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Instytut im. Jerzego Grotowskiego
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The founding of the Grotowski Centre

In May 1989 in the town of Kowary, a seminar, organised by Alina Obidniak, was held on the thirtieth anniversary of the arrival of Jerzy Grotowski and Ludwik Flaszen at the Theatre of 13 Rows in Opole. This event opened the possibility for discussions with Adam Zindulski, the director of the Department of Arts and Culture, about creating a new, fully independent research centre on the site of the Wroclaw Second Studio.

As early as June that year, a draft proposal for the foundation of the Centre for the Study of Jerzy Grotowski’s Work and for Cultural and Theatrical Practices was ready – drawn up entirely by Zbigniew Osinski. The word ‘Practices’ was eventually changed to ‘Research’, in order to avoid any confusion with the Centre for Theatre Practices ‘Gardzienice’.

Zbigniew Osinski specified the goals of the institution and the scope of its actions as follows (1989): 'The Centre shall systematically collect and manage documentation concerning Jerzy Grotowski, his group, apprentices, continuators, heirs, as well as those who represented and represent his own theatrical and cultural tradition and the tradition of the Laboratory Theatre. This documentation will cover the entire of his activity, as well as every kind of document deriving, naturally, from all accessible languages and cultures'. As a result, the Centre became an information facility, which was then visited by people from all around the world who were drawn by its role and agenda. Of great importance was the fact that the institution was situated at the former site of the Laboratory Theatre, which – in a sense – legitimised the Centre’s activities, whilst providing a sense of continuity of that tradition.

Associate professors Degler and Kelera, together with the critic and editor Burzynski, made up the Advisory Board, which served as an intermediary between the cultural circles of Wroclaw and the Centre’s management. The appointment of honorary and consultative international boards was also planned, with members to include: Peter Brook, Eugenio Barba, André Gregory, Roberto Bacci, Serge Ouaknine, Michelle Kokosowski, and the members of the former Laboratory Theatre. These boards were never founded, due to the excessive costs of assembling their members. But the actual goal of the intended boards was different; the inclusion of such prestigious names would have served as a guarantee for the officials, and as an endorsement of the activities of the Centre during the most difficult, initial period. Moreover, they would have served as a means of informing international artistic and scholarly circles about the creation of the Centre.

In September 1989, a press conference took place at which the director of the newly-created Centre, Zbigniew Osinski, presented its objectives as those 'of an artistic institution with the character of a research institution, which is not only dedicated to the systematic collection and management of the records of the activities of Jerzy Grotowski and his group, but which is also open to a variety of experiments and theatrical research'.

The period between September and the end of 1989 was one of transition, during which the Wroclaw Second Studio continued its activities, yet only in the manner of preserving the achievements of the Laboratory Theatre.

The Grotowski Centre, founded with the Edict No. 59, issued by the provincial governor of Wroclaw on 29th December 1989, officially began its activities three days later – on 1st January 1990.

The subjects of the meetings held at the Centre have varied from the very beginning. Parallel to the basic activities of the Centre – related to the work of Jerzy Grotowski – interesting phenomena within Polish and foreign cultures have been presented. These include historical (Reduta, Stanislavski, Chekhov) and contemporary (Vasiliev, Odin Teatret) phenomena in the fields of the so-called 'theatre of research' (Inka Dowlasz), as well as in repertory theatre (Jerzy Jarocki, Erwin Axer). The meetings have been of an interdisciplinary nature, although the emphasis has always been on theatre art and research and its influence on spiritual development. The issues raised at the meetings have been tackled from a variety of different approaches and perspectives, as the Centre has hosted specialists from a variety of various fields. Zbigniew Osinski called the Centre 'a peculiar university and a peculiar "museum"', and described the goal of its activity as 'building bridges between science and art, between what was or what is ancient and what there is today – though directed towards the future – between people of different nationalities and cultures'. Tadeusz Burzynski, an indefatigable commentator on events taking place in the Centre, wrote in 1992 that ‘… the name suggests a rather academic, elite and closed character for the centre. A substantial part of the activities undertaken there is indeed of this nature. Nevertheless, many specific undertakings . . . are addressed to quite broad audiences, composed of theatre practitioners and theoreticians, as well as of people interested in theatre. The institution founded here has proved to be a university of sorts, where one can broaden one’s knowledge about theatre, its various cultural conditions, about the margins of this field, as well as about various innovative creative researches’.