Forum for the Future of Culture 2018
In 2018 we are celebrating 100 years since Polish women won the right to vote. In a broader context, this anniversary coincides with 100 years of Polish independence and makes us ponder the complex legacy of the re-established Republic of Poland, such as the proclamation of workers’ rights by the first, peoples’ government and the multiculturalism of the new state. At the same time, the anniversary does not allow us to forget about the conflicts with neighbouring countries, the entrenchment of nationalist ideology which claimed as its victim the first President of the Second Polish Republic Gabriel Narutowicz, and which later brought the brutal Polonisation of the Chełm region and the installation of “ghetto benches” at Polish Universities.
The beginnings of Poland’s 20th-century independence may be a reason to celebrate but should also encourage critical reflection on history and, even more so, the present. The radicalisation of behaviour in public space, the growing problem of hate speech, the openly racist and xenophobic rhetoric in the local government election campaign (condoned by prominent politicians of the ruling party) and the chauvinist and homophobic comments of high government officials call for strong opposition and resistance. The history of Polish independence shows how easily fascist rhetoric can become fuel for the fascification of social life.
Fortunately, groups that are actively opposing this process are becoming more active. They include movements protesting the demolition of the law and the destruction of universities, defending the rights of women and minorities. They are activists who resist fascist marches, defend human rights and protect nature. They are intellectuals who talk about the reliability of science and seek to critically analyse the world. They are people of culture whose work shapes the social imagination by opening it to the world’s rich diversity and to phenomena overlooked in the mainstream debate. They are voters who rejected the language of fear and contempt in the latest local government elections, choosing candidates who embrace openness and condemn fascism. The challenge today is to mobilise all progressive forces to build an alternative to the right-wing image of Poland and the world, and a political project capable of making this alternative a reality.
What role can arts and culture play in these processes? What does it mean that art is political today? How is it engaged in the fight against fascism and the creation of a progressive vision? Isn’t it time to consider what arts and culture do and can do for politics understood as caring for and dispute over the common good instead of asking politicians what they can do for arts and culture? Isn’t it time to ask about the responsibility of people of culture, artists and cultural institutions for reality not only in the cultural sphere but also social and political?
Our response to the threat of fascism is the call for feminisation; feminisation conceived as an across-the-board change to the rules of social, economic and political life, a departure from the hierarchy, structural violence and patriarchal language prevailing in all forms of social relations. This idea, which seeks to offer a practical response to fascism, will be developed during the upcoming Forum for the Future of Culture, a space of reflection on the meaning and prospects of arts and culture in today’s Poland. We will use this perspective to look at issues related to workers’ rights, changes within cultural institutions, environmental practices, the creation of a new political language, the threat of fascism, and the transformation of forms of political subjectivity.
The Forum will be attended by artists, academics, scientists, social activists and protest movement members. We believe that only by bringing together different environments and circles we can come up with a holistic, open and socially shared vision encompassing a rich diversity of experiences, practices and tastes, one based on humanist values and founded on a high regard for personal dignity, human rights and respect for the environment, a vision that stands as a strong response to the threat of radicalisation and fascism.