Projekt Fundacji Bęc Zmiana

Ewa Rewers / City Objectified

Conversation with Ewa Rewers, philosopher and cultural theorist. Interview by: Ewelina Bartosik

What is the pedigree of municipal collections? Looking at the map of „municipal organisms” in which such collections exist, one could come to the conclusion that they’re drawn on the basis of Anglo-Saxon culture.
Simply one type of municipal collection. It seems that there are three significant preliminary conditions: a high level of urbanization at the regional (national) level, the city’s ability to carry a relatively autonomous policy and a certain level of wealth within society.

For a few years there was a program in Poland geared at the development of regional collections of contemporary art under the header Signs of the Times, which resulted in several collections, some big, some small, in a few cities across Poland – Toruń, Poznań, Wrocław and Częstochowa. Why can large territorial bodies act as collectors in Poland, not cities?
If Parag Khanna isn’t wrong in saying that The age of nations is over. The new urban era has begun, and quite a number of aspects on a global scale are indicative of this, in Poland we should also undergo a multi-directional „urban revolution.” The bigger and wealthier the cities, the more spectacular the effects of such a „revolution,” taking as an example the scale that have recently been initiated in Warsaw. An effect of this new „revolution” might be the „objectification of cities”, which is at once a privilege and an obligation on the part of its residents with respect to new forms of activity. This process could be based on giving cities the right to lead their own policies – for example, establishing alliances for certain areas independent of national policy. Creating independent municipal collections could fit within this scheme.

Do we really need municipal collections?
It’s hard to say. Unfortunately, there is no research on the topic. I would reserve the term municipal collection for art collections set up for a particular city, rather than financed by that city. That sort of art I call the art of the city. It’s unequivocally united with specific spaces of the city and characterized by multimedia (music, literature, photography, urban installations, performance, etc…), sponsored by the city or other donors. I would distinguish such collections from art collections – mostly contemporary – financed from the municipal budget, as well as so-called history museums in certain cities. Municipal collections, in other words, aim at documenting a given city as a collective, multimedia work of art.


The category of locality has undergone a wave of criticism in recent years. It carries the threat of fetishizing a certain communal aspect, which undergoes experimentation in the field of art. One of the basic premises of this type of project is to bring about specific change. This is a problem described by Miwon Kwon, among others.
Locality in contemporary art is a topic, rather than a characteristic. Miwon Kwon describes the process of splitting art from a place and relating it the performative urban collective. This process is both social and artistic. It leads, rather, to experimentation with ephemeral municipal communities than to experimentation between artists with local communities.

Ewa Rewers, Ph.D – philosopher and cultural theorist, director of the Department of Urban Culture at the Institute of Cultural Studies at the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Poznań. Author of many books on urban culture and issues related to theories of modernism and postmodernism in language and culture, such as Społeczna świadomość językowo-artystyczna (Linguistic-Artistic Social Awareness, publisher: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań 1991), Język i przestrzeń w poststrukturalistycznej filozofii kultury (Language and Space in the Post-structuralist Philosophy of Culture, publisher: Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań 1996), Post-polis. Wstęp do filozofii ponowoczesnego miasta (Post-polis. Introduction to Postmodernist Urban Philosophy, Universitas, Kraków 2005) and co-editor of Sztuka – kapitał kulturowy polskich miast (Art – Cultural Capital of Polish Cities, publisher: (Wydawnictwo Naukowe UAM, Poznań 2010), Miasto w sztuce – sztuka miasta (City of Art – Art of the City, publisher: Universitas, Kraków 2010).