Nations - history and memory

If the world today is as much a mosaic of nations and their histories as a social tissue of their individual memories, families, milieus and institutions, the sphere that has emerged between them appears to be an area of tension and often conflicts. What kind of conflicts? Whose conflicts? Who and for what purpose do memory and history now serve? These are some of the questions that run through this issue, and the review of opinions it publishes opens with Miroslav Hroch’s question: What does Europe still need nations for?

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      Jacek Purchla

      Even up until two decades ago, many found it puzzling that issues of memory should be important in times when we all, it seems, should not be bothered by them. Instead, we should be focused on something completely diff erent: globalisation, cultural pluralism, and society’s free communication and movement, because borders (and cultural diff erences) have lost their relevance. These days, however, one cannot question the signifi cance of memory anymore. It has risen from a form of retrospection to the status of being a key concept in contemporary humanities.
      Krzysztof Pomian has recently noted that while practising history has, until now, meant preoccupation with what was and is gone (including why it is gone), the humanities have asked what makes works of the past retain their powerful impact. In other words, history has studied change, whereas the humanities have introduced the perspective of lasting. It is at this point that we touch upon remembrance, Pomian states, as the start of the last century survives in the living memory of quite a number of people, and the last few decades can even be remembered by historians themselves! Technology gives succour to memory by making it possible to register words and sights which would otherwise have vanished without a trace.
      If the world today is as much a mosaic of nations and their histories as a social tissue of their individual memories, families, milieus and institutions, the sphere that has emerged between them appears to be an area of tension and often confl icts. What kind of confl icts? Whose confl icts? Who and for what purpose do memory and history now serve? These are some of the questions that run through this issue, and the review of opinions it publishes opens with Miroslav Hroch’s question: What does Europe still need nations for?

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      Worth a look

  • Nations - history and memory
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      What does Europe still need nations for?
      Miroslav Hroch

      What is the condition of the nation in Europe and in the contemporary world? Although the national community was formed as one of the elements of modernity, it is fair to ask about its role or even legitimacy in the period of postmodernism. Has the nation fulfi lled its social role, and is it therefore entering its twilight years?

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      It’s high time we recalled the work of Moshe Vorobeichic
      Wojciech Wilczyk

      "Ein Ghetto im Osten – Wilna" (A Ghetto in the East – Vilnius) is a unique book. This compact volume (19×13 cm) contains 65 illustrations by Moshe Vorobeichic depicting the Jewish quarter in Vilnius. The book is bilingual, with texts in German and Yiddish. It can be read or looked at from right to left and vice-versa. The mentioned illustrations are photographs or simple photomontages based on photographs taken in spring 1929. This little album was published in 1931 by the Swiss-German publishing house Orell Füssli Verlag, in a popular and high volume series denoted by the letters SB (Schaubücher). Vorobeichic’s little book also had an English-Hebrew version, and after the Second World War there were a number of re-prints.

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      “Memory links” and the image of Independent Poland
      Zdzisław Najder

      “Link” implies that there is something to be connected with: a network, a sequence, a chain. The realm of memory and of remembering, whether individual or collective, is most easily visualised as a spatial web with innumerable connections and intersections.

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      The Kresy as a realm of memory: the long history of persistence
      Robert Traba

      The interest in the Kresy has gone beyond their actual territory. The Kresy are omnipresent, as their former inhabitants have been dispersed, but also due to the status of the Kresy as one of the main categories of defi ning Polish culture. Poland is full of unquestioning apologists of the Kresy, as well as critics of the nostalgic, sentimental approach. However, it would be difficult to identify a social group, political party or organisation which has refused to acknowledge them on purpose.

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      History and historical policy
      Aleksandr Lipatow

      The story of mythologizing the fi gure and actions of Alexander Yaroslavich (and by no means just of him) refl ects both the history and the very essence of the Russian system of power. Violent and cut off from its own nation in its aloofness, it created false idols for the people, so that by worshipping them, they worshipped the regime itself, blindly succumbed to its authority, obediently believing in its principles as the highest values.

  • European Capital of Culture
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      To orchestrate a city
      Krzysztof Czyżewski

      Krzysztof Czyżewski, artistic director of Wrocław, European Capital of Culture 2016, talks to Joanna Sanetra-Szeliga

      Let’s be frank: we are in a situation of certain desires, intuitions, unknown answers. We are dealing with cities, and the competition which took place in Poland shows very well which cities have aspirations and see their development opportunities in investing in culture. We, people of culture, should not only be glad but also realise that itis a very great responsibility for us.

  • Ideas in practice
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      Agnieszka Zabłocka-Kos

      The Bauhaus Museum building by the Gauforum could join together and reconcile things which are diffi cult to reconcile: the urban space degraded by the investments from the 1930s, the war and the post-war demolitions.

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      Katarzyna Jagodzińska

      In 2007 Christian Kerez, a Swiss architect little known in Poland, won an international competition for the Museum of Modern Art (MSN) in Warsaw. Public opinion was shocked. Instead of the desired jewel, a white box was chosen for the centre of the capital. There were protests, arguments, changes of plans and increasing problems. In a word, a scandal. Its culmination came in late April 2012: the Warsaw municipality rescinded its contract with the architect. The matter went to court.

  • Reflections, impressions, opinions
    • 158
      Łukasz Galusek

      "Fantastic! Rudolf Kalvach Vienna and Trieste around 1900"
      7 June – 10 September 2012
      Leopold Museum, Vienna
      Curators: Roberto Festi, Franz Smola, Alessandra Tiddia

      Vienna is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Klimt’s birth. In the Leopold Museum you can meet the master in person, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum even eye to eye. During this fi esta it was easy to overlook Rudolf Kalvach exhibited in the underground rooms of the Leopold. The hallmark of this museum is Austrian art around 1900, Art Nouveau and Expressionism. Its spécialité de la maison is the collection of works by Egon Schiele.
      No one would question the place of Schiele or Kokoschka in the Expressionist pantheon, while Kalvach, their comrade and often precursor, disappeared, vanished, evaporated.
      Just like Icarus, whose fall was overlooked. Somewhere in the cleft between Art Nouveau and Expressionism, Vienna and Trieste, absence and presence, as a few individual works somehow found their place amongst the pieces which were important for their time and genre.
      Such a Kalvach was revealed by the exhibition in the Leopold Museum.

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      Galicia. Memory and fantasy
      Magdalena Ujma

      "Galicia, mon amour. Folly, fantasy and phantasm"
      The 4th exhibition from the series "Galicia. Topographies of myth"
      15 June – 29 July 2012
      BWA Sokół – Gallery of Contemporary Art, Nowy Sącz
      curator: Danna Heller

      A different approach to fantasy is presented in the exhibition Galicia, mon amour. Folly, fantasy and phantasm in the BWA Sokół Gallery in Nowy Sącz. The exhibition reveals an understanding of this concept that is virtually new in Polish discussions about art, but that is similar to the phantasmic literary criticism of Maria Janion. The Israeli curator Danna Heller declares that the exhibition may be understood as “a provocation into new ironic channels of thought, twisting the mythical Galicia into a sort of theatrical platform for contemporary exchanges”2. Heller does not hide the fact that she is linked to Galicia by a tangle of confl icting emotions.

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      New national art on a left-wing platform
      Maria Poprzęcka

      "New National Art"
      2 June 2012 – 19 August 2012
      Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw
      curators: Sebastian Cichocki, Łukasz Ronduda

      Assuming that the creators of the exhibition had good intentions, we return to Edward Said’s fundamental question – is there some way of avoiding the hostility implied by the division into “us” and “they”? The exhibition as an event-provocation has fulfi lled its role. Less the exhibition itself, however, and more the meetings and discussions accompanying it. Extreme right-wing activists, such as the director Grzegorz Braun or the documentary fi lm-maker Ewa Stankiewicz, have appeared on the “left-wing platform”. Usually, however, such discussions serve not so much to “bring confl icting viewpoints closer” or to establish protocols of diff erences, as to dig into entrenched battle positions. That was probably the case this time. On the political plane it would be naïve to expect conciliation. Even if there was a little confusion, everything will quickly return to “normal”. For the division: “us – they” is not exclusively political. It’s the main intellectual problem on a global scale (Edward Said again). It has been worked on for years, because it is inherent in the essence of human nature. It is just a question of “avoiding hostility”.

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      A journey through the Yugoslavian wasteland
      Maciej Czerwiński

      Miljenko Jergović
      Translated by M. Petryńska,
      Borderland Publishing House, Sejny 2010

      Reading the book, you cannot help but ask: is this otherwise nice person – an ordinary history teacher – the personifi cation of evil? The answer is: yes and no. His conformist and passionless approach to life, his inhuman attitude towards others is a conscious game with the reader – a game which is supposed to make us aware of something. Adum for some reason does not rebel against injustice, does not criticise evil, passes by the pain of others indiff erently. In this silent acquiescence to everything is hidden the great moral but unobtrusive strength of the story. The normal reader cannot walk by Karl Adum. They must take a position, must fi ll the empty spaces with their own emotions. They must do it for themselves and for the hero in order to humanise him and hence save him. At the last, deeply moving, moment of his frail existence, the moment at the end of the book, you can clearly sense his silent plea for help. Here it is diff erent from Bergman. There the professor found peace, here the teacher a need for salvation.

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      The Great Famine seen “through a bottle of Cognac”
      Paweł Jarosz

      Mykhaylo Brynykh
      "Хліб із хрящами" (Bread with gristle)
      “Yaroslaviv Val Publishing House, Kyiv 2012

      The Great Famine in Ukraine is still a very topical subject. It was not until Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency that a broader debate on the dramatic events of 1932–1933 was permitted. It was then that the Museum of the Great Famine was established, and bookshop shelves began to fi ll with extensive academic works and books examining the causes, course and consequences of events in the early 1930s.

  • By myself
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      Only avenues
      Janusz Sepioł

      Landscape is part of civilisation. Landscape narrates history; it is yet another of its texts. Everything counts here: the roads, straight or meandering, the expanses of fi elds, the arrangement and species of trees, the ways in which buildings are grouped, walls and fences, the location of churches and castles, the compact greenery of parks or orchards. A special feature of these signs is their permanence. Landscape changes slowly. Roads can be the witnesses to centuries, the borders of properties lay for generations, and trees live longer than the people who planted them. But sometimes changes occur which are more than violent. The journey to Königsberg through the lands of the former Prussia traces a path through a landscape visited by a historical disaster.

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      Remembering an industrialist’s Atlantis
      Dariusz Kacprzak

      Art, generally understood only as decoration, constituted the “cover” of life. It was an expression of splendour and social position. In order to illustrate the character of Łódź industrial architecture, it is worth looking at two industrial establishments – family empires of sorts – located at two opposite ends of town. Both built in the 1870s and gradually extended in the 1880s, these industrial-housing complexes with their forms and scale infl uenced further development of the city and the later character of the urban “interior”. The fi rst of these was Scheibler’s “territory”, whilst the second was a “district” in the north-western part of the town defi ned by the building activity of Izrael Kalmanowicz Poznański.