The Department of Presence is the Museum's of Modern Art in Warsaw public program at the Museum in Pańska Street. It is a form of an “institution within an institution,” a non-hierarchical research and educational station emerging from experiments with various forms of artistic expression to confront political, social, economic and environmental issues.
The Department of Presence tests performative forms of engagement in a specially designed space, the heart of which is Andreas Angelidakis’s DEMOS installation presented previously at Documenta 14 in Athens as part of the Parliament of Bodies program devoted to democracy, sovereignty and hospitality in contemporary Europe.
In 2020, the Department’s activities focus on the climate catastrophe, it’s causes and consequences in the social, political, ecological, institutional, artistic, ethical and philosophical dimensions. The catastrophe will not “happen in the nearest future” and does not take place “in some distant place”. It has already happened and we have to deal with it - right here, right now. The current situation forces us to abandon well-known and well-established paradigms and open ourselves to what’s new and unknown. We need to engage all of our senses, develop empathic sensitivity and dismiss outdated divisions between human and natural, social and environmental, inside and outside, “us” and “others”.
The Department of Presence also attempts to seek new institutional formulas that can rise to the drastically changing challenges and needs in the second decade of the XXI century. How does the climate catastrophe and its consequences influence the workings of a public institution? How should be a museum shaped in the face of the planetary and systemic change? Most of cultural institutions follow the business-as-usual logic which is partly responsible for the current crisis: endless growth, intensity, competition, unbridled consumption of culture and overproduction of events. We try to alter this configuration by using existing resources, focusing all our activities on cooperation and reducing their intensity.
The Department’s program encompasses long-term activities such as regular meetings of our open reading group, deep listening sessions and the activities of the Reconstruction Group which recycles works of art and artistic practices from the 20th and 21st centuries seeking new meanings and new applications for them. We are also opening the Museum’s premises to the presence and activities of different groups of activists, artists and theoreticians who will negotiate new formats of the institution’s operations. The second part of the program is made up of one-off events such as concerts, outings and film screenings organized in cooperation with HER Docs Film Festival.
One of the key elements of this year’s edition of the Department of Presence is the Climate Open Air Workshop organized together with the students of Polish art academies and universities. We revive the long tradition of open air meetings to unite the young art community around the climate catastrophe and try to seek new forms of environmental sensibility, engaged activities and thinking about the relations between the human species and planet Earth.