The Office for Postartistic Services is a unit functioning under the umbrella of Bęc Zmiana Foundation. It’s goal is to support art that actively engages with social and political movements, strengthening the progressive artistic activism that has recently emerged in Poland. The broad network of artists connected to the Office implement artistic strategies and tools beyond the art galleries, carry art out to the streets or feature it in the media to counter alt-right propaganda and contribute to the antiauthoritarian, antifascist, prodemocratic, pro-LGBT+, and ecological agendas by testing new, innovative methods of protest and action. The Office’s goal is to reinforce this bottom-up movement, both in its more spontaneous and self-reflective forms.
The Office’s working methodology is based around facilitating cooperation between artists and political and social activists. It primarily focuses on carrying out artistic interventions in public space, establishing long-term alliances between artists and activists as well as implementing artistic imagination and practices within activist and political context. The Office organizes, supports and documents direct actions; takes part in numerous demonstrations and protests; maintains a strong online presence by publishing content and reports; cooperates with media and public art institutions; creates online archives and repositories of knowledge; organizes regular meetings, assemblies and plein-airs.
How to talk about antifascism at a family dinner?
What is the publication How to Talk About Antifascism at a Family Dinner?
It is a tool, that will serve educators, cultural workers and artists as a source of knowledge and resource for constructing a languege countering violent, excluding, (neo)fascist and alt-right discourses and practices, which are more and more common both in public nad private spheres. The goal of the book is to provide the readers with knowledge and a number of practical (educational, discursive, creative and legal) tools that will help them to react to the symptms of such attitudes, statements or behaviors, in their nearest millieu – work, social, family or institutional.
Who has created the publication?
The book was edited by an interdisciplinary editorial team, that includes researchers, cultural workers, artists, educators and journalists. The publication consists of short essays analyzing the key notions that organize the contemporary (neo)fascist and alt-right discourse; illustrated FAQ sections that show how to react to common violent and excluding attacks; a legal guide; a set of antifascist artworks as well as creative educational exercises.
Authors: Katarzyna Chmielewska, Kamila Ferenc, Agnieszka Graff, Elżbieta Korolczuk, Michał Kozłowski, Tomasz S. Markiewska, Stanisław Obirek, Magdalena Szpecht, Aleksy Wójtowicz..
Artists: Małgorzata Mycek, Elektra KB, Joanna Sarnecka, Kuba de Barbaro, Alevtina Kakhidze, Tomek Paszkowicz, Małgorzata Gurowska & Agata Szydłowska, Kaja Kusztra & Agata Wrońska, Adam Kozicki, Mateusz Kowalczyk.
Where can you get the book?
The digital version of the publication is available here for free. The printed version will be available the Bęc Zmiana bookstore and selected institutions across Poland in early 2023. More details on the book distribution will follow soon.
On December 20th 2022 at 19:00 in the Warsaw’s Klubojadalnia Młodsza Siostra (ul. Dobra 14/16) we will hold an official book launch event.
The book launch will be acommpanied by a series of workshops, that will take place in selected institutions across Poland in early 2023. The workshops will be directed both to the staff of insttituions and the general public.
The project „How to Talk About Antifascism at a Family Dinner?” is funded from a grant from the Active Citizens Fund – Regional program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway within the EEA grants.
Opolno Is the Future!
f Opolno-Zdrój and its surroundings, and open an art residency, a dream of the town’s mayor Ania Wilczyńska.
At the end of July 2022 the Office organised a second “contemporary” edition of the symposium in Opolno-Zdrój. The idiom of the event Opolno is the Future! was inspired by a banner carried by the participants of the first edition in a celebratory march concluding the gathering. In 2022 however, the situation in the Turów region was different from the previous year. The heated argument between Poland and Czech Republic was seemingly resolved, with the lignite mine operating without interruptions, negatively impacting the social, political, economic and ecologic fabric of the region. The mine will continue its work and as a result the region will receive no support from the EU Just Transition Fund. With the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and Russia, the aggressor, financing the war thanks to fossil fuel exports, the social perception of the mine has also significantly changed.
In their projects, the participants of the Opolno is the Future! symposium, reflected on the just and green transition of the region. Is it still possible in the context of a deteriorating ecological and energy crisis, the Russian invasion and the disappointing climate politics of Poland and the EU? They imagined the role of art in this process and speculated whether Opolno-Zdrój could indeed become a lab for a fair and green future, like the previous generations of artists had imagined in 1971.
In 2022 the activities focused around two places: an outdoor cafe called Wypoczęty Kuracjusz (The name translates into “A spa Patient in Repose”) located in front of the local after-school club, and a former library, partially fire-damaged, where the future residency centre is planned to be located. The cafe was run collectively and throughout the whole duration of the workshop served snacks, cakes and refreshments, echoing the past life of Wypoczęty Kuracjusz. The venue also served as a starting point for walks, a workshop space and a communal eating area. In the damaged library there was a pop-up cinema run by Magdalena Becht and Michał Barylski and an ongoing exhibition with artworks gradually added up throughout the duration of the workshop.
Throughout several days of the 2022 symposium the participants realised a number of activities, workshops, walks and cultural events. The gathering was inaugurated by a collective clean-up of the town. Julia Krupa led an ecofeminist walk, a herbalist workshop, and dyed fabrics using natural methods. Julia Ciunowicz, together with volunteers, wove a plant rug throughout the duration of the symposium. Ola Arent, together with the local community, mapped “the natural inhabitants” of Opolno using the iNaturalist app. Ewa Ber and Zbigniew Lasoń, who live in the vicinity of the Bełchatów power plant, taught techniques for handmade milking (a type of glazing) and firing ceramic vessels. Patrycja Stefanek led a vegan cooking workshop, where collective cooking intersected with sharing personal stories about traditional family recipes and dishes.
Alicja Kochanowicz and Maciej Kwietnicki presented photographs across the public space of Opolno-Zdrój. The photos had been taken by children as part of a photography workshop during the 2021 edition. In 2022 they repeated the activity — the children again received disposable cameras with which they documented the events. The cinema hosted a screening of Gold, a film by Wojciech Jerzy Has from 1962 set during the construction of the Turów mine and energy plant. The film touches on the complex history of the region, its deep entanglement with the power plant, and the great dreams and hopes associated with socialist modernisation.
Olga Miękus and Karolina Pawelczyk carried out a workshop based on Open Weather, an international project led by Sophie Dryer and Sasha Engelmann. As part of Open Weather, Sophie and Sasha teach people how to use DIY technologies and free software to independently receive signals from satellites orbiting the Earth, thus accessing images of the Earth and weather data. Olga and Karolina were previously trained by Sasha — artist in residence at the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw — to conduct the satellite workshop in Opolno-Zdrój. Together with children and a geography teacher from the local school, Marek Łabądź, they were able to retrieve images of the Earth from satellites flying over Opolno. After the workshop, all antennas, decoding equipment, a computer, instructions and necessary knowledge were passed on to the local school. From now on, the Open Weather workshop will become part of the geography curriculum and pupils will be able to learn how to take photos of their hometown as seen from orbit.
The visual identity of the Opolno is the Future! symposium was designed by Weronika Krupa and Paulina Wozniczka. Its leitmotif was the mandrake — a plant symbolising everything that could grow in the hole of the open pit after the closure of the Turów mine. The artists led a screen-print workshop, where participants could print the mandrake design on their clothes, bags or textiles. Together with local residents, they also designed a flag for Opolno-Zdrój featuring speculative visions of the town’s post-mining future. Joanna Łałowska and Michał Frydrych painted the bus stop; from now on, people arriving in Opolno-Zdrój are greeted by a modern, neoplastic composition referring to the Flag of Earth. Maja Janczar brought a painting depicting the town’s mayor Anna Wilczyńska, which she has been working on since the 2021 edition.
Anna Ptak presented a video produced as part of a performative documentary project Landscapes & Bodies, which she contributed to as a playwright. Anna Czaban and Mateusz Kowalczyk organised screenings of documentaries filmed using 360° technology, which tell stories of how mining industries operate in Germany, Indonesia, Congo and Estonia. The screening took place in carefully selected locations — in the ruins of a former spa building and the basin of a disused, dried-up swimming pool. The audience, both participants of the symposium and local residents, could put on VR goggles and for an hour immerse themselves in the worlds and stories of people living in the immediate vicinity of mines and open pits across the world, sharing similar social, economic, political and environmental struggles.
On Saturday evening, the participants were invited to join a local celebration — the Bogatynia Table Football Cup tournament, organised by the local sports club LKS Jaśnica Opolno-Zdrój and the Sports and Recreation Center in Bogatynia. The tournament featured Opolno is the Future! representation, and was followed by a vegan barbecue and a dance party organised together with the Association Na Trójstyku.
Symbolically, Opolno is the Future! ended with a walk following the works displayed across public spaces in Opolno-Zdrój, and the official opening of the exhibition in the space of the former library. For a few days it became the art residency dreamed up by the town’s mayor Anna Wilczyńska. All activities were photographed by the children, and Dominik Augustyniak and Alicja Kochanowicz. The video documentation was done by Gabor Ehrlich and Jan Moszumański. Gabor’s materials will be used to produce a short documentary on how the social role of art and artists is changing in the face of contemporary social, political, economic and environmental challenges.
The symposium Opolno is the Future! was organised by The Office of Post-Artistic Services in cooperation with representatives of the Opolno-Zdrój community: village mayor Anna Wilczyńska and the Association Na Trójstyku. The Office is an interdisciplinary unit supporting social and political movements with the creative aspect of their activities in order to reinforce their message through artistic means.
The Neoplasticist Demonstration
The Office for Postartistic Services supported The Neoplasticist Demonstration!
The Neoplastic Demonstration is part of the anti-war march Wiosna nasza – pożegnanie zimy, wyzysku i wojny (Our Spring – Farewell to Winter, Exploitation and War), organised, among others, by Miasto Jest Nasze and Otwarty Jazdów. This Sunday, 20th of March, it will march through the streets of Warsaw in support of the free Ukraine and as a gesture of solidarity with the victims of Russia’s imperia-list politics. The idea behind the Neoplastic Demonstration focuses on an attempt to instill a positive visual language using well-known tools from the field of art and art history. Neoplasticism, with its pa-lette based on primary colors and geometric divisions, is commonly associated as a symbol of modern art – an elegant work of art that looks perfect on the white wall of a flat or gallery. Expensive and far from socially engaging. However, the idea conceived over a century ago by Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg (the creators and promoters of Neoplasticism) was radically different. Neoplasticism was a radical voice against the tragedy of life and the pernicious sentiment towards the past – and an attempt to introduce harmony and affection, to look towards the future and the possibility of building a better world. One in which wars and empires are a thing of the past that no one longs for.
More than a hundred years later, the rabbit-ducks – members of the informal workers’ of art and culture alliance that stands behind the Neoplastic Demonstration – take to the streets with several dozen works inspired by Mondrian and van Doesburg. They remind us of the currency of art from the interwar period, remembering the power of images, just as the Lvov native Henryk Streng/Marek Włodarski reminded us of them when he painted the Demonstration of Paintings series in the 1930
s, in which works of art are an inseparable part of a protest against something and for a cause at the same time. Similarly to the figures painted by Streng/Włodarski, those taking part in Our Spring march take their works, banners and placards with them. The ascetic palette of the works, which is based on white, black and primary colours (red, yellow and blue), is not only a reference to neoplastic ideas, but also a clear signal of solidarity with people from Ukraine, as well as Belarus.
The works created for The Neoplastic Demonstration will not only serve as a visual setting for the anti-war march – after its conclusion they will be exchanged for donations to humanitarian organisations supporting Ukraine in the face of Putin’s aggression. They were created in cooperation with artists from the Bila Tserkva, Kharkiv, Chervonograd, Gdansk, Katowice, Kiev, Krakow, Lviv, Poznan, Reykjavik, Torun, Warsaw and Vinnitsa, and also thanks to the contribution of the students from the High School of Arts in Grudziadz. The concept of transferring the tools of art to the everyday world, which motivates the organisers of The Neoplastic Demonstration – rabbit-ducks – is something more than idle discussion about the usefulness of art. It is another chapter in the history of solidarity, cooperation and resistance to aggression through non-standard, grassroots tools and creativity.
Office for Postartistic Services featured in 2021 recaps
Activties of the Office are featured in a number of 2021 recaps. Kuba Szreder mentions both the OPOLNO 2071 plein-air and the March of Hospitality in his 2021 recap published in SZUM – the most important arts magazine in Poland. In his end of the year essay for SZUM Stach Szbłowski writes about the March of Hospitality and Michał Frydrych’s Monument to the Barbed Wire in the context of the humanitarian crisis on Polish-Belarus border. In the 2021 recap published by culture.pl platform Piotr Policht interprets the OPOLNO 2071 plein-air as a practical tool for rethinking the role of arts in the face of climate crisis.
How to Talk About Antifascism at a Family Dinner?
The aim of the project realized by the Office of Postartistic Services between October 2021 and September 2022 is to create, distribute and promote a publication which will serve as a source of knowledge and tool to construct a language for reacting to violent practices and discourses. The publication is directed to educators, culture workers and artists.
As part of the “How to Talk About Antifascism at a Family Dinner?” project we will also organize a series of workshops on recognizing and reacting to violent discourses; popularizing values such as freedom of conscience and speech (including freedom of artistic creation), respecting diversity of attitudes understood as a foundation of democracy and civil society as well as dealing with conflict in work, familial or institutional context.
The project was initiated by a direct action in public space – the March of Hospitality which culminated on November 11th 2021 – the National Independence Day. The workshops and publication are planned for 2022.
The project is funded from a grant from the Active Citizens Fund – Regional program funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway within the EEA grants.
The March of Hospitality
November 9th-15th, 2021
Even in November another Poland is possible. We cannot change the climate, but we can alter the atmosphere. Let’s imagine for a while, that instead of a march of chauvinists, domesticated with public donations amounting to millions of zlotys, people organize a march of hospitality. Let’s imagine that Poland is not a xeno- and homophobic country, haunted by the hidden history of antisemitism and misogynistic phantasies. That Poland is an open, tolerant, hospitable and decent place. That here we help those in need, that we don’t sentence them to death from starvation, cold and exhaustion. That Poland is a country that respects those who help others, not those who beat and push them back. A country free from stigmatization, baits and hysteria.
The March of Hospitality, organized between November 9th and 15th, was a platform for artistic visions and a tribute to everyday practices of human solidarity, a festival of ideas, practices of hospitality and dreams of another, open and tolerant Poland. The festival didn’t have one specific location, as hospitality should have no borders. The initiative culminated on November 11th when a number of people associated with the March – artists, activists, citizens – participated in the annual antifascist street party. The street party, organized under the slogan “For Your Freedom and Ours” is the largest demonstration in Poland opposing the hateful and xenophobic rhetoric of the Independence March (an annual far-right demonstration also organized on November 11th). The members of the Hospitality Bloc paraded the streets of Warsaw bearing golden flags made from thermal blankets – a pro-refugee symbol proposed by the artist Joanna Rajkowska.
The March of Hospitality was a grassroots initiative that operated as a self-organised coalition, formed by a number of different subjects: groups, institutions, companies, social movements, NGOs, activists, artists, educators, the strong and the weak, citizens, meme creators and youtubers. In the frame of the common festival of imagination we have gathered a lot of propositions, activities and artistic statements which highlighted the humanitarian crisis on the Polish border, popularized and practiced hospitality and underlined the human obligation to bring and cultivate help. Altogether in the frame of the March of Hospitality over 50 different events and activities – among them discussions, benefits, exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations, performances, meetings, concerts – were organized. Artists and activists shared a number of different works: confessions, poems, images, photos, graphics, memes, films, posts, instatories, links or tweets, which were broadcasted by the March’s channel on Telegram.
The March of Hospitality and activities carried out within the frame of the festival were covered in media, i.a. in the text by Stach Szabłowski published in Przekrój magazine and the report by wyborcza.pl news platform on the antifascist street party on November 11th 2021.
The Land of Zgorzelec: OPOLNO 2071
Opolno-Zdrój, August 6th-8th 2021
In July 1971 in Opolno-Zdrój, a former spa town located at the edge of the infamous Turów coal mine, the first ecological artistic plein-air in the history of Polish art took place. The event was entitled “The Land of Zgorzelec 1971: Science and art in defense of the natural environment of man”. The symposium was attended by the most important polish artists of the time, scientists, experts as well as the representatives of the local community – inhabitants of Opolno-Zdrój, miners and managers of the mine. The meeting was one of the many artistic plein-airs of the 1960s and 70s. The theme of “The Land of Zgorzelec 1971” plein-air was ecology. The event played a crucial role in the development of environmental awareness among the arts community in Poland. The imminence of the mine, power plant and industrial landscape as well as the ecologically-focused program of the event inspired the participants to come up with environmentally-focused artworks and discuss the difficult relationship between humans and the environment.
On the 50th anniversary of the first Polish ecological artistic plein-air, artists returned to Opolno-Zdrój. During the three-day long symposium entitled “The Land of Zgorzelec: OPOLNO 2071” a group of artists, curators and researchers, together with the representatives of the local community continued the discussions and activities started in 1971. However, this time, instead of warning or speculating about the imminent apocalypse and commenting on the destructive drive of Homo sapiens species, artistic tools and creative imagination were used to generate a vision of a common, green and climate-just future for Opolno-Zdrój and the whole region. The theme of the plein-air was a speculative fiction in which the mine and power plant are just a vague memory of a distant past, while Opolno-Zdrój returns to its traditions and becomes a futuristic spa and a recreational arts residency center.
The main idea of the plein-air was to use art, science and research to take a stand in the ongoing debate on just transition in Poland and its social costs. In April 2021 the Polish government extended the license for Turów industrial complex and agreed to expand the mining area. The decision will result in the destruction of half of the town of Opolno-Zdrój. Many precious buildings, including 19th century spa facilities, will be demolished; the social tensions and problems of the local community will escalate and the local environment and landscape will be further destroyed. Recently, the Turów mine and power plant have become widely discussed in Europe when the Czech government brought a case against Poland in the Court of Justice of the European Union, accusing the mine of draining its water supplies. Working in this context we have mobilized creative tools and artistic imagination to take part in a discussion which highlights all of the key tensions and problems connected with the climate crisis, just transition and the European Green Deal.
During the OPOLNO 2071 plein-air we’ve realized a number of projects and activities.
-We opened a temporary artistic cafe named “Well-rested Bather”. The café, which also served as a center for all plein-air activities, was run by local children, who, in exchange for flowers and stones, were serving snacks, herb brews and cakes baked by women from Opolno-Zdrój. The café, with its relaxing music, spa-inspired graphic design, props and decorations, became the public space for meetings and discussion that the town lacks,
-We exhibited printed collages depicting speculative visions for the future of Opolno-Zdrój, in various locations in the town
-We also printed the colleges as postcards from the year 2071. The inhabitants of Opolno-Zdrój were invited to fill out the postcards in the café, and send symbolic messages from the future to themselves and/or their families. Many people participated in the activity creating a collection of touching messages and beautiful visions for green, just future for Opolno-Zdrój.
-The plein-air was symbolically opened by the arrival of the “Tour de Zdrój” team – a group of artists who traveled to Opolno-Zdrój from Sokołowsko, straight from the annual “Contexts” art festival organized there. The route of the “Tour de Zdrój” lead through the Czech Republic and Germany, tracing the history of the Oppeln family – the historical founders of Opolno-Zdrój.
-We organized an experimental fermenting workshop in the café. The event, directed to the local community, was highly popular – many people from Opolno-Zdrój and nearby towns participated. Together with the artists running the workshop, they spent half a day fermenting vegetables, fruits, eggs and even coal. A couple of jars were prepared especially for the 100th anniversary of the Opolno plein-air – they are to be opened in 2071.
-We carried out a photographic workshop for children from Opolno-Zdrój. We considered the youngest generation the most important target group of our activities, as they will be the ones to really live in the town in 2071 and shape its future. During the workshop the children created photo documentation of the plein-air activities from their own perspective.
-CarbonFit – we organized an open session of “carbon-fit” – an artistic version of CrossFit training in which we used lumps of coal as training accessories.
-„Energetic trees” – we carried out a ritual performance dedicated to the trees of Opolno-Zdrój. In the town there are many beautiful, old trees – mostly lindens, pines and oaks. Some of them still remember the interwar period and the glorious days of Bad Oppelsdorf spa. The local community, together with the students from the Poznań University of Life Sciences, are trying to put them on the natural monuments list, however until now they haven’t succeeded. During the artistic ceremony the trees have been nominated as honorable participants of the Opolno 2071 plein-air and symbolic repositories of the dreams of the community of Opolno-Zdrój.
-During the plein-air we installed a children’s swing on one of the trees. This useful artwork was created with the help of a local sculptor from scrap materials found in the mine.
-The plein-air was symbolically closed with a ceremonial Sunday parade. We paraded the streets of Opolno-Zdrój wearing spa-inspired outfits, designed by artists and sewn from unique fabrics. The fabrics have been dyed using natural methods, utilizing plants, herbs and fruits collected on the abandoned lots. Many of the lots in Opolno-Zdrój are left empty after their owners were displaced and the houses demolished because of the expansion of the mining area. During our cheerful parade we carried props, such as fruits and globes, made from papier-mâché and banners with slogans such as “Opolno-Zdrój is the future”.
-During the last day of the plein-air we shot a music video for the “Grasses from space” – a Polish ecological music show, originally written and produced in the mid 1980’s and performed by children of miners from a coal mine in Knurów. “Grasses from space” tells the story of children, who don’t respect the environment: they destroy earthly grasses which start lamenting their fate. The lament travels through cosmos and reaches the grasses from space who come to Earth to warn the children that if they don’t respect the environment they will be sent to Ganymede – a planet which is hot, dry and devoid of any life. The whole story ends with a happy finale, in which the children change their attitude towards the planet and the environment. We shot a video for the selected songs from the music show, using the spectacular views of the Turów mine and power plant as background. The music video will premiere soon.
The plein-air was covered in Polish media, i.a. in one of the most important cultural magazines Dwutygodnik, podcast of the biggest Polish art magazine SZUM and fresh, young art outlet Malkontent, radio broadcasts, local TV and local online media. Anna Ptak, one of the participants, published an extended essay on the plein-air in the printed version of SZUM magazine. A text and a video report in oko.press are coming up.
“The Land of Zgorzelec: OPOLNO 2071” plein-air was organized by the Office for Postartistic Services, together with the representatives of the Opolno-Zdrój community – administrator Anna Wilczyńska and Na Trójstyku Association as well as Wrocław Contemporary Museum and Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław. The event is a part of the program of celebrating the 50th anniversary of “The Land of Zgorzelec 1971” plein-air, lasting between June and October 2021.
Office for Postartistic Services