Artistic and Architectural Research in the Study of Memory

Redakcja/Editorial staff; English translation - Andrew Rajcher, 28th June 2022
The international session of “Artistic and Architectural Research in the Study of Memory” will take place on 6th-7th July 2022 at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art. This accompanies Natalia Romik's exhibition “Hiding Places – the Architecture of Survival”. This interdisciplinary conference will be devoted to reflection of the potential of research using contemporary art, architecture, urban studies, memory studies and Holocaust studies. The session is co-organised by the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
“The session is an opportunity to systematise reflection of the potential of research bordering contemporary art, architecture, urban studies, and the studies of memory and the Holocaust. The program was prepared by an interdisciplinary team of anthropologists, art historians, curators, architects  and artists, who question the separation of science and art, as separate ways of reflecting on history and its current repercussions. Artists often enable a deeper understanding of the phenomena which researchers deal with, because they use different tools.”

Session participants will look at phenomena from the border of art and scientific research, and especially on how artistic research and site-specific practices can be used to study past violence, its material remnants and recovering the displaced memory of liminal events.

The session program covers four main themes:

  1. A discussion on interdisciplinary tools and methods used in artistic and scientific research and urban studies (including the development and combinations of research methods, new methodologies of field work)
  2. Reflection on the use of artistic and architectural methods to study the past, including the history of conflict, exclusion and violence
  3. A conversation about artistic and research practices aimed at recovering local cultures of memory and working with local heritage
  4. Reflection on the institutional background for interdisciplinary reseach involving artistic practices.

The Exhibition – “Hiding Places – the Architecte of Survival”

The international session accompanies Natalia Romik's exhibition “Hiding Places – the Architecture of Survival” presented at at Zachęta – National Gallery of Art. The exhibition is the result of long-term research devoted to the architecture of hiding places from the period of the Holocaust.

With a group of specialist from various fields (historians, archaeologists, architects, anthropologists), Natalia Romik thoroughly analyses the material of survival architecture, using a repository of artistic and architectural methods. The core of this exhibition are sculptural casts of the architectural details of hiding places from Poland and Ukraine.

The exhibition will remain open until 17th July 2022.

The section of the Polish Righteous website about Jewish hiding places during the Holocaust (1939–1945)

“My research work covered hiding places in the ‘Józef’ oak tree in Wiśniowa in the Podkarpacie region, in burial places in the Jewish cemetery on ul. Okopowa in Warsaw, under the floor of a private house in Żółkiew, part of the city sewage system in Lwów and the inside of the Vertreba and Ozerna caves in Ukraine, a section of a cellarin Siemianowice Śląskie or a wardrobe in Hutay Zaborowsk”, wrote D Natalia Romik for the Polish Righteous portal.

The topic of hiding places, presented in Natalia Romik's exhibition, is also widely discussed on the Polish Righteous portal. In October 2021, marking the 80th anniversary of the issuing of the first ordinance in occupied Poland – where Nazi Germany, under penalty of death, forbadeJjews from leaving ghettos and Poles from providing them with any help. We prepared a new section in which we present this context of the Holcaust – we discuss, in detail and in many aspects, the experience of Jews, in hiding, during the German occupation (1939–1945).

In studies by Holocaust scholars and researchers, including Barbara Engelking and Justyna Kowalska-Leder, we present the types and characteristics of hiding places. We compare the conditions of hiding in cities and in the provinces. We present individual stories and related artefacts from the POLIN  Museum's collection. We write about everyday Jewish life in hiding. We present the specificity of hiding in cemeteries and hiding places in Poland which have survived to this day.

In this section, we have also published an article by Dr Natalia Romik about her research. The results of which are presented in her exhibition”.

» Read more: Jews hiding on the Aryan side” – a new thematic section of the Polis Righteous portal (2021)

* Dr Natalia Romik – researcher, designer and artist. She received her doctorate form the Bartlett School of Architecture UCL for her work (Post)-Jewish Non-Memory Architecture in Old Shtetls. He academic and artistic activity relates to architecture and memory. These topics were taken up, among others, in projects “Nomadic Archives of the Shtetl” and “The Open Anti-Fascist Studio”. She works together with the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews – she was a design consultant for the Core Exhibition (2014) and curator (together with Justyna Koszarska-Szulc) of the temporary exhibition “Strangers at Home – About March 1968”  (2018). She belongs to the SENNA Collective, with which she has, among other projects, created the permanent exhibition of the Górnyśląsk House of Remembrance in Gliwice and the “Beit Almin – House of Eternity” in Warsaw. In 2022, she was awarded the Dan David Prize – presented by the Tel Aviv University and the Dan David Foundation for breakthrough scientific, technological, cultural and social achievements of importance to the modern world.

Sesja „Badania artystyczne i architektoniczne w studiach nad pamięcią”, 6–7.07.2022

Zespół organizacyjny: Aleksandra Janus, Luiza Nader, Natalia Romik, Kuba Szreder.
Organizacja: Global Education Outreach Program, Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN, Zachęta – Narodowa Galeria Sztuki, TRAFO Trafostacja Sztuki w Szczecinie, Wydział Zarządzania Kulturą Wizualną Akademii Sztuk Pięknych w Warszawie.
Uczestnicy i uczestniczki konferencji: Natalia Aleksiun, Sofia Dyak, Joanna Fikus, Aleksandra Janus, Jacek Leociak i Zofia Waślicka, Elżbieta Janicka, Omer Krieger, Michał Murawski, Luiza Nader, Shana Penn, Natalia Romik, Roma Sendyka i Wojciech Wilczyk, Kuba Szreder, Maximilian Sternberg, Mirjam Wenzel, Hanna Wróblewska, Maria Veits.

Konferencja odbywa się w ramach Global Education Outreach Program. Konferencja jest możliwa dzięki wsparciu Taube Philanthropies, William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation oraz Stowarzyszenia Żydowski Instytut Historyczny w Polsce.