Lokomotywownia train depot

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Lokomotywownia (2018)

Lokomotywownia is a site-specific installation located in a disused train repair depot in Krakow, Poland. The history of the region, its old technologies, its witness to the passing of time and the transient, are bought back into conversation through the rediscovery and intervention of the site. The train’s previous life and its trajectory of motion are mimicked in the reciprocal motion of the iPads – they are alive, the train is now stationary. 

In Lokomotywownia the audience involved were train workers who had no prior experience or understanding of site-specific art. A number of the train workers that became involved in the project didn’t even know that the old carriages existed prior to the project and they had been working half a mile away for 10 years.

Established in 1927, the depot is somewhat in the shadow of modern train travel. The history of the region, its old technologies, its witness to the passing of time and the transient, are brought back into conversation through the rediscovery and intervention of the site. The iPads take on the form of mechanical beings, and their sensory domain is given up to us as they serve as a vehicle by which we are transported into the culture of old Eastern Europe. The train’s previous life and its trajectory of motion are mimicked in the reciprocal motion of the iPads – they are alive, the train is now stationary.

Lokomotywownia attempts to present moving image in dialogue with sculptural form as tracks are built as a shell of the carriage – the viewer experiences the materiality of the train carriage from the inside out, as the reading of detail builds the comprehension of architectural space.

Motorised tracks were built inside one of the abandoned carriages, allowing the materiality of the site to define the structure of the recording device.

The captured footage was then played back on eight iPads that move around the space mapping the carriage interior and re-tracing the exact path of the camera, spatially and temporally. As the iPads drifted slowly across the surfaces of the abandoned railway carriage, the exact representation in scale is seen on the screens, highlighting the architectural site below.

The site performance brought light into the domain of the foreboding, symbolic, dark space, literally through the lit display of iPad screens, whilst simultaneously invited the audience to illuminate the space with ideas and possible meanings. In Lokomotywownia the viewer was reliant upon the moving iPad screens to reveal elements of the architecture, in which to construct their awareness of the site and locate them in physical space. This is particularly effective as the iPads move across the carriage floor; the missing wooden planks reveal the ground below. Suddenly the floor no longer feels stable; the audience’s habitual reading of the carriage surface is questioned and their safety in the site doubted. This de-materialization of the filming apparatus is particularly effective in the moment where the iPad glides over a hole in the train carriage wall – as the film is pre-recorded the image on the iPad reveals an empty space and the motorized track appears to vanish. In darkness the iPad reveals aspects of the physical site via the moving iPad screen, the audience locates themselves via the screen image.

“It’s a strange place to do this, I can’t imagine many artists walking all the way here to see this. It is like a fish-eye lens, magnifying the site. The sound of the motor is really interesting. I like the movement, it feels alive.” (Audience feedback)

“Is the recorded image a ‘window’ into the recorded site or a heightened reality of the site? – the virtual seems more real than the real. At first I was trying to work out if it was filming or had already been recorded. I placed a pen in the carriage, it didn’t appear on the screen. Then I knew it had been pre-recorded.” (Audience feedback)

Detail: film documentation of ipad screen in site performance.

“I must have walked past these carriages every day, but never really paid attention, you have made them look beautiful, alive again” (Audience feedback).

Film documentation of the site performance.