The Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency 2011- summary


Between 1 July and 31 December, the largest cultural action in history was organised in nine Polish cities, presenting the cultural heritage of the country, encouraging citizens to become active and conscious art participants and wiping out artificial divisions between artistic disciplines. It shall provide an impulse for establishing and maintaining artistic and intellectual cooperation on both local and international scene.

By way of a decision of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage, the National Audiovisual Institute (NInA) has been entrusted with the task of designing and implementing the Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency 2011(KPKPP).

In the course of 184 days, during the six-month, interdisciplinary culture festival, over 1000 artistic projects were carried out. They were conducted in cooperation with local and non-governmental organisations, as well as numerous European partners; the culmination point of the cultural programme of Polish Presidency was the European Culture Congress in Wrocław.

The Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency 2011 comprised special projects in Sopot, Wrocław, Kraków, Poznań and Warsaw - cities where high-level meetings were held, as well as Lublin, Białystok, Katowice and Krasnogruda; nearly 60 projects were recommended by the Cultural Programme Council of the Polish EU Council Presidency and organised by culture institutes operating under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. Moreover, over 60 prominent Polish festivals were included in the KPKPP 2011, i.a. the International Theatre Festival Dialogue - Wroclaw, the Sacrum Profanum Festival, the Warsaw Autumn Festival and the New Horizons International Film Festival.

In accordance with the conclusions of the report drafted by the Board of Strategic Advisors to the Prime Minister and entitled “Poland 2030”, the main message of the Programme was Art for Social Change. It refers to the fact that contemporary culture constitutes an integral part of the social process and an important element of everyday life. Participation in culture has a profound impact on human relations, creating the bond of identity and affiliation on several levels: local, national and international. The programme encouraged the creators and consumers of culture to adopt a creative attitude in order to strengthen the artistic and social conscience and inspire critical reflection on culture and civilisation.

By putting the motto of Art for Social Change into practice, the Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency 2011 emphasized the role of non-governmental organisations, grassroots cultural initiatives and addressed the subject of the Eastern Partnership, i.a. through cultural and intellectual exchange with the countries of the Partnership, the presentation of the work of artists from Eastern countries, creating a space for dialogue and reflection not only regarding the common past, but also the development perspectives for the new ways of international cooperation. The exhibition organised in cooperation with the Arsenal Gallery and entitled Journey to the East was held in order to provide artists from these countries the possibility of cooperation with their Polish colleagues and to create an urban space free of political limitations. Afterwards, the exhibition was presented at Art Kyiv Contemporary in Kiev and currently it is held in MOCAK in Krakow (until the end of January 2012). It is the largest exhibition of contemporary art from this region organised to date. Other KPKPP 2011 project which were particularly close to the idea of the Eastern Partnership included festivals organised in Lublin: the Oldest Songs of Europe featuring artists and artistic groups from Belarus, Ukraine and Georgia, as well as Theatre Confrontations, showcasing Russian theatre and the art from the countries of the Partnership.

Artistic projects and events were grassroots initiatives. They were conducted in close cooperation with partners and non-governmental organisations from particular cities, and therefore conducted in conformity with specific local conditions and needs, the particular character of the place and its potential. Thus, the artistic initiatives undertaken in Sopot and referring to urban legends and involving local community turned the city into the Open Culture Spa. Through a number of workshops (i.a. design for children, food design, comic workshops), city actions and concerts, YES! Katowice – Temporary Cultural Action drew attention to the need of redefining the "Silesian spirit" in the context of European community.

At the very beginning, the creators of the Cultural Programme of the Polish EU Presidency adopted three basic objectives. Given that 2011 was the EU year of volunteering, we decided to establish the broadest possible cooperation with non-governmental organisations from cities where meetings of politicians were be held. We did not want to "import" artists from Warsaw. We wanted to provide these cities with an impulse to act and support them in the realisation of projects.
Michał Merczyński, the director of the National Audiovisual Institute; interview for "Brief" magazine

The aim of the Cultural Programme of the Polish Presidency was to engage communities, both artists and those who are not involved in cultural activities on a daily basis, into the fight against any forms of social discrimination. Revealing new, unknown areas of the city to both tourists and Sopot inhabitants, the artistic "revitalisation" of Katowice's courtyards, workshops organised for the children of refugees in Białystok in parallel to the "Journey to the East" exhibition or the diverse project of the European Culture Congress in Wrocław drew the attention of the public to the problem of exclusion due to age or nationality (the performance of the Dawka Energii Dance Theatre from Walbrzych entitled "Legs" and "Memory and Oblivion", an interdisciplinary project by eFKa Foundation).
Many undertakings - a number of workshops, interactive installations located in the urban space, community and network projects - necessitated the active participation of the audience.

When preparing the Cultural Programme, its creators were determined to ensure the availability of projects to large social groups; their ambition was to encourage the active involvement of local partners and their cooperation among themselves as well as with foreign actors; last but not least, the main idea of the programme was the one of social change through culture. The programme combines the seemingly contradictory theory and practice, local and international, fleeting and durable. I am convinced that its results will be visible and appreciated for years to come.
- says Katarzyna Wielga, a coordinator of the Cultural Programme of the Polish Presidency.

The main idea of the programme, emphasizing the influence of culture on our everyday life and expressing the belief that art can reflect the problems of the contemporary world, permeated all the events organised within the KPKPP 2011.

The programme of the European Culture Congress was modified with the inclusion of the debate "Culture in action" following the events of the Arab Spring. The discussion featured Guy Sorman, professor of political science at the Academy of Arts in Tunis, Rachida Triki and Mohammad Fahmy (Ganzeer), an activist and graffiti artist from Cairo.

Since the mission of the KPKPP 2011 was investment in social capital, the programme was founded on the values of democracy and equality. Over 1,000 diverse artistic projects were organised, covering a large scope of artistic disciplines and aimed at audiences of all ages (i.a. the children EUgeniusz scene in Warsaw's Mariensztat which inaugurated the Polish Presidency), representing diverse interests and meeting different expectations. Many of them were broadcast on television, radio and via Internet on the website of the National Audiovisual Institute, i.a. the opening and closing galas, as well as the debates of the European Culture Congress and the European Agora in Krasnogruda, TU WARSZAWA concert inaugurating the Polish Presidency and the performance of Pawel Mykietyn's Symphony no. 3.

An important element of the programme was its interdisciplinarity, which was reflected not only in the combination and interaction of different disciplines, but also in the establishment of new links between high and popular culture (for instance, the inauguration concerts, music projects of Krzysztof Penderecki with Jonny Greenwood and Aphex Twinn or Pawel Mykietyn's Symphony no. 3 with Mateusz Kościukiewicz's lyrics).

Formally, the Polish Presidency is coming to its end; however, a number of projects of the Cultural Programme are or will be pursued in the future. After the official closure of the European Culture Congress, several undertakings are continued in the public and virtual space. Many projects of the Congress were of audiovisual or digital nature, i.a. Doc’s Docs Gdańsk Remix - a competition for a collage of documents from Gdańsk Shipyard or films shot with mobile phones on the initiative of a social movement known as Cities in a Coma. Even though the Congress is over, its website,, featuring Congress's debates, is still operating.

In the framework of cultural events of the Cultural Programme of the Polish Presidency, numerous contacts were established; they have already resulted or could result in future cooperation. Many projects involved exchange programmes, such a "Artists in residence”, (i.a. cooperation with the artists of BWA in Wrocław) and networking of non-governmental organisations, which led to such projects as the "Ideas Generator" or "Reverse Pedagogy”.

A series of workshops commenced a year before the Congress led to the initiation of cooperation between Polish and European NGOs, as well as the organisations from the East, where direct, everyday contact with European culture is sometimes limited.

Throughout October, the events of the European Culture Congress were broadcast by the journalists of the Belarusian office of the Polish Radio Abroad and the Internet-based Ryba Radio. The winning project of the "Ideas Generator" competition was realised by the end of December 2011. The "Ideas Generator" was very popular with foreign guests and will be presented in the framework of other international culture festivals.

Mirosław Bałka's installation, Wege zur Behandlung von Schmerzen was prepared especially for the Congress and shall remain in Wrocław. It will be open to public in the first half of 2012. The exhibition entitled "Journey to the East" travelled from Białystok to Kiev; it shall be shown in MOCAK in Krakow until the end of January. In the spring of 2012, an exhibition presenting the complex and multidimensional attainments of Lublin's Mindware. Technologies of dialogue will be held.

Numerous music projects of the Cultural Programme of the Polish Presidency shall also be pursued. The concert of Krzysztof Penderecki and Jonny Greenwood, performed for the first time during the European Culture Congress, will be take place again, on 22 March 2012 in the Barbican Centre in London, as well as during the cult international "Primavera” Festival in Barcelona.
Also in March 2012, the legendary recording studio Nonesuch (where Górecki's Symphony no. 3 was recorded), shall release the record commemorating this unusual cooperation.

Asia Mina (Asia Bronisławska), who performed with a 40-member children brass band during the inauguration of the Polish Presidency in Warsaw, toured Poland promoting the album entitled Wybiegły!, commissioned by the National Audiovisual Institute.

The continuation of the KPKPP 2011 projects will include the premiere of Passion according to Saint Lukas by Krzysztof staged by the theatre director Grzegorz Jarzyna. The performance will be held on March 31 and April 1, 2012 in Alwernia Studios. Dance premieres of the Old Music New Dance festival in Poznań will be presented in 2012 in the countries of the Presidency trio: Denmark and Cyprus.

An important outcome of the activation of culture institutions and actors during the European Culture Congress is the collection of signatures under the petition "More culture in the EU cohesion policy" europa/petycja. The action was conducted on the initiative of NInA with the support of Culture Action Europe and A Soul for Europe. The initiators of the action and petitioners call for the introduction of changes to the provisions of the European Fund for Regional Development and the European Social Fund in order to account for the role of culture as a factor supporting innovation and creative solutions for new social challenges.

The remnants of the six months of the Cultural Programme will include Olafur Eliasson's Pavillion, the books by Professor Zygmunt Bauman and a film devoted to him by Krzysztof Rzączyński, as well as audiovisual materials: recordings, photographs and projects pursued in the virtual space and available to general public. In the spring of 2012, a book summarising the European Culture Congress will be published.

The scale of the cultural programme of the Polish Presidency exceeds the typical cultural framework of such political events. However, it is not the number of events, but rather the thought behind them and the motto of the Presidency that matter. (...). "Culture for social change" is an invitation for discussion about the future not only of the European culture, but the whole European community. What is supposed to connect them apart from economic and political interest? In what way should culture benefit from the mechanisms of free-market economy without becoming their victim? How to defend the independence of culture against any censorship attempts? How to involve in culture those who have been excluded from it? These are only a few examples of questions and problems raised by the cultural presidency.
- Roman Pawłowski, „Gazeta Wyborcza”

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