Whilst visiting the Trojmiasto earlier in the week I stumbled upon a tiny, perfect facet of Sopot’s Open Culture Spa events programme. Throughout July, August and September Sopot, like a few other Polish cities, has put together a cultural schedule to celebrate Poland’s tenure in the European Union Presidency. However, the resort city sandwiched between the industrial and commercial hubs of Gdynia and Gdansk has gone a little further with its remit and has utilised the power of social networking sites and other internet media to put together a massive outpouring of creative endeavour in the fields of music, design, technology, literature, cinema, ecology, fine art and performance.

Foremost amongst the contributions to this eclectic and wide-ranging project is a piece of installation art designed by the Tabanda design team of Malgosia Malinowska, Filip Ludka and Tomek Kempa, under the auspices of the Swelina collective of architects, artists and designers. The Swelina collective takes its name from a small estuary between Sopot and Gdynia, at which a stream flows out into the Baltic. At the far end of Aleja Franciszka Mamuszki there is a small paved area that allows for easy views of the stream as it flows down toward the sea. Here Tabanda have set about constructing a series of ‘Kinetic Sculptures’, with the express purpose of converting the energy generated from the stream’s languid flow into a distempered melody of tinkling glass, cracking wood and chiming metal.

The unusual water propellers, bottle racks, metallic pistons and various weights, pulleys and levers, make it look as if the waterway has been taken over by a band of ingenious engineer elves. Adding to the sheer magical spell the installation casts is the constantly varied ‘natural’ rhythms of the ‘music’ it generates. One large riverboat-like water-wheel turns a series of wooden rods around, under a line of suspended glass bottles, whilst intermittently knocking over a wooden clapper-joint, that moves as if simulating the painful leg exertions of a long-distance cyclist.

Tabanda claim to have developed this installation as a result of wishing to fill the valley, in which the Swelina lies, with sounds. They achieve this aim easily and with a real sense of enthusiastic experimentation. Furthermore the installation serves as a large-scale calling card for their own innovative interior designs, that focus on harnessing sustainable energy processes in their manufacture and function, whilst sacrificing nothing in aesthetic and ergonomic excellence.

I found the whole experience of Swelina’s newly musical valley gently delightful and couldn’t help but marvel at some of the intricate mechanisms Malinowska, Ludka and Kempa had created to produce the simplest of effects. The true beauty of the whole project is the way in which it draws a direct, and powerfully obvious, connection between the ‘wasted’/’unharnessed’ energy of the silent stream and the new nexus of motion and music that they have placed upon it. Thus natural energy is converted into usable energy, if only for the purposes of an amusing and diversionary spectacle. If it can be done for this little bit of frivolity, then surely if more attention was paid to such wasted natural energy sources so much more could be achieved.

Below are some links to three short films depicting parts of the installation:-

Sopot – Open Resort Culture/Association Swelina Kinetic Sculptures Film 1.1
Sopot – Open Resort Culture/Association Swelina Kinetic Sculptures Film 1.2
Sopot – Open Resort Culture/Association Swelina Kinetic Sculptures Film 1.3