The Warsaw Voice » Other » Monthly - April 27, 2004
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Honorary Varsovian
Austrian Andreas Stadler is a political scientist by education. Since 1999 the capital of Poland has become his home and place of work.

He has two functions, as cultural advisor to the Embassy of the Austrian Republic and director of the Austrian Cultural Forum. He is the first foreigner to be granted the distinction "Merit for Warsaw" by Warsaw Mayor Lech Kaczyński.

He arrived in Warsaw for the first time briefly in 1987. One year later, as a student at Warsaw University, he gathered materials for his Master's thesis entitled "Determinants of Polish foreign policy." "Poland at the time was a kind of terra incognita for me," said Stadler. "Polish society and culture fascinated me with its antagonism and multicolored character. In Poland there is not only one kind of culture, it includes everything: fine art and kitsch, pop and high culture. In all sectors of culture appear representations of global and European trends but there are also artistic trends which influence the world only from Poland," he added. Eleven years later he returned to Warsaw for a longer stay as the Director of the Austrian Cultural Forum. He activities were noticed and appreciated-Feb. 24 of this year Stadler received the distinction "Merit for Warsaw." "This award means a great deal to me. It also constitutes an additional invitation to feel like a Varsovian," said Stadler-in Polish.

The Austrian Cultural Forum is located on Próżna Street in Warsaw. It is a place of intellectual, scientific and artistic exchange, an international, creative "laboratory" of art and science. Exhibitions, concerts, literary meetings and symposia organized by the forum are visited annually by more than 10,000 residents of Warsaw. In addition, events organized in cooperation with Polish partners throughout the country are attended by audiences of approximately 50,000. In the workshops of the Austrian Cultural Forum work first and foremost young Poles and Austrians connected with such diverse fields as visual arts, art sponsorship, electronic music, European cultural policy, the history of Polish forced laborers and feminism. The forum takes up subjects that concern Warsaw as well as Austria.

Stadler is very pleased with cooperation with Warsaw cultural institutions. He claims that communication takes place through the exchange of letters and telephone calls, avoiding all kinds of bureaucracy and protocol. "It involves professionalism and a word of honor. These traits mean a lot in Poland just as in Austria so we get around here like a fish in water," said Stadler. He is convinced that without the help of Polish partners, he would not have been able to accomplish what has been established. The list of cooperating institutions includes galleries, museums, theaters, scientific centers and academic comunities.

The young diplomat emphasizes the common identity of Central European countries. Our common history is still being created, here and now. He says that Poland has been closely tied to Europe culturally for decades. Polish output as well as what is going on in contemporary Polish culture is very valuable for Europe. He adds, however, that Warsaw should now get involved in cultural activities on a European level.

Poland's activities in the cultural field can count on support from abroad. "Austrian culture still requires constant internationalization, or in this case, interest from Poland," said Stadler. "In Europe nothing happens without agreement from everyone. Central Europe must convince the remaining member states that it is worth investing in the cultural growth of the region. Poland itself will not be able to promote itself adequately, but through cooperation with partners from abroad, it can accomplish this," he adds.

This cooperation already exists thanks to the activities of the Austrian Cultural Forum, which enjoys immense interest from Warsaw residents. For example, in May three large events will take place. From May 7-12 at Muranów Cinema, Austrian Film Week will be held, prepared in cooperation with Gutek Film. Film presentations will be accompanied by a panel discussion on Polish and Austrian filmmaking. Soon after, May 13, the Turning Sounds 2 International Meeting will take place. The meeting lasts four days and the program includes lectures and discussions as well as workshops, concerts and other musical events. Artists from around the world, including the U.S., Japan and France, will come to discuss, among others, the problems of composition techniques and esthetics or copyrights and the remix culture. Another significant cultural event in May will be the International Symposium organized on the occasion of the EU enlargement entitled How to Write European history? Organizers of the two-day symposium May 21-22 include four institutions: The Austrian Cultural Forum, the Institut Francais, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute and the Historical Institute of Warsaw University. Historians and essayists from around the world have been invited.

What does Stadler dream? That Warsaw could become an informal, visible and one-of-a-kind cultural capital of Europe. "If that happens and I have an awareness that I was responsible for it to a certain degree, then I will be happy," said Stadler with a smile. "For myself, I hope to finish renovation of the tenement houses on Próżna Street near the Austrian Cultural Forum. These are old, prewar, previously Jewish tenement houses, which are a miraculously salvaged element of Warsaw's cultural heritage. They should be respected. Their restoration will also enrich the color of modern Warsaw," he adds.
Beata Schada-Borzyszkowska