My project proposes to supplement the mission statement of the Centre of Contemporary Art in Toruń with a paragraph signalling equal treatment of individuals and their legal and social situation in Poland.
Votes in favour or against incorporating this paragraph in CoCA’s mission statement can be cast during the exhibition, either in the exhibition space or by the Internet on CoCA’s web page. Voting rules are displayed in the special polling room. Once the exhibition is over, the ballots will be counted and passed on to the management board of CoCA.
The suggested paragraph:
Freedom and equal opportunity are vital to the development of art and the liberty of artistic expression. For this reason, the Centre holds fast in all its activities to the principle of respect and equal opportunity for all people and their organizations irrespective of their race, ethnicity, nationality, age, sex, sexual identity, expression and orientation, disabilities, health, prosperity, employment, education and social standing, as well as their world view, including religious denomination (if any). Any discrimination on any of the above grounds is foreign to the Centre and unequivocally contrary to the Centre’s mission.
Results of the vote:
Internet voting results:
Valid votes: 39 Invalid votes: 0 Sum: 39
Yes – number of votes: 35
No – number of votes: 3
Not sure – number of votes: 1
I don’t care – number of votes: 0
CoCA voting results:
Valid votes: 209 Invalid votes: 7 Sum: 216
Yes – number of votes: 162
No – number of votes: 22
Not sure – number of votes: 12
I don’t care – number of votes: 13
Yes – number of votes: 197
No – number of votes: 25
Not sure – number of votes: 13
I don’t care – number of votes: 13
The reply from acting director of CoCA:
The project carried out by Liliana Piskorska within the framework of the LOCIS programme, which involved voting on the incorporation of a new paragraph suggested by the artist into CoCA’s mission statement, has been conceived as an artistic project and it is to be perceived exclusively as such. It has not been initiated by any of the CoCA managers or set up as part of sociological research. Therefore, it provides no actual basis for taking action that would result in adding the paragraph suggested by the artist in the course of an artistic project to the mission statement of the institution.
Krzysztof Białowicz, acting director of CoCA Znaki Czasu Toruń
Meant as a test on whether an institution devoted to contemporary art could be the right space for the implementation of the idea of socially engaged art, my project ended in (planned?) failure.
It also produced a number of opinions voiced by members of the public. Here are some examples:
“The fact that this suggestion can at all be considered as controversial in 2014 shows that the addition is necessary.” (Yes)
“It will do no harm, and it could give new opportunities for action, cooperation, reception. This might be important, especially in the light of present changes. This is also a good moment to change the law accordingly.” (Yes)
“Because we live in Poland where these words should be self-evident, but they are not.” (Yes)
“I don’t think this is necessary because an institution should protect these rights anyway.” (No)
“Art is a stuggle. Inclusion is irrelevant” (I don’t care)
“I believe that the suggested paragraph is consistent with the kind of the institution CoCA is and wants to be.” (Yes)
“It’s better to focus on art, rather than equality.” (No)
More about the idea:
Where has this proposal come from? Cultural institutions, to be sure, are not involved in politics, they are not directly engaged in the fight for social change, and yet, for many artists socially engaged art constitutes a vital proportion of their work. Even the very expression may arouse suspicions – is this ‘social engagement’ based on solid grounds? Is it possible at all, given that art can hardly escape the label of being addressed to a small circle of interested people? The art community is continuously discussing the question whether art is truly capable of having an impact on society.
The idea of my project emerged from just this question: can art institutions (and, by extension, art) influence the way of seeing things?
The project is based on the presumption that they can: certainly, every contemporary art institution has the potential to become a space for presenting utopian social visions. It follows that it can present the vision of social art in real terms, out of its own force. The institution owes its legitimacy to the fact of being a public entity, to the process of selecting the artists who are supposed to be from among the best, and finally, to the available budget and space.
The institution endows with legitimacy the works of arts that are exhibited therein. With the opening of this exhibition, it legitimizes my presence as an artist, and consequently my works that are exhibited. Within the framework of LOCIS, CoCA’s residency programme, I have been chosen to work on a project dealing with political and social topics. CoCA has placed trust in me on the premise that my work will be worth the time and attention of visitors. I submit my project with this position: it has been highly privileged, no matter how temporary it may turn out be.
I resolved not to propose a work that uses metaphor to visualize social inequality and exclusion, namely such that affect also myself as a non-heterosexual person.
What I propose to the institution is just this: that it makes a statement of its own.
The proposed paragraph to be included in CoCA’s mission statement contains all prerequisites that guarantee legal protection in Poland – and one extra. I would like the institution to address the expression that provokes heated discussions in Poland, namely sexual orientation. I emphasize this deplorable major fault by showing it together with other prerequisites that are sanctioned by law and form the basis of equal treatment. The ‘Great Absentee’, i.e. the acknowledgement of sexual orientation, can thus, thanks to CoCA, come to the public view for a short while
The text of the paragraph was consulted with Przemysław Szczepłowski, a lawyer and social activist.