idea / why congress?

Culture non-stop

Four days of non-stop culture. Exhibitions, concerts, films, theatre performances, and panels. Over 300 artists and renowned intellectuals from all over the world gather in one city.

The European Culture Congress will be introduced with the book by Zygmunt Bauman, written on the initiative of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage. Prof. Bauman explores there the genesis of the notion of ‘culture’, analyses processes that culture was subject to both in the past and nowadays, showing developmental threats and chances. Another theme is how the pace of changes – particularly such factors as new technologies, free market, economy, globalization and first of all “compulsive and obsessive ‘modernization’” – determines the shape of the contemporary culture.

Good start questions

The diagnosis presented by Zygmunt Bauman sets the intellectual framework of the European Culture Congress. Since old definitions miss lots of phenomena, legal and economic regulations lack connection with reality, and migrations within Europe lead to constant redefinitions of such notions as ‘identity’, ‘cultural status’ or ‘nationality’, we have to watch carefully processes we are witnessing and participating in. The Congress will not resolve all urgent problems – that is a long-term challenge – but to paraphrase Prof. Bauman’s words: questions are far more important than ready answers. Thus creation of a space for questions will be the main objective of the Congress.

Themes not only for discussion

Is ‘Europeanism’ just an intellectual construct? How culture can draw on the free market and not become its victim? How to lobby efficiently the European Parliament for culture? Is open culture really a benefit? What ‘original’ means in the contemporary art? How to reconcile the copyright law with the audience’s right to participate in culture? These are only few of the proposed themes that will be taken up in discussions and artistic projects. The European Culture Congress departs from the traditional path of debates and prefers the merge of theory and practice.

Flashes & clashes

Besides discussions with European intellectuals and artists, the programme includes theatre and other performances, concerts, screenings, visual arts exhibitions, architectural presentations and design projects. The majority of events – in accordance with the Congress’ formula and the contemporary arts’ interdisciplinary nature – cross boundaries of just a single area. Apart from small and chamber projects, like experimental sound projections, there will be spectacular performances for a wider audience – a pyrotechnic outdoor show by the French Groupe F or concerts of well-known stars. The audience will have a chance to meet both authors with considerable achievements – like Krzysztof Penderecki, Krystian Lupa, Jan Fabre, Fatos Lubonja – and artists of the younger generation – Stefan Kaegi from the Rimini Protokoll, the designer group Kompott, or the British group Stornoway. Presented will be new, rarely seen in Poland format projects, actions that refer to the cultural heritage of Wrocław, and performances that on the one hand show the potential of independent cultural organizations, and on the other hand interfere in the social area and activate the audience.

Change is art

Programme of the ECC encourages the audience to active participation. Transferring the debate from a field accessible to specialists only to the social sphere is of special importance now. As Zygmunt Bauman noticed in his book written especially for the Congress, in Europe we talk a lot and eagerly about culture but nevertheless culture has weaker and weaker impact on the society. Motto of the National Cultural Programme for the Polish EU Presidency – ‘Attention culture!’ – reflects the conviction that art can be (an frequently is) a tool of social change, an instrument that boosts creativity in areas seemingly unconnected to culture. That’s why some events are programmed especially for the third sector which puts the idea of arts as a tool of social change into action.

The domino effect

We hope that the intense programme, as well as the dialogue – or polyphony – of all circles engaged in culture will not only give just a fleeting experience of the richness and diversity of the contemporary art but also produce a domino effect with results to be seen soon.

Katarzyna Wielga, co-ordinator of the National Cultural Programme for the Polish EU Presidency, and the team



translated by Maciej Kositorny