Neighbours are our common

The Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw and the Museum of Warsaw welcome guests to the 10th edition of the WARSAW UNDER CONSTRUCTION festival, taking place this year in both Warsaw and Kyiv at once.

Opening statement of the exhibition Neighbours within the 10th edition of the WARSAW UNDER CONSTRUCTION festival

During the recent years, Polish-Ukrainian neighbourly relationship seems to have been developing strictly according to that old famous anecdote about a peasant, who is given a choice by the devil saying: “I will do to you whatever you want, but I warn you, I will do it to your neighbour twice!” The peasant, with an insidious smile, asks him: “Take one of my eyes!”

This kind of approach, in which we have one national or ethnic ressentiment fuelling the other, has become typical for Europe and beyond, when new tribalism is defining the current status quo of a global scale and nation-states, also within the European Union, are behaving themselves as gated communities or Dogvilles, externalising their inner conflicts and pushing them to the outside.

In such a difficult political times, when nation-state is being portrayed as a family, like in Poland or Ukraine, we propose neighbours instead, who, as we know from our experience, pretty often have much more close and solidary relations than relatives have within a family.

Neighbours are actually an example of a genuine egalitarian community. This community is not based on ethnicity or language – our neighbours can be of different origin and speak different languages. This community is neither based on the social status – our neighbours usually agree to work that most of the so called ‘locals’ consider humiliating for themselves. What is more, neighbours are not even based on citizenship – they are the citizens of nowhere, those ‘migrants’, ‘illegals’, who are becoming scapegoats of the former crimes and collective guilt of the nations where they arrive.

Neighbours are our common. The community of neighbours constitutes a true outline of our current societies. Basically, we don’t even need any utopia for the future – everyday life of our neighbourhoods, that we can experience just round the corner, presents a really existing alternative to political populism, isolationism and ethnic hostility. It just needs a proper political recognition and I do hope that this festival’s edition is a small but important step towards that.


The Warsaw exhibition will be held in the former Cepelia pavilion at the intersection of ul. Marszałkowska Street and Al. Jerozolimskie in the city centre. 

The initiative has engaged curators from the Visual Culture Research Center in Kyiv, who have worked together to capture the picture of today’s neighbourly relations and the meanings taking shape around it through the Warsaw and Kyiv link as an example of broader, global processes that can be identified amid the ongoing migration between the two cities.


Vasyl Cherepanyn
Vasyl Cherepanyn is Head of the Visual Culture Research Center (VCRC), an institutional organizer of the Kyiv Biennial, and the editor in chief of Ukrainian Political Critique magazine.