Observatory Case

View From the Window

View from the Window is a participatory project involving neighbors whose windows overlook the artist-run space DOMIE that connects young artists and activists from around Poland and abroad. DOMIE is an open art centre that offers a space to work, exhibit, organize, store your works, or create a workshop. It is a space in the making, to become a common good and spread the spirit of cooperation and collectivism among different subjects. It is non-institutional initiative embracing groups excluded from the public debate and not fitting the current Polish political agenda, including LGBT+ people and sex workers, for example. 

The idea of DOMIE goes against gentrification: we expose the ‘ruin’ that has occurred as a result of the transformation of Poland after 1989 – the rapid change of systems, neglect of memory and responsibility. In such conditions, we underline the need to support the weakest groups and enhance ideas of solidarity.

The DOMIE itself is a single-standing house in the yard of Św. Marcin – the most famous street of Posnań city. After 1989, the building and the yard were abandoned; after being used for several years as an important cultural site: it hosted a Fotoplastikon (life-sized zoetrope, and an early precursor to cinema), or Kaiser’s Panorama. Since 2018, Katarzyna Wojtczak and Martyna Miller have taken over the building, creating a social, artistic, economic, and architectural experiment of collective care, which today is developed by a growing artist collective.

In the View from the Window we focus on building neighbourly relations across difference, by hosting picnics in the yard. The artists and youngsters of DOMIE are often considered a foreign element of the hood, a threat to the old order. The project thus aims to enhance dialogue between the local neighbours and the new inhabitants of DOMIE, since they may not have the tools to acknowledge that they can gain something from each other. Both communities deal with traumas, poverty, and loneliness. Creative engagement in overcoming the obstacles and treating them as opportunities can help build bridges. Building up a sense of trust in the neighbourhood can start an ongoing exchange, promote engagement and strengthen agency. The war in Ukraine has brought a new context to the project, as many refugees have become new members of the neighborhood.

In March 2022 we started a series of picnics in the front yard of DOMIE, to which all the local neighbours are invited. We meet for a meal and get to know each other by spending a Sunday afternoon together. The yard is in terrible condition: there is wild parking, trash, an uncontrolled toilet, and a place of daily alcohol use. During these meetings we have started a common conversation about the idea and future of the yard – creating an urban garden together, moving away the cars, thereby creating a safer space to spend time together. The neighbours bring ideas and engage in work for the benefit of a common yard and the emerging community.

When photographed from above, due to the unusual shape of the roof, DOMIE visually resembles the first photograph ever taken by Nicephore Niepce in Le Gras (France). In the process of building trusted neighbourhood relationships, the lead project artist Martyna kindly asks the neighbours to photograph the view of DOMIE from their own windows. The photographs are then shared back with them and displayed inside DOMIE as part of an exhibition.

By playing with this visual connotation in relation to our neighborhood, I want to evolve the feeling of something dear and beautiful, connected to memories and storytelling, a place that we should take care of and treat as a treasure that belongs to all of us. The View From the Window simultaneously uncovers the history of the building, including cherished childhood memories of the magic of the Fotoplastikon, and enacts repair of the ruined building, navigating a better future through shared ideas of space and place.