Rise and Fall of Air, Zacheta- National Gallery of Art , Warsaw 2013

Rise and Fall of Air Katarzyna Krakowiak
Michał Libera – curator
at Zacheta National Gallery of Art
01.07.2013 – 18.08.2013



Rise and Fall of Air introduces Katarzyna Krakowiak as the first artist to exhibit her piece in thirteen rooms of Zacheta National Gallery of Art at the same time. However, none of them will be accessible to the audience and only few of them will be available to the gallery’s staff. Although within reach of a hand, these are rooms too shallow and too narrow to be visited, often with no entries and sometimes with no floors. Some of them are classified in architectural plans as “Voids. Technical rooms”. These waste spaces are elevator shafts, ventilation ducts, skylights, unused corridors and rooms. The chambers in between seemingly monolithic walls or skylights mock-ups are not even listed in the plans. Yet they all form a gigantic space of over fifteen thousands cubic meters.

In this latent system of the waste rooms Krakowiak finds a shape of her new architectural sculpture. Most of all, in three massive in-wall spaces positioned parallel to each other. They cut the building vertically and uphold an enormous storey of skylights, easily associated with the institution’s logo. Together, they quite literally form a new Zacheta, empty and inaccessible, with new construction as well as new planning and new form. Contrary to other famous development plans, Krakowiak’s Zacheta is not build up from adding new elements. It is rather cramped in between the existing walls. She does not prepare new architectural models but builds her overwhelming construction with sound. In case of working with unattainable spaces the choice seems to be the most natural – nothing but the sounds get where her sculpture is raised.
Voids hosting Krakowiak’s sculpture form what acousticians refer to as “rooms within rooms”. As even few cubic centimetres of empty, tight and inaccessible space isolates more effectively than a wall, their function is univocal – they dumb the sounds. Not to pass it any further, keep it isolated and weaken – this is what the voids do. These building within building, rooms within rooms, Zacheta within Zacheta are an architectural equivalent of air-pump – a machine to move air. The machine absorbs the sounds and prevents them to leave the building; the machine does not let them out, keeps them until their last reverberation or transfers it up, to this all-consuming chamber called skylights. The very process, isolating-dumbing work of voids in architecture is crucial here – the fact that architecture is the last listener, that it can remove our sound traces and mute us. And that the very process can be amplified in a way that it fills the entire building.
Krakowiak works with entire buildings – they deliver the material and determine the scale of her sculptures which in turn become integral elements of architecture – they are continuous, real-time processes. She fills the buildings with sounds, amplifies them and makes them tremble; she “sonifies” hidden air trajectories and displays waste spaces in search of the moment when they cease to be buildings and become sculptures. But she never takes actions against the buildings. Quite the contrary – departing from analysis of its architectural plans and acoustic models, she enhances its tacit characteristics, particularly the ones related to communicational failures, distortions and disfunctions.