Can art bridge the gap between Eastern and Western Europe?

The National Audiovisual Institute

“Re:Thinking Europe with the National Audiovisual Institute”
Warsaw / February 21st, 2016

In the run-up to Re: Creating Europe, Forum on European Culture in June 2016, De Balie and DutchCulture organize a series of debates with fellow institutions across Europe about the role and value of arts and culture for Europe. On the 21st of February Polish, Dutch and Flemish artists and thinkers came together at the Polish audiovisual art centre NInA to think through the present moment in Europe and the ways in which artists can contribute to its future.

1989 is considered one of the important moments in European history. The fall of the Iron Curtain marked the official end of the boundary that divided Europe in two separate areas. However, although the year 1989 promised to put an end to the ideological divisions of Europe, today we see new political, economic, and social fault lines appearing across the continent. How can art and artists contribute to overcoming such divides, old and new? What new European narratives do we see appearing, and how do such artistic proposals help us envisioning other futures

In a European meeting of Polish, Dutch and Flemish artists and thinkers, organized by the Forum on European Culture, we explored the ways in which artists visualize the European past and present. A heated debate followed about the breakdown of the East-West division, the role of history and remembrance and the possibility of a new, shared narrative for Europe. Everyone felt the urgency for change and solutions to the current crisis of Europe, but the debate illustrated that there are still many linguistic, ideological and cultural borders to overcome. Speakers included the Flemish artist and theatre director Thomas Bellinck, curator Maria Hlavajova (director of BAK, Utrecht), Robert Malecki (University of Warsaw) and prize-winning film director Dariusz Gajewski. Yoeri Albrecht (director De Balie) moderated the discussion. A full report will follow soon!



No Matter How Hard We’ve Tried (recording of a theatre play by the Polish theatre director Grzegorz Jarzyna that explores the idea of “Polishness” in a world where Poland actually doesn’t exist)


Strange Heaven (Dariusz Gajewski, 2015): a film that revolves around a young Polish couple who move to Sweden in search for a higher quality of life. The film tackles the cultural differences between two countries, one in the East, one in the West.



Maria Hlavajova is the artistic director of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst in Utrecht, the Netherlands: a platform for creating, presenting and analysing contemporary art. She has organized numerous exhibitions and project at BAK and beyond. She is also the artistic director of FORMER WEST: a long-term research project that explores the changes in the world after the end of the Cold War in 1989.  Inquiring into the complex relationship between art and the political, the project takes it as its politico-aesthetic task to construct the notion of a “former West” in spite of the persisting sense of the hegemonic privilege of the so-called West.

Robert Malecki is a professor at the University of Warsaw and head of the Department of German Studies. He is involved in the organization of The European Platform of Culture (EPC) that explores the idea of European culture through theatre, cinema and new media.

Thomas Bellinck is a Belgian theatre director, artist, actor and teacher of drama and scenography. In 2013 he created the exhibition “Domo de Europa Historio en Ekzilo” [House of European History in Exile], a futuristic historical museum about life in the former European Union. Positioned between fiction and reality, utopia and dystopia, and between past and future, Bellinck’s exposition was selected for many festivals, but simultaneously caused a controversy. The exhibition is set to open again in Athens and Wiesbaden in 2016.

Dariusz Gajewski is Polish a film director, screenwriter and producer. After graduating from Lodz Film School, he directed numerous films, including Warszawa, The Convoy, and Mr. Kuka’s advice. His documentaries, films and shorts are awarded with many prizes. After the discussion his most recent film Strange Heaven will be screened.


Why Poland?
This cross-cultural meeting will be held in Poland, a country in the so-called “former East”. Poland’s relation to Europe is marked to a great extent by the history of the partitions of Poland, communism, and the fall of the Iron Curtain: a history that is not shared in the same way by the Western countries of Europe. As the current state of affairs in Europe illustrates, Poland’s relation with Europe remains fragile and therefore even more important to discuss.

The National Audiovisual Institute (NInA) is a cutting-edge audiovisual arts center in Poland that has recently opened its doors to the public. A high-tech multifunction auditorium ready for 4K screenings, concerts, and theatre plays, a mediatheque with a rich collection of unique audiovisual materials.

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