Menu

Poland: Creative freedom undermined in cultural revolution

2 December 2016

smolensk-film-premiere-w-logo590
Every government has the right to conduct its own cultural policy and to determine its own priorities and strategies. But what has been happening in Polish culture since the nationalist-Catholic rightwing ‘Law and Justice’ Party (PiS) took power in the autumn of 2015 has not been a normal democratic correction. It has instead been a wholesale undermining of the foundations that Polish cultural and social life were built upon after 1989: the values of openness, tolerance and creative freedom.


By Roman Pawlowski    INSIGHT 
beataszydlo590
  New Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and PiS Party Chairman Jaroslaw Kaczyński celebrating their election victory 2015. Source:  Polske Radio




There has never been a Polish government after 1989, except perhaps the centre-left coalition that ruled in 2001-2003, for which culture has had such a political significance as the present one. The Minister of Culture and National Heritage in the current administration of Law and Justice (PiS), sociologist and professor Piotr Gliński, is the first head of this ministry in free Poland to also hold the position of Deputy Prime Minister. This very high rank in the governmental hierarchy for an official that is responsible for cultural policy is revealing of the importance that the nationalist-catholic right ascribes to culture. Unlike Civic Platform (PO), which ruled from 2007-2015, and mostly viewed culture as a factor in developing social capital and the economy, PiS believes in the communal power of culture. It is seen as a tool to bind the nation together, to build its identity and to restore national pride and dignity.

This program was formulated before the elections by Wanda Zwinogrodzka, a theatre critic and the current Deputy Minister of Culture. At a PiS policy conference in the summer of 2015, she presented a project for a new cultural policy that would serve to “strengthen communal bonds”. She elaborated on this argument in the rightwing newspaper “Gazeta Polska Codziennie” writing that “The aim of this new policy should not be (…) a will to reconstruct an inherited tradition according to a pattern of contemporary political correctness that re-educates backward Poles for postmodernity (…). The aim should be defined completely differently, namely as the strengthening of the crumbling and ever shredding communal bonds of the nation. The state is an instrument of political community, thus it should not act against the community, but rather according to its interest”.

Piotr Glinski
  Piotr Glinski, one of the central figures in the cultural revolution as Minister of Culture.
  Photo:  Adrian Grycuk, Wikipedia.org


Far bigger tasks have been set for culture by the chairman of PiS, Jarosław Kaczyński – the politician who wields the real power in the country despite the fact that he doesn’t hold any official post in the administration. He believes that culture should not simply serve as a national communal adhesive, but as a tool for political change in the whole of Europe. In September 2016, during the Economic Forum in Krynica at a debate with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, he reasoned that the only alternative to the current crisis in the EU is a cultural revolution.

Kaczyński said: “It should be remembered that Europe’s wealth is the diversity of European cultures, and the attempt of cultural integration can only happen on the level of the popular, and in this it is actually American culture”. And despite the fact that culture has never been a part of the European integration project (this area was excluded from the jurisdiction of basic EU institutions), his words were met with recognition and support across the European right wing.

As in the case with social policy, almost universally neglected in Poland after 1989, in the sphere of culture PiS has some good diagnoses, but proposes bad remedies. In the place of a culture based on tolerance, openness to others, freedom of artistic expression, the right-wing proposes a narrowly understood national culture that reduces Polish identity to the criteria of ancestral heritage and religious denomination. Instead of a contemporary art that critically probes reality, it offers patriotic propaganda and hero worship of the so called ‘cursed soldiers’ – members of the armed militant anti-communist resistance that was active in Poland after the end of World War II. Instead of a vision of the future, it celebrates the safe past in numerous museums and historical re-enactment groups. Instead of European values: respect for other cultures and ideological pluralism, it promotes an artificial national unity grounded in the fear of all that is alien or foreign. This policy is deepening national divisions rather than uniting Poland in a communal vision by excluding anyone who does not fit within the frames of the Polish-Catholic picture: women, homosexuals, atheists, and persons of any national descent other than Polish.

warszawa_44_reenactment_590
  Polish Warsaw Uprising reenactors. Photo:  Wikipedia.org


The Liberal inheritance: Good infrastructure, poor culture
The Right has a point when talking about a crisis of Polish and European identity. It is true that when culture is subjected to a commercial system and degraded to the role of entertainment and pastime, it is not able to build communal bonds. Liberal parties don’t seem to have any idea how to change this dynamic. Civic Platform (PO) here serves as an example – the economic dimension of investing in culture was more important than its actual significance for the community. In the period when the centre-liberal, pro-European coalition of Civic Platform and the Polish Peasants’ Party (PSL) was ruling Poland, spending on culture increased significantly, mostly thanks to funding from the EU. Those funds were allocated almost exclusively on infrastructure: from 2007 to 2014, Poland received 1.2 billion euros for the renovation and building of new theatres, museums, and concert halls. The percentage of spending for infrastructure in the budgets of local governments, (also mostly controlled by Civic Platform) tripled between 2005 and 2013 to 30 per cent of total expenditures. The effect was a series of spectacular investments such as new buildings for the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Silesian Museum in Katowice, the National Forum of Music in Wrocław, the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk, and the Szczecin Philharmonic, a building that received the prestigious European Union Mies van der Rohe Award Prize for Contemporary Architecture.

szczecinphilharmonic590
  The Szczecin Philharmonic. Photo:  Culture.pl


These necessary investments in neglected infrastructure from the communist era were not followed by expenditures on programming: many institutions had significant problems financing their creative activities. The salaries of people working in culture stalled – culture and art were the worst-paid economic sectors in 2013, with half of its employees earning less than 700 euro brutto per month. Seeking new ways to balance the budget in 2013, the Civic Platform cabinet led by Donald Tusk decided to remove the tax exemption granted to creative professionals making their financial situation decidedly worse.

The poorest situation was in the symbolic sphere: apart from actions designed for show, such as the public readings of classical Polish literature, politicians from PO weren’t involved in cultural life on a daily basis, choosing football stadiums, rather than theatres as places in which they could be seen by voters. Despite many beneficial schemes initiated on the ministerial level such as Kultura Dostępna (Available Culture) (to mitigate the financial and competency barriers for the accessibility of culture), Biblioteka+ (Library+) (a development program for local public libraries) or the long-term Program Rozwoju Czytelnictwa (Program of Readership Improvement) the barriers to the equal availability of culture were not broken and remain the domain of the inhabitants of big cities, the better educated and those with higher incomes. The commercialization of public television, the only widely available source of high level cultural content, only deepened those divisions.

The failure of cultural policy can be measured by the results of readership surveys in which Poland holds one of the last positions in Europe. In a 2015 survey, only 37 per cent of Poles declared reading at least one book in the last year (in the Czech Republic this result is 84 per cent). The readership of books is dwindling across the globe, due to the popularity of the Internet and new technologies, but in Poland this decline is the largest. In the span of 15 years the percentage of readers decreased by almost one-third.


The battle for the past
An answer from PiS to the problems of cultural identity and the lack of mass participation in culture has been a turn towards history and seeking unity for the community in the past. The basis of this program is the politics of memory, which attempts to build Polish identity on the martyrdom and heroism of Poles that fought in the 20th century against the two totalitarianisms of Nazism and communism. The cornerstone for this politics was laid by Lech Kaczyński, Jarosław’s brother, who initiated the construction of the Warsaw Uprising Museum while he served as the president of the city. The institution, opened in 2004, presents the uprising of 1944 against the German occupation, an event that cost the lives of 200,000 civilians and left the city completely demolished, as a heroic act and the model of patriotism for present-day Poles. Activities carried out by the museum resulted in a new patriotism with a pop culture bent: popular rock bands recorded albums devoted to the insurgents, and numerous theatre performances were presented inspired by the events of 1944. As an act of homage drivers put stickers on their cars with the sign of “Fighting Poland”, the symbol of the anti-Nazi underground resistance, as if the war hadn’t ended in 1945 and was still ongoing.

muzeum-powstania-warszawskiego590
  The Warsaw Uprising Museum. Photo:  Wikipedia.org


Today, PiS grounds its politics of memory in the legend of the ‘cursed soldiers’ – members of the militant anti-communist underground who refused to gave up the fight after World War II and fought against the new totalitarian rule. Information about their activities were banned during the communist era, so PiS seeks to restore and cultivate their image in a way that they can be remembered as unfaltering heroes who never surrendered, as many other soldiers of the Home Army did, and fought for freedom against the communists until the bitter end. The remembrance of the cursed soldiers takes the form of a state cult: in August 2016 a ceremonial reburial of two soldiers killed by the communists was organized in Gdańsk and attended by senior members of the government as well as President Andrzej Duda. Public funds have been spent on reenactments of the battles of the ‘cursed soldiers’ throughout the country.

Sometimes this cult reaches the level of the grotesque: in May 2015, in the small town of Ostrów Mazowiecka near Warsaw, the local government administration organised the reconstruction of the wedding of rittmeister Witold Pilecki, an underground resistance soldier sentenced to death and shot by the communists. The Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński and the Deputy Minister Magdalena Gawin took part in the ceremony and were credited in the press release as “the best man and woman”. This historical propaganda has been followed by a fashion for patriotic clothing. For example, on the Internet one can find t-shirts saying “Death to the traitors of the Homeland” and even patriotic bed sheets in national colors.

The cult of the ‘cursed soldiers’ fits into the right-wing narrative that regards the agreement between the opposition and the communists in 1989 that led to the first partially free elections – as a national treachery. In this narrative, it wasn’t until “the patriotic camp” won the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2015, that the period of “communist thraldom” ended and the new chapter of Polish history began. At the same time the right-wing passes over the darker sides of the biographies of their heroes: such as their involvement in the killing of Belarusian civilians in eastern Poland or in anti-Semitic exterminations carried out in the Podhale region. Those historians writing about the crimes of the “cursed” are attacked as anti-Polish and are excluded from the debate.


The museum offensive
This oversimplified, black and white story about heroes and traitors is a wonderful shelter against the challenges of modernity. It allows no space for critical thinking or complicated moral dilemmas. Piotr Gliński understands this mechanism perfectly and this is why the politics of memory dominate the activities of the Ministry of Culture. The spectacle in the church in Ostrów Mazowiecka was actually an introduction to the signing of the contract stating that the Ministry will be funding the new Museum of The House of the Pilecki Family. A few days earlier in Warsaw, The Witold Pilecki Institute of Totalitarianism Research was founded with the aim of “popularising in Poland and abroad the output of scientific research on totalitarianism and 20th century history”.

The flagship project of the new government is the production of a big budget movie drawing from Polish history, akin to similar propaganda productions made in Hungary or the Czech Republic (like the 2001 ‘Dark Blue World’ about Czech fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain). A screenplay has yet to be selected from a contest, but the ministry wants to fund the movie directly from its own resources. It’s not yet known what the subject of this film will be, if it’s going to show a battle of the ‘cursed soldiers’ against the Soviets, or as was the case in the Czech Republic – the tale of Polish aviators fighting in the Battle of Britain. One thing that the new administration knows for sure is that the movie should be of a Hollywood blockbuster scale (despite the general antipathy towards American culture) and its aim will be to present to the world a version of history that serves the interests of Poland.

thestoryofroj590
  Historia Roja: The Story of Roj – an example of the new cultural policy. Photo:  Kinoswiat.pl


The other grand project of PiS is the construction of the Museum of Polish History, which together with the Katyń Museum, the Polish Army Museum, and the Museum of the 10th Pavilion will be at the centre of the politics of memory – all built on the grounds of the Warsaw Citadel, a 19th century fortress and prison built by the Russians – to shape future generations in the spirit of national patriotism, martyrdom and military heroism.

At the same time, the new administration has been trying to take control of the Museum of World War II in Gdańsk, a project founded by the previous government. The ministry decided to merge this institution with the Museum of Westerplatte and the War of 1939, a new institution that was founded ad hoc a few months before and has no exhibition. The planned exhibition in the Museum of World War II, the result of the work of leading Polish and foreign historians (including professor Norman Davies and professor Timothy Snyder, among others) is under threat: PiS doesn’t like the idea of telling the story of World War II as the greatest calamity of the 20th century – and one that primarily affected civilians. Authors of reviews commissioned by the Ministry of Culture accuse the concept’s authors of holding a non-Polish perspective, criticise their emphasis on the “negative aspects of war” and call for “focusing on the positive aspects of the War such as patriotism, self-sacrifice, or acting for greater causes than self-interest”. The fusion of the two museums, scheduled for the beginning of 2017, will make it possible to fire the director and correct the exhibition according to the ideas of the new politics of memory.


Censoring artists
While fighting for the past, PiS has not forgotten about the present. Soon after the elections the public media channels were brought under direct political control by Law and Justice. Then, after passing a new media law in November 2015, the directors and supervisory councils of the public television channels and radio stations were immediately fired. The newly empowered treasury minister was then able to appoint new directors without the oversight of the independent National Broadcasting Council. The public media thereby became a state-controlled national media that has turned into a tool of propaganda. As a result, over 200 journalists were fired and replaced by new politically friendly employees. All the main news and information programs and channels started to express the ruling party’s views and promote their version of patriotic, Christian and family values.

tvpwwarszawie590
  Protest against the purge of the public media. Photo:  PAP / Leszek Szymañski

The right-wing has taken over further cultural institutions, altering programs diametrically and replacing employees. The Book Institute (IK), the most important institution for Polish literature, is a good example. After a change of its director the program underwent a 180 degree turn. Instead of contemporary literature and Polish reportage highly regarded abroad, IK now promotes conservative essays and books about religion.

One can grasp the nature of these changes when looking at decisions concerning translations. For example funds weren’t granted for a Lithuanian rendition of ‘Bieguni’ by Olga Tokarczuk, one of the most frequently translated contemporary Polish writers, who has been accused by the right of slandering Poland. In a comment last year in reference to the mythical image of Poland as a country tolerant toward minorities, the writer spoke about the brutal colonisation and exploitation of Ukraine by the Polish nobility in the 17th century and the anti-Semitic pogroms of the 20th century. Tokarczuk made an appeal “I think it will be necessary to face our own history and attempt to write it somewhat anew, without hiding all those hideous facts”. In the place of the “anti-Polish” Tokarczuk, funds were given for the translation of a book by Bronisław Wildstein, a right-wing publicist that supports the government.

olgatokarczuk590
  Writer Olga Tokarczuk. Photo:  Instytut Książki


The revolution also knocked at the door of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute (IAM), a key institution for promoting Polish culture abroad. Paweł Potoroczyn, the head of IAM, who together with his crew created a brand of Polish culture highly regarded around the world, was replaced by a former diplomat Krzysztof Olendzki. In one of his first interviews the new IAM director announced that the institution will be more active in the Philippines where, as he claimed, there is a huge Catholic population that is fascinated with Polish culture thanks to Pope John Paul II and the nun Faustina Kowalska. New priorities of cultural diplomacy set by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (which is in charge of a network of Polish Institutes abroad) consists of promoting the heritage of Lech Kaczyński’s political thought and the popularization of well-known historical figures such as Copernicus, Chopin, Marie Curie-Skłodowska and John Paul II. All the effort of the last few years in promoting Polish theatre, film, visual arts, graphics, and design might now go to waste.

pawelpotoroczyn590
  Pawel Potoroczyn, former director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute. Photo:  Culture.pl


The revolution in national institutions is accompanied by overt or secret attempts to intervene in specific programs of cultural institutions and in the course of particular artistic events. The most widely-commented case was an attempt to censor the play ‘Death and the Maiden’ based on a text by Elfriede Jelinek in the Polski Theatre in Wrocław, which is financed jointly by the Ministry of Culture and Lower Silesian Voivodeship Board. A few weeks after taking up his post, Minister Gliński ordered the local administration to block the premiere. The reason was that there was an appearance by porn actors in the performance who allegedly had actual sexual intercourse on stage. Despite the pressure by the ministry, the work was premiered but the local administration didn’t extend the contract of the head of the theatre in the following year and a candidate supported by the ministry won the contest for this position.

deathandthemaiden590
  Poster for the theatre play ‘Death and the Maiden’ at Teatr Polski in Wrocław. Source:  TeatrPolski.wroc.pl

Another glaring intervention in the programmatic independence of culture was a letter sent by Minister Gliński protesting against the exclusion of the film ‘Historia Roja’ from the Gdynia Film Festival. This work, recounting the story of one of the ‘cursed soldiers’, failed to qualify in the contest for the most important film festival in Poland for artistic reasons and the minister demanded its screening.

The festival director was intransigent in the face of these demands, however he did present another right-wing-supported movie outside of the competition: ‘Smoleńsk’, a film that presents the 2010 presidential plane crash near the city of Smoleńsk as an assassination of President Lech Kaczyński by Russian intelligence and PO politicians. This theory of the accident as an assassination is officially proclaimed by members of the PiS administration, despite the findings of the Committee for Investigation of National Aviation Accidents and Prosecution who found it to be an accident.

smolensk-poster590
  Poster for the film ‘Smoleńsk’. Source:  Poland.pl


A proposal to restore censorship, which was abolished in 1990, has more and more supporters on the right. During a celebration of Patriot’s Day in Kraków, organised in October 2016, Biały Kruk, a publisher and informal think tank of PiS, held a debate about culture that raised the suggestion to censor theatres. Among the artists accused of anti-Polish sentiments by the panelists included, Monika Strzępka and Paweł Demirski, creators of politically-minded theatre touching upon the subject of Polish identity, Piotr Ratajczak who staged a book of reportage about Polish neo-fascism, and even a Lithuanian master director, Eimuntas Nekrošius, whose adaptation of Adam Mickiewicz’s ‘Dziady’ at the National Theatre in Warsaw was criticised by right-wing critics as disrespectful towards Poland’s national poem.

monika_pawel590
  Theatre artists Monika Strzępka and Paweł Demirski. Photo:  Tomasz Dubiel


Culture for religion
Another important part of the government’s cultural politics is its support for the Catholic Church. PiS’s program does not differ much here from the liberals. Between 2007 and 2014 PO assigned about nine million euro from the state budget for the construction of the Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw, a huge investment in a church commemorating Poland’s independence. In order to circumvent regulations prohibiting the funding of religious activities, a Museum of John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński was created inside the church so that the money could be officially allocated to a cultural institution. The administrative sleight of hand was that the museum is located in the dome of the building so that it cannot start functioning until the entire structure is finished.

templeofdivineprovidence
  The Temple of Divine Providence in Warsaw, architect’s impression. Source:  Wikipedia.org

The new authorities now try to outbid PO. The Minister of Culture entered an agreement with Warsaw’s curia stating that until 2018 – the year that the Temple is scheduled to open – approximately 6.5 million euro more will be designated for its construction. At the same time, the ministry decided to co-manage the church museum meaning that it will receive further funding for its future activities.

Minister Piotr Gliński has made many friendly gestures towards the Church since the beginning of his tenure. He has taken part in conferences organised by the Catholic radio station Radio Maryja and granted an honourable medal for special merits in the field of culture (“Zasłużony dla kultury polskiej”) to the Jasna Góra Monastery in Częstochowa and to the catholic weekly magazine Niedziela. This is not only a result of his beliefs, it is also a political strategy: the clergy’s support will be needed for another electoral victory for PiS in 2019. This is why there are resources allocated for church investments and a new law allowing the Church to buy agricultural land without limitations.


A kingdom for a narration!
Despite all of the new administration’s efforts, takeovers of institutions, replacements of experts in ministerial schemes, and the subjugation of the media that has turned it into a mouthpiece of government propaganda, the right-wing has not managed to subordinate artistic output. A right wing publicist Bronisław Wildstein didn’t become a better or more successful writer than Olga Tokarczuk, director Antoni Krauze (‘Smoleńsk’) didn’t replace Agnieszka Holland, one of Poland’s most eminent filmmakers, nor did actor Jerzy Zelnik, who supports the government, replace Janusz Gajos, one of Poland’s most acclaimed film and theatre stars, known for his appearance in Krzysztof Kieślowski’s ‘Three Colors: White’. An idea, widely repeated by the right-wing, that the popularity of leftist-liberal mainstream artists is the result of a ‘salon cabal’ and media conspiracy, discredited itself. For a full year PiS has had full control of all the public television and radio stations but nevertheless was incapable of promoting the ‘Smoleńsk’ film. In the first four weeks it was seen by only 400,000 people. In the same period, more viewers saw the animated cat movie ‘Nine Lives’ which was released in Poland by the same distributor.

agnieszkaholland590
  Filmmaker Agnieszka Holland. Photo: Malwina Toczek,  Wikipedia.org

The right wing obviously does not feel confident in the field of contemporary culture, visual arts, theatre, cinema, or literature. Despite the high circulation of books by right wing writers and publicists, they are not respected for their literary value but rather for the anti-liberal world views of the authors. Right wing cinema so far consists of tendentious movies about the ‘cursed soldiers’, the Smoleńsk presidential plane crash, and the “plot” of the democratic opposition and communists during the Round Table Talks in 1989.

Thus far, the only presentation of art rooted in patriotism and nationalism – an exhibition called ‘New National Art’ in the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw in 2012 showed the weakness rather than the power of the artists that draw inspiration from Christianity and national ideology. Next to the works of professional artists, the curators presented exhibits including a floral carpet made by the inhabitants of Spycimierz every year on the occasion of Corpus Christi, patriotic decorations from football supporters, and a 40 metre long scarf that motorcycle racing fans placed on a gigantic figure of Jesus Christ in Świebodzin, a city in western Poland. Painting was represented by a monumental ‘Smoleńsk’, that shows the victims of the presidential plane crash with their hearts torn out.

painting-smolensk590
  Excerpt of the painting ‘Smoleńsk’ by Zbigniew Dowgiałło.
  Source: 7th Berlin Biennale Archive, Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw, 2012,  Artmuseum.pl

Rightist journalists claim that one of the main reasons for this situation is leftist control over opinion-forming institutions and media. The right-wing doesn’t have its own cultural institutions or festivals, significant awards such as the ‘Polityka Passport’ (a prize for young artists given by Polityka weekly) or NIKE (a prestigious literary award established in 1997 by the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza).

The Deputy Minister of Culture Wanda Zwinogrodzka described the situation bluntly: “Leftist yelling paralyses the ability of articulation. It must be silenced, so one can speak at all.”

What we are witnessing now in Poland is an attempted hostile takeover of an ecosystem consisting of media, culture institutions, universities, opinion-forming festivals and reprogramming it into the language of nationalist-catholic culture. It is the Right’s version of “the long march through the institutions”, an idea formulated by Antonio Gramsci, the Italian communist-theoretician who claimed that the cultural superstructure determines the political and economic base. However, this march might turn out to be far shorter than expected by the rightist revolutionaries: as most of the resources for culture in Poland come from local administrations, which in turn fund the most important theatres, galleries and concert halls.

Only three theatres and three galleries are under the rule of the Ministry of Culture, the rest of the state-controlled cultural institutions are mostly museums. Without taking power in such big cities as Warsaw, Wrocław, Kraków, Poznań, Gdańsk, or Łódź the revolution won’t meet its aims. Local governments surely will receive less money from ministerial programs but will retain independence. The same goes for the creative industry: publishing houses, pop music, design, and mainstream cinema are only partly dependent on public funding. But this is a plan for survival, not for development.

nationalday11november2015-590
  Nationalists marching on National Day 11 November 2015 in Warsaw.
  Photo uploaded to Twitter by  Krzysztof Bosak


An unexpected result of this cultural revolution has been the rapid integration of cultural communities as a response to the intervention in artistic freedom. Thousands of people across the country protested against the censorship at the Polski Theatre in Wrocław. Leading figures from the field of culture have taken part in demonstrations organised by the Committee for the Defence of Democracy (KOD), a grassroots movement protesting against the dismantling of democratic institutions such as the Constitutional Tribunal or the public media.

marszkodzlotuptaka-590
  Anti-Government protests in Warsaw organised by KOD on 4 June, the anniversary of the
  first democratic elections in 1989. Photo: Screendump from tv report by  tvn24.pl


The most important question is whether or not cultural leaders will be able to create an alternative program to a nationalist communalist one based on the cult of the past and devotion to the Church. And what ideas and values should such a program encompass? This question was raised time and again during the recent Congress of Culture, a three-day grassroots meeting of artists, theoreticians, and cultural organisers that took place on October 2016 in Warsaw that gathered over 2,000 people from across the country. The participants indicated three main areas of activities: creating a community of creators and audience around culture, higher social awareness and the development of cultural education.

The most important question – about the possibility of an alternative narration about Poland and the world, remained unanswered. In liberal and leftist circles there is a distinct lack of a common narrative that could contest the nationalist-catholic, militarist narration of the right side. Dispersion is an inherent feature: Polish culture is an archipelago of islands, as is the case worldwide. Which leaves us with the question, is diversity able to oppose propaganda?

palaceofcultureandscience1-590
  Warsaw’s Palace of Culture and Science. Photo:  iwanttoknowpoland.wordpress.com


Roman Pawłowski is one of Poland’s most significant theatre critics and culture journalists. He has been a regular contributor to Poland’s largest daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza and many other cultural magazines and journals. He is currently working as a curator and dramaturg at TR Warszawa one of Poland’s leading international theatre companies.

Translation by Piotr Tkacz. Photo on top of this page: From the premiere of the film ‘Smoleńsk’
This article is part of a Freemuse  INSIGHT  series edited by Marie Korpe. It was published in November 2016.

 

Home / News / Poland: Creative freedom undermined in cultural revolution

Check Also

The Queer Kampala International Film Festival was brought to an abrupt end after policemen raided the festival venue and forced festivalgoers out.

Uganda: Police raid, shut down LGBT film festival

The Queer Kampala International Film Festival was brought to an abrupt end after policemen raided the festival venue and forced festivalgoers out.

Check Also

Ministry of Culture and Information pulled Dr Badria al-Bishr’s novel “Thursday’s Visitors” from bookstores after some called its passages pornographic.

Saudi Arabia: Ministry pulls “indecent” novel from stores

Ministry of Culture and Information pulled Dr Badria al-Bishr’s novel “Thursday’s Visitors” from bookstores after some called its passages pornographic.

Check Also

A play set to be performed in private catholic schools was cancelled over its gender equality material; the decision was reversed days later.

France: Play cancelled, then rescheduled, over religious concerns on LGBT content

A play set to be performed in private catholic schools was cancelled over its gender equality material; the decision was reversed days later.