Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

Photo of people in a coal mine. Image links to event page.



Canary in a Coal Mine: Lessons from the Mixing of Art and Industry in Socialist Poland
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Please join the East Central European Center and the Harriman Institute for a lecture by Eliza Rose. Moderated by Malgorzata Mazurek.

In July of 1971, experts in diverse fields (artists; scientists; sociologists) convened for a festival hosted by a coal mine in southwest Poland. Though the mine was operational at the time, this could not be guessed from the event’s visual record, from which workers, machinery, and the activity of work are conspicuously absent. This talk uses a diary by the festival’s commissioner to reconstruct its participants’ vexed debates over their rapport with local workers and over their own uneasy proletarian status. The festival is evaluated as proof-of-concept for a campaign in the 1960-70s to build bridges between industry and the arts, in part in order to socially integrate intellectual and working classes. The event’s internal contradictions preview problems that would be this campaign’s undoing, making the event a canary in a coal mine for dysfunction troubling the socialist dream of class unity.

Eliza Rose is Assistant Professor and Laszlo Birinyi Sr. Fellow of Central European Studies at University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. She received her Ph.D. in Slavic languages at Columbia University. Her current research investigates interactions between art and industry in late-socialist Poland. Her articles have been published in Slavic Review, Studies in Eastern European Cinema, View. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture, Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, and Science Fiction Studies. Her translations of Polish scholarly and art writing have been published widely.