Büro Kopernikus - An initiative of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes/German Federal Cultural Foundation

Being neighbours is arguably one of the most immediate relationships to connect people and countries. After all, geographical facts are incontrovertible, and thus a common border makes dealing with each other inevitable, even if this should merely consist in deliberately ignoring the other – neighbours are close to one another and cannot seriously deny that.

This is also true for Germany and Poland, both of which not only border on the Oder river, but also have a history that cannot be brushed aside in present interactions. Reservations are undeniably there, but so is an interest in the neighbour, even if reservations and interest are perhaps not evenly distributed across both sides of the border. Some place emphasis on how splendidly the relationship of the two countries is developing at the beginning of the new millennium, others regard it with concern and see it as problematic. Either view is presumably too blanket to capture the day-to-day interactions between Germans and Poles.

The best illustrative material for this is to be found in the field of culture – not only in the capitals, but also along the branch lines off the Berlin-Warszawa-Express. Without international understanding as a declared objective, German and Polish artists and art professionals find common ground in the metropolises and the hinterland. Be it because they are interested in the same topics, be it because they are interested in one another. Their work yields results and insights, but at times also amazement and irritations. This is invariably an open process, one that Büro Kopernikus seeks to initiate and to facilitate, but never to direct.

Our work, then, is about setting things in motion. And about bringing together people who may not have known each other in advance, but who will collaborate far beyond Büro Kopernikus’ lifespan. The issues and questions addressed by the participating artists and art professionals are contemporary in the sense that, besides reflecting on the past, they always attempt a glance into the future – utopian ideas take centre stage in several projects.

This is reflected in the works on planned cities and ghostly places to be found in Wolfsburg, Nowa Huta, and Warsaw. The old border – represented by the Oder river – does not become less important in a restructured Europe when new forms of production are being tried in former industrial zones: where there was work in steel mills, work of thought and imagination is setting in. This work, in turn, grapples with possible ways of life in the post-industrial age. The respectively different structure and role of publicness in the two countries becomes apparent where private conversation gets a wider audience until the babble of voices can condense into a mighty bang in the ether.

Whenever concrete places are concerned – or treasures in remote regions that are still to be unearthed – projects also take a wider scope. In a world in which data streams and media, aesthetic forms, rules of the game and rules of thought have long been globally networked, they are not confined by a binational framework either. But this goes without saying, as the many artists that we could win for our work are already moving in an international context.

Nicolaus Copernicus is laid claim to by Germans and Poles alike. We have now moved temporarily into one of his small antechambers. After the last – political – turnaround and the EU enlargement we know: Germany and Poland can only lay claims to two orbits within a much larger structure.

more on Büro Kopernikus

Was macht eigentlich...Büro Kopernikus?
Eindrücke aus dem Alltag deutsch-polnischer Kulturprojekte.
Von Stefanie Peter
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Die Energie kommt vom Rand
Büro Kopernikus – ein Porträt
Von Olaf Kühl
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Betrachtungen von jenseits der Grenze
Von Krystyna Meissner
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Logo: Kulturstiftung des Bundes
A project initiated by the German Federal Cultural Foundation between 2004 and 2006

German-Polish Year 2005/2006
Büro Kopernikus participates with its projects in the German-Polish Year 2005/2006 (Deutsch-Polnisches Jahr 2005/2006).