The first edition of the Polish-German-Israeli interdisciplinary project Ćwiczenie nowoczesności • Exercising modernity • Modernität üben, which will be held in 2018, is a pilot program of intellectual, artistic and academic exchange for all those interested in the history and culture of Poland, Germany and Israel, as well as the ideas of civil society and social justice. In the year marking the hundredth anniversary of Poland regaining its independence the program will be centered around the notion of modernity, not only in its historical, but also present meaning, the latter covering also such aspects as the revolutionary impact of new technologies on life, as well as products of these changes: new ways of life and challenges currently faced by humankind.
Ideologically and conceptually, the program is based on three socio-cultural phenomena of the interwar period. The first of them – coming from the Bauhaus school – is the novel approach to the living space and needs of people and to the role a modern artist can play in both satisfying and stimulating them. Then there are the ideas of the interwar Poland, oriented towards progress and laying foundations for a free and democratic state. Finally, we turn our attention to the way the ideas of modernism were reflected in the architecture of the then-emerging state of Israel: the “White City” is the largest collection of buildings erected in accordance with the modern – often even avant-garde – architectural language of the 1920s and 1930s. The question about the role of art and artistic activities is equally important. Daring and large-scale artistic visions of the interwar period were implemented in long-term modernization projects. Relying on the Bauhaus, Gdynia and Tel Aviv as symbols of interdisciplinary and universal modernizations, we offer a comprehensive program of courses and a host of accompanying events open to the public, all of which will be devoted to various aspects of modernity. The Ćwiczenie nowoczesności • Exercising modernity • Modernität üben project will be a chance to reflect on how many of these early twentieth-century ideas were put into practice and whether their influence continues to be felt to this today, and also to examine the results of these attempts at designing life.
Gdynia, a phenomenon of interwar Poland, refers to the idea of emancipation and modernization through architecture, urban planning or democratization of access to technical developments. It became a symbol of a new and strong state and its deep involvement in – admittedly, not always successful – modernization of the country. Gdynia also stands as a symbol of an open, cosmopolitan city with an identity rooted in the present moment. The Bauhaus, in turn, symbolizes the revolution in thinking about art and art production and an attempt at bridging the gap between artistic activities and the actual needs of people in everyday life. It not only manifested itself in the very structure of the school and its syllabus, but also included promoting a completely new approach to visual arts, architecture and industrial design. This idea of a new art and architecture that shapes modern life and environment came to fulfillment in Tel Aviv, where the “White City” was built in the 1930s. It is the largest collection of buildings erected in keeping with the esthetics and formal solutions characteristic of the Bauhaus projects from Europe. Jewish architects, heavily influenced by the Bauhaus ideas, after fleeing the Nazi Germany implemented these solutions when building their own state – in a completely different socio-political context and geographical conditions.
The clash of Polish, German and Israeli narratives seems to be a clash of utopias with tough political and social reality as well as individual limitations. Basing ourselves on Gdynia and the Bauhaus – the Polish and German symbols of the European modernity – and also on the geographically distant but closely related ideas underpinning the building of the state of Israel, we will take a closer look at modernization processes from the historical perspective. We also want to study their influence on thinking about identity of all these countries today. We will consider the role the legacy of modernism plays in all the above-mentioned places and examine the effects of attempts at putting modernist utopias into practice. But other questions also come to mind: is there still a space and need for such large-scale and visionary, if not utopian, gestures? How can modern artists, thinkers, local activists and culture animators participate in building a better future? How can they help others adopt to modernity and prepare for the things that in a few decades will determine the work and living conditions, human relations, or participation in culture?
The focal point of the Ćwiczenie nowoczesności • Exercising modernity • Modernität üben program is a autumn school that will be held in October-November 2018 in Gdynia and the Bauhaus Denkmal Bundesschule in Bernau near Berlin.
The program is aimed at Polish and German final and pre-final year students of art and the humanities and young creators, scholars and culture animators (up to 35 years of age). For subsequent editions we want to invite participants from other countries, including Israel. On the basis of submitted applications, 8 candidates from Poland and 8 candidates from Germany will be chosen. Inspired by the interdisciplinary syllabus of the Bauhaus school and the work of the Polish avant-garde artists of the interwar period, our program will cover a number of areas of art, science and modern humanities. Participants in the program will have a chance to develop their ideas not only through dialogue with other participants, but also in discussions with tutors – curators, scholars and artists from Poland, Germany and Israel.
At the final stage, each participant will present a draft of a research or artistic project. The Pilecki Institute also plans to run a scholarship program, thanks to which some of the projects will have a chance to be implemented.
Participation in the program is free, and the organizers cover travel expenses and provide accommodation and meals. The classes will be held in English.