Exercising Modernity: We were/are the future


The third edition of the Polish-German-Israeli program of intellectual and artistic exchange, entitled “Exercising Modernity”, will be devoted to the ways in which modernities across the world have envisioned the future.

The third edition of the Polish-German-Israeli program of intellectual and artistic exchange, entitled “Exercising Modernity”, will be devoted to the ways in which modernities across the world have envisioned the future — with its new man & woman, new society, new ways of life, new everyday order.
By rejecting the burden of the past, modernity has often emphasised an openness to the future. The “new” was imagined to bring peace to society, and the idea of historical progress fuelled the hope for the ever greater prosperity of ever greater parts of humanity. The ways in which societies might be organised and in which everyday life might be regulated were a subject of interest for many modernisation strategies as well as for modernist projects across the globe. The crucial issues included physical health and hygiene, the upbringing of children, pedagogy and education, the division of labour and economy, and nation-building. These visions were translated within the scope of various ideological frameworks into specific strategies to collective life: e.g. the Zionist movement & kibbutzim in Israel or Communism in East Central Europe. The struggles for new forms were closely linked with an idea to bridge the gap between technological progress and private life, as well as with a faith in the new political and social order. Housing and city planning played a key role in this process. The belief in their emancipatory potential and their role in changing the rhythms of every-day life created a growing interest in how objects became tools for building a state identity and how the constructed and designed environment became an expression of certain biopolitics.

However, this process can be seen as taking place in an ambivalent way. The strive for something radically new could make way for hitherto unseen terror and decay. Engines of social and technical progress such as standardisation, normalisation and typisation turned out to be a basis for totalitarian building plans and radical spatial segregation – apparent in the horrors of National Socialism, the darkest chapter in the history of modernity.

The critical experience of the First World War is often called the actual beginning of the 20th century and it has already been stated that 2020 might turn out to be the analogous beginning of the 21st century. Therefore, organised in the midst of a pandemic and in the context of the climate crisis, when questions of possible scenarios for the future are at the centre of public debate, the third edition of the Exercising Modernity Academy proposes to look back on some of the ideas that fuelled the belief in the future a century ago. Exploring the intersections of humanities, architecture, design, art history, social and political sciences, we invite our lecturers and participants to look at what modernisms and 20th century modernisation practices have to offer us today. It will be reflected on contemporary life as a field which requires new action. What kind of new world can art, design and architecture promise us today and help us to achieve? What can we learn from the 20th century experiments today? Can a critical revision of their ideas serve as an inspiration for the solutions we now urgently need? Is it possible to learn from their mistakes and further develop what they have left unfinished?

In these discussions we will be guided by experts representing different perspectives and disciplines, including Zvi Efrat, Sharon Golan, Shira Levy-Binyamini, Marci Shore and Robert Jan van Pelt.
During the Academy, we will encourage reflection through lectures, seminars, workshops and, in the second part, traveling.

The first part, taking place in January and February 2021, will cover three main thematic sections:

Section I: New Ideas and Visions
Section II: New Art for a New Life
Section III: New State and Society

The Exercising Modernity Academy 2021 will be divided into two stages: the winter phase, online, and the spring phase, taking place in stationary form in Israel, Poland and Germany (depending on the current restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic).

Dates of phase I (online):

Dates of phase II (depending on the situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic):
spring 2021 (May-June 2021)


Our offer includes:
● gratuitous participation in the Academy,
● in case of organising the second stationary part partial coverage of transportation costs and provision of lodging (details will be announced during the first stage of the Academy)
● lectures and workshops held by experienced and acclaimed scholars and artists,
● an interesting program of accompanying events,
● for those who complete the course the entitlement to submit their own research or artistic project, elaborated or expanded during classes, for a special scholarship program organised by the Pilecki Institute and devoted to the issue of modernity in the 20th century (details will be announced mid-2021).

The Exercising Modernity Academy is open to researchers specialising in the humanities, curators, architects, and artists who shall come from or reside in Israel, Germany or Poland.
Admission to the Academy requires good working knowledge of the English language.

Candidates are invited to submit their applications by e-mail to the address: by 20.12.2020 (8:00 p.m.). Please write “Academy 2021” as the subject of the e-mail.

A complete application should include:
1. Scans of signed forms:
– declaration concerning the controller of personal data –
– declaration concerning the provision of consent to the processing of personal data and personal image data –
2. Artistic/academic biographical note and/or portfolio,
3. Draft for a six-month research/artistic project related to the subject matter of the 2021 edition of the Exercising Modernity Academy (up to 2500 characters incl. spaces).
4. The organisers reserve the right to contact the selected candidate(s) for additional online interviews.


Additional information:
● Application documents will be accepted only in English.
● Successful candidates undertake to attend all sessions online held in the course of the first stage of the Academy and to attend the stationary stage in spring 2021 (depending on the COVID-19 pandemic; details will be announced during the first stage of the Academy)
● Courses, lectures and workshops will be held in English.
● Information on the Exercising Modernity Academy is available on the website of the Pilecki Institute ( and on
● Any questions or concerns should be sent to the address:
● The results of the recruitment procedure shall be announced by 05.01.2021, and the list of selected participants will be published on the website of the Pilecki Institute ( and on the project website:
● The organisers are not under any obligation to substantiate the decisions of the enrolment committee. No appeal procedure has been provided for.
● For candidates selected to participate in the project, the present document will constitute an attachment to the agreement concluded between any such candidate and the Pilecki Institute.

Pilecki Institute Berlin

Adam Mickiewicz Institute
The Liebling Haus – White City Center


See also