The Impossible Collection

Curator as Translator | Where have all the workers gone... When will we ever learn?

Networking Meeting and Workshop

22-23 November 2007, Wyspa Art Institute , PL

There is always trouble with a historic place. Even if we can easily identify with its auratic quality, we might be deeply disappointed by its narrative one: Yes, it is great to be here, but why actually? Why is the shipyard in Gdansk so important? Communism ended here. Yes, but what has then started here? The workers won their freedom here. But where have they disappeared thereafter? History has happened here. Only to never happen again?

Every answer is automatically followed by another question. The reason is obvious: there is no master narrative to forever fix the meaning of a historical event. Neither is there a subject of history to make experience of it. What we have got instead is cultural memory. It never recalls the event in its alleged original meaning but rather through different forms of its cultural articulations, in short, through its cultural translations: the culture of everyday life, cultural effects on gender formation, literary and visual culture, etc. This is where this atmosphere of uncanniness evoked by historical places comes from. They are familiar, yet strange because we perceive them always in a (cultural) translation of what is giving them the actual meaning, namely the original event.

The workshop will deal with this trouble in the form of short presentations and discussion.

Dorothee Bienert, Boris Buden, Galit Eilat, Borislav Mikulić, Stefan Nowotny, Livia Paldi, Els Roeland, Alina Serban, Simon Sheikh, Alexander Skidan, Aneta Szylak, Antje Weitzel, Louisa Ziaja

A few reading suggestions
Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture, London, New York: Routledge, 1994. Introduction: Locations of culture 1-19.

Boris Buden, “Cultural Translation: Why it is important and where to start with it?”

Stefan Nowotny, “The Stakes of Translation”

Charity Scribner, Requiem for Communism, Cambridge Ma, London: MIT Press, 2003. Introduction:The Second World, 2-23.

In collaboration with WYSPA Art Institute
and with the support of FWF – Der Wissenschaftsfonds

The workshop serves as a theoretical basis for the issues at stake in the exhibition project The Impossible Collection (08-09 2008) and takes place in connection with the following events:

Performance by Elzbieta Jabłonska

The performance by Elzbieta Jabłonska will take place within her own installation “Kitchen”, from 2003, reconstructed at Wyspa Institute of Art at the request of the “Translate: The Impossible Collection” event. This well-known and thoroughly discussed work is an oversized random kitchen in which both the artist and the audience can barely reach the top of the cupboard. It has usually been presented to date within the feminist framework. Here it appears in a new dimension, as a voice in the discussion about the status of an artwork, its materiality, issues of collecting and displaying a piece as well as the artistic escapes from this framework. This performance allows a new interpretation and recontextualization of artistic intentions and the very piece itself.

Curator:  Maks Bochenek
Wyspa Institute of Art, 23.11.2007, 6p
for further reading:

Mobile Archive

MOBILE ARCHIVE is a project which arose at the Israeli Center for Digital Art in Holon. The archive contains more than 1,200 titles, including works by Israeli and international artists who have exhibited at the Center and works by artists who have contributed works over the years.
Archive’s aim is to present contemporary artistic practice. The video archive focuses on the presentation of local and regional (Near East) works, the exchange of information and knowledge, and the promotion of Israeli artists abroad.
The idea of the Mobile Archive surfaced during several conversations on the idea of bringing the archive to the Kunstverein in Hamburg and how it could function there out of its original context. The question was how to make the archive dynamic and valuable to the local audiences at both ends.
From Hamburg, the Mobile Archive moves to Wyspa and then to other art institutes that will also contribute work to the original collection. The mobile archive will travel for three years in European, Balkan and Middle Eastern countries, before it returns to Holon.
In Wyspa Institute of Art, the collection will be enlarged by video works made by Polish artists. To make the viewing much more comfortable, it will be possible to sit and watch the chosen works. it is presented in Gdansk as a part of “The Impossible Collection” The archive touches upon the issues of accumulation, status and distribution of artwork though the archival forms that differ from that of the collection idea. 

Curator of Polish contributors and coordinator: Ola Grzonkowska

On view: 23rd November –15th December 2007

Boris Buden


Galit Eilat


Dorothee Bienert


Stefan Nowotny


Lívia Páldi


Els Roelandt


Alina Serban


Simon Sheikh


Aneta Szylak


Antje Weitzel