home.

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CITY OF TOOLS — Our man-made world is a world of technology, technology for consumption or technology for production, and often both. Hands and minds make everything around us. More then anything else – like ideologies or philosophies – technological innovation is driving cultural change. Technology is omnipresent. It is the solid roof over our head, the clean water that comes from our tap, the food on our table, the language we speak, the memes that shape our thoughts and the laws we obey (or not). What do tools mean for our notion of home?

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SPECTRAL CITY — Not everything that is man-made is tangible. Most things that are part of culture are virtual or mental projections. Imaginations. Unseen things that guide us and make us feel welcome, or not. Unseen things that emerge and stretch forward in time like our ambitions and expectations and those unseen things that stretch backwards like memories.

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SERENDIPITY CITY — Do we need luck or can we make our own future? Our intuitive attitude to these questions must have some impact on our sense of comfort with the world and how we deal with uncertainty? Lucky City addresses the layers of fatalism versus free will, determinism versus chaos, consciousness versus innate materialism. Our position towards these answerable questions says perhaps a lot about our position towards our bossy managers, annoying neighbors and demanding boy- or girlfriends.

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CITY OF LOVE — Warsaw is changing and shifting, charming and ruthless. Warszawiacy lovingly or hatefully follow her without really questioning her, sometimes cursing their destinies of being guided and bound by an immense love for their mythically unreasonable Sirenka. This river of love is too discrete for the eye to see and it’s by listening and following people as they roam around the veins of their city that we will unravel the unseen thoughts about those who will never come back but also the thoughts on the ones who are present and who fill the air with the warmth of their passion. To all and by all the lovers, mothers, poets, romantics, sex-flyers and dreamers of an 8th day of the week. Home is where the heart is.

“When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams,
as the north wind lays waste the garden.”

— Gibran Khalil Gibran “The Prophet”

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CITY UNDER OCCUPATION — Sometimes claiming your freedom means the limiting the freedom of someone else, pathologically, economically, politically or socially. Other times you find yourself limited, blocked or trampled upon by others. By the ambitions or the worldview of parents, the narrow ideas of friends, or the economic restraints of shitty jobs. Or by larger, more powerful actors, like by the aspirations of religious and ideological movements, or by the secret maneuvering of economic and political bandits, or by unexpected street action of mindless hooligans. Or perhaps by the arrival of harsh winter. When do you feel under occupation, or blocked? When do you feel safe? What are your strategies?

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WORK — Through work we shape the world. Through work we make sense of the world. Through work the world makes sense of us. What we do provides us with meaning and social status. Work is the whole of tasks that we deem necessary, may that be inside a family, a professional, or in an amateurish framework. We work when we bring our children to school, when we do the dishes, when we plant vegetables in our allotted garden, when we build a cupboard, or when we do the things we have to do to earn a bug. Work is done with hands, feet and minds. And through them we shape the city.

Houses - crop

HOUSES — Where do we go when we want to be left alone? Where do we go to sleep? Where and how do we create our own little kingdom? And with whom do we do this? What do we do when we are at home? Is it a place to meet with friends? To have diner parties? Or is it a place to be alone? How do we decorate? What are our options – money, lifestyle – when we want to life in Warsaw?

METHODOLOGY OF GUIDE MAKING

The subjective guides to Beirut, Amsterdam and Tokyo were all based on a mix artistic and academic practices that involved mental geography, deep mapping and other subjective and objective appropriations of the city. The data was gathered during workshops of respectively, a week (Beirut), a weekend (Amsterdam) and two weeks (Tokyo). Then the participants took their impressions home and made their contributions to the guide. In attendance were basically all who cared and had the time: writers, academics, designers, filmmakers, photographers, architects, social engineers, urban planners, etc., etc.

For the Warsaw Guide we propose a couple of things:
Lets turn the Porthos-Space into a temporary laboratory of guide making. Like a city-sponge that absorbs all vibrations, movements and thoughts in the city. Like an Urban Reconnaissance Satellite, hanging stationary above Warsaw. A Soft Machine, of sorts. In this space we can organize lectures, tours and movie nights. People can join us for discussions, talks or just a place to work. It will be an open workplace. We’ll have coffee, beers and conversation.

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[Porthos]

PROGRAM

The program is open-ended and we welcome plug-ins, interventions, suggestions and alterations by who wants to participant. So far this is the rough draft. Still tentative and loose. Also check out the Facebook event page.

— 1 keynote-lecture on the Notion of Home by Monnik and Rani al Rajji, held in the Porthos-Space.
— 5 keynote-lectures and tours. These keynote lectures and tours resemble the 5 subthemes.
— 2 lectures on the practices of respectively Monnik & Rani al Rajji.
— A Warsaw Guide Blog where all content is made accessible.
— Many maps of Warsaw on the wall where all stories are compiled with post-its, etc.
— Screening of films and documentaries on Warsaw
— If people sign up and commit to a contribution they can have a free workplace, with coffee, and free access to the lectures.
— If people daily submit to an interview or survey by one of the contributors they may also have access to the free workplace and lectures.

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Fase 3 Workshop (5 – 16 November | Porthos Space)

  • 5 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
  • 5 November 2014 Screening night 1
  • 6 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 1 + Open Workspace
  • 7 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
  • 7 November 2014 Party 1
  • 8 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 2 + Open Workspace
  • 9 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
  • 9 November 2014 Screening night 2
  • 10 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 3 + Open Workspace
  • 11 November 2014: Tours by Students + Open Workspace
  • 11 November 2014 Screening night 3
  • 12 November 2014: Keynote Lecture (& Tour) 4 + Open Workspace
  • 14 November 2014: Presentations + Open Workspace
  • 15 November 2014: Final Presentations
  • 15 November 2014 Party 2

Join us in exploring, mapping and investigating Warsaw

For all those interested in urban exploration, deep mapping and subjective appropriations of the city (by out- and insiders, foreigners and locals – professionals, barflies and conspiracy theorists).

We kindly invite you to join us in the making of an alternative guide to Warsaw. Our aim is to make a guide that doesn’t tell the reader where to go and what to eat, or to make a book that explores the city’s architecture or urban planning, but to create a set of lenses that give the reader an idea of how the people of Warsaw live, work, love, fight, eat, befriend, raise families and relax. We want to explore the everyday particulars behind the general facade. Explore the city from the perspective of daily expectations and behaviors. We want to distill general politics and anthropologies from individual urban rhythms.

The alternative guides we made before – one on Beirut (Beyroutes), one on Amsterdam (Mokum) and one on Tokyo (Still City) – are all collective endeavours that depend on the authorship of both local and international writers, scholars, designers, architects, urbanists, anthropologists, visual artists, filmmakers and other urban explorers. Basically, anyone who is interested in urban exploration is welcome. During a couple of workshops we will present, explore, discuss, reflect on Warsaw and make our contributions.

If you are intrigued and contemplate joining us we would like to tell you more in a talk on the 1st of October 18:00 at CCA Laboratory. We will present our practice of guide making, tell you more about the earlier workshops, and discuss the lenses we used on Beirut, Amsterdam and Tokyo. If you are still enthusiastic after this we can discuss possible angles and lenses on Warsaw during a workshop on the 2nd of October 15:00.

Warsaw Guide Workshop — A Subjective Urban Exploration Beyond the Plaster

Oct. 1st – Part I / Talk by Rani al Rajji & Monnik.
18:00 – 20:00 at Laboratory building, CCA Ujazdowski Castle
(1h Talk / 1h Q&A)

Oct.2nd  – Part II / The First of Many, The Warsaw Guide Workshop
15:00 – 18:00 at Laboratory building, CCA Ujazdowski Castle
(30min Intro / 10min Break / 1h Workshop / 10min Break / 1h Workshop)

Hope to see you on  October 1st and/or 2nd!

Kind regards,

Rani al Rajji (Beirut, Lebanon), Edwin Gardner & Christiaan Fruneaux (Monnik – Amsterdam, Netherlands) and Anna Ptak (CCA, Warsaw)