Winter Holiday Camp is a next stage of Occupy Museums set in Poland- its an artistic experiment in institutional democracy, including every worker of CCA Ujazdowski Castle and its visiting public. It’s a collaboration of an international working group flowing from the seventh Berlin Biennale.
The primary goal of Winter Holiday Camp is to form a deeper understanding of the cultural institution and to transform it playfully. Throughout a long process of research which started last March and has included may trips to Warsaw, the project was cancelled by the director, and then the unionized workers of the CCA began to openly oppose the directorship, and are voting independantly to reinstate the project. So we are returning to Warsaw in early December to continue the project in collaboration with the CCA workers and public but autonomously from the contemporary art institution.
In Early December 2013, we travelled to Warsaw to engage with the CCA uninvited. In the ensuing series of events we staged open meetings with the director, created sculptures outside and inside the castle, and the project was finally accepted into the collection of the CCA.
Letter to CCA employees on return to Warsaw:
Dear CCA employees
As most of you already know, we are international group of artists and activists whose aim is to change the institution of art — in this case CCA — into an environment where all employees are treated with respect, where chronically oppressive power relations do not exist, and where the program is designed democratically and promotes art for citizens, not financial markets.
We know about the situation in the CCA. We published a letter to support the resistance of the CCA employees against the authoritarian style of power in the institution. We agree with your resistance to unbearable relations between the directors and employees. As artists, spectators and ordinary people, we do not believe that a progressive culture can be created under such oppressive institutional conditions.
Many of us are experienced collaborators and activists. Some of us have worked closely for many years with employees at art institutions for democratic conditions. We have worked with activist groups all over the world to struggle for citizen’s rights and by working together, we have formed our own democratic process among ourselves. In previous research at CCA, we experienced difficult and nearly impossible negotiations with the director. We also spent a lot of time listening to the CCA workers and learning about how the whole institution functions. Some of your agreed to be interviewed and we very much appreciate your willingness to explain the work you do and to share your workplace experiences with us. Thanks to these conversations we witnessed the strong need of liberation from authoritarian power, and saw that both employees and artists need to be respected.
Our presence in CCA in 2013, both the interviews with the employees and negotiations with the directors, were a part of the preparation process for “Winter Holiday Camp”. The aim of this project is a deep transformation of the art institution—and an exploration in democracy. We are aiming at the creation of an open and respectful culture which the fragmented contemporary society really needs. The first goal of our activity was to propose a holiday for all CCA workers, spectators and artists; a holiday from hierarchy and struggle, from the facade of culture, from restrictive rules. This holiday time could be used to create ideas for a new institution, as well as new relations between workers and directors, spectators and artists, citizens of Warsaw, in solidarity with the all CCA workers.
All that has happened at the CCA recently has changed these plans. Our project has been cancelled by Fabio who did not inform us of the cancellation, and CCA workers have organized themselves and are practicing resistance. This is opening up new possibilities. Together with cultural workers from many countries we can use this opportunity called Winter Holiday Camp, to stop the institutional “culture machine” and create an institution in which we would like to work with which we would like to work, and which all would like to visit. Since we are now coming to Warsaw autonomously, with no support from the directors, there are no limits on how to proceed with this collaboration. We will be in Warsaw between the 1st and 12th of December. We can offer you the research we’ve done so far, and we want to work with you.
Members of the WHC working group
Paweł Althamer, Raquel Gomez Amborosio, Tal Beery, Imani Jacqueline Brown, Antonio Calleja-Lopez, Maureen Connor, Gabriella Csoszó, Noah Fischer, Federico Geller, Zuzanna Ratajczyk, Dorota Sajewska, Igor Stokfiszewski, Joulia Strauss, Paula Strugińska, Martyna Sztaba, Zofia Waślicka, Katarzyna Wąs, Artur Żmijewski