Art Against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st Centuries

  • Art Against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st Centuries

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw invites the public to the first part of the conference “Never Again” entitled “Art Against War and Fascism in the 20th and 21st Centuries”, which accompanies the exhibition of the same name presented at the Museum on the Vistula (30.08-17.11.2019).

We hope that the voices of the invited speakers will not only establish a theoretical context for the works presented in the exhibition, but also subject them to thorough, scholarly examination. The structure of the conference reflects the structure of the exhibition, displaying the relations between art and antifascism in the 1930s, the 1950s, and the present day.

The first session will open with presentations by Jenny Nachtigall and Dorota Jarecka addressing gestures and manifestations of antifascist art in interwar Poland and the Weimar Republic. Artists of the Kraków Group and Berlin Dadaism, operating in the reality of a brutal ideological battle and violence, established a lasting foundation for later antiwar and antifascist efforts. Agata Pietrasik’s presentation will be devoted to art created in Nazi concentration camps as a form of resistance and the battle to maintain humanity at the time of the greatest triumph of fascism.

The second session will be opened by David Crowley and his analysis of the functioning of Picasso’s Guernica under changing social and political circumstances, from the time of its creation in 1937 through the 1970s. In this portion of the conference we will also discuss the relations between antifascism and socialist realism in the 1950s, in the context of the Cold War and Stalinist propaganda. Piotr Słodkowski will address the Arsenal exhibition, and in particular the painting by Marek Oberländer presented there, Napiętnowani (Branded). Justyna Balisz-Schmelz will describe the propaganda role of communist antifascism in the context of the dominant socialist realism in East Germany.

These historical analyses will be supplemented by a discussion among directors representing leading European museums belonging to the coalition L’Internationale. The exhibition "Never Again" was created thanks to this cooperation within the EU programme “Our Many Europes.” The discussion will be devoted to a comparison of the social mission and programme tasks of the museums, in the face of political tensions, including tensions arising in the interpretation of history and relating to the history of works of art.

The aim of the conference is to raise questions about the legitimacy and usefulness of seeking historical analogies for the contemporary wave of violence and dangerous fantasies of segregation of societies and stigmatization of groups deemed to be different. Has history taught us a lesson that can help overcome the crisis of communal thinking? Can we learn something from the antifascist tradition, despite all of its shortcomings?

Thursday, October 24, 2019

11:00 – 14:00
1st session 

11:00 Joanna Mytkowska, introduction,
11:30 – Jenny Nachtigall, "Contradiction and circulation: (anti-fascist) politics of form in Berlin Dada and beyond",
12:00 Dorota Jarecka, "A rised fist",
12:30 Agata Pietrasik, "Figures of resistance: Maja Berezowska and artists from Ravensbrück",
13:00 Discussion


14:00 – 15:00
Lunch break


15:00 – 16:30
Discussion involving the directors of institutions belonging to the L’Internationale confederation of European museums.

Participants: Charles Esche (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven), Zdenka Badovinac (MG + msum, Ljubljana), Manuel Borja-Villel (Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid), Meriç Öner (SALT, Istanbul, Ankara), Ferran Barenblit (MACBA, Barcelona), Bart De Baere (M HKA, Antwerp), and Joanna Mytkowska (Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw).
Moderated by Sebastian Cichocki, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw chief curator.

17:00 – 19:00
2nd session 

17:00 David Crowley, "Guernica after 1945",
17:30 Piotr Słodkowski, "Against war, against fascism, but what else? Marek Oberländer's Branded",
18:00 Justyna Balisz-Schmelz, "East German requiem. A defiant antifascism in East Germany",
18:30 Discussion

Zdenka Badovinac
Director of the Moderna galerija and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova MSUM (Ljubljana) since 1993. Curated numerous exhibitions presenting both Slovenian and international artists. Initiated the first collection of Eastern European art, Moderna galerija’s 2000+ Arteast Collection. Slovenian Commissioner at the Venice Biennale (1993–1997, 2005, 2017) and Austrian Commissioner at the São Paulo Biennial (2002). In 2011–2013 president of CIMAM - International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern and Contemporary Art.
Her recent projects are: “Low-Budget Utopias”, with Bojana Piškur, at MSUM Ljubljana (2016); “NSK from Kapital to Capital. Neue Slowenische Kunst – an Event of the Final Decade of Yugoslavia” at Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow (2016); “Heavenly Beings: Neither Human nor Animal”,with Bojana Piškur, at the Museo Reina Sofía Madrid (2017); “Hello World. Revising a Collection; Sites of Sustainability. Pavilions, Manifestos and Crypts” at Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart - Berlin and MSUM Ljubljana (2018).

Bart De Baere 

Director of M HKA (Antwerp) since 2002. Member of the board of directors of CIMAM - International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern and Contemporary Art. Between 2003 and 2008 he served as chairman of the Flemish Council for Culture, which advises the government on cultural policy, and from 1999 to 2001, he was advisor for cultural heritage and contemporary art to the Flemish Minister of Culture. Before this, from 1986 to 2001, he was curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent (now S.M.A.K.). He organised and curated events for several venues abroad including Documenta IX in Kassel where he was member of the curatorial team.

Justyna Balisz-Schmelz
Art historian and critic. She is an art history graduate of Jagiellonian University, where she completed her doctorate in 2015 under the direction of Dr Maria Hussakowska. In 2005–2010 she studied art history and theatre at the Humboldt University of Berlin and the Free University of Berlin. She has published works in such journals as Przegląd Zachodni, Jahrbuch der Deutschen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin and Zeszyty Artystyczne, and in the book Display. Strategie Wystawiania (Display: Strategies of Exhibition, Universitas 2012). She is the author of several commentaries in exhibition catalogues as well as dozens of critical texts in such journals as arteon, Obieg, Szum and Fragile. She also does translations from German on the history and theory of art. She has worked with the International Cultural Centre in Kraków, the Kraków Forum of Culture, and the Centre for Historical Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin. She lectures on cultural studies at Jagiellonian University. Her research interests focus on the possible applications of cultural theories of collective memory in the field of the visual arts, particularly in German art after 1945.

Ferran Barenblit
Director of MACBA, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, since 2015. Previously, between 2008 and 2015 director of CA2M Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, the Region of Madrid contemporary art museum. From 2002 to 2008 director of the Centre d’Art Santa Mònica in Barcelona. In the second half of the 1990s curator of Espai 13, at the Fundació Joan Miró. From 1994 to 1996, he was assistant curator at The New Museum, New York. Lecturer in universities and museums around the world, including: UC Berkeley; UC Santa Barbara; Arizona State University; Otis School of Art, Los Angeles; Cincinatti Arts Center; Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Universidad de Buenos Aires; Universidad Santa Cecilia, São Paulo; Université Paris III - Sorbone Nouvelle; Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. Guest lecturer for the Curating Contemporary Art programme of the Royal College of Art, London, from 2006 to 2011.

David Crowley
Historian, lecturer at NCAD in Dublin. Author of Socialism and Style. Material Culture in Post-war Eastern Europe (2000), Warsaw (2003), Socialist Spaces. Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc (2003) and Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc (2010). Curator of a.o.: Cold War Modern (with Jane Pavitt) at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London (2008–2009) and Notatki z podziemia. Sztuka i muzyka alternatywna w Europie Wschodniej 1968–1994 (with Daniel Muzyczuk) at Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź (2016-2017) and Akademie der Künste in Berlin (2018).

Charles Esche

Director of Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven); professor of contemporary art and curating at Central Saint Martins, London and co-director of Afterall Journal and Books. He teaches on the Exhibition Studies MRes course at CSM, and at Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. Outwith the museum, he (co) curated Le Musée Égaré, Kunsthall Oslo 2017 and Printemps de Septembre, Toulouse 2016; Jakarta Biennale 2015; 31st Sao Paulo Bienal, 2014, U3 Triennale, Ljubljana, 2011; RIWAQ Biennale, Palestine, 2007 and 2009; Istanbul Biennale, 2005; Gwangju Biennale, 2002 amongst other international exhibitions. He is chair of CASCO, Utrecht. He received the 2012 Princess Margriet Award and the 2014 CCS Bard College Prize for Curatorial Excellence.

Dorota Jarecka 
Art historian, critic and curator. She is the co-author of Erna Rosenstein: I Can Repeat Only Unconsciously, published in Warsaw in 2014, which preceded a series of exhibitions of the artist at Foksal Gallery Foundation in Warsaw (2011), Art Stations Gallery in Poznań (2011), and the Xawery Dunikowski Museum of Sculpture in Warsaw (2014). She published a book-length interview with Anda Rottenberg, Już trudno (Too Bad, 2013). Until 2012 she was an art reviewer for Gazeta Wyborcza. She is currently preparing her doctoral dissertation at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Meriç Öner
Head director of Research and Programs at SALT (Istanbul and Ankara). Previously exhibitions coordinator at XII World Congress of Architecture in Istanbul, curator at Istanbul gallery Garanti Galeri, and editor of the interactive database developed for “Becoming Istanbul” at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt am Main in 2008. She advocates for the establishment of physical and online platforms that present co-learning opportunities as SALT’s main institutional responsibility, reaching beyond the act of classical exhibition-making. 

Agata Pietrasik 
Art historian. She is a graduate of the University of Warsaw and the Free University of Berlin, where she wrote her doctorate on art in Poland in the 1940s, examining the mutual relations between aesthetics, ethics, and the politics of that decade. She is the co-editor, with Piotr Słodkowski, of Czas debat. Antologia krytyki artystycznej z lat 1945–1954 (A Time of Debates: An Anthology of Artistic Criticism 1945–1954). Her research interests include post-war modernism in Europe, the representation of the Holocaust and the Second World War in the visual arts, and their contemporary political and social contexts. She has won fellowships from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the Deutsches Forum für Kunstgeschichte in Paris, and currently the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris.

Piotr Słodkowski 
Art historian and lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He is a graduate of the doctoral program of the Artes Liberales Academy. He wrote the book Modernizm żydowsko-polski. Henryk Streng / Marek Włodarski a historia sztuki (Jewish-Polish Modernism: Henryk Streng/Marek Włodarski and Art History, 2019), and edited the volumes Przestrzeń społeczna. Historie mówione Złotego Grona i Biennale Sztuki Nowej (Social Space: Oral Histories of the Golden Circle and the Biennale of New Art, 2014) and (with Agata Pietrasik) Czas debat. Antologia krytyki artystycznej z lat 1945–1954 (A Time of Debates: An Anthology of Artistic Criticism 1945–1954, 2016). He is a two-time winner of the Szczęsny Dettloff Prize of the Polish Association of Art Historians (2017 and 2018). He is interested in Polish and Central European art of the twentieth century from the perspective of contemporary humanistic thought.

Manuel Borja Villel
Director of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madryt) since 2008. Previously director of the Fundació Antoni Tàpies and the MACBA/Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. An important part of his programme in the MNCARS is centred on the development and reorganization of the collection, changing the method of presentation of works. Recent exhibitions he has programmed include: "Poetics of Democracy" (2018), "Pity and Terror in Picasso's Path to Guernica" (2017), "Marcel Broodthaers: A Retrospective" (2016), "Territories and Fictions: Thinking in a New Way of the World" (2016), "Not yet, On the reinvention of Documentary and the Critique of Modernism" (2015), "Really Useful Knowledge" (2014), and "Playgrounds, Reiventing the Square” (2014). 

See also:

Other events from that cycle: