The Transforming Identity: Do We Cross Borders, or Do Borders Cross Us?

The contemporary identity of Upper Silesia is characterised by constant change. Being permanently in the process of change has brought into existence the figure of a Silesian – a settled nomad that identifies with the land, but not necessarily with its imposed political boundaries. Zbigniew Kadłubek, PhD, DSc, a researcher of Silesian culture, says that “we did not cross the borders, it was the borders that crossed us”. Our existence continues on this, metaphorically speaking, shifting ground, and every now and then perceptible bumps result in another transformation.

Nowadays, the identity based on the image of the industrial region is fading away. The leading role has been taken by the social and cultural potential of Silesia. The seismograph that first recorded the changes beneath the surface was art and design. Currently, those are the instruments setting a new direction. An excellent example of this can be seen in Katowice’s attempt to win the title of European Capital of Culture 2016 – the moment when ideas from the field of culture began to resonate with other areas of social life.

It does not seem that this new identity is to be solidified in some permanent form – it is the constant change that you can surely expect here. Being accustomed to change makes Silesia a special place, open to social transformations and with growing diversity, not only at the local level. Artists, through their actions that fit into the idea of constant change, help us to find our feet in this dynamic, new reality.

The discussion within the session will be dedicated to the subject of cultural identity expressed in contemporary visual arts, literature, and music as well as in artistic forms that integrate all of the above, such as the opera. The subject will be reflected on from a global and local perspectives, in relation to perceptions of Silesian identity, which recently received a lot of interest from the artistic community. The considerations will be enriched by a discussion on the role of the arts in building cultural identity awareness and an added value – to the scientific perspective – provided by a work of art to the science.

The search for individual and collective identity in the life of every person, including an artist entangled in the dynamics of history, will become the starting point for the presented considerations. The musical traditions of Silesia, which serve as the foundations for identity and might be a tool for social integration, along with their new manifestations, such as the works of Henryk Mikołaj Górecki and other Silesian composers, or the latest operas by Aleksander Nowak to librettos by Szczepan Twardoch, will allow us to look at the changes in art which, on the one hand, are growing from social transformation, and on the other hand, can be its driving force.



  1. Chairman: Agnieszka Nowok-Zych, The Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland
  2. Ms. Bogna Świątkowska, Bęc Zmiana Foundation
  3. Ph.D. Zofia Oslislo-Piekarska, Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland
  4. Prof. Aleksander Nowak, The Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland
  5. Prof. Marcin Trzęsiok, The Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, Poland


Institutions involved:

The event is finished.