Bo artist to recreate Baltic Sea event

© Anka Ptaszkowska. Courtesy of Museum Of Modern Art, Warsaw
A man conducted waves in 1967 as part of the “Panoramic Sea Happening,” which Polish artist Tadeusz Kantor created on the Baltic coast. A Bolinas artist is planning to recreate the event.   

A man stands on a podium submerged in the ocean, conducting the sound of the waves and the wind; beachgoers pose on a shipwrecked raft, re-creating a famous French painting; people plant newspapers in the sand or engage in a mud fight in bathing suits. Who are the participants and who are the artists—and what does it all mean?

These are the types of questions that 40-year-old Bolinas artist Pawel Kruk hopes attendees of the “Panoramic Sea Happening,” scheduled for Aug. 23 on Brighton Beach, will ask. The four-part event is intended as a re-enactment of an artistic event held on the same day 50 years ago in the seaside town of Lazy in northeastern Poland, not far from the city of Koszalin where Mr. Kruk grew up.

“Definitely bring a beach chair,” he said.

Mr. Kruk, who will orchestrate the day like a director “to create structure, so it doesn’t all fall apart,” said similar events—he called them “plein airs”—were an annual occurrence on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast from around 1963 to 1981, when artists would come together to create interactive shows and demonstrations. The initiative, called the International Meetings of Artists, Scientists and Art Theorists, became one of the major movements in Poland’s post-war art. 

One of the most famous of these beachside events was organized by Tadeusz Kantor, a revolutionary theater director and visual artist. Photographs from that day in 1967 depict four absurdist parts: a “sea concert,” a “medusa raft” based on a 1818 painting by Théodore Géricault, the planting of newspapers known as “agrarian culture on the sand” and the “erotic barbuyage,” involving a mud fight. The event was held away from the city, where there was more freedom for expression, Mr. Kruk said.

“Politically, this was not a fortunate time,” he said of the period of Soviet rule in Poland after World War II. “Though I grew up in democracy, and experienced the flower that comes after the frost, the plein airs were happening in relatively deep winter. Despite this, they were really dynamic situations, where artists could work and create the circumstances.... The artists created situations where they could grow something.”

Mr. Kruk’s event will be open to the public, and beachgoers are encouraged to participate or just watch. 

Mr. Kruk, who has lived in Bolinas full-time for four years, and has a background in performance art and impersonation, will take on the role of the Panoramic Sea Happening’s original mastermind.

“When I thought of my place here in Bolinas, I imagined this could be a way to introduce myself to this community, through this work of art that I bring from my home,” he said. “This community is very engaged with each other, and I see a lot of enthusiasm toward art, theater and literature. It has a legendary aura of being free-spirited, and I knew if I would like to explore this, it would be accommodating,” he said.


The Panoramic Sea Happening will take place at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 23 at Brighton Beach in Bolinas, weather permitting.