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22.10.2010
Category: Interviews

The power of attraction

"The Fryderyk Chopin Museum is intended to be a place of inspiration" – interview with Knast, curator in the Fryderyk Chopin Museum.

The Fryderyk Chopin Museum in Warsaw was deemed a “technological miracle” by the Italian press. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that the site has functioned for 80 years. Is it really a technological miracle at present?

I would venture to debate that theory. It’s entirely the other way around – the museum makes use of rather conventional means. I emphasise this and I’ve requested many times that it not be referred to as innovative technology. Although I do agree that with regard to the concept behind the Fryderyk Chopin Museum, it is the first of its kind in this country. Because we don’t just present a particular subject matter here, but we observe the way it’s received: did the visitor go through all the rooms, which were the least frequented – and which the most often? We gather data on the reactions of visitors in order to analyse them in the future and decide whether something in the exhibition could do with a change. In this sense, the museum is innovative.

Each person can plan his or her own tour of the exhibition…

Indeed, this is a result of the varied setup of this landmark four-storey building. It’s difficult to establish a single direction for visiting the exhibition in such a way that would not cause congestion. This is why we urge our guests to choose where they want to start their visit on their own. The museum is intended to be a place of inspiration. Visitors should leave unsated. It would be arrogant to believe that a visit here will guarantee a familiarity with Chopin. This is unrealistic. Our museum is only intended to be an appetiser for a wonderful feast which is the enjoyment of the composer’s art and the depth of expression within his music. Various publishing houses, whether in the fields of criticism or biography, or even visual arts and film – all of these create a contemporary vision of Chopin. And yet when we reach for his personal correspondence or look upon portraits of him painted in his lifetime (in other words “straight from the source”), it turns out that in the case of this particular composer, nothing is certain. In the room themed “Personality” we intentionally clash different images that Chopin represented, while at the same time declaring that we really don’t know what kind of personality he had; we ask that he is not filed away as a capricious youngster or a sickly, unpredictable pianist or a crazed composer. We battle with the various facets of Chopin’s image that were fixed even before the Jubilee Year, symbolised by the monument in the Royal Łazienki Park. It’s an otherwise beautiful sculpture. But the question that remains is whether this is the only way Chopin can be understood. We want to create a certain cognitive confusion, motivating people to get to know Chopin anew. When I hear people coming out of the museum saying “I’m going to the shop to buy a recording of his music”, I feel we’ve achieved our goal.

Over the Chopin Year, the museum doors don’t ever shut, do they?

They don’t, in fact. And I’m not worried that they ever will. We can welcome in a relatively small number of people – 560 daily, monthly about 13,000. I’m convinced that these numbers could increase considerably if the conditions were right. People often come back, interest is high, even though we entirely decided against a promotional campaign so as not to raise hopes that the museum is accessible at all times. I think that when the Chopin Year is over, there will be no lack of people eager to visit the museum and get closer to Chopin. I believe in his power of attraction.

Interview by Barbara Schabowska (Polskie Radio). The interview published by courtesy of the “Chopin Express” editorial staff.
The Fryderyk Chopin Museum

The Fryderyk Chopin Museum