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?

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

Justyna Balisz-Schmelz is an 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.

David Crowley is a 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).

Dorota Jarecka is an 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.

Agata Pietrasik is an 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 is an 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.

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