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23.10.2010
Category: Interviews

Let’s build our global image

"I, CULTURE could potentially engage millions of internet users" – interview with Paweł Potoroczyn, director of the Adam Mickiewicz Institute.

The Adam Mickiewicz Institute just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. How did it go?

From my perspective, we have achieved everything that we set out to achieve. For the anniversary celebration, we presented Paweł Szymański’s “a piu corde”, a work put together specially for the occasion. It’s a piece that is full of the essence of the 21st century, truly contemporary and very intriguing. I can’t image a more apt summary of 10 years’ work on behalf of the Polish culture of today.

Over the past 10 years over 3,000 events have taken place all over the world, thanks to your efforts… Almost 20 million spectators…

Does the Chopin Year have a special place in this chain of events?
I think that the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Fryderyk Chopin was important not only for individual institutions, but for the entire country. This is really the first effort on such a level of organisation and reflection aimed at creating a cultural dimension for Poland in the world. It is a key effort, as we are richer in culture than we are in any other field. The Mickiewicz Institute is only a part of this operation. We consider it a substantial one, but it isn’t our only project.

The Chopin Year is approaching its close. Please say a few words about your future plans. The Institute is responsible for the cultural framework of the Polish Presidency in Europe…

The Institute is above all responsible for the organisation of seasons dedicated to Polish culture abroad. Up until now we have organised one such season each year. Next year, we hope to “produce” 10 seasons simultaneously, in 10 capitals all over the world (in addition, we have to fit these into the short span of the Presidency). It’s enough to imagine the grand scale of this challenge.

Are you prepared?

Yes, it was precisely for this purpose that we re-organised the structure of the Institute. We are aware that with a pioneer undertaking of this kind, the risk of making mistakes is substantial, while the margin of error tolerated by those at the top is minute. A second chance wouldn’t come for another 13 years, according to the current shape of the Lisbon Treaty.

Can you say something about the projects that are currently under way?

Icons are of the highest importance – artists who are especially significant to the cultural heritage of our nation: Karol Szymanowski, Czesław Miłosz – the latter not just in light of the centenary anniversary of his birth, but also within the context of the Eastern Partnership and the concept of a familial Europe, of which Poland is the leader, and Miłosz is the author. The third icon is Stanisław Lem, whom The New York Times called the JS Bach of 20th-century literature. This demonstrates that Lem could be installed as a patron of artistic activities acrossa wide range of aspects: comics, film, theatre or music. I can image a cantata based on oneof Lem’s treatises or a computer game based on “Solaris”. The next pillar of the presidency is a project entitled “Guide to Poles”. The first part of the series was the film documentary on rock’n’roll, “Beats of Freedom”. Now we’re wrapping up a film about mountaineering in the Himalayas. Poles ruled the discipline for two years in the Himalayas in spite of all obstacles set up by the Communists. It is not surprising then that one of the heroes of the film says that Himalayan mountaineering is the art of freedom. We’ll soon begin shooting a film about a fashion understood as a protest against the ugliness caused by the system, as well as an expression of the dissident stance. The next film will treat the subject of how poverty in the time of the People’s Republic of Poland and the ugliness of Communist toys had an impact on the creativity of children. Those children are now adults entering their most creative years. The last film in the series is a documentary about the sexual habits of Poles. It appears that the system had a negative effect on even this area of life. Bartek Konopka will take an anthropological perspective on this subject. Each of the above-mentioned films also serves as a story of freedom. The last element of the project is a computer game based on the I, CULTURE concept. It could potentially engage millions of internet users for whom culture is particularly relevant.

Does the Institute uncover new artistic talents or does it engage tried-andtested artists?

We evolved from the job of exporting cultural goods into a role that is more active as a producer. Those involved in the process are both established and up-and-coming artists, not necessarily young, but as yet unknown, sometimes even in Poland. On the other hand, it isn’t the case that we launch someone’s career singlehandedly. Commissions are the result of study trips. We invite curators, artistic directors, gallery owners and critics to Poland, we show them what we have to offer and we ask them what might appeal to their audiences. After all, they know best. A substantial number of decisions depend on our international partners.

What place does Chopin and his music take up within all of this?

This is a “brand” with remarkable power. There is nothing more Polish than Chopin, and yet he has no need for Poland. Poland is still in need of such remarkable symbols. Over the past 200 years, there hasn’t been anyone who might match the calibre of Chopin, but we need to work on making it possible for them to rise up and round out our image in the world in a very contemporary fashion.

Interview by Małgorzata Wende. The interview published by courtesy of the “Chopin Express” editorial staff.
Paweł Potoroczyn, phot. IAM

Paweł Potoroczyn, phot. IAM