Index of Banned Words

  • Index of Banned Words
    Ewa Partum "Active Poetry: Poem by Eva" performance documentation still, 1971

Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw invites you to a series of meetings accompanying the “On the Tip of the Tongue: Performance and the War of Words” program. 

Increasingly, Polish public debate itself becomes the topic of that debate—its atrophy, degradation and pointlessness. A hardened split into enemy camps leads to a situation in which discussion loses any sense, as it does not foster mutual persuasion or development of understanding based on arguments. Dialogue is one of the foundations of our culture, but today only a sucker, a victim of manipulation, or worse, a traitor, changes his views. Dispute thus becomes total, and its aim is to destroy the opponent, not to solve the problem. Debate is not constructive, but serves only to confirm ourselves and like-minded people in the views we already hold.

In a series of discussions entitled Index of Banned Words, Paweł Dobrosielski and invited guests examine the devaluation of Polish public debate in terms of concepts that also fall victim to debate, becoming weapons in war arsenal, exploited instrumentally and in bad faith. They cease to be tools for describing and analyzing reality but become invectives, serving for labelling and excluding interlocutors. Using words becomes the most direct and simplified form of action, striving to block communication.

Debasement of the language of public debate occurs through kneejerk use of terms like “gender,” “politics,” “pluralism,” “nation,” or “left”/“right.” They have become endlessly replicated memes, seeming to convey a superficially obvious constellation of values and meanings.

The purpose of the series is to reflect on words, to attempt to restore their content, historical continuity and power of describing reality. But we want to consider not so much the genealogy of concepts as what words we would like and who should define the forms of communication (intellectuals? “public opinion”? the currently dominant discursive formation?) As concepts are used today more as handy tools for ending discussions, for closing down channels of communication—let’s try to open them.
This project is realized in cooperation with the Institute of Polish Culture at the University of Warsaw.

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