Projekt Fundacji Bęc Zmiana

Jarosław Lipszyc / Free Culture, the Culture of Participation

Conversation with Jarosław Lipszyc, Chairman of the Modern Poland Foundation

Does public art comprising a city collection also function within the public domain?  If not, how can this be changed?
I am convinced that cultural institutions, particularly public institutions and those using public funds, should operate for the public good.  In other words, they should ensure that their activity allows for participatory models of communing with culture.  There are several tools that institutions can make use of.  Institutions that can afford to award grants to artists should include in their agreements a provision stating that those artists are obliged to publish their works on the Internet in a transparent way, ideally on the basis of free licences allowing every citizen free access to those works. Those licences don’t infringe artists’ fundamental rights, such as copyright and the right to use their works, especially the originals, at their discretion.
For artists who create physical objects, such as paintings or sculptures, the advantage of the right to the free distribution of copies is the fact that the more popular the work, the higher the price the original can command.  Therefore, there is a purely economic aspect to it as well.
However, I think that in the long-term perspective, we should accept the idea that the distribution of copies on the basis of free licences is an obligation resulting from the use of public funds.  If somebody doesn’t agree, then they shouldn’t use public funds.  I am deeply convinced that if we are reaching into citizens’ pockets, we should be doing things in such way as to ensure that those citizens are granted very specific rights.  The free licence is a tool that guarantees citizens such rights.  Of course, we have a long way to go, and since the Ministry of Culture and other grant-giving institutions are only just beginning to look into such solutions, I believe it’s worth speeding up that process.


Has the debate about public art in urban space which pops up every now and again in the media, also somehow affected the way we speak about the issue of popularizing culture and the fact that art, on a certain level, belongs to us all?
Artists who decide to make their art public are also signing up to the idea that their work will be contemplated, read into, interpreted and criticized.  By making a work public, it becomes a permanent element of culture – and as a result, also a foundation upon which other creators – both with a big and a small “c” – can structure their own messages.  That’s why I feel that the act of making a work public effectively leads to a loss of control over that work.  Artists who publicize their work in a public gallery or present it in a public space naturally lose control over the way in which their work is made present in culture.  The work is defined by the way it is received, the work “comes into being” in the process of its reception. And this is the ABC of art criticism.

Interviewed by: Ewelina Bartosik


Jarosław Lipszyc – poet and free culture activist.  Member of the group “Krytyka Polityczna”, Chairman of the New Poland Foundation.  The Foundation has conducted several projects to create open education resources available under free licences: Free Readings (a school Internet library), Free Handbooks and We read by Listening (audiobooks).