The main theme of this year’s SURVIVAL is Romanticism, in particular the question of what meanings and values derived from the Polish – as well as regional and European – Romantic tradition persist today and how they shape our perception of modernity.


As a trend in Polish art, Romanticism is identified with the struggle for independence and the dream of a sovereign state based on a messianic idea of saving Europe. Throughout Europe, Romanticism accompanied the formation of the concept of the nation – as we understand it today – and in a sense shaped national aesthetics. The Romantic belief in what is invisible, inaccessible to reason and evading scientific knowledge meant that spirits were involved in nation-building processes. Thus, in the Polish tradition, independence turns out to be inseparable from that which is not subject to reason. The motto Frenzy and Independence is borrowed from Maria Janion’s book Gorączka romantyczna [Romantic Fever], in which this eminent expert on Romanticism writes:

Romantic fever is fantasy and the experience of the cosmos, it is tragedy and revolution, frenzy and independence, and above all – the discovery of a new wondrousness; it was new, because it turned out that all reality – visible and invisible – is “wondrous”, abounding in unexpected signs and meanings, exploding with “wonders” in even the tiniest events.

One of the most striking features of Romanticism is its spiritual splendour and emotional surplus, this peculiar excess and intensity that makes us see the world as an impenetrable mystery full of symbols, secret messages and more-then-human secrets. Irrationalism becomes a virtue and the uncanny – a reality.

The barrenness of the Romantic approach to questions of nation and identity, which focused solely on the vision of patriotism created by the bards, would resonate for centuries to come. What also matters today is the impact of Romanticism on the collective worldview of Poles, especially the importance of nationality and the belief in the uniqueness of the Polish nation and its history, which in many cases has eventually led to xenophobic and nationalist ideologies. Because of the constant references to the works of the great bards, with their burden of heroic and messianic myths, Romanticism as the “key tradition” of Polish patriotism still influences the language and consciousness of far-right groups. In this context, a profound critical re-evaluation is needed.

cel informacyjny: Przegląd Sztuki SURVIVAL odbędzie się w dniach od 21 do 25 czerwca 2024 na osiedlu Brochów we Wrocławiu.

Another important thread is the interpretation of history through a Romantic version of Poland’s past. One of the most significant examples of this is the Romantic writers’ vision of broadly defined Slavism that finds little support in scientific discoveries. The wall of Romantic myths and legends surrounding the general consciousness is so impenetrable that no research-based knowledge of Slavic tribes can break through it. The 19th-century interest in the Slavic past and, especially in beliefs, remains a phenomenon that still resonates in cultural and even scientific texts.

The search for pre-Christian knowledge and rituals led some Romantics to appreciate folk tradition and ascribe to it a special role in the formation of Polish self-awareness. Importantly, in keeping with the democratisation processes of the 19th century, this belief was connected with the idea of full popular participation in civic life.

At the same time, European Romanticism gave rise to a peculiar form of Orientalism, which in the Polish tradition was characterised by a specific view of the nearest East: Ukraine and Russia. One example is Mickiewicz’s Crimean Sonnets – a cycle of Italian-style sonnets, first such work in the Polish language, published in Moscow in 1826 with a quotation from Goethe. The poet’s rapturous description of his journey to Crimea was an opportunity to express a Polish pilgrim’s longing for his homeland and to define himself in relation to the West. To this day, the Polish view of the East often seems to be based on a similar orientalising optics demanding an occidental reflexivity.

Although Romanticism, with all its ideological heaviness, seems unquestionable and untouchable, in recent years there have been attempts to re-read the whole trend, and especially the archetype of the “Romantic hero”, in new contexts, most notably postcolonial and queer ones. Romantic tropes and aesthetics are explored in today’s pop culture, which is replete with references to the Gothic novel and vampirism. Contemporary spiritualism and, more broadly, the search for meaning and significance in areas far removed from scientific cognition also seem to rely on intuition and the heart, in the Romantic fashion. The feminist aspect of 19th-century spiritualism is important – by assuming the role of a medium, women gained not only financial independence but also public respect.

Ceremonial unveiling of the monument (photo by Julian Kostka, Ludwik Mulet/Mazowiecka Digital Library, public domain)

One of the most frequently cited moments of silence in Polish history accompanied the unveiling of Adam Mickiewicz’s monument in Warsaw on 24 December 1898. Although the reason for it was the event organisers’ fear of provocation, it created an unforgettable moment of unity and attentiveness for the assembled crowd. Such moments of allowing all voices, especially those silenced and intimidated, to resonate in the Polish national space and narrative have been few and far between. The works making up the Sound Art Forum programme are also intended to create such safe and inclusive spaces, responding to the need for deeper, more attentive listening to the Other and the unknown, the forgotten and the overlooked.

The opposition of sound art to the classical system of music is connected with the programmatic pursuit of inspiration and experience in the Romantic idea. This model still functions today, both within academic circles and in the programmes of musical events.

Romanticism also bequeathed the idea of a synthesis of the arts, including Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art), which still permeates many stage productions. The liberation of sound from the musical framework consisted mainly in its conceptualisation and contextualisation, and thus moving away from the totality of music towards a deep experience of sound. These tools can also be applied to questioning Romanticism, problematising both its origins and effects, some of which are now considered canonical, e.g. Chopin’s music.

Portrait of Maria Szymanowska by Walenty Wańkowicz (1828); public domain

Romantic music was, of course, dominated by men; the work of women composers of the period is less well known, showing that they remained in the shadow of famous musicians, with whom they were sometimes linked by blood or love – as was the case with Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Alma Mahler, Clara Schumann or, in Poland, Filipina Brzezińska and Maria Szymanowska. History might have taken a different turn if the open forms proposed by, for example, Tekla Bądarzewska or Louise Farrenc gained more prominence – perhaps it would have been free of nationality and historicism, but rooted in spirituality.

This year’s SURVIVAL asks for another possible image of Romanticism on the level of emotions, myths and facts, sometimes in opposition to what is already known, familiar and oft-reproduced. It is important for us to reflect on the creation of Romanticism and their longevity by asking about the extent to which many Romantic patterns and beliefs still remain with us today.

The Brochów housing estate is only 8 kilometres from the Old Town in Wrocław. However, in the minds of many people, it is still considered much more remote and therefore rarely mentioned in travel guides or tourist blogs. Yet in comparison with other suburban developments in Wrocław, Brochów appears to be one of the most interesting, both in terms of its social structure and architecture. The history of Brochów also hides a lot of interesting moments, which are unprecedented in other parts of the city.

For centuries Brochów (German: Brockau) was a typical village near Wrocław. It was first mentioned in 1193 as an endowment of the Augustinian Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Piasek, donated by the legendary magnate Piotr Włost. The settlement survived in this legal form until the secularization of the church property in 1810.

Brochów, like other villages near Wrocław, was an important source of fruit and vegetables for the growing city. To this day many manor houses can be found there. The local climate was so favourable that pineapples and extremely valuable bitter oranges could be grown in the garden of the non-existent capitular palace from the early 18th century. 

fot. Tobiasz Papuczys

A turning point in Brochów’s history came with the development of the railroad. In 1896, the largest marshalling yard in Central Europe was opened here. This huge investment, part of the project of expanding the Prussian railroads, changed Brochów forever, but also had a significant impact on the economy of the whole Silesia. Coal from the Upper Silesian mines was transported to the West through the village. A considerable number of workers were needed to operate such a complex infrastructure (still one of the largest in Europe). Due to the influx of people from the countryside arriving to work in the railway industry, the village of Brochów went through a period of intensive urbanisation and transformed into a small town with a working-class character. By 1905, more than 7,000 people lived here. 

Soon a development of tenement houses was built here, followed by an estate of single-family houses in the “garden city” style. Brochów also received an eclectic town hall, a primary and secondary school, a post office and a police station. The most unique buildings, however, are those built in their modernist style in the interwar period: a parish church, a fire station and a housing estate for railway workers. 

Until 1945, Brochów was a flourishing town with its own infrastructure and two newspapers. In many respects, especially in terms of urban planning and organisation, it was a model workers’ settlement. All the infrastructure was there to compensate the workers for their hard and poorly paid work. Above all, it made Brochów function like a well-oiled machine on which the much larger Wrocław depended. The town was self-sufficient and economically privileged. For this reason, it was not annexed to Wrocław during the great expansion of the city in 1928. 

A dark page in the history of Brochów was the Second World War. It is worth noting that railway workers as a professional group largely supported the Nazi government in 1933 and its actions, among other things playing a key role in the plan to exterminate the Jewish community. In the 1940s, Brochów was the site of a railroad labour camp that imprisoned mainly people from the Czech Republic, Poland and Ukraine. In February 1945, the Nazis executed the mayor of Brochów, Bruno Kurzbach (some sources say this happened in front of the town hall). 

fot. Tobiasz Papuczys

Brochów emerged from the siege of Festung Breslau relatively unscathed, considering the scale of destruction in the surrounding towns. Soon Polish railway workers began to arrive here (the Brochów railway station was one of the repatriation stations) in order to reactivate the railway junction, which was crucial for the rebuilding of the so-called Recovered Territories. These were people from various regions of the country, as well as from the former eastern borderlands. As was the case in other countries of the so-called Eastern Bloc, the communist government was particularly concerned with the development of heavy industry, including railroads, and the maintenance of railroad infrastructure. However, despite these efforts, the town never regained its former self-sufficiency and lost many connections with Wrocław. Paradoxically, Brochów became a transit desert for several decades, even though it was incorporated into the administrative boundary of Wrocław at the beginning of 1951.

In the 1960s, Roma families from the Bergitka Roma and Polska Roma groups, who had led a nomadic lifestyle until the 1960s, settled here. Brochów continues to have the largest concentration of the Roma community in Wrocław, with rich cultural traditions. Among the Brochów Roma community, musical traditions have always been present, passed down from generation to generation. In 1965, the Bacht Gypsy Song and Dance Ensemble was founded by Franciszek Szoma. A Roma community centre and sports teams also functioned here for many years. 

Brochów went through a difficult period in its history after the discontinuation of many railway connections in the 1990s. Today, it is one of the fastest developing urban enclaves in Wrocław.

Artists: Qais Assali, Mihaela Drăgan, Agata Dyczko, Łukasz Dziedzic, Magdalena Ferdyn, Cristina Ferreira-Szwarc, Ania Grzymała, Dobro Hada-Jasikowska, Jakub Jakubowicz, Agnė Jokšė, Katsiaryna Kardash, Alex King & Angelika Ustymenko, Aliaksei Kolas, Wiktoria Kucharczak, Jan Kowalski, Nikita Krzyżanowska, Agata Lankamer, Magdalena Lara, Ant Łakomsk, Dominika Macocha, Yarema Malashchuk & Roman Khimei, Aisha Mershani, Alicja Paszkiel, Tomasz Paszkowicz, Justyna Plec, Berenika Pyza, Dominik Ritszel, Anna Siekierska, Marta Stysiak, Karolina Szymanowska, Jakub Zasada, Liliana Zeic, Agata Zemla, zoutezee, Or Zubalsky

Art collectives: Bagno Zin and Alexey Lunev, Małgorzata Mycek, Raman Tratsiuk, Katarzyna Wojtczak

Important: 25.06 TUESDAY | 1 p.m. Tour of the exhibition led by curator Małgorzata Miśniakiewicz (registration required), start: Infopoint | ENG+PL


* Prior registration at is required for the tours and walks.

Registration starts: 9.06, noon

** Please leave the exhibition space before the official closing time at the latest. 

*** Unless otherwise indicated, the event is held in Polish. 

21.06 FRIDAY
opening hours: noon – 10 p.m.

2 p.m. KAW! Kid Art Walk – a guided tour for children aged 6–12, led by Ewa Pluta (registration required), start: Infopoint

9 p.m. opening of the 22nd edition of the SURVIVAL Art Review, Festival Club | ENG+PL

opening hours: noon – 10 p.m.

noon Guided tour with a hearing loop, led by Ewa Pluta (registration coordinated by Katarynka Foundation), start: Wrocław Brochów railway station

1 p.m. Sound Art Forum – guided tour led by curator Daniel Brożek (registration required), start: Infopoint

3 p.m. Community Commissioned Art – DemArt: presentation of Jagoda Dobecka’s, Filip Skont Niziołek’s, Julia and Mikołaj Tkacz’s projects, open event, Festival Club | ENG+PL 

6 p.m. Announcement of DemArt results and Solo Show lecture: How to tell art in social media?, moderated by Tomasz Szymański, open event, Festival Club | ENG+PL 

8 p.m. Discussion on public space, violence and anger, moderated by Przemysław Witkowski, discussants: , Bek Berger, Karolina Bieniek, Aleksander Hudzik, Bartłomiej Świerczewski, Daniel Valtueña, open event, Festival Club | ENG+PL 

23.06 SUNDAY
opening hours: noon – 10 p.m.

noon Family workshop with Made in Brochów, open event, Festival Club

noon Guided tour with audio description, led by Ewa Pluta (registration coordinated by Katarynka Foundation), start: Wrocław Brochów railway station

1 p.m. Guided tour in Ukrainian, led by Anzhelika Yeltsova (registration required), start: Infopoint | UA

3 p.m. Presentations of Deconfining residency projects: Lindi Dedek (Czech Republic), Naitiemu Nyanjom (Kenya), open event, Festival Club | ENG+PL 

4 p.m. Presentations of Deconfining residency projects: Jan Moss (Poland), “Teflon” Kizza Moses (Uganda), open event, Festival Club | ENG+PL 

5 p.m. Presentations of Deconfining residency projects: Michalina Musielak (Poland), Josephine “Kia” Kiaga (Tanzania), open event, Festival Club | ENG+PL 

5 p.m. Historical walk in Brochów, led by Zbigniew Kuriata (Society of Friends of Brochów), open event, start: Wrocław Brochów railway station

24.06 MONDAY
opening hours: noon – 10 p.m.

1 p.m. Tour of the exhibition led by curator Michał Bieniek (registration required), start: Infopoint

3 p.m. Is it possible to digitise the soul? Romantic paradoxes of the digital revolution era – lecture by Jakub Kuś (SWPS University), open event, Festival Club

4 p.m. SAW! Senior Art Walk – guided tour for seniors led by Ewa Pluta (registration required), start: Wrocław Brochów railway station

6 p.m. Love? Hate? Independence? How to build a healthy relationship with money – lecture by Agata Gąsiorowska (SWPS University), open event, Festival Club

opening hours: noon – 10 p.m.

1 p.m. Tour of the exhibition led by curator Małgorzata Miśniakiewicz (registration required), start: Infopoint | ENG+PL 

2 p.m. BAW! Baby Art Walk – guided tour for parents and carers with small children (registration required), start: Infopoint

3 p.m. Guided tour in Belarusian led by Ilya Mejumayeu (registration required), start: Infopoint | BEL

6 p.m. Brochów: Places of remembrance, natural and cultural heritage, and the production of localities – lecture by Wojciech Browarny with the team, open event, Festival Club



On 24–25.06 (Monday–Tuesday), from noon to 1 p.m., the sound works will be silenced and strong light and acoustic stimuli will be limited. For questions about availability, please email:



22. SURVIVAL Art Review
Brochów estate, Wrocław

Curators: Michał Bieniek, Daniel Brożek, Małgorzata Miśniakiewicz, Ewa Pluta

Organiser: Fundacja Art Transparent /

Survival Art Review id co-financed by the Municipality of Wrocław /

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