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Elżbieta Jabłońska, Score for animal voices, fot. Antoni Torzewski

We name the new institution in the making the NOMUS New Art Museum. The word is phonetically close to the Greek nomos, which meant law, including social law and community order, and in the Egyptian tradition, a unit of territorial division. In the spirit of local law, we therefore exercise our right, the right to write our own art history – anew. We do not want our museum to be similar to others and to reproduce a canonical image of art. Rather, we look for the specific and unique; for what has been and what may be; for the urgent and topical in the context of our city and region; in the context of the values that we believe in – creative freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of scholarly research.

The museum is a space of participation and source of knowledge, offering equal access to culture, democratic and open. Does this make the museum part of the commons? We refer to the community as the foundation of the construction of the museum. This humanistic idea informs our strategic goals and operational tactics. The museum by and through a community. A creative community, a community of artists, researchers, residents, a neighbourhood community. We are interested in reviving the meanings of art in its contemporary and historical dimensions; in reaching to the reservoir of history in all its diversity.

Our goal is to confront the traditionally elitist notion of the museum as an institution with NOMUS as an open and comprehensible place, focused on participation, the transfer of knowledge, the production of new ideas, and joint experimentation. We are interested in going beyond the hierarchical and exclusively Western notion of art and its history to discover interesting methodologies outside the European, or western, model. We will be analyzing not only what, but above all how we exhibit, research, and describe.

The museum is no longer solely a space of representation, but above all of critical (re) interpretation.

Our attention will also be focused on a collective critical analysis of our existing resources, on deriving new conclusions from them, new narratives and strands, on filling up gaps in these narratives. We are interested in augmenting our resources by including not only valuable local- and national-scene phenomena, but also such international-art phenomena that resonate with our museum’s guiding idea, reflecting shared values and providing a valent context for the achievements of the local scene.

We set ourselves the task of bringing forth an insightful picture of art in the Tri-City, one encompassing, besides the visual arts, also theatre, music, photography, film, niche publishing, and socio-artistic movements. This museum is new because it collects not only art, but also its contexts.

Our goal therefore is to realize a museum adequate to the contemporary role of art and to the present-day approach to museum resources and public needs. NOMUS will rework entrenched, individualistic notions of the artist and, antithetic to them, committed and community-based concepts of art in reference to other models, including non-western ones. Art does not have a single canon, just like it does not have a single addressee. Consequently, we seek to reach out to and engage with various audiences through diverse meeting formats.

We will write, read, and publish. Research and educate. Listen and look. We will develop forgotten narratives into publications and exhibitions; highlight underappreciated phenomena in fresh interpretative frameworks. We will lobby for conditions to be provided for documenting the history of the Tri-City art scene. This is why NOMUS will focus on collecting artists’ archives and documentations of ephemeral actions and art venues.

Several years ago, Professor Piotr Piotrowski sought to materialize the idea of the critical museum, one derived from the methodology of a critical art history. What we would like to borrow from this concept is an attitude of commitment, of conscious participation in public debate, and a move beyond canonical thinking, determined by centralized geographies of art. Such thinking and such geographies no longer hold currency, and our task is to look for new, original solutions in order to discover new meanings encoded in art.

We reject, however, from Piotrowski’s concept as little effective, the vision of democracy as marked by perpetual conflict and confrontation. It is not conflict but negotiation that appears as the supreme value in constructing the history of art in Pomerania and constructing the New Art Museum.

NOMUS will also reflect critically on the profiling of art and other collections as well as the idea of curatorship itself. It will present curatorial and institutional attitudes on the methods and strategies of their exhibition.

Part of the task will be to go beyond the purely visual sphere, to document audio, bodily, and performative projects that affect the viewer more deeply than a visual message alone.

NOMUS will also support art’s role in the revitalization of post-shipyard areas and will undertake projects in refurbished historical post-industrial buildings to ensure that the Shipyard’s industrial heritage is preserved. It will creatively and ingenuously explore the idea of the museum as a final effect of de-industrialization and gentrification processes and their consequences. It will work, with tools available to museums, to minimize their adverse social impact. In order to address various forms of exclusion, we will create platforms of meeting and dialogue beyond – and towards – difference.

One of the important tasks of the new museum is to forge a community beyond class, cultural, or economic distinctions. We will focus on emphasizing the shared rather than the separate. Our purpose is to shape and support the cultural and humanistic aspirations of the inhabitants of Gdańsk and the region of Pomerania. We wish to serve as a platform providing contemporary visual and performative tools to better understand the world we live in.

This is what NOMUS is for!

Aneta Szyłak



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