The Ursus Factory used to be one of the largest factory and producer of agricultural machinery in Europe. Throughout almost the entire 20th century it was the glory of the Polish industry. The collapse of communism was the beginning of the factory’s end. These days, the empty halls of Ursus are falling into ruin. Tens of thousands of employees’ working lives were dumped in the dustbin of history.
The artists (Jaśmina Wójcik – director, co-writer; Igor Stokfiszewski – cowriter, second director; Rafał Urbacki – choreographer; Dominik Strycharski – composer; Jakub Wróblewski – author of the film’s visual concept) invited the plant’s exemployees – workers, technologists, managers, secretaries – to take part in an experimental documentary project to once more bring the factory back to life. With sounds and body memory, the ex-workers of the factory re-enact one day of work in the plant. The resulting symphony consists of the choreographed movements of the workers as well as of the technical, administrative and managerial staff, accompanied by the recreated phonosphere of the heavy industry.
Yet there is even more to the symphony: the almost-forgotten values connected with the age of industry, such as the workers’ sense of community, solidarity and work ethos. The symbolic revival of the factory breathes life into the tractors, which were once produced by the Ursus workers and which are now scattered across the country. Attracted by the energy of memory, the machines return to the place where they were born to pay tribute to their makers: the workers of the Ursus Factory. The plant’s buildings will be gone, but the tractors and workers of the factory will remain its genius loci for ever.
The Symphony of the Ursus Factory is a creative documentary, which applies the methods of participatory art and social practice, and combines video art with choreography and experimental music. Above all, though, it is a voice commemorating the Ursus Factory and the industrial and workers’ culture, a voice which fights for the dignity of the working people and for a historical politics that takes notice of their lives.