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How can artist residencies change our understanding of movement and migration? Jo Vávra puts an artist residency in the Błędowska Desert of Poland into perspective.

  • May 11 2022
  • LIOS labs
    is an arts of ecology residency programme and an intentional community of practice. Founded in 2019 by the onEarth foundation, run by the artist and curator Jo Vávra and the activist and lawyer Kamila Knap, supported by a network of interdisciplinary collaborators. More information: , IG: @lios_labs. 

In the desert, the sky wide horizon reveals a total absence of answers

This circumstance allows for the freedom to be anything. In the words of Starhawk, it gives a possibility “to leap beyond imagination into that space where fantasy becomes real”. In the desert, the migration of the sand structures the reality. Dancing with the wind and tectonic movements it shapes the landscape of the curvy dunes. In that space, a certain softness and fluidity permeates the states of matter and mind. People gather there to perform radical acts in search of meaning. Digging holes in the sand, cooking with fire, weaving grasses, folks get lost in the moonlight’s feminine labyrinth. Time slows down and thoughts fade away, emptiness comforts the vow of not knowing. When Chronos disappears it becomes easier to see the world in the grain of sand. 


The paradox of the Błędowska Desert

Motherland to LIOS labs* is an anthropogenic formation in southern Poland called Błędowksa Desert. During the mediaeval times excessive cuttings of a primaeval pine forest revealed deposits of sand carried by a melting glacier of the pleistocene era. The wood of the pines was used to build corridors for the mines of silver and lead. In the XIII Century Błędowska Desert stretched over an area of about 150 km2. An offspring of the Dark-Age catastrophe, the desert started to shrink in the 1970s, when local farmers planted pines in order to stop the sand storms destroying their crops. Due to this activity Błędowska disappeared in the early 2000’s. One could say that the forest made its comeback by collaborating with humans. Meanwhile, not all the humans were fond of this happening. In the years 2006 - 2014 the Desert enrolled in the LIFE+ program of the EU, becoming a Nature 2000 protected habitat. As a result of “active conservation of the largest polish complex of xeric sand calcareous grasslands” the young pine forest was cut down, once again uncovering the golden sand. 

From this freshly remodelled environment emerged *LIOS labs, with the urge to be in dialogue with the land and its diverse inhabitants. Starting with questions like “how to live together in an undesirable/desirable place?”, and “why not to transform a third landscape into a culture cradle?” We organize temporary oases in the middle of the desert. The arts of ecology residency programme has become an international community. At its core lay peer-to-peer learning, fostering deep adaptation rituals and experimenting with horizontal, agile organisational structures. Our survival strategies, as well as artistic practice is embedded in circularity, mutual aid and respect. In order to maintain the desert dwelling we find ways of working together, of practising essentialism, yet full of creativity and poetry. Our camp, located in the public space of the regional landscape park, is open to visitors from surrounding villages and from afar. Sometimes, when the desert is ‘busy’ doing daily chores feels like we are the animals in the zoo, being watched by the passing tourists. We care to bring attention, even though at times it can be intimidating. To create an exchange, a rapture, an inspiration, our mission is to foster a common feeling of acceptance of difference, of diversity and multidimensionality. To live in the desert, even temporarily, a shift of perspective and a widening of perception is needed, but also to live in the world today, it's necessary. 

The oasis infrastructure is ephemeral, ‘leave no trace’ zone of tents, sanitary and shade structures, and laundry temples. The energy for powering the camp's night vision and speakers comes from the sun. The water is carried by hand. The locally outsourced, party forged food is cooked in the camp’s kitchen. Each resident has a vital and exchangeable role in the community. 


 ︵‿︵‿୨♡ (LIOS labs  Manifesto) ♡୧‿︵‿︵


i have this dream of a connected world

where we are no commodity 

nature, with its moral algorithms, will be our superstructure 

matchmaker, instant fact-checker and therapist 

no filtered realities 

a playground where we share experiences and feel less alone

with user agreements in which technology and ethics go hand-in-hand

amongst ourselves we’ll decide on peace 

to protect the world

no likes, no web searches, no credit card swipes

with the world we’ll decide on peace 

to protect ourselves

new approaches, new strategies, new systems

a world where everyone reads the terms and conditions

of air, water, earth and fire

where consciousness is the new sexy

inner peace is the new success 


Text: Jo Vávra, Manifesto: Tomasz Skibicki


    @LIOS Labs



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