The great and the secret show / The look out gallery

By Katarzyna Krakowiak

November 8 – 17, 2013

At The Penn Station Post Office

Corridors Open 12pm – 6pm

Sound Installation Open 24 hours

Presented as part of Performa13


Opening + artist walkthrough: November 8, 6pm


“In perceiving, our whole body vibrates in unison with the stimulus (…) Hearing is, like all sense perception, a way of seizing reality with all our body, including our bones and viscera”   -Gonzalez-Crussi

The great and the secret show / The look out gallery by Katarzyna Krakowiak from Storefront for Art&Architecture on Vimeo.


The historic James A. Farley Post Office is today one of the biggest empty building in Manhattan.  While in the mid-twentieth century more than 16,000 workers inhabited the building, today, less than 200 workers occupy the space during busy periods, leaving many rooms, corridors, vaults, chambers and storage spaces vacant. While the role of the post office is currently undergoing massive transformation, the building itself is under a great urban and architectural interrogation.


The great and the secret show / The look out gallery considers sound as an archeology depicting the temporality, materiality, speed or intensity of bodies, objects and systems. The installation guides visitors through a typically closed route of empty rooms and corridors across the building where past and present sounds of the postal service mechanisms and processes are performed, revealing the fascinating history of the spaces, and reflecting on the vast urban scale of the building. The sound and resonating performance transform the walls of the hallway into a vibrating membrane, producing an intimate experience that synthesizes the past and the present of the Post Office.


Katarzyna Krakowiak takes what the workers call “the look out gallery” as a starting point for her installation. The look out gallery takes its name from a system of secret corridors that connect the thousands of rooms of the old Post Office building and allow surveillance of the work environment. In its heyday, small eyeholes allow assigned postal policeman to control the working environment through an analogue CCTV. Using a pre-recorded collection of sounds of closing doors, cards being discarded, stamping postcards, and other past and present Post Office activities, the performance raises questions of labor, public services, and hierarchy in the most visited urban space of years past.


Krakowiak’s installation reminds us that our bodies and memories are made also through sounds. Her sound archeology depicts –perhaps better than an image or a text- the temporality, materiality, speed and intensity of bodies, objects and systems.


Visitors can access the installation in two forms and temporalities. From 12pm to 6pm by walking through the path of corridors and rooms specially open for the performance, or any time (24 hours a day) during normal Postal Service office hours, where the visitor can experience the echo of the installation through the vibration of the walls and windows that connect the public spaces of the building with the installation rooms.


This exhibition is presented as part of Performa13.  For more information visit 




About the Artist

Katarzyna Krakowiak (b. 1980) is a sculptor working mostly with immaterial phenomena in architecture and arts. In 2006 Krakowiak graduated from the Sculpture Transplantation Studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań, under Mirosaw Baka. Significant exhibitions include Who Owns the Air? at Galeria Foksal (Warsaw), Game and Theory, South London Gallery (London). Her works were presented in group exhibitions at, among others, KUMU Museum (Tallinn) and HMKV (Dortmund), 13th Venice Architecture Biennale, Göteborg Biennale and most recently Lisbon Architecture Triennale. She holds PhD in New Media Arts from Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw.


Since 2012 Krakowiak has conceived a series of large-scale sound installations that investigate sound and social organization imposed by architecture. Krakowiak made her debut on the international art scene with a radical and uncompromising gesture at the Polish Pavilion where she  emptied out the entire building and transformed the space into a vibrating structure of sound generated by neighboring pavilions. Visitors could eavesdrop on all the different noises emitted from these other pavilions as evidence of the typical workings of the building and the human activities occurring within, which usually remain unnoticed.


About Performa

Founded in 2004 by art historian and curator RoseLee Goldberg, Performa is the leading organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth-century art and to encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century. Its biennial is the only one dedicated to commissioning, presenting and exploring new visual art performance across disciplines. For three weeks, November 1 – 24, 2013, Performa and a consortium of innovative organizations will band together to transform New York City into an international platform for celebrating live art. More than 100 separate events presented at over 40 venues will showcase new work in an innovative program, breaking down the boundaries between visual art, music, dance, poetry, fashion, architecture, graphic design, and the culinary arts.



This project has been made possible with the support of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, and is presented in partnership with Performa.

About The Adam Mickiewicz Institute

The Adam Mickiewicz Institute is a state cultural institution which aims to promote Polish culture around the world and actively participate in international cultural exchange. The Adam Mickiewicz Institute has successfully launched its projects across 26 countries including Great Britain, Russia, Israel, Benelux countries, Spain, Austria, Sweden, France, Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania, Algeria, Morocco, India, Japan and China. As part of these projects IAM has organized over 4,000 cultural events which gathered an audience of 40 million people across three continents.