The Chopin Museum and its branches, in fulfilling the tasks of the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, meet a variety of aims. The opening of the permanent display in March 2010 attracted a diverse audience. In order to remain vibrant and fresh, that display, which continues to play a leading role in the presentation of Chopin’s person and oeuvre, requires continuous dialogue and re-evaluation. That role is discharged by temporary exhibitions, organised in spaces outside the permanent display, sometimes taking the form of interventions in its fabric. Temporary exhibitions are geared towards a wide spectrum of consumers, ranging from people interested in the culture of the past and the present, as broadly understood, to music lovers and members of the public with an inclination for contemporary art. In keeping with its mission, according to which the creation and transmission of knowledge combined with artistic experience is one of the Museum’s priorities, the combining of art and knowledge is a key aim of our exhibition activities during the period 2012–2016.
As part of our exhibition work over the period 2012–2016, we are planning to pursue three parallel strands, variously accentuated:
These three strands complement one another and intertwine, covering the most crucial areas in the work of our Museum, linked to reflection on history (identity) and the contemporary world as broadly understood, as well as referring to the visual and audio phenomena that surround us and to the updating of the significance and role of Chopin and his oeuvre in the past and the present. Some of the exhibitions held since 2010 adhere to one of those strands; for instance, the exhibition ‘Poster 2010. Postscript’ reflected on the iconosphere of posters produced for Chopin Year, and in the exhibition of the donation made by Mark Keller (letters of Chopin and Jane W. Stirling) we showed a new, crucially important set of manuscripts added to the Museum’s collection.
Presented as part of the strand Chopin: history, context and heritage are objects that constitute the core of the Museum’s collection. Scholarly reflection on their significance is enhanced with a presentation of the history of collecting, and in exhibitions inscribed within this strand the accent placed on history is not devoid of reflection on the construction of identity during the nineteenth century and contemporary times.
In the strand addressing reflection on the Chopin iconosphere, we look at how images of Chopin, or connected with Chopin, function on different layers of visual culture. Analysis of visual culture, as broadly conceived, enables us to see how media and their place condition not just expression, but also meanings. The endurance and updating of certain visual formulas and, on the other hand, the departure from well-worn models mark out the paths taken by the contemporary consumer of culture.
The strand of audio-visual interventions represents a dialogue with the permanent display, as well as its deconstruction. It asks questions about the contemporary condition of the soundscape that surrounds us, about the listener and listening. Changes to the soundscape and to the perceptual models heard by Chopin remain current today, although the scale, means and customs have changed. So when listening to Chopin can we hear the past with the composer’s ear? How do we hear and listen to Chopin differently today, surrounded by the contemporary soundscape?
The exhibition programme at Żelazowa Wola is focussed on a new permanent display in Fryderyk Chopin’s Birthplace. The historical house and park are a reference point, but they do not exhaust the site’s potential. The distinctive character of this branch of the Chopin Museum allows us to speak not just of history and collecting, but also of the path leading up to the erection of the park-monument to Chopin and the attitudes of those behind that monument, as well as prompting questions as to their significance in the contemporary world. The strand of the Chopin iconosphere at Żelazowa Wola, meanwhile, centres on subjects connected with the construction of the site’s image, and visual-audio interventions enter into dialogue with the living fabric of the park and the architecture, and also with the multi-dimensional nature of Chopin’s oeuvre.