“The System Uses Us” Interview with Winter Holiday Camp





(Google translated from the Polish):




(Google translated from the Polish):


IWO ZMY T Lona: Within happening before Ujazdowski Castle hung Th shadow word “Institution in Crisis”. What is this crisis? 
ARTHUR ŻMIJEWSKI:  The fact that the conflict between the management and employees of the Castle, which arises from changes in the management in 2010, has reached a critical mass. Employees do not want to accept the management of what is imposed by the Fabio Cavallucci. Over a year ago, in September 2012, directed in this case a non-public letter to the Minister of Culture, who also handed over to the Directorate. Since then, however, the policy directorates, namely Fabio Cavallucciego and Joanna Szwajcowski, there was improved, but exacerbated. Therefore, in mid-September 2013 union members decided to write to the Minister of Culture  second letter and publicize its allegations . It was aimed at transparency effects CCA employees that Winter Holiday Camp supported their actions in December 2013.

The project, however, been planning since March 2013. The primary assumptions he had no concern the ongoing conflict, much less a person Fabio Cavallucciego. What was your goal? 
IGOR Stokfiszewski:   Winter Holiday Camp [WHC] is a movement for democratic transformation of culture, our goal is described  on the website . Our aim is to change the way of thinking about the social function of institutions such as the CCA. The question is whether culture is a creation of artistic elites, whether it is a common resource from which we all derive and to which all a bit of the composition? We we assume that any action to create symbols or building social bonds is a culture-operation. Within the project, we wanted to know how it understood the culture – an open, common practice, may be developed by institutions such as the CCA.

Artur Zmijewski:  So looking for a model for cultural institutions – one in which it is possible to actual participation of artists and audiences in codecision with the program, the aims and objectives of these institutions. At this time, the power of decision-making are only a few prominent people. CCA took as an example of such an institution, which could be changed – formatted differently.


project of artists and art-activists investigating the mechanisms of power in the field of cultural institutions and seeking ways of democratic transformation. In July 2013 it was officially introduced to the CCA program. According to the original plans for its implementation was to last two months – at the end of December, and January 2014. Especially for this purpose managed to get a grant from the Ministry of Culture. In mid-November the management of the CCA, however, withdrew from previous commitments, arguing that financial considerations. At the same time in an internal letter to employees CCA forbade them any contact with members of the WHC, threatening sanctions arising out of the labor code. Deprived of grants artists came to Warsaw at its own expense, surrounded by the Castle and its grounds to arrange a series of “guerrilla” activities. The group included activists from the Polish, Germany, USA and Hungary.Ultimately, director of the CCA Fabio Cavallucci officially approved part of the group’s activities – took to the collection Castle gift WHC, the work covering all initiated by the group process, ie both various objects, and such meetings with CCA.  
WHC page: www.winterholidaycamp.org

So CCA treat as a kind of testing ground? TAL Beery: 
You could say that. We’re dealing with the authoritarian system of organization of power, which is quite typical, and which artists do not devote sufficient attention. Do not wonder about the conditions of employment and the quality of social relations within the institution, which present their work. Meanwhile, it is these relations binding on the institutions of the ideologies that generate anti-democratic attitudes. So I think that our task at CCA is to mobilize artists and workers themselves to fight to change this state of affairs.MAUREEN CONNOR:  In a broader plan applies to the structure of the world of art, which is very hierarchical – resembles a pyramid burgeoning downwards, on top of which there is a narrow group of people. Most of artistic institutions replicates this model – someone sitting at the top, and below a multitude of anonymous workers. Is not conducive to respect for the work of these people. If – for comparison – look at the theater or film productions, then all employees are honored there on posters or in the final. Most also retains an autonomous field of creative work – creative works not only a director but also the cameraman, actor, set designer and writer. The institutions of the art world somehow does not work this way – here revalorises the work of artists and curators, the rest are anonymous.

NOAH FISCHER:  It is of course the reason why in the world of art distinguished by the names of the artist or curator, przemilczając work of the whole multitude of invisible people. This reason is the market. If endorses the work of a particular name, it becomes a kind product – a trademark which it is easy to trade. Another such reason is a kind of mythology, typical of Western culture, especially for the privileged classes, including art historians. We have been taught to think that the course of history form a single person whose ideas are changing the reality. Meanwhile, progress is always the result of complex processes, the result of the collaboration of many different people. For the same reason we – as WHC – we work as a team.

Joules STRAUSS:  For us, this also means that the ethical value of collective action is higher than the deep-rooted in our culture, the myth of the artist-genius. Today, moreover, in various fields of culture can be seen as the value of creative work in the collective mythology displaces unique, irreplaceable gesture individualist.

WHC with the staff and the director of the CCA / photo  Gabriella Csoszó

So we can probably say that the main opponent of the art market for you? 
IMANI BROWN:  Definitely. I look at it from the perspective of New York, where the art scene is totally dominated by the market. Creating market value is the performance,  in the sense defined by Guy Debord . On the one hand we have a media that talk about art only in the context of the great scandals and auction records, and other artists Marina Abramović in kind, which first made ​​about the movie itself, then began  rapping with Jay-Z , and recently arranged a banquet in Los Angeles where artists were laid on the table as props. This performance not only commercialized art, but also objectifies people, making them the goods on sale.

Imani and Noah – are activists Occupy Museums. What are the positive values ​​of that fight? 
Imani Brown:  Certainly with dignity. The dignity of those who are excluded – various minorities. But also fighting to restore the importance of traditional concepts such as solidarity, art, freedom or democracy. These words are so often abused by various politicians that completely lost their significance. In the mouth has become a blank sign, which is manipulating people and the quest for power. Therefore, the Occupy movement repeat that it is not just about us occupying physical space, but also the fight against mental occupation – by the process of internal, personal restructuring, in which we get rid imposed from above, meaningless platitudes.We are fighting for it to important concepts ceased to be empty phrases.

Noah Fischer:  In Poland – unlike in the United States – the main problem is not the art market nor the related restrictions on access to culture. In the U.S. a huge impact on public bodies to rich collectors, because their money is an important source of funding the budgets of these institutions. In Poland, it is more about creating a new model of governance in cultural institutions that actually take into account the interests and needs of the workers in their employees and the public.

WHC / photo Gabriella Csoszó

In the original version of the project was about to precipitate the audience from passive, passive attitude of the recipient – for creative activation viewer through play and improvisation. Also wanted to give Castle in the hands of children – it was not a metaphor? 
PAUL ALTHAMER: Then you have not ( laughs ). We wanted to be involved, as is the only group that is able to operate without any resistance, based on the unusual relationships and connections. Children join the action immediately around each other in an extraordinary confidence – offer themselves in all perfection. Thanks to Arthur and other friends arrived, however, to me that this is the time for us. But this is not about any age group, but a state of mind – the ability to establish contacts and internal integrity that children bring to the world in wonderful form, and that only some manage to then store. It evolves around the world – becomes the adult world, which is unbearably boring, degenerate, which is based on cold, rational calculations and mechanisms that lead to vomiting. So finally departed from the division into age groups and focused on what we feel and what we have visions. That’s what kids do.

Artur Zmijewski: Children had to move our imagination. We wanted to stay at the CCA internal order – anarchize institution, replacing all the employees children. And only in such a purified field – together with the employees, artists and audience – we wanted to invent and test new institution, emerging from the debates, proposals, fantasy. This artistic project changed to a more political – recognition of institutions and cooperation with crew to transform the institution.

How to avoid such a situation of chaos? 
ZOFIA WAŚLICKA: In order not to err, we created a map of the institution – conducted a series of in-depth interviews with employees Castle – a total of more than thirty. These discussions were continued also in early December, although formulated by the management of the official ban on communicating with us. From these discussions emerged the image of the institution in crisis, where the relationship between management and employees are pathological. And this is why ultimately we stood on the side of workers – we supported their demands and desire to make public the whole situation.

Igor Stokfiszewski: It should be noted that the axis runs clear conflict between the direction of the Castle and its employees. WHC is not and never will be at the party. Of course, much more is on the way to us from the staff, but from the beginning we also had contact with Fabio Cavalluccim. Most importantly, we were able to just slip between the two sides of the conflict that everyone – employees, management and WHC, we could meet peacefully. I know that activism or art-activism tend to be perceived as confrontational actions that fall on a sharp an institution.However, we are operating with the help of artistic practices – in a democratic, empathetic manner, taking into account the interests of all parties and stakeholders.

Artur Zmijewski:  Here I do not agree with Igor. This process can and is empathetic, but it is the job of the conflict, thus also leads to antagonism, making enemies.

WHC / photo  Gabriella Csoszó

Conceptually, you invoke the experience of 7 Berlin Biennale . What is the relationship? 
Igor Stokfiszewski: I would have linked it was not connected at the same time. It is, of course, ideological and personal flow between these situations. Noah [Fischer] Tal [Beery], Sophie [Waślicka] Joulia [Strauss], Arthur, Paul and me – it is what connects the two situations. They share also attempt a radical democratization of the institutions of culture.

Althamer: We then got to know each other in Berlin, a little on the principle of attraction similarities. Even if our forms of expression are different, we are a bit like members of the same family, who sought out – this is for me the most in all of this phenomenon. I’m not talking now about ideology, but about the fact that among some people produce a real, completely spontaneous bond.

Artur Zmijewski: The Berlin Biennale participated in only part of a group that participates in the project WHC – they were people from the Indignados movement, Occupy Museums. After ten days they offered me and Joanna Warsza we withdrew from the position of trustees and opened them access to the Kunst-Werke [KW]. We agree to it, and so began a very interesting process of institutional change in the status quo – was established several working groups, partly overlapping with the departments KW, which began in a horizontal manner to meet the challenges of the institution. Occupy Museums anxious that the whole process was transparent.There was therefore a public debate on the budget Biennale and KW, in which took part the director Gaby Horn and other employees, including those who watch shows. Of course, the institution resisted – because, for example, an interview about the budget, on whose publication Gaby Horn did not agree, has finally posted on the hacked page KW.

Igor Stokfiszewski: That experiment showed that the democratization of culture is possible.The symbolic emancipation WHC was spraying banner that year and a half before the people of Occupy Museums hung on the facade KW. It was the same banner with a manifesto: “Play with the dictator. 7th Berlin Biennale goes towards horizontality “- the day before yesterday [Dec. 10] Paul painted over it along with the audience and the children. In this sense, left behind Berlin Biennale, although we continue to the very idea of horizontality. No łączyłbym too both of these situations, therefore, that the main entity operating in the CCA are the employees of the institution. And it must always be emphasized. They were the ones who actually started the fight.

Installation WHC front of the Castle / photo Gabriella Csoszó

The idea of horizontality – what’s going on? 
Artur Zmijewski: The structure of the CCA is hierarchical. We wanted to put in place an open system that can be changed until it is the shape, which may resound interests crew, artists, audience expectations, directorates, local needs.

Igor Stokfiszewski: CCA is a special case for us. We are concerned about the movement for the democratization of the field of culture, that is empowerment of all of us.

Sophia Waślicka: We do not claim that the majority of cultural institutions working badly. It would be untrue and unfair opinion, none of us does not think so. Also interviewed staff in other institutions, not just the CCA. Very good reputation has, for example, the Museum of Art in Lodz.There is also a hierarchical management model: the director, the undersigned managers, then curators, lower-level employees. However, there is a good atmosphere, no one no one screams.When I held the position of director Suchan, started from the implementation of such an internal audit – to rationalize the powers and responsibilities of each employee, which was then formulated as “book value”. Another nice example is the annual reports Incentives which include a section “Achievements Team Incentives”.

Signing a contract with the management / photo Gabriella Csoszó

You say that the problem relates to a new model of cultural institutions. What do you want to propose concrete solutions? 
Imani Brown: We want to share our techniques – strategies of mediation [ facilitation strategies ] and tactics we’ve learned during the assembly the squares of the Occupy movement.But we do not want too much to overestimate their own abilities. In fact, we learn from each other here.

Igor Stokfiszewski: The greatest achievement of “squares” [the Occupy movement – ed. note] is to develop real tools to practice direct democracy. There’s people in a bottom-shaped structures such as general assembly, committees, working groups, tested formula of political representation, namely the Council of Representatives. There is now question whether it can be applied to cultural institutions? Our answer is yes, can you just need a process of transformation. The cultural institutions dominate because labor relations, not relations based on the idea.Meanwhile, the people in the squares identified rather with a certain idea, therefore, enough to develop a common technique to implement this idea.

WHC by the Ministry of Culture / Photo by Gabriella Csoszó

Do you think you manage to work out some kind of curatorial participatory? Can you imagine such a model of cultural institutions in which the program – about what is actually shown in galleries – decisively audience? 
Noah Fischer: Yes, that would be interesting. We want people began to perceive otherwise his position in the culture – to actually feel the participants and owners of public institutions. But this is a long-term experiment – we do not expect that we will change this in a few months. For now, we create the appropriate language.

Joulia Strauss: We are concerned about deelitaryzację radical democratization of culture and the very notion of art. It’s still happening. I believe that the society of the future alone will decide which to serve institutions such as the CCA – not rigid division between art and non-art, science or social affairs.

Artur Zmijewski: We say, let’s see if it works, let us have the time to experiment. Maybe our program to check, and can emerge its alternatives. In fact, there is not even “our” program – is discussed with the staff of the possible direction of the institutional relationships and conscription of their implementation in a complex, community-based process on trust.

Meeting in the Ministry / photo Gabriella Csoszó

So you mean the opening of a new process? 
Artur Zmijewski: Yes, the process of an unknown solution. We propose a different institutional frame – flexible, plastic, capable of change. Participants in the process of responding to its operation, verify that suits them and, depending on the needs of the alter.

Noah Fischer: As Arthur said, we do not have a specific solution to the crisis in the CCA. But we have the tools that can help you find such a solution and began his search process itself. It is important that this process involves transgressive attitude that we ourselves accept. WHC has proved to be yet in the original version so radical that the management Castle decided to recall him, and we decided to finally come to Warsaw at their own expense. Continuing this project when it was banned, get out of the role of artists and put ourselves in the situation of ordinary citizens – the audience thinking about the condition of the institution, which should serve them.Thus, we appeal to all employees of the Castle and other artists that we take a stand on its own.

Imani Brown: This is the crux of the matter. This is what Noah says, it’s called complicity [complicity ]. One of the main problems of the institution, and in general all institutions in the art world, lies in the fact that people opposed to the painful operation of a system that uses them.They are afraid to go against him, because they do not feel solidarity, but fear.

Noah Fischer: Yes, fear and complicity – that the atmosphere inside the CCA.

common wall painting before Christmas / photo Gabriella Csoszó

So let’s get back to Cavallucciego. Ask now perversely – which he did for three years directorates? When embraced his office,  expectations were quite . 
Artur Zmijewski: You can say that this has been Cavallucciemu you do not heralded. What promised? Institution treated as a tool for social change, experimenting with a new model of action gallery – other than an exhibition, the reaction to the financial crisis, etc. He also has to deal with potential conflicts. Meanwhile, the lead institution, which dominates the exhibition format and which itself fell into financial crisis. CCA does not become a tool for social change, is also a sharp conflict between management and crew. It might seem that such “Green Jazdów” was a successful event because attracted crowds and had a friendly atmosphere. If, however, on banners “green vehicles” states that it is a healthy lifestyle and environmental awareness, while in the institution that organizes this event, people are simply very bad work, it is difficult to talk about success. Conflict within the CCA eventually neutralized the positive effects of “green vehicles”.

Igor Stokfiszewski: These social costs which says Arthur, is a matter of absolutely crucial. I also do not know about Cavalluccim something good, except perhaps that the personal contacts seem sympathetic. However, the relationship of its employees paint a picture of a man with real mental constitution monarch. I do not think even that his actions were an expression of ill will. He is rather designed as a king – coincidentally – the castle, which acts in accordance with its own constitution: it is imperious, treats people as subjects, trying to practice absolute monarchy. So the question arises: is undemocratic institution may affect the democratic values? I do not think.CCA impact on society as the practice itself – not promotes democratic values, it activates citizens, suppresses social capital.

Imani Brown in the Castle / photo Gabriella Csoszó

Your presence in the vicinity of Castle raised considerable nervousness.  
Igor Stokfiszewski: Fabio Cavallucci actually threatened to removing the sanctions against employees who come to work with the WHC. Then the conflict was so deep that communication between management and employees were solely using e-mails, orders, injunctions, prohibitions.We have worked in this field, contrary to the directorate, a little guerrilla, passing in different ways inside the institution.

Finally Cavallucci changed his approach – officially accepted all your actions, your work also adopted for the collection. When I saw this “click”? 
Sophia Waślicka: Well, we did the “click” long provoked. As said Igor – WHC office opened in the cafe CCA and hung in front of the Castle, our word “Institution in Crisis”. We smoked a fire in koksowniku – without permission, so called protection of the city guard. In the end, brought about the public meeting with the director, during which formally handed over our work to the collection. Then it was an open debate with employees CCA, during which spoke of the situation in the Castle, and Fabio listened to them, I think for the first time. The next day we did the opening of the exhibition “Collection. Fragment “, the directorate had not planned.

common painting the wall in the CCA before Christmas / photo Gabriella Csoszó

Do you think that a breakthrough? That you managed to change the Fabia Cavallucciego? 
Althamer: If we thought that we would return to the principles of adults – attitude expectations.No, we’re having fun at it because it is interesting and inspiring. We can even be grateful for this crisis, because if not this combination of events – if not banning our attempts to do a project with children – all these overloads that occur in the Castle, would probably further considered bearable. And they are not tolerable, because they are against our peaceful and benevolent nature.

Igor Stokfiszewski: I do not know if this is a breakthrough. Our meeting was aimed at Cavalluccim is to drive out evil spirits from the Castle. And the evil spirit is not Cavallucci, but fear, mistrust, frustration – lack of confidence and crazy tension between management and workers, which does not allow them to meet on some human principles. I managed to achieve the expulsion of the evil spirit from the Castle. We’ll see for how long.

Maureen Connor: I think that we have to change the mindset of employees Castle – helped them to rethink their situation anew, discuss alternative models of work organization, develop a new awareness. I do not know what will be the effect. With things concrete is made ​​by our analysis of labor relations in the CCA – from our interviews indicate, for example, that the effort of workers is often wasted because the ranges of their duties intersect with each other. It happened that kept duplicate posts, and even entire departments. In this overlap Personal friction and lack of communication.

Artur Zmijewski: Internal conflict within the institution was made ​​public by the Solidarity Trade Union, and thus moved to the political level and democratized. But the management did not begin to think differently. Workers are still afraid of exemptions for his reformist activity.

What still needs to change in order to remedy the situation in the CCA? What is your diagnosis? 
Artur Zmijewski: There is no appeal mechanism, which could be initiated by employees. In the case of CCA, in addition to the minister of culture, there is an external entity that could really affect this institution. The same applies to the appointment of director – competition is a kind of experiment, but people who arrange it, they are not related to liability for the consequences of their choice. Today, paradoxically, only representatives of both trade unions operating in the CCA have to deal with the consequences of its decision. That’s why I wondered whether the members of the jury should not automatically come to the Programme Board and the institutions or among them should sit – next to the representatives of the crew – including representatives of the artists and the audience.

Sophia Waślicka: We thought about hiring a director for a trial period during which he could begin to implement programmatic assumptions that decided about his election. During this time, the assessment could also be the quality of the relationship between employees and management.

Photo by Gabriella Csoszó

Current Program Council Castle was established in late October 2013 – de facto three years after taking office by the current management. Do not you think that it was a facade action? 
Sophia Waślicka: You’re right and front. From conversations with the staff, we know that none of the Programme Council did not react to the information about the conflict in the Castle, the reasons for the degradation of the institution, despite the fact that such information appeared at the beginning of its first official meeting. But some members of the Program Council often themselves involved in understanding social conflicts, problems of power.

Igor Stokfiszewski I nevertheless believe that the CCA may be a precedent – the forefront of shaping the modern collegiate cultural institutions. There is another instrument that is not used in the CCA, and that really solves a lot of problems. Namely transparency. Publicity is a form of control, and more importantly – self-control.

The most in all this dead silence of the Minister of Culture. Today [December 12] zanieśliście to the building of the Ministry official petition in this case . 
Zofia Waślicka: Demonstration of the Ministry of Culture that was our stand-alone operation, which did not participate CCA employees. The aim was to show that Castle is a common good – that also belongs to us, the artists and the audience. And the condition of the place, manner “production” in the culture, makes us care.

Althamer: I just was not there, I came later and then found out that the visit took place, which should be something normal, routine, and had the nature of festivals, demonstrations. And actually, this is great – let them initiate a tradition of meeting artists from ministers. Let guests Ministry of artists and curators, or vice versa – let the minister come to the exhibition, talking with artists, curators, employees. May even work with them. Why did the minister would have us paint, dance or write poems? But it would be a very great minister.

Warsaw, 9-12 Dec. 2013