Galeria Labirynt invites you to meetings for foreigners.
First Wednesday of the Month
The “First Wednesday of the Month” group is an informal group of foreigners. We come from different places. Some of us have lived in Lublin for a short time, others for many, many years. We meet once a month at a contemporary art gallery, Galeria Labirynt, located in the city centre. We talk about Lublin’s cultural institutions – what they do and what they could do for new male and female (not always Polish-speaking) inhabitants. We advise them. We want them to be more open to intercultural activities. To make room for us and our activities.
We also talk about the challenges of immigrants in Poland. Meetings are open to everyone. We speak Polish and English (we try to speak Ukrainian as well). Come and join us!
Meetings for foreigners are temporarily suspended!
Invisible residents. A programme for the inclusion of immigrants in the urban community.
Invisible residents is a pilot programme to include migrants living in Lublin into life through cultural spaces.
The programme is implemented in cooperation between the Homo Faber Association and Galeria Labirynt.
We have two goals: on the one hand, we want to appear on the individual maps of Lublin that migrants carry with them. On the other hand, we would like to be an entity co-creating the city’s integration policy. In practice, this means developing a model for inclusion – standards which can serve as a guideline for other cultural institutions opening them to new groups of inhabitants.
Migrants in Poland, in Lublin, are still a small percentage of the population. Some say so small that they still do not require special support. This perception, however, causes a proportionally small but actually quite large group of people to remain outside the mainstream of cultural, social and political life.
Museums, cultural and community centres, followed by other cultural spaces, are public places. And, therefore, designed for a wide audience, for everyone. Where, if not here, can we meet others regardless of their origin, gender, age, degree of disability, psychosexual orientation, language, skin colour, wealth… They seem to be the last bastions of equality, where everyone can appear, and everyone can meet.
Integration, which in Poland today largely boils down to learning the Polish language, vocational courses and legal aid, is generally designed by third sector organisations. The seemingly neutral ground, which appeared to be the offices of NGO’s, turned out to be exclusionary in practice.
Showing or talking about the city is not enough to make foreigners return to the places they are shown. Their nature is also detrimental – elitism and exclusivity, hermetic message and enforced expectation of respecting strict rules of behaviour.
But it does not have to be this way!
We want to check if it is possible to see a foreigner-resident of Lublin as a co-participant and co-creator of cultural events.
We write about ourselves as follows: “Galeria Labirynt is an urban cultural institution; it is a place to discover art and experience adventure with it. Referring to the figure of the labyrinth, we read its construction ‘backwards’ – not as a closed structure from which it is difficult to get out, but as a space which, due to its winding nature, increases our alertness and sharpens our senses. At the same time we remain faithful to the act of ‘wandering’, which is inscribed in the nature of the labyrinth. A labyrinth is for us both a game of finding one’s way and the responsibility which the role of a guide in unknown territory entails. A labyrinth is a metaphor for contemporary art, persistence in overcoming obstacles and curiosity about what is beyond the limit of sight.”
Undoubtedly, there are new invisible inhabitants of the city beyond the limit of sight. The turning point for us was the organisation of the first Lublin Culture Congress. We realised then that Lublin is in the throes of perpetual change. And that this change also concerns us – the gallery does not operate in a vacuum, but in a specific social environment. It is the environment that determines our activity.
The Lublin Culture Congress resulted in the initiation of activities to include people with disabilities as audiences and creators of art. We had the ambition to become a kind of laboratory testing tools and creating good practices based on equality principles. In the same way, we want to initiate activities addressed to migrants living in Lublin. Important catalysts were events in Europe – increasing migration to Poland from Ukraine since 2014, and in 2015 a huge influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The scale of social tensions caused by increased migration and attempts by politicians to exploit them made us realise that we should join the discussion.
We also find it difficult to agree with the recurring idea of the nation-state. Thinking in terms of one state-one nation is for us an anachronism, fostered by the false conviction of Poland’s monoculture after 1945. As a result, we do not know how to and do not try to educate society around the idea of openness and equality.
And one more thing – since we present art from the world, we want our audiences to include people from the world living in Poland.
Homo Faber Association:
We have been dealing with integration of foreigners coming to Lublin since 2009. Our activities under the banner of “Welcome to Lublin” were not only focused on immediate assistance. Through constant contact with new migrant inhabitants, we have tried to diagnose the accessibility of Lublin and, on this basis, to propose systemic solutions which will be implemented in the practices of offices and institutions. And to change the repertoire of behaviours by adding additional categories of needs. Our biggest success was the opening of a support point in the Residents’ Affairs Office – a place we worked on together with the Lublin City Hall. The point, located in the heart of the office, is not only important for its daily work – redefining “the resident”, who they are and what their needs are in relation to this, puts responsibility on the city to meet them.
A new resident, once he or she has legalised their stay, faces further challenges, not only official ones: learning the language, getting to know the city, finding places, learning to move around, realising their passions… The uninvited usually do not come. A lot blocks him from crossing the threshold: strangeness, fear, unfamiliarity with the language, customs, people, stereotypes, codes and mechanisms brought from his country of origin… And he becomes invisible, moving around the periphery. No one sees the absent. The circle of exclusion closes.
We are aware of the process. We know how much work needs to be done to make this a multinational society.
As a third sector organisation we see our role as initiators of socially important activities. We place emphasis on intersectoral cooperation, and not on relieving public institutions of tasks which are within their scope. We know, however, that sometimes in order to make a change the first spark is necessary. And this is what we are trying to ignite.