Excerpts taken from: The Lost Cause Report in: Dwutygodnik,
nr. 59, 2011
One of the ways, in which a scientific discipline can assess its condition, is a reflection on its history – Hayden White writes. Equally, this rule concerns the possibility to assess this condition by Polish museum institutions. And their history is completely different from European or American history.
Louvre's mother was a guillotine – Georges Bataille claimed. Taking into account this bloody imagery, Polish museums' mother was the defeat of Maciejowice, finis Poloniae. The first Polish museum is the Temple of the Sybil – parasacral space, which houses national memorabilia treated as relics. The substitution of national and public existence, compensation, commemoration, consolation – these were the functions of private and social museum initiatives taken throughout the entire 19th century. Interestingly, Neron's Torches – Siemiradzki's cosmopolitan painting, in the moment of donating it as a founding artwork of the National Museum of Cracow – were immediately nationalized by the patriotic – martyrological message. The burden of national obligations and provincial underdevelopment became a ballast, which was not discarded by Polish museums, especially the national ones.
Penetration of the past does not aim at petrification of traditional identity, but it should be a starting point of a desired, critical introspection and polemics of a fossilized self-consciousness. In case of an institution in crisis, it is essential to get to know the history of a disease in order to diagnose and prescribe treatment. Piotr Piotrowski reminds of the Museum's history, but it is neither a premise nor a reference to the programme of the critical museum. The programme took into consideration lots of realities – the museum was not supposed to compete with big museum institutions, it was not supposed to adopt western models, also the critical ones, however, it was supposed to use its locality for overestimations, as well as revision of artworks' canons, replacing closed model by an increased activity of the public sphere etc. Everything is totally correct. However, the project remained a theoretical concept, which was quickly revealed by the museum, chattered reality. The problem is that structural reforms, put into practice in the Museum, had nothing to do with ideological programme. They were more closely related to strict, neoliberal rules and methods of corporate management. Between the rhetoric of changes and what was going on in the framework of restructuring the institution, a break, which grew deeper and deeper, appeared. The inner dialogue in the museum was replaced by the inner contestation. As a result, there was a situation, in which both sides of a dialogue rejected one another. An idea of the critical museum was like an ideological curtain, and behind it, the director struggled with complicated financial, residential, organizational and personnel problems.