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Joanna Turek is the curator of the residency program Warsaw | Berlin (WRSW | BRLN) and president of the Foundation for Public Space Research TU, based in Warsaw. In 2011 she moved to Berlin to work on residency programs. Currently she works on the development of a Polish-German cooperation, in particular between Warsaw and Berlin. On 27 October Joanna Turek is part of a panel discussion "Between two cities: creative professionals discussing conditions of production, implementation strategies and experiences in Berlin and Warsaw", organized by Creative City Berlin. We talked to Joanna about her move to Berlin and about the differences between Berlin and Warsaw.
CCB Magazin: Hello Joanna, you moved to Berlin in 2011. Why did you come to the city?
Joanna: I came to Berlin to cooperate with people and organizations and to work on residency programs. Previously I was visiting the city regularly. After my first stay in Berlin 2011, I went back to Poland. Since 2014, I led the Foundation for Public Space Research TU, based in Warsaw and now I am a curator and coordinator of the Warsaw | Berlin residency program. Looking back, my aim was to come to Berlin to get more know-how. My interest in residency programs as a way of developing the activities of my foundations was only the second aim.
I came to Berlin to cooperate with people and organizations
CCB Magazin:What is your background? How did you get to your work in your field?
Joanna: I was born in Warsaw, now I’m 30 years old and before I was working, I graduated the University of Warsaw and the Graduate School for Social Research at the Polish Academy of Sciences under the program of the British Lancaster University. In 2009-2012, still as a student, I was employed at the Institute for Public Space Research at the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy. The Foundation for Public Space Research TU was founded in 2011 as a part of the Institute. Since 2014 we have worked independently. In 2014 and 2015 I was cooperating with NGO’s in Berlin dealing with international residency programs as well as Polish-German cooperation in artistic field, which inspired me to start a program based in Warsaw.
CCB Magazin:What are you doing now?
Joanna: Currently I am working with a team on the development of a Polish-German cooperation, in particular between Warsaw and Berlin. My main field of interests is the role of cultural and creative capital in shaping urban and public spaces of our cities. Specificly a various models of artistic and cultural institutions, organizations, projects, activities of which change the space around us – common public space. In my work I combine my interests in institutional critique, artistic practices in social and political contexts. My focus lies on the role of cultural and creative capital in local and international projects dedicated to urban space.
CCB Magazin:What kind of institutional critique do you mean?
Joanna: It's about how the institutions function and how they could change structures. Also I look at how the other forms of cultural and artistic organizations work. My aim is to build long-lasting relations between our Polish and German partners and to build an open public of different interests, different background and experiences. I bring people from different backgrounds together: artists, activists, curators, researchers, representatives of public administration, business, NGO’s, who all perceive urban issues from various perspectives.
In my work I combine my interests in institutional critique, artistic practices in social and political contexts
CCB Magazin:You are the president of the Foundation for Public Space Research TU, based in Warsaw, since 2014. Which Foundation is it? Can you describe your work?
Joanna: The Foundation for Public Space Research TU was created to examine the issue of urban space, more broadly – the public space of our cities. In 2014 and 2015 I was cooperating with NGO’s in Berlin dealing with international residency programs as well as Polish-German cooperation in artistic field, which inspired me to start a program based in Warsaw, this was another repetition. In this context we develope projects concerning the topic in cooperation with NGO’s and institutions in Warsaw and Berlin; recently with “berlinerpool”, our partner, “Kollegen 2,3 | Bureau für Kulturangelegenheiten in Berlin”. Within the framework of “WRSW | BRLN” project together with three other people in the team – this year Martyna Miller, Kacper Wereski based in Warsaw and Anka Bobczuk based in Berlin. We organize one or two-month long artistic exchanges in Warsaw and this year in Berlin as well.
CCB Magazin:Is there a central issue?
Joanna: Yes, last year was dedicated to urban space, this year our focus is the public space of the internet. During each residency artists from Berlin lead a public meeting open to the audience or a workshop and at the end of the stay – a final exhibition. Each exhibition by Berlin-based artist is accompanied by a project by Warsaw-based artists. They can cooperate, but don’t have to. It’s a possibility to meet and learn from each other.
CCB Magazin:You lived in Berlin in 2011 and 2014/2015. What was your first impression of Berlin?
Joanna: “Poor but sexy” – it’s a slogan, but it’s still true. So there are a lot of possibilities in Berlin, but also a huge competition. One has to have a good social and professional base to fit in. I think it’s easier when you are a freelancer in Berlin, because of the international environment. But it depends on the branch you are working in.
CCB Magazin:Berlin has the highest percentage of creative freelancers in Germany, more than 40 percent. Especially many freelance artists in Berlin are living precariously: the average income is about 15.000 Euros per year. In comparison to that – how is the situation in Poland?
Joanna: It's precarious as well, so the artists and cultural workers need more governmental, municipal and private sources of funding as well as solutions for funding on a permanent basis, especially for NGO's.
CCB Magazin:If you draw a comparison: What’s the difference between both cities relating to art and culture?
Joanna: Berlin is definitely a place for the creative industry. Approximately 30.000 companies in eleven creative fields exist in Berlin. Around 20.000 artists from all over the globe exhibit their work there. Warsaw is still trying to catch-up in this field. But in Warsaw the development is lower. Similar to Berlin, independent cultural and artistic actions are unfolding at a speed of light. The changing character of Warsaw districts such as Muranów, Powiśle or Mokotów. This is the best proof for that. The districts are becoming like entities in their own right, attracting residents from the furthest corners of the capital – from cafes which offer cultural program, newly established NGOs, galleries and other institutions. In Muranów, there is ‘Stacja Muranów’, ‘Fundacja i Stowarzyszenie: Projekt Polska’ and Centrum Architektury. In Mokotów, project space ‘XS’ and ‘STROBOSKOP’ – mini gallery initiated, among others, by the artist Norbert Delman. ‘XS’ is located in a former shopping window, ‘STROBOSKOP’ is located in a garage. Both spaces were made available by city authorities for cultural purposes.
CCB Magazin:One characteristic of Berlin’s artist scene is the high rate of project spaces, galleries and museums. Berlin has approximately 150 projects spaces, nearly 350 galleries and 180 museums. Is the situation in Warsaw comparable to Berlin?
Joanna: Not exactly, in Warsaw we have only several dozens of galleries and art spaces – and in Warsaw we still don’t have a strong independent artistic scene, because of problem with funding such initiatives, among others – currently because of the change of the authority giving support to national culture and art. Both cities are dealing with financial problems in the cultural and artistic sector, but it is a difference in scale: in numbers of NGO’s and in number of independent activities, project spaces.
In Warsaw we have only several dozens of galleries and art spaces – and we still don’t have a strong independent artistic scene
CCB Magazin:In Berlin there are some programs for artists, for example the project space program, which started in 2012 to finance seven project spaces with a totally sum of 30.000 Euro per year. But more and more artists apply for the programs. How is the situation in Warsaw?
Joanna: In Warsaw there are only few public programs that support local cultural and social initiatives, also there are open competitions for NGO’s and young artists. And there are several programs facilitating acquiring space for various activities, one of them is: ‘Lokal na kulturę’ (Space for Culture) – the contest open to organizations which have prepared a long-term plan of action in a given space. The places put on offer in this contest are usually places which had not attracted any commercial tenants. Non-governmental organizations which acquire a space pay lower rent than companies but have to cover the cost of utilities. The program has been implemented only in some districts. Another option is ‘Warszawa Lokalna’ (Local Warsaw) which supports local independent cultural and social initiatives. Within this scheme, NGOs and groups may apply for a space for their activities lasting from several days to several months, covering the cost of utilities only. ‘MAL’ (Miejsca Aktywności Lokalnej – Local Activity Spots) as well as foundations and associations can operate by way of mini-grants and municipal or ministerial open contests for project offers.
CCB Magazin:A central issue in Berlin is the question: How deeply should the art scene intertwined with the economy? What do you say: Is it good, that private investors spend some money on art and cultural production or is this the end of the independence of art? How can we bring private investors and artists together?
Joanna: That’s a good question. In Warsaw, it sometimes happens that big private investment funds wish to influence the realisation of artistic and cultural initiatives, examples being: the Soho Factory – a complex of lofts and buildings housing companies, boutiques, restaurants and art galleries; or Skanska – a construction company known for supporting projects of foundations acting towards improving urban public spaces. The number of newly established organizations that seek sources of financing keeps growing. According to the report published on the nationwide portal of non-governmental organizations out of 20 thousand of organizations registered in the Mazowsze Province, 13 percent, i.e. over 2 thousand, engages in activities related to culture and art (data from December 2014). And meanwhile, more and more independent Warsaw galleries are financed mainly from private funds, unless an affiliated foundation is established which allows them to apply for additional funding.
I wish Berlin will support Polish-German cultural and artistic cooperation
CCB Magazin:You left Berlin in 2011 after your first stay. What was the reason for it?
Joanna: I think I just learned anything from Berlin as a city and I wanted to use my knowledge and experience within the framework of the Foundation I have co-founded. But now I travel between Warsaw and Berlin, and I wish Berlin would continue to support Polish-German cultural and artistic cooperation, and find its way to support and protect the independent scene.
CCB Magazin:Joanna, what are your plans for the future?
Joanna: I will work exactly in the way I’m now. But maybe I’ll connect more cities.
CCB Magazin:Thank you and stay in touch Joanna.
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