September 2017, an American-Israeli artist and street poet Addam Yekutieli (aka Know Hope) came to Łódź. For more than a decade he has been using words and pictures to create his own interpretations of local microstories that express so often more universal phenomena, connected with human condition.
In Łódź his project was a part of Łódź4Culture Festival. The leading theme of the Festival was the Alphabet – on one hand an element strongly connected with particular identity (ethnic or cultural), on the other hand – a common factor for all human civilisations. That’s why this time the artist focused on words, reducing a visual aspect to the minimum. In his open call he invited people from all backgrounds, walks of life and of all ages linked in any way with Old Bałuty – once a district of poverty, widely known for its bad reputation.
The group of people that took part in the meeting with the artist was as eclectic hoped. Older and younger generations, old district dwellers or occasional visitors all shared their stories. Some of their narrations depicted life in an old block of flats, typical for Lodz „well-yards” and streets paved with old cobblestones. Others captured ephemeral expressions, flashes of memories, past and present. There was a story about a lady coming to Bałucki Rynek with a big bag of bread, always followed by a huge cloud of birds. Another one was a recollection of young people fighting in the park using sticks and big pot covers as shields. There was also a story of a waitress. She was a small lady, but feisty and strong enough to kick the troublemakers out, until they eventually apologized for their behavior.
These micronarrations, tiny bits of people’s recollection were shaped by Yekutieli into concise poetical forms, translated into Polish by Andrzej Zychla, a poet and a translator. Then the artist himself designed the plates, and hand-painted Polish versions of poems on them. The plates were then fixed in the places where the particular events had taken place thus forming a special route throughout the district, creating a woven narrative of personal landmarks, an intimate insight into the shared reality that is Bałuty.
We’d like to thank all the participants that were willing to share their stories, without them this project would not have been possible.