Gdansk Lab

We live by the Baltic Sea. It’s our home, a big part of our identity, yet, most of us are not aware how it’s affected by our lifestyle. The Baltic Sea is both the youngest and the most polluted sea in the world. We are responsible for the situation: there have been decades of harmful political decisions, wars, and corporations chasing for profits with complete disregard of the Baltic ecosystem.

“The Baltic always offers space – for imagination, for contemplation, for feelings. And I admire its strong breeze and salty smell.”

Common Water in Gdansk

“The Baltic Sea is special for me – it affects my sense of well-being, calms me down and gives me energy.”

However, the choices we as people make everyday matter. During the “Common Water” project in Sopot and Gdańsk, artists Jacek Wielebsky and Blanka Byrwa worked with locals in their creative lab experimenting with plastic and other types of waste found on Baltic beaches.

They are full of inspiration: we should be talking about the cultural heritage of the Baltic Sea in Pomerania (amber), about pollution (toxic waste, everyday garbage) and about the future (a time capsule for next generations). We wish to raise awareness around the power of waste: using it as a new material to create rather than destroy – new objects, new forms, such as urban furniture for public spaces and city institutions. The next step would be to replace plastic waste altogether with biodegradable materials such as seaweed. We want to believe that this will be possible in our lifetime.

The artists used a scrapped recycling machine for their work – symbolic in and of itself. We hope that one day individuals and companies will refrain from producing new plastic and will finally begin to use the materials that are already in circulation. We are surrounded by mountains of plastic waste, from which one can build new islands, if not entire continents. Bottle caps, wrappers, cigarette butts, plastic straws, polyester, polyethylene – a wide variety of plastics, of all shapes and densities. We attempted to, in a way, memorialize some of this polluted landscape for the next generation – as a warning.

We set up our installation at the Goyki3 Art Inkubator, in a place that was originally designed as a garbage container. This builds a connection between a time when the world was free of plastic, to now – when it is flooded in it. Each element of the installation looks like a sea creature or a letter of an extraterrestrial alphabet. Simple shapes sending a simple message.

The “Common Water” project is implemented by The HUB e.V. in cooperation with Floating EKA Foundation, Waterfront Movement and funded by the German Federal Foreign Office in the framework of the Eastern Partnership program. We would also like to thank project partners in Poland: Recyklon Company (Koszalin), CUMY Foundation, Goyki3 Art Inkubator.

“During the workshop, we learned a new, creative way of processing plastic, which seems very promising. It’s great that we can look at plastic not as disposable garbage, but as a valuable material for creating new things.”



Blanka Byrwa
Daria Zhmach