Academy 2018

Berlin – Gdynia – Tel Aviv

Exercising Modernity is a Polish-German-Israeli project, with the annual Academy as its core. The first edition of the Exercising Modernity Academy in 2018 was about the concept of modernity, both in a historical and a contemporary perspective. Three cultural and social phenomena of the interwar period, symbolizing universal interdisciplinary modernization programs, were focused in 2018:

First, the Bauhaus movement with its new consideration of the human living condition, and related to this, the question of how the fine arts and the applied arts could satisfy or even stimulate human needs. The Bauhaus stands for a revolutionary view of artistic creation and production of art, guided by the idea of bringing art and architecture closer to the concrete needs of people.

Secondly, the Academy dealt with ideas that shaped Poland in the interwar period, i.e. the discussion about progress and the building of foundations for a free, democratic state, which is illustrated by the example of Gdynia. The history of the development of its city center is not only an example of the development of ideas of emancipation and modernization through architecture and urban planning, but also shows how modernity was linked to political needs and goals – in this case, a program to establish a functioning state system.

A third point of reference were the modernist ideas that shaped the architecture of the nascent state of Israel: The “White City” of Tel Aviv forms the world’s largest assemblage of 1930s architecture inspired by the principles and forms of the International Style. Here, too, modernism was a response to specific social and political needs, and the promise of a new, better life is evident in the architecture’s modernity.

The goal of the project was to confront three independent narratives of modernism – Polish, German, and Israeli – while highlighting their mutual references. The discussion also focused on the question of what modernity meant one hundred years ago and what elements of modern thinking at that time could be important today; furthermore, what role the legacy of modernism plays today in these places, and what the results were of attempting to implement modernist utopias.

In 2018, within the Exercising Modernity project framework the Academy (in Gdynia and at the Bauhaus Denkmal Bundesschule in Bernau bei Berlin) took place with a program of public events, including concerts, lectures and discussions.

The 2018 Exercising Modernity Academy was attended by 16 participants from Poland, Germany and Israel.

The program consisted of lectures, workshops and seminars.

The activities took place from morning to evening. Each day ended with an evening lecture. During the workshops, participants chose between one of two teaching options.

Program files are available here:


Bernau bei Berlin


Agata Abramowicz
Shira Levy Benyemini
Sabrina Cegla
chmara.rosinke (Maciej Chmara & Anna Rosinke)
David Crowley
Tomasz Fudala
Jacek Friedrich
Sharon Golan-Yaron
Joanna Kusiak & Kuba Snopek
Florian Mausbach
panGenerator (Jakub Koźniewski & Krzysztof Goliński)
RAZ (Ander Gortazar Balerdi & Jacek Markusiewicz)
Thibaut de Ruyter
Daniel Talesnik
Yuval Yasky & Yamit Cohen



Academy 2019

communities & the commons

Forms of communality formed the keynote of the second edition of the Exercising Modernity Academy, which was organized by the Pilecki Institute in cooperation with the Liebling Haus – The White City Center (Tel Aviv), the Polish Institute in Tel Aviv, and the Gdynia City Museum. Meetings under the Exercising Modernity Academy took place in autumn 2019 in Tel Aviv, Warsaw, Gdynia, Berlin and Weimar.

The community, communality, the Commons – there exist many terms which describe the common good and that which is collective or shared. Issues concerning social relations in the 20th century, founded on a common identity (historical, religious, national or class-based), on common interests and needs, but also on conflicts as to that which is common, inspire discussions and questions about the meaning and the vital role of communities in the development of modern states, cities and societies.

On the one hand, the past century was marked by attempts at subordinating the lives of individuals to the ideological interests of specific groups, at erasing singularity and separateness, and also by a hostility towards “others” – “aliens” and “strangers.” But on the other, it was precisely these movements, social groupings and political communities, centered around common values and propagating the idea of maintaining a balance between the separate and the common, that were able to defeat totalitarian systems. The dream of modernity, rooted in democratic values, impelled one to avoid extremes, where either the individual or the group constituted the absolute point of reference for the world of politics or the economy.

At the same time, the theory and practice of democratic states in the first decades of the 21st century, their culture of memory, town planning, environmental protection, the struggle against extremism, and the challenges posed by globalization define the next stage in the execution the idea of communality, and this requires not only seeking new possibilities for its implementation, but also a verification of premises. The importance of the discussion on various concepts of community–based life and habitation in communities continues to grow. The change in the social situation and interhuman relations is clearly evidenced by, for example, the process of progressing isolation of individuals accompanied by the appearance of new models of self-organization, the formation of which – particularly in the large cities – is brought about by various factors, also economic, such as an increase in real estate prices. These transformations, occurring in our contemporaneity, inspire discussions on alternative forms of habitation, work and spending leisure time. The terms the Commons and “communality” may also be associated with reflections on interhuman relations which differ from our socio-economic model, and on dreams of a just and egalitarian world. Taken together, these threads define the ideological framework of both modernity, understood historically, and our contemporary way of thinking about the organization of space and social life.

What does “communality” mean in distinct geographical and political contexts? How do we conceive the structure and the process of creating a community, and how were these conceived at the beginning of the 20th century? What conceptions of community-based living and the common space functioned in the interwar period? How was the role of social institutions and the potential future development of interhuman relations perceived at the time?

We intended to examine these issues in the course of the second edition of the Polish-German-Israeli Exercising Modernity Academy. In particular, we analyzed past and present forms of cohabitation, and also new forms of societal management. Our focus was on the following:

  • communality as one of the fundamental ideas of modernity, also in the context of collective memory and identity,
  • community-based forms of habitation in Germany, Poland and Israel, such as social housing states or the Israeli kibbutz,
  • forms of social self-organization, for example cooperatives and (housing) associations,
  • the public space and the quest for a modern agora for modern democracies.

In the Academy, we focused on three perspectives, i.e. the Polish, German, and Israeli, the dissimilarity of which is the result of disparate historical and cultural experiences.

Participants attended classes taught by eminent artists, curators, architects and researchers, among others Mirosław Bałka, Jacek Friedrich, Aleksandra Kędziorek, Katarzyna Krakowiak, Grzegorz Piątek, and the team of the Liebling Haus – The White City Center (Shira Benyemini, Sharon Golan, Sabrina Cegla).


Program files of the Exerising Modernity Academy 2019 are available here:





Mirosław Bałka
Shira Benyemini
Sabrina Cegla
chmara.rosinke (Maciej Chmara & Anna Rosinke)
Jacek Friedrich
Aleksandra Kędziorek
Joanna Kordjak
Katarzyna Krakowiak
Michał Łuczewski
Iddo Ginat
Sharon Golan-Yaron
Prof. Phillip Oswalt
Grzegorz Piątek
Hanna Radziejowska
Agata Szydłowska
Ela Weber
Yoav Weinberg
Yuval Yasky


Pilecki Institute Berlin


Adam Mickiewicz Institute
Liebling Haus – The White City Center
Gdynia City Museum