THE THINGS OF WARSAW – biography of things, biography of the city

THE THINGS OF WARSAW – biography of things, biography of the city

Jarosław Trybuś

Chief curator of THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition

The holdings of the Museum of Warsaw, which opened its doors in 1936, currently comprise over 300,000 objects related to the history of Warsaw – everyday things and ceremonial items, works of art and objects of convenience, mementos of people and of events. Our team of curators has spent 4 years selecting and show-casing 7,352 of them. We have assorted them into 21 themed rooms.

The museum objects are witnesses and participants in the history of the city.  We have striven to create conditions for a close encounter with them. They often provide a pretext for telling the stories of their owners and makers, or relating ground-breaking events and long-term developments. Apart from things, the exhibition features a separate section providing data that allows one to put the city’s complex history in prespective.

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We do not tell a single story. We do not develop a single narrative. Proceeding through the Museum’s eleven Old Town houses at one’s own pace and following one’s own path, visitors can be inspired by the objects on display to create their own story of Warsaw.

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THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition was created in years 2013–2017 under supervision of dr Jarosław Trybuś, Deputy Content Director of the Museum of Warsaw. Eight different thematic rooms were opened to visitors in May 2017, i.a. The Room of Archaeology and The Room of Warsaw Monuments. The remaining rooms will be opened by the beginning of summer 2018.

While touring THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition, located in eleven Warsaw’s Old Town houses, I really felt like the starter guide says: strolling the streets of an unknown city. The combined old town houses create together an unusual labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Climbing up the old staircase try to not get lost and don’t forget to look up at the ceilings where the beautiful historic cassettes are.

While twisting in the streets of an unknown city, partially planned, partially spontaneous, you can feel its climate, experience a bit of its daily life and get to know some piece of art and architecture you pass by. Touring the THE THINGS OF WARSAW exhibition is a very similar experience, indeed. I recommend it to everyone who likes individual tours and discovering the unknown on their own.


Miedzianka/Kupferberg. Memory of the town

Miedzianka/Kupferberg. Memory of the town


Winner of Asymptote Journal’s 2016 Close Approximations Translation Contest and Shortlisted for the Ryszard Kapuscinski Prize, Filip Springer’s History of a Disappearance is a fascinating true story of a small mining town in the southwest of Poland – Miedzianka that, after seven centuries of history, disappeared.

Lying at the crucible of Central Europe, the Silesian village of Kupferberg suffered the violence of the Thirty Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and World War I. After Stalin’s post-World War II redrawing of Poland’s borders, Kupferberg became Miedzianka, a town settled by displaced people from all over Poland and a new center of the Eastern Bloc’s uranium-mining industry. Decades of neglect and environmental degradation led to the town being declared uninhabitable, and the population was evacuated. Today, it exists only in ruins, with barely a hundred people living on the unstable ground above its collapsing mines.

In this work of unsparing and insightful reportage, renowned journalist, photographer, and architecture critic Filip Springer rediscovers this small town’s fascinating history. Digging beyond the village’s mythic foundations and the great wars and world leaders that shaped it, Springer catalogs the lost human elements: the long-departed tailor and deceased shopkeeper; the parties, now silenced, that used to fill the streets with shouts and laughter; and the once-beautiful cemetery, with gravestones upended by tractors and human bones scattered by dogs. In Miedzianka, Springer sees a microcosm of European history, and a powerful narrative of how the ghosts of the past continue to haunt us in the present.

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Miedzianka: Historia znikania [Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing] published by Wydawnictwo Czarne, Wołowiec 2011

Coppferberge, Kopferberg, Kupferberg, and later Miedzianka. A town; and in the town – a church, bakery, pharmacist’s, inn, brewery, paper-mill, forge and hairdresser’s. There were weddings there, children were born, somebody died. Supposedly, the town was cursed as at some point, a man murdered his own brother. And two crosses were put up beside the road: one of them read: ”Memento”, so the tragedy would not go forgotten. ”History has never really arrived here; more adequately, it just kept wandering about the neighbourhood”, writes Filip Springer in his debut book about the town which used to exist but does not anymore. The process of disappearing started with a cherry tree, devoured one time by a crack in the ground; the tree still had fruit on its top branches. Houses, tombs, started to sink deeper and deeper into the ground. People would vanish into thin air. Girls played with crystals from church chandeliers and boys reached into old, derelict graves to take out old skulls buried long before. What made the town, the seven-centuries-old town, cease to exist? Are the damages resulting from Uranium excavations conducted by the Russians between 1948 and 1952 to blame? Or, maybe, the underlying cause was the Evil Woman mentioned by the one-time Miedzianka inhabitants who fled the town? This polyphonic story of Miedzianka does not provide answers for all posed questions but the memory of the town has been preserved.

Filip Springer (b. 1982 in Poznań) is a photographer and journalist, whose works are published in all-Poland magazines such as ”Polityka” weekly. In 2010, he received a grant awarded by the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and in 2012, he was included in the ”Młoda Polska” (”Young Poland”) grant programme of the National Cultural Centre. Filip Springer co-created a project under the name “Ill – Bred” (”Źle Urodzone”), dedicated to documenting historic buildings of the post-war Modernist era in Poland and presenting them to broad audiences; in March 2012, a book covering this issue was published by Karakter. ”Miedzianka: Story of Disappearing” (”Miedzianka. Historia znikania”) is Filip Spinger’s début in the field of literature.

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History of the Computer Memory

History of the Computer Memory

Dabrowka Stepniewska

The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, U.S.,  is a nonprofit organization with a four-decade history as the world’s leading institution exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society. The Museum is dedicated to the preservation and celebration of computer history and is home to the largest international collection of computing artifacts in the world, encompassing computer hardware, software, documentation, ephemera, photographs, oral histories, and moving images.

The Museum brings computer history to life through large-scale exhibits, an acclaimed speaker series, a dynamic website, docent-led tours and education program. The Museum seeks to preserve a comprehensive view of computing history, one that includes the machines, software, business and competitive environments, personal recollections, and social implications of one of humankind’s most important invention – the Computer.

Computer History Museum - Revolution-gallery
Computer History Museum – Revolution – exhibition

The Gwen Bell Artifact and Book Collection comprises written works and physical objects relating to early calculating instruments and methods. These works and objects are held in the permanent collection of the Computer History Museum after generous gifts in 2012 and 2014 by Museum co-founders Gwen and Gordon Bell. The text items in this collection comprise works written in French, German, Latin and English. It begins in the early 17th century (ending in about 1980) and includes dozens of works such as mathematical, accounting, farming, astronomy, merchant and engineering tables, monographs on slide rules, arithmometers, planimeters, sectors, Napier´s Bones, military compasses, telescopes, as well as later-day commentaries on these instruments and their history. The written works are available online in scanned (PDF) form.

Computer History Museum-Enigma-encryption-decryption-device-parts-ca-1930
Computer History Museum-Enigma-encryption-decryption-device-parts-ca-1930

The object collection was established as a complement to the rare book collection and both serve to document the early origins and development of human measurement and computation. Its objects include: abaci, sectors, linear, circular and cylindrical slide rules, mechanical and electrical/electronic adding machines and calculators, and replicas of early calculators such as the Pascaline and the Schikard. With both written sources and complementary physical objects, the Bell Collection offers a unique window into the early origins and development of history´s most significant calculating devices and methods.

Computer History Museum-Abacus-500-ad
Computer History Museum-Abacus-500-ad

The Revolution: The First 2000 Years of Computing exhibition presents the history of computing, from mysterious ancient devices, like the traditional chinese SUAN PAN ABACUS to technologies of the future, like the cloud-based network-attached storage solutions for online backup. You can take a virtual tour through 19 galleries, each dedicated to a different aspect of computing. You can discover the backstories, development drama and astonishing breakthroughs of the gadgets, gurus, and the biggest computer companies in the world.

The Timeline of Computer History presents the memory and storage history, starting from 1947 and the Williams-Kilburn tube  – the first high-speed, entirely electronic memory. Throughout the magnetic memory, the magnetic tape, the concept of virtual memory, first small and minicomputers, memory chip and mass storage system, we are getting near to the present computer memory storages: the flash drives, the Blu-ray optical discs, the cloud-based services and the dropbox.


Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II

Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Part II
Biography of place and landscape. Memory and monuments.

The Birthplace. The composer’s mother, Justyna nee Krzyżanowska, from an impoverished gentry family, helped with the house keeping as a resident of the Skarbek’s manor house. She met Mikołaj Chopin, a French immigrant who became tutor to the Skarbek’s children at Żelazowa Wola. The Chopins married in 1806 and set up home in the right part of the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate.

Nothing is known about the furnishings of the flat where Fryderyk’s parents lived in the annexe of the Skarbek’s manor house. It could have contained furniture belonging to the Skarbeks, but the Chopins might also have possessed their own. There is no doubt, however, that the interiors were furnished modestly and in a stylistically inconsistent way. The existing books belonged to the family and certainly have been kept in a bookcase.

The Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola. Photo M. Czechowicz
The Chopin’s Room. Permanent display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin and Park in Żelazowa Wola. Photo by M. Czechowicz

After moving to Warsaw in the autumn 1810, the Chopin family maintained close and warm contacts with the Skarbek family. Żelazowa Wola became a destination for  Chopins summer excursions. Only one letter addressed to Fryderyk’s friend Jan Białobłocki survived, where the composer describes his summer holiday in Poland. Fryderyk and Jan spent the summers of 1824 and 1825 in close proximity. Their visited one another on regular basis. Białobłocki died at 21, most probably of tuberculosis of the knee. Chopin wrote 13 letters to his friend, the last dated 12 March 1827.

Descriptions from the period, which are not always reliable, speak of the composer giving concerts on a piano carried out from the house and placed beneath a spurt, on which occasions his music would have been heard by all around.

The Park Monument_Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The Museum. The idea of creating a museum devoted to Fryderyk Chopin in the annexe of the Skarbek’s estate dates back to 1891, but it was not until the inter-war period that concepts for its display began to be realized at Żelazowa Wola. None of them was fully implemented at that time. The intention was to furnish Chopin’s birthplace partly with historical furniture, in an effort to recreate the atmosphere of the times. The plan was to fill the display devoted to Chopin with souvenirs connected with the composer and his family.

During the period when the Chopin Family was living at Żelazowa Wola, the right part of the annexe was residential, while the left part, with a cellar, served functional purposes. The display in this room presents the history of this modest manorial annexe, with its successive renovations and functions from beginning of the XVIII century, when the landed estate of Żelazowa Wola was acquired by Count Skarbek, up to the 1930s, when the neglected building was rebuilt and turned into a museum – a place devoted to the memory of Fryderyk Chopin.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola

Although the display was not officially opened until 1949, it is known that the Chopin’s death mask was already here in 1930 and later also two pianos, copies of portraits of the composer by Delacroix, Scheffer and the Bissons, a collection of Chopin-related drawings and probably a cast of his hand.  Few of the items from the pre-war interiors survived the World War II.

In post-war display, the furnishings were more in line with current conceptions of the interiors of a XIX century Polish manor house than the humble annexe in which Chopin was born. At that time, the left side of the annexe was not distinguished as having been non-residential, with a fictive vision of a manor house created throughout the building.

Żelazowa Wola, First Chopin's Monument 1894
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 1894

The Monument. On 14 October 1894, the first Chopin monument on Polish lands was unveiled. Modest in form, referring to the tradition of obelisk commemoration and given such a form due to censorship restrictions. It was shaped like a gravestone, since that was the only form allowed by the Russian imperial authorities of those times. The medallion with an effigy of Fryderyk Chopin was designed by Jan Woydyga whereas the whole monument was designed by Bronisław Żochowski.

The unveiling ceremony represents a symbolic watershed in the history of the commemoration of Chopin’s birthplace. It also marked the start of lengthy efforts to set up a museum devoted to the composer. From the beginning of the XX century, many initiatives designed to popularize the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin were undertaken, like numerous concerts, trips and exhibitions, accompanied by the collecting of donations initially towards the purchase of the annexe from private hands and then for the creation of a museum.

The Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola
The First Chopin Monument in Żelazowa Wola, 2016

Mily Balakirev, a Russian composer, pianist, conductor and musical activist and an enthusiast of Fryderyk Chopin’s music, secured the permission of the Russian imperial governor of Warsaw to erect a monument to the composer. Aleksander Poliński, a member of the Committee of the Warsaw Music Society, sought to buy the historical annexe from the then owner of the estate. Although the plan fell through at that time, a monument was raised in front of the annexe.

During the unveiling ceremony, works by the Polish composer were played by Aleksander Michałowski, one of the leading pianist in the transmission of the Chopin pianistic tradition, Mily Balakirev, and the pianist and journalist Jan Kleczyński. The official programme featured a performance of Zygmunt Noskowski’s polonaise-style cantata On the Banks of the Utrata/ Nad Utratą, and the Lutnia choir sang vocal transcriptions of works by Chopin.

The Park – Monument. The rebuilt annexe of the Skarbek family estate was to be the centerpiece of a modernist park-monument designed by Franciszek Krzywda-Polkowski, founder and head of the Parks and Landscape Architecture Department of the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, who broke with the idea of an idyllic garden detached from the context of the surrounding Mazovian landscape. The modernist character of the design was manifest in the treatment of the park as a closed, individual work of art, characterized by the geometrisation and rhythmisation of the spatial elements such as architectural features, paths and avenues. Their composition with the flora, laid out in a free and picturesque way, indicates the character of a landscape park.

The Park Monument at Żelazowa Wola
The Park – Monument in Żelazowa Wola

The work on laying out The Park – Monument began in the early spring of 1933. In many places the lie of the land was altered mostly new flora was planted, not all of it native to Poland, and paths and avenues were marked out, including the road leading from the new gate to the Chopin’s birthplace. Terraces, steps and bridge were built, the River Utrata was regulate, water bodies were created and architectural features were raised, like bowers, rain shelters, a pergola and a summer concert stage. The 1894 monument was moved from in front of the annexe to the western part of the park, and in its place a pool was created, in which the annexe’s façade is reflected. The work was completed in December 1937.

Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola
Remains of the Skarbek family estate in Żelazowa Wola

The decision not to recreate the surroundings of the annexe from Chopin’s times gave rise to numerous polemics in that times. Opponents of the modern vision argued that a garden typical of the impoverished gentry of the period ought to be created around the composer’s birthplace. That argument was countered with notions of the revolutionary and innovative character of Chopin’s music, which should be reflected in a bold design. Finally, the revolutionary vision was realized.

The latest archaeological research revealed that the annexe in which Chopin was born stood opposite the larger building referred to in documents as the Old Manor – probably the only residential building besides the annexe on the Skarbek’s estate.

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Detailed information is derived from the New Display at the Birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin in Żelazowa Wola, 2015



Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes


Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I. People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.

The Great War and Its Landscapes Between Memory and Oblivion: the Case of Prisoners of War Camps in Tuchola and Czersk, Poland

The Great War and Its Landscapes Between Memory and Oblivion: the Case of Prisoners of War Camps in Tuchola and Czersk, Poland

Dawid Kobiałka, Mikołaj Kostyrko, Kornelia Kajda


Many sites related to the First World War are forgotten and neglected in today’s Poland. This paper shortly presents the ways of practicing “conflict archaeology” in Poland and it discusses results of the non-invasive archaeological survey conducted in Tuchola and Czersk, places where during the First World War Germans built and run prisoners of war camps. In the article the material remains of the camps that have survived in the local landscapes till the present are analyzed. Both sites are at the same time remembered and forgotten by local communities. This paper tries to account for oblivion as an inherent part of local landscapes that adds a unique value to them.

Prisoners of War Camps structures in Tuchola Poland
Contemporary landscape of the former PoW camp in Tuchola: an integration of different types of data. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka, Drawing: Mikołaj Kostyrko
The Prisoners of War cemetery in Czersk. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka
The Prisoners of War cemetery in Czersk. Photo by Dawid Kobiałka


The full article available at SpringerLink International Journal of Historical Archaeology

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Reusing the abstract under the Springer License

All photos published with the Authors’ permission.

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I

Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part I

Dąbrówka Stępniewska

Part I
People and objects. Music, memory mediums and emotions.

I met Saskia Giorgini, the Italian pianist, in Żelazowa Wola, Fryderyk Chopin’s birth place. Although the astrological summer hadn’t started yet, it was a very sunny and torrid Sunday on the 19th of June. The Mazovian sky seemed to be larger and brighter than ever. Ms Giorgini enjoyed it a lot. She already visited Poland several times but this one supposed to be different, because of her recital in Żelazowa Wola. Her beauty and gentle behavior strucked me immediately. Combined with her great talent, it is no wonder that she and Chopin were born under the same sign of zodiac – Pisces. According to astrology, Pisces are deeply creative and artistic, with enhanced intuitive abilities, sensitive and instinctual rather than bookish or mechanical, wholly engage in a chosen path, to the exclusion of everything else. They are great friends and romantic partners. Personally, I fully agree with this characterization. Judge it according to your own discretion. Chopin’s family celebrated his birthday on the 1st of March, however, there are known sources informing on another date of his birth, the 22nd of February 1810.  Saskia Giorgini was born in February too but more than 150 years after Chopin. The music subtly combines their biographies. Through playing the piano Saskia Giorgini introduces us to the world of Chopin and revives the memory of him, his life and his works.

Żelazowa Wola, Fryderyk Chopin birthplace, 1810
Żelazowa Wola. The birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin

The whole Chopin’s family had artistic leanings, and even in infancy Fryderyk Chopin was always strangely moved when listening to his mother or eldest sister playing the piano. Being at the age of six, he was already trying to reproduce what he heard or to make up new tunes. The following year he started his piano lessons. At the age of eight he made his first public appearance at a charity concert. Three years later he performed in the presence of the Russian tsar Alexander I, who was in Warsaw to open the Parliament. His reputation of a child prodigy was growing rapidly. At seven he wrote a Polonaise in G Minor, which was printed, and soon afterward a march of his appealed to the Russian grand duke Constantine, who had it scored for his military band to play on parade. Other polonaises, mazurkas, variations, ecossaises, and a rondo followed, with the result that, when he was 16, his family enrolled him at the newly formed Warsaw Conservatory of Music.  Chopin had shown interest in the folk music of the Polish countryside and had received those impressions that later gave an unmistakable national colouring to his work. At the conservatory he was put through a solid course of instruction in harmony and composition. In piano playing he was allowed to develop a high degree of individuality.

Skarbek family residence in Żelazowa Wola
Skarbek family residence in Żelazowa Wola

Chopin’s childhood coincided with the Napoleonic era. Poles pinned great hopes for the restoration of the Polish State with Napoleon Bonaparte. They fought at his side against Prussia and Russia. After the fall of Napoleon the Congress of Vienna brought to life the Polish Kingdom, with an extremely truncated borders and fully dependent on Russia . The Tsar of Russia became the King of Poland. A fairly quiet life in the time of Alexander I turned to anguish during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I. All of this resulted in the outbreak of the November Uprising in 1830. Chopin was already outside Poland. He left the country on 2 November 1830 to start his concert tour throughout  Europe. His journey coincided with the emigration of Polish insurgents after the defeat of the November Uprising. As a true patriot Chopin supported the Polish cause and the Polish emmigrant associations with his work and money almost till the end of his life in Paris, on the 17th October 1849. His music, his association with political insurrection, his love life and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era in the public consciousness.

Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola 2016
Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola

Saskia received her first piano lessons at the age of four. Being fifteen years old she was admitted to the piano academy “Incontri col Maestro” in Imola, where she studied with Franco Scala, Riccardo Risaliti, Leonid Margarius and Michel Dalberto. At the same time she graduated from the Conservatorio di Torino with Claudio Voghera, with the highest grades. She then completed her studies at the Accademia di Musica di Pinerolo with Enrico Pace and the postgraduate studies at the Mozarteum Salzburg with Pavel Gililov. For her 2013 New York debut she performed Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto n.1 with the New York Concert Artists & Associates Orchestra. She has played together with important orchestras, such as Lodz Philarmonic Orchestra in Poland, CBC Radio Orchestra in Canada, Symphonieorchester Vorarlberg, Liepaja Symphony Orchestra in Latvia, Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra, L’Orchestra Archi De Sono, l’Orchestra Giovanile Italiana, under the baton of conductors as Mario Bernardi, Gérard Korsten, Tadeusz Wojciechowski, Antonello Manacorda, Andrea Battistoni, Massimiliano Caldi. She is a winner of the International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 2016, where she also got the special prize for the best interpretation of the commissioned work. She has a special affinity for chamber music. The Artist is considered by the music critics as one of the most interesting pianists of the young generation. Her visit and recital in Żelazowa Wola on the 19th of June 2016, organized by The Fryderyk Chopin  Institute, was as a special price for the finalist in the International Piano Competition Ferruccio Busoni 2015, were she received the award for the best interpretation of a work by Fryderyk Chopin. She admits that she loves Chopin and his music, which also rises her warm feelings for Poland and Poles.

Broadwood & Sons piano 1843 in Żelazowa Wola
Broadwood & Sons piano in Żelazowa Wola

The opportunity to listen to Saskia Giorgini performing Chopin on the 19th of June in Żelazowa Wola was unique, because the Artist played the instrument from the Chopin era. The piano was produced by the John Broadwood & Sons piano manufacturer in London, 1843. It was originally ordered by Georges Wildes from Manchester. F. Chopin played a similar grand piano (serial no. 17047, now in Cobbe’s Collection in Great Britain) during his trip to England in 1848. According to factory archives it was repaired twice in 1855. The instrument was bought in 2014 by the Fryderyk Chopin Institute in Warsaw. A square lime plate on the keyboard cover, decorated with arabesques, contains inscription: Patent / Repetition Grand Pianoforte. / John Broadwood & Sons / Manufacturers to Her Majesty / 33. Great Pulteney Street Golden Square / London. The instrument is made from wood, metal and ivory. The timbre of each instrument is unique, but it is possible that the “Chopin’s piano” sounded very similar, as an instrument from the same manufacturer. At least we would like do believe so. The Artist played two concerts in Żelazowa Wola. The first one, on the historical piano, started at noon. The second one, on a modern instrument, started later in the afternoon. Both concerts lasted ca. 45 minutes and the program stayed the same:

– Notturnos op. 15
– nr 1 F-dur
– nr 2 Fis-dur
– nr 3 g-moll
– Rondo à la Mazur F-dur op. 5
– Waltz a-moll op. 34 nr 2
– Waltz As-dur op. 42
– Ballad As-dur op. 47

Saskia Giorgini at Żelazowa Wola 2016, fot. Magdalena Rodziewicz NIFC
Saskia Giorgini in Żelazowa Wola, fot. Magdalena Rodziewicz NIFC

The Pianist stayed alone with the old instrument inside the birthplace of Fryderyk Chopin, an eastern outbuilding of non-existing Skarbek family residence, while the audience stayed outside in the garden, waiting impatiently for the first tunes. After all, Saskia Giorgini said that it was an unusual feeling playing in an empty room on the historical piano, accompanied only by the ticking clock. Visitors from around the world behaved very quietly. The atmosphere was amazing and magical. The succeeding melodies, wistful and carefree, cheerful and thoughtful  were very reminiscent of the sounds of the surrounding nature. Birds singing blended in the music and the subsequent passages strikingly resembled the rustle of trees and the nearby Utrata River. The music was spreading around the park from hidden speakers so you felt like the all creation is singing the same melody. Each leaf hummed to the rhythm and the sound of Chopin’s music reverberated around the park.

Saskia Giorgini Chopin Recital in Żelazowa Wola 2016
Saskia Giorgini Recital in Żelazowa Wola

The Pianist revived the historical instrument and reanimated the Author. The sounds carried us back in time to the family home of Chopin and his childhood. It was really something like a time travel, or better to say between times travel. You could almost hear the sound of an evening lullaby or the laugh of children playing in the garden. In that one brief moment the Author, the Artist and the Instrument became one and brought us somewhere beyond time and space – to the land of Chopin’s dreams and memories. The past and the present became one.  The future was unnecessary. Nobody wanted to interrupt this unique experience. Chopin’s music acts extremely on imagination and Saskia Giorgini played it perfectly. She and the piano were a memory medium and a time vehicle, because in the world of music everything is possible. The music is like the space – unlimited and everlasting.

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Żelazowa Wola Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes


Related article:
Chopin. Memory and musical landscapes, part II. Place and landscape, memory and monuments

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

Travels, Migration and Memory of Things

“A journey, after all, neither begins in the instant we set out, nor ends when we have reached our door step once again. It starts much earlier and is really never over, because the film of memory continues running on inside of us long after we have come to a physical standstill. Indeed, there exists something like a contagion of travel, and the disease is essentially incurable.”
Ryszard Kapuściński, Travels with Herodotus


Curatorial Text

Travellers. Voyage and Migration in New Art from Central and Eastern Europe.
14.05 – 21.08.2016 at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland

Artists: Adéla Babanová, Daniel Baker, Olga Chernysheva, Wojciech Gilewicz, Pravdoliub Ivanov, C.T. Jasper & Joanna Malinowska, Irina Korina, Taus Makhacheva, Porter McCray, Alban Muja, Ilona Németh & Jonathan Ravasz, Roman Ondak, Tímea Anita Oravecz, Adrian Paci, Vesna Pavlović, Dushko Petrovich, Janek Simon, Radek Szlaga & Honza Zamojski, Maja Vukoje, Sislej Xhafa

Curator: Magdalena Moskalewicz
Collaboration on the part of Zachęta: Magdalena Komornicka

The exhibition looks at travel in a region where freedom to travel was, until recently, a luxury available only to the very few. The revolution of 1989 and the subsequent opening to the world and globalisation processes allowed citizens of the former Eastern Bloc personal mobility on an unprecedented scale. Participation in international exchanges contributed to the region’s identity today as much as the new political and economic order. For two successive decades, capitalism and globalisation carried us farther, faster, and surer, until we got used to thinking in terms of progress with only one direction — forward! Today, we see how that moment was as pivotal for modern European history as it was exceptional. Europe’s response to foreign refugees shows that our participation in the global exchange was, and is, predominantly one-way. We do not willingly share the privileges that we gained after the fall of the Berlin Wall and as a consequence of our EU accession. We are enthusiastic about going abroad, but far less so about welcoming foreigners.

The works presented in the show tell the stories of holiday trips as well as distant journeys and migrations. They focus on a period from the mid-20th century until today, from the closed borders of the divided Cold War-era Europe to the capitalism-driven acceleration of the 21st century’s first decades. They offer a reflection by contemporary artists hailing from the region — the former Eastern Bloc countries, the former Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia — often first and second generation migrants, on the last few decades in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.

Twenty-three artists from fifteen countries show how people, goods, and ideas flow between our part of Europe and other regions of the world. They tell us about Cold War-era tourists dreaming about exotic trips at a time when the freedom to travel was synonymous with political freedom. About travellers, who, on distant voyages, discover the forgotten history of abandoned places. About historical and contemporary migrants, their identity formed at an intersection of languages and cultures. But also about the objects these travellers take with them. About pictures that are to remind them of home and which become a source of knowledge about the world for others. About products that in distant countries turn into ambassadors of their culture. About artworks whose circulation beyond their place of origin lays a foundation for building canons. The artists present various means of transportation, such as ships, trains or buses, as well as visas or permits, that facilitate or limit their personal mobility. Discovering the enriching value of travel, they also shed light on the tensions arising inevitably between the poetics of the experience itself and the political situation that condition it.

Most of us know the familiarity of one home and one culture only. A traveller takes advantage of multiple viewpoints. That complex perspective not only allows us to recognize and embrace the value of other places and nations, but also to see ourselves as foreigners. By looking at the experience of voyage and migration in the art of Central and Eastern Europe, The Travellers shed light on the contemporary identity of the region.

The Travellers_full materials (pdf)