Culture flows: Poland and Norway

From Edvard Munch to composer Arne Nordheim, Norwegian artists have collaborated with colleagues in Poland. However, the Norwegian-Polish artistic link may have been somewhat spurious. In our day, a major program has actively sought to strengthen the cultural links. Since 2012, the Norwegian Art Council has supported cultural projects involving artists and culture workers. Over 62 projects have received support, wherein Norwegians have been engaging with art institutions and artists in Poland. The program was concluded with a conference in Warsaw on 27th of September.

The program´s aim has been to strengthen artistic collaboration and enhance a common European identity through comprehension of cultural diversity. This need is underlined as important in today´s situation with mass immigration influx to Europe. The projects have had a wide expressional range, from music and theater, to fine arts and art education.

Several projects have focused on Jewish culture, of which Poland has much to offer. The Norwegian Center for studies of Holocaust- and minority belief systems (the HL-center), has been a key partner in these projects. Poland´s rich Jewish heritage have provided many angles to a common inter-cultural communication and a common European historical background. For instance, the project "Yiddish Far Ale" (Yiddish for all) has since its start in the fall of 2013 used music and poetry as an entrance to Yiddish culture. At the same time, the project seeks to support a renewed interest in Yiddish culture and language. The Yiddish language is currently on the UNESCO list of endangered languages. Central was also showcasing of Yiddish artists. The project used an array of arenas to this aim, including concerts, stage plays, courses in Yiddish language and culture, exhibitions, lectures and work-shops. An interesting cross-cultural collaboration in the project, the play " Leve hemmeleg" by Norwegian play write Jon Fosse was translated into both Polish and Yiddish and performed in the city of Wroclaw.

Another notable project was "Body Consitution" based upon Polish Director Jerzy Grotowski´s ideas on using the body in novel ways on stage and in theater. Students of acting have participated in work-shops and seminars since 2014, learning unique body and movement techniques. There have been several dance projects as well, for example as part of the Dance festival "Open stage" arranged by Moscice Art center in Tarnow. Director of the Art´s Council Kristin Danielsen stated to Kulturrad.no: " It was a very rewarding experience to gain insight into the Polish dance art world and learn about the opportunities we have for creating something together in Norwegian-Polish cultural cooperation. Despite cultural differences, it is often the same problems you must tackle when to make such professional judgment."

Spanning over several years and many kinds of projects this program has been key to cultural links and innovation between Norway and Poland. It is hopeful that it continues in the future.

- Jørgen Flatabø