Until we see the effects: a slam focused on exploring the effects of art on everyday life

December 8, 4.00 p.m. – 6.00 p.m., Big Stage of the Powszechny Theatre

➤ participants: Zuzanna Hertzberg, Edyta Jarząb, Ola Jasionowska, Cecylia Malik, Rafał Milach, Agnieszka Pajączkowska, Natalia Romik, Daniel Rycharski, Jana Shostak, Anna Siekierska, Magdalena Staroszczyk, Jaśmina Wójcik, Michał Zadara
➤ moderator: Sebastian Cichocki

‘Effect’ is a magic word, a fetish, the dream Holy Grail in artistic circles. Recent decades in Poland have witnessed a heated discussion on the effects (or lack thereof) of artistic efforts, the need to break out of the safe institutional cocoon and on the (apparently) tangible effects of socially oriented, politically conscious acts committed in the name of art. An exceptionally large number of studies exploring these issues have appeared in Poland: from Artur Żmijewski’s memorable manifesto The Socially Applied Arts (2007), to Piotr Piotrowski’s book Muzeum krytyczne (The Critical Museum, 2011), to the 600-page volume Skuteczność sztuki (Effectiveness of Art, 2014), edited by Tomasz Załuski, to the Polish translation of Stephen Wright’s Toward a Lexicon of Usership (2013), which has been influential among younger artists. Numerous discussions, seminars and shows grappling with these fundamental concerns are held. The discussions and debates help hone the language and tools of artistic social engineering while at the same time skepticism is on the rise, especially after the 2015 general election. What is the effect of all this? How to identify it? How to measure it? Who really benefits from the socially conscious programmes of public theatres, museums and concert halls?

The desire to influence real life at a time so turbulent for arts institutions and their employees is so overwhelming and urgent that every symptom of breaking out of the bubble of high culture, even negative, is celebrated. Examples include the exited examinations of the blockade of the Teatr Powszechny’s building by nationalist ‘guardians of morality’ when The Curse was being staged in 2017, and a new, perverse wave of interest in Żmijewski’s The Game of Tag (created in 1999!), fuelled by Russian trolls, or this year’s box office success of Wojciech Smarzowski’s The Clergy, hailed by some as the prelude to an anti-Catholic insurrection.

So, the question is how to achieve an effect, how to gauge it and how to identify it? What, how and for whom? In a series of short talks at the Forum for the Future of Culture we will once again confront these urgent issues together with a number of members of the theatre, activism, music and art communities. We will be asking questions about the effects of art. Until we see the effects.