Welcome the Stranger
An urban installation for social engagement
Open City Arts Festival, Lublin, Poland, 2019

Dorit Cypis and Louise Steinman

Water Stations: Lloyd Hamrol
Sound Composition: Jimmy Harry
Sound Vocalist: Magdalena Birczynska
Text: Inspired by Edmond Jabès and the voices of people experiencing refugee status
Translation: Piotr Florczyk, Magdalena Birczynska

Welcome the Stranger is created for the Open City Festival, Lublin, Poland, an ancient city with complex political and cultural histories. Welcome the Stranger is an urban installation, performance and social engagement project that reflects principles of sharing sustenance across all human need. We are two artists, a writer and a visual artist, living in Los Angeles, USA, both with family roots in Poland’s Jewish community and the only artist team invited from outside Poland.

Our focus begins with The Old Lublin Well, to be celebrated and revived as an ancient site that once sustained the local neighborhood with water and as a meeting place. The Old Well, the only one extant of more than a dozen Lublin wells, remains part of the pre-war city water system. Until the outbreak of WWII this well served the once-thriving Jewish District. Water was accessed from a source of vein-like streams stretching across the expansive underground terrain. Perhaps this water source connected with other vein-like streams flowing east, west, north and south across the city, country, continent, and across continents.

As water of the earth runs below us and greets us all via way stations such as The Old Well, so too Welcome the Stranger seeks to engage with multiple locations and people. Our project fans out through the old city of Lublin connecting the Old Well with 11 more “way stations” representing the long gone wells, and designed to each contain a water pail inscribed with text we have collected by persons across the globe currently struggling with refugee status.

These texts will join other texts we have collected reflecting expressions of foreignness and exile, in particular the writing of Edmond Jabès, which will be edited and etched on glass panels for installation in the 4 side niches of the Old Well. We will transform other text into
an audio score to be heard daily at noon from the Old Well. On the opening weekend of the Festival we will present a processional ceremony to include local Lublin Festival participants. Discussions will take place at the Well on 3 consecutive Saturday afternoons, hosted by invited local speakers.

From our collective sensibilities we are creating Welcome the Stranger to honor all strangers. No matter who you are, we, Welcome the Stranger.

Acknowledgement:

Text and sound at Old Well: collage drawn from Edmond Jabès (Egypt/France), A Foreigner Carrying in the Crook of His Arm a Tiny Book. (Wesleyan University Press, 1993)

Texts on Pails: Dunya Mikhail (Iraq/US); Czeslaw Milosz (Poland/US); Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan/US); and present-day asylum-seekersfrom Eritrea; Iraq; Syria; Guatemala, and Yemen

The artists wish to give thanks to the following people for their support: Katy Bentall, Piotr Brozek, Ludomir Franczak, Magda Franczak, Weba Garretson, Joanna Klass, Tomasz Kitlinski, Michal Kobialka, Zofia Lesinska, Pawel Leszkowicz, Julian and Raphael Mahari, Tomasz Pietrasiewicz, Joanna Zętar

Friends in the USA who made donations towards production & Staff of Open City Art Festival, Lublin