18.06.2008, 3.30 p.m.
Gdansk, 18.06.2008, 3.30 pm

Place: Auditorium of the Central Library of the University of Gdansk;
Gdansk, 53, Wita Stwosza Street
When in the year 1998 Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art was created, from the very beginning one of the main point of its programme was directed towards creating projects to neighbouring  inhabitants – community outreach projects. Over the last 10 years of Laznia’s activity many different ideas were put into practice. They were prepared in cooperation  with various outstanding Polish and foreign artists. They were meant to engage people who were excluded from the cultural life, from any kind of cultural activity into its active particiaption. What is more, they were to enable the understanding of the language of contemporary art and encourage them to take part in the workshops raising throughout the art reflection over the problems of their community. On the other hand, the attitude of stepping outdoor the art centre allowed curators  to study the reception of art as a mean of social communication.

Our activities were inspired by the idea of Joseph Beuys’s Social Sculpture, which advocates: “First of all, we have to extend the definition of art beyond the specific activity led by artists, widending it by shaping the society of future, based on the overwhelming energy and creativity of  individual, led by people and for people (...) as a creating process”.

At present, celebrating the 10th anniversary of  Laznia Center for Contemporary Art, as well as rooting our inspirations on Joseph Beuys’s ideas, we would like to discuss the phenomenon of  engaged art and confront our experiences with others – art institutions, artists, art critics.
We would like to ‘open’ a discussion for a  critical analyse of so far worked out conceptions, categories and tools – in this field. The aim of which would be a reflection over our achievements and settlements as well as elaboration – if  possible - new conceptual tools concerning this issue. Having this in mind, we are planning to prepare a panel discussion entitled “Engagement and distance. The status of art in the face of social and cultural reality”. We would like to invite the theorists of art undertaking the problem of engaged art in their work as well as representatives of chosen European institutions, which programs are founded on going beyond the pure aesthetical values and opening themselves on active participation in social reality.

During the panel discussion we would like to present attitudes and accomplishments of invited guests and have a discussion on next topics:

Art focused on aesthetical values in contrary to engaged art

How and by which means art can influence social reality?

Does the phenomenon of so called: engaged art mean its manipulation for the sake of  social engineering?

How can we shape  the strategies of cultural institutions directed towards  setting up the contact between cultural elite and alienated individuals, so as not to fall into the trap of simpifying art in the sake of political populism?


    * Prof. Frank Furedi, professor of School of Social Policy and Social Research The University of Kent, an author of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone. Confronting 21st Century Philistinism, in which he warns against a temptation to use culture institutions for the aims of social engineering, creating programs serving social inclusion of excluded classes of society at the expense of the decrease of a level of culture offer of these institutions;

    * Anton Lederer, Association for Contemporary Art , Graz. is engaged In creating networks of artists, curators and art institutions of Southern-Eastern Europe and presentation of the artistic scene of European countries in a state of transformation;

    * Valérie Durand-Labayle, Musée d’Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne (MAC/VAL). MAC/VAL, situated in the proximity of Paris, creates an ambitious collection and exhibition program, in the same time ma king attempts to its activity citizens of the area inhabited to a great degree by immigrants;

    * Elena Tsvetaeva/Julia Bardun, National Center of Contemporary Art, Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad branch of Moscow NCCA is focused on creating a thought-out strategy of promotion of art in the city, which until 1991 was a closed military zone. It initiates artistic projects aiming at identification by means of actualization and new interpretation of the historical heritage of Koenigsberg/Kaliningrad

    * Bogna Świątkowska, journalist, chairwoman of Foundation Bęc Zmiana, person engaged in observing, commenting and stimulating of a process of aesthetical transformation of Polish public space.

Moderator: Agnieszka Wołodźko, Laznia CCA
Municipal Institution of Culture