I stumbled across a tourist video shot in Gdańsk in 2015. They looped the Stan Borys song ‘Coraz to z ciebie, jako z drzazgi smolnéj’ as footage showed kayakers paddling ahead of a menacing black ship. It was moving upstream on the Wisła river against the wind and the current in Gdańsk, near Żuraw, the restored old gate crane tower. The sky is blue, people are out, the mood is festive. The river is lined with the faces of ancient buildings. The action unfolds in slow motion, and at first it’s unclear what is happening. The wind is whistling in the music track.
I first experienced this location during the 1994 Sopot Festival when Arthur and Basia Winiarski took me down into Stare Miasto, or the old city district of Gdańsk. By the main bridge there was a bungee-jump over the river that you could do for about $20. A year later I moved to neighboring Sopot and frequently visited Gdańsk. I shot photographs with my German sax player friend Roland of this location. At the time, on the opposite side of the river, there were still ruins that looked post-war. Looking at this new footage from 2015, I saw that the area has now been built out with what looks like contemporary condos or apartment buildings.
The music bed they selected for the footage, ‘Coraz to z ciebie, jako z drzazgi smolnéj’ by Stan Borys was the song that he presented at the 1991 Opole Festival. Strange Romance guitarist and friend Michael Garrett Wolancevich played guitar on the track. I heard Stan debut it earlier that summer at the Cardinal Club on Belmont in Chicago with Jeff Svoboda, the owner of Risque Records. I accompanied Stan to Opole, and shot footage from backstage and in the audience of Stan performing ‘Coraz to z ciebie, jako z drzazgi smolnéj’. The ’91 Opole Festival was a seminal event that rotated my life.
The coupling of this track’s associated memories with images of today’s Gdańsk produced a telescope effect through time. I shot back to the summer watching bunjee-jumping with Arthur’s family, to a cold winter day shooting photos with Roland, to a rainy afternoon with my girlfriend sipping beers and coffees in a cafe by the historic old tower. I thought about an early summer club visit to see Stan with Jeff at Cardinal back in ’91. Then I looked at Gdańsk of 2015 with the young kayakers and the menacing black ship approaching. I listened to Stan’s song, lingering in nostalgic wisp memories of a 57 year old man. I moved from Poland back to Chicago 20 swift years ago. My life expectancy is another 20.
Most of these are from my Polish Poster collection. They were given to me as a gift from Arthur Winiarski after the Opole Festival. Graphics of these are from PolishPoster.com where there is an interesting history of Polish Poster Art.
I first became aware of Polish Poster Art when I went with Stan Borys to the Opole Music Festival in June of 1991. There were copies of a charming poster advertising the event all over: on the side of the hotel, in the cafe and restaurant windows, at the entrance to the train station, on placards at the taxi stands, everywhere. I was mesmerized by the simplicity of the image. It was a canary with an elegant opera singer standing on its back, being led by a very formal butler. There was a medallion with details of the event in the upper left corner, and a tacked on strip of paper saying Opole ’91 in the upper right corner. I asked the woman at the front desk of the hotel where I could buy a copy of the poster. She gave me an amused look and told me they were not for sale, but I was welcome to just take one, which I did. On the way to Warsaw after the festival, at the train station, I dropped my rolled-up poster between the train and the platform. I climbed down onto the tracks not sure when the train would roll, and retrieved it. It is my prized poster, framed and glowing from across my office in pastel yellow, blue, and green. Three short years later at the ’94 Sopot Music Festival, the event poster for it was a tacky mishmash of corporate logos and branding, similar to what you would see anywhere in the States or Western Europe. Polish Poster Art died in the early nineties along with the old system that sponsored it, and was often subverted by it.
Video, Editing and Production by Inja Lin.