Open Museum – Education in Action

The artist-in-residence programme made it possible for the Museum to host Polish and foreign artists who, in the course of their creative efforts, tackled the subject of Jewish heritage and multiculturalism. Each of the artists was invited for a three-week sojourn, during which they were able to create projects containing historical references or deliberations and ensuring the involvement of Warsaw residents on a variety of levels.

The first edition of the programme (2014-2016) was summed up in an exhibition entitled “Presence/Absence/Traces. Contemporary Artists on Jewish Warsaw” (11.03-25.04.2016), presenting thirteen works of various kinds, including video and audio presentations, photographic works as well as works documenting various activities performed in public spaces. All of the works in question focused on the categories encapsulated in the title of the exhibition – presence, absence and traces – which continue to interpenetrate and remain in a state of constant tension. Looking for traces, the artists decoded both the real and the symbolic contexts of the Jewish everyday life of today; when talking about absence, they pointed towards hidden presence, uncovering physical traces of the past; at one time they gave loud comments, while at another they sat in utter silence. They explored the subject of tangible and intangible heritage, referring both to the canon of Jewish culture and to clichés and stereotypes that have grown around it. By focusing on micro-history, they spark universal questions that go far beyond the local context. 

The exhibition was accompanied by a publication under the same title which contained a selection of articles which discussed the individual projects. Further residences are described in the second part of the publication.

Catalogue, part I: ”Presence/ Absence/ Traces. Contemporaty artists on Jewish Warsaw”:

Catalogue, part II: ”Presence/ Absence/ Traces:The Jewish Experience Post-89”:

During the second edition of the artist-in-residence programme (2016-2017) we wanted to explore the Jewish experience after the year 1989. However, the strategy that we applied remained the same – we were still interested, among other things, in the critical analysis of contemporary public debate, societal memory, Jewish cultural heritage, vernacular knowledge and imagination as well as supranational practices of remembrance and ignorance or alternative historical policies. 

During this edition of the programme, we hosted five artists, their work culminating in the release of numerous film projects, an artistic installation and a book focusing on art themes. 

In 2017 Asylum Arts and POLIN Museum held a 4-day retreat for Jewish artists in Warsaw. Poland. The retreat brought together 30 emerging artists to learn from local and international industry professionals, working artists and from each other.

The works of the artists have become a part of the POLIN Museum and are being presented to the public both in Poland and abroad. At the present stage, the Museum is preparing for yet another artist-in-residence programme, this time in an international partnership.

Reportage from the exhibition "Presence/ Absence/ Traces":

Trailer of the exhibition "Presence/ Absence/ Traces":

The whole playlist of the videos from residences:

The artists who took part in the artist-in-residence in years 2014-2017:

It's not Good to Have a Past, Even Someone Else's
Luísa Nóbrega, 29 April – 18 May 2014

An artist-in-residence from Brazil has created an artistic installation composed of the traces of twelve performances which she conducted during her sojourn in Warsaw. Through her actions, she engaged in a sort of dialogue with the local memorial sites, including the Jewish cemeteries of Warsaw, the remnants of the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Bersohn and Bauman Children’s Hospital which once formed a part thereof as well as the extermination camp in Treblinka.

We Can’t Come from Nothing
Eliane Esther Bots, June 7-27, 2014

An artist and director conducted a number of conversations with the inhabitants of Warsaw whose family narratives familiarised her with the Jewish history of the city. In her short film, the Dutch artist recalls seven different stories centred around certain personal items – objects which, due to their sentimental value, are of great significance to the film’s protagonists.

Field Survey
Noa Shadur and Konrad Smoleński,
14 July – 3 August 2014

In this film, made in various inaccessible and unexpected spaces scattered around the city of Warsaw, the artistic duo have presented a choreographed performance based upon archival and reconstructed pictures of various crime scenes. Instead of referencing specific stories of nefarious deeds or acts of resistance, the artists sought to create an audio-visual commentary to the gestures of violence.

Polish Bourekas
Tamara Moyzes and Shlomi Yaffe,
2–22 September 2014

Bourekas are a genre of bold comedy films with some elements of melodrama that used to enjoy a substantial popularity in Israel, focusing on the relations between the Mizrahi and Ashkenazic Jews. Incorporating a series of references to Yiddish literature and theatre – a typical feature of the Bourekas films – the artists have created three short films based on the biographies of persons who had a major impact on the history of contemporary Israel.

Warsaw Portraits Series
Jasmine Bakalarz, 17 October – 6 November 2014

The photographer created a series of portraits of the contemporary Jews of Warsaw to show what they identify with today and how diverse is their community. Although the project was open to all who were interested, it was mostly women who answered the call of the artist and the POLIN Museum.

Come to Mama
Itay Ziv, 24 November – 14 December 2014

The artist has created a film about the efforts of Jews (living in Israel in this particular example) to obtain a Polish passport. Through his project, the artist sought links between the individual determination of one’s own identity and the official procedures for the confirmation of citizenship or identification of genealogical ties.

The Muranów Lily
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay,
16 February – 8 March 2015

The artist has created what he termed a “sound tour”, inspired by the short story “The Pair” by Singer – one of the few works in this author’s oeuvre incorporating homosexual themes Nemerofsky, by calling up the world of the Jewish community which existed here a century ago, poses universal questions on the visibility of themes related to sexual identity and restores their symbolic place while creating a completely new urban legend of the Muranów district. The musical background for the tour was created by the POLIN Choir.

Fence of Hatred
Hubert Czerepok, 27 April – 17 May 2015

The artistic installation created by Czerepok takes the form of a steel fence which — instead of conventional rails or ornaments – is composed of phrases of hate speech copied from the walls of Polish buildings, engraved in metal. Through the process of forging those phrases, built upon racism and exclusion, the artist has sought to obliterate the messages they conveyed my making them less and less legible. The technique chosen by the artist – a fence made of steel, with all its durability and permanence – was intended to draw our attention to just how real and significant the problem actually is.

Translate, Repeat, Retrace
Florencia Levy, June 8–28, 2015

The artist conducted a series of interviews among the members of the Jewish community in her home town of Buenos Aires. She spoke to Polish emigrants, their children and grandchildren. Having collected this material – the testimony of three generations of Polish Jews – she subsequently brought it to Warsaw, where she sought to bring this legacy up to date amidst the contemporary landscape of Poland’s capital.

The Cut
Aslı Çavuşoğlu, Małgorzata Kuciewicz & Simone De Iacobis (CENTRALA), 21–27 September 2015

The artists carried out a week-long archaeological dig at 2B Karmelicka Street in Warsaw. Through this ephemeral intervention – the excavation of a post-war earthen bank and exposing the remnants of the past concealed within – they initiated a dialogue among the members of the community, encouraging them to speak about how the narratives of individual nationalities come into being, who should be the owner of heritage (including urban heritage) and what are the forces which destroy cities and reshape them anew.

That Which Has Remained… That Which Will Emerge…
Lukas Ligeti, 9–29 November, 2015

During his sojourn in Warsaw, the musician collected various Jewish songs and melodies. The collection later allowed the composer to create a highly unusual music score which was later performed by improvising musicians during the final show that followed. Ligeti “conducted” the musicians during the performance using wireless headphones. The artists heard shreds of Jewish melodies as if they were fragments of their own memories.

Texture of Oblivion
Maya Schweizer, 11-31 January 2016

The theme explored by Maya Schweizer in her work are various forms of remembrance – the representation and structures of Jewish presence and absence in Warsaw. The artist performs an analysis of memorial sites located in the area of the former Ghetto, with particular emphasis on the Umschlagplatz Monument, designed as a memorial wall. The result is an experimental film which features the artist’s trademark combination of painstaking research and a powerful emotional message.

The Rudzienko Voice
Sharon Lockhart, 8-28 March, 2016

During her stay in Warsaw, U.S. artist initiated a range of creative workshop activities addressed to the girls under the care of the Youth Social Therapy Centre in Rudzienko, referring to the legacy of Polish-Jewish writer and educator Janusz Korczak. As a result, in the spring of 2016, 90 years after the first issue of Mały Przegląd (“The Little Review”) was published, the pupils of a Youth Social Therapy Centre near Warsaw created the first issue of Głos Rudzienka (The Rudzienko Voice) on their own.

Yael Vishnizki Levi, July 11-31, 2016

Yael Vishnizki Levi has made a short film whose form draws on shadow play. The script written by the artist – a dialogue between its two protagonists, the artist’s grandfather and Władysław Gomułka, who have actually met before the war – deals with an individual's struggle with ideology and regime, discusses Jewish migration to Israel and recalls the period of post-1989 political transformation.

Story of a Scared State
Assaf Gruber, 19 September – 9 October 2016

In cooperation with Kuba Mikurda, Assaf Gruber created a performance which took place on the premises owned by a company called GD Poland in Wólka Kosowska near Warsaw, a place famous for its immense wholesale outlets engaging in the distribution of goods sourced from Asia. The performance itself incorporates various historical references as well as references to the phenomenon of migration and to stereotypes about cultural cross-pollination. The events portrayed in the performance take place here and now, against the background of current political events whose impact on the life of individuals and the functioning of cultural institutions remains significant.

Fluffy Clouds Sailing above our Heads
Anna Konik, 14 November – 4 December 2016

A film project by Anna Konik which tells the story of Dobrodzień, the artist’s hometown. This project is an attempt to record the history and experiences of the Jewish community, the persons displaced from the eastern borderlands as well as members of the German minority, all of which make up the identity of this place. Some of the local residents have lived in Dobrodzień since time immemorial, while others were forced to leave the town in various circumstances, be it violent, forced relocation, deportation or the simple need to flee for their lives.

Hagar Cygler, 16 January – 5 February 2017

During her sojourn in Poland, Hagar Cygler collected various items and paintings on the local flea markets, searching for objects which were yearning to be rediscovered and appreciated once again. Having noticed that she knew much more about the collective memory than of the history of her own family, she decided to take a closer look at it, reappraising it with the aid of the newly unearthed items.

Patrycja Orzechowska, 20 February – 12 March 2017

During her stay at the POLIN Museum, Patrycja Orzechowska created a unique publication which contains the images of various donated items included in the Museum collection which were exposed directly on photographic paper. Her work is more than just a unique insight into the personal stories concealed within these objects – stories that span many generations – but also an analysis of collective memory which is by no means devoid of critical potential.