About the project

The Promised City

Why do people come to cities and what do they expect for themselves from their future? what are the stories that motivate them to set out for the metropolises or to reside there?

February till November 2010

Berlin – Warsaw – Mumbai: Two continents, three metropolitan cities, a million dreams. The megacity scintillates. Its promise and illusions form the point of departure for the international project “The Promised City”. Two years ago we - the Polish Institute Berlin and the Goethe-Institut in Warsaw and Mumbai - invited famous curators, intellectuals and artists to join in a collaborative process of research and work.

“The Promised City” connects three points on the world map to form an unusual constellation. This is in no way a triangle perforce. The three metropolitan cities exemplify many places in the world where politics and economy, information and the entertainment industry, consumerism and commerce agglomerate in a similar manner. They stand for social movements, new blueprints for life and artistic experiments.

First to Berlin and Warsaw: the relationship between these cities is influenced by the ever-changing German-Polish history, of which, cultural exchange experiences form its most intense stimulus. Although the train journey from Berlin to Warsaw only takes six hours, there is astonishingly little that one culture knows of the other. Does our complex reality in a globalised present, despite a history of being neighbours, lend itself to comprehension?

As a catalyst of understanding “The Promised City” also holds out a telescope, so to speak: India’s Mumbai is a paradigmatic megacity which widens the horizon of mutual investigation and elevates the central questions of the project beyond their regional relevance in Europe. Mumbai affords a study of the essence of an urban promise of fortune in a nutshell: here the realities of European metropolitan cities seem drastically amplified and carried to extremes. At the same, the similarities of the grand search for fortune in these different cities is astonishing.

As the reactions of the participants of the project in Berlin, Warsaw and Mumbai display, there is great curiosity for each other; in the collaborative process, cultural scenarios in the three cities have interlinked, new liaisons have emerged on a widening geographical triangle. And now finally it is time: between February and November 2010 the outcome of this international cooperation in the three cities can be reviewed. Berlin makes the first entrance.

Tomasz Dabrowski, Director of the Polish Institute Berlin
Dr. Martin Wälde, Director Goethe Institut Warsaw
Dr. Marla Stukenberg, Director Goethe Institut Mumbai


Numerous new artistic productions from all departments of art concern themselves with our urban environments and the topographies of routine life. “The Promised City” provides participating artists and institutions in the three cities with a connection, far beyond the frames of reference already established. At the same time, the constellation of the Berlin-Warsaw-Mumbai triangle changes and intensifies perspectives in an astonishing and innovative manner. This can be relived at numerous exhibitions from February to November in all participating cities.

The main axis runs between Berlin and Warsaw. An enclosure titled “The Knot“, developed by an international team of curators is the most extensive project of the “The Promised City”: a mobile meeting and production platform, which will be installed in disparate locations in Berlin, Warsaw and Bucharest for one to two weeks respectively, and shall respond artistically to that space of the city and to its people. The threads of the experimental exploration of a city shall merge in performances, installations and other formats of presentation.

The two exhibitions - “Early Years“ (in Berlin) and “Wystawa“ (in Warsaw) - conceived for the project, mark a co-operation, for the first time ever, between the recently founded Museum of Modern Art Warsaw and the KW Institute for Contemporary Art Berlin. Boris Sieverts, the artist from Cologne, through his year-in-preparation city tour, shall reveal to citizens of Warsaw over two days (including an overnight stay), completely new insights into their supposedly old, familiar city. Students from Berlin and Warsaw have, in the course of many meets, developed a theatrical piece on their “Ideal City“, to be presented in March. In June, many private Warsaw homes will turn into a stage for the production “X-Apartments“. Important new productions of the Polish theatre can be seen at the Berlin theatre; Hebbel am Ufer within the scope of the Polski Express festival.

The exchange “The World in a Notebook“ - between three major dailies, DNA (Mumbai), Gazeta Wyborcza (Warsaw) and Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin) - offers six journalistic pieces of research in the three cities. In “The Trails“, by contrast, writers from Berlin, Warsaw and Mumbai follow a trail, which local colleagues have laid down for them in their own city; an Ariadne’s thread through foreign metropolises.

The video-film project “The Capital of Accumulation“ by Raqs Media Collective (New Delhi) connects the three cities with each other in a Rosa Luxemburg-oriented narrative thread. Young photographers have undertaken the project of tracking the “Fortune Seekers“ in the three metropolitan cities; the findings will be presented in an exhibition. In the lecture series “If I Can Make It There“, which will be held in Berlin as well as Warsaw, prominent theoreticians like Karl Schlögel, Eva Illouz, Marino Niola, Kees Christiaanse and Norman Klein can be heard: their articles on various cities and sociological phenomena corroborate and amplify the central question of the project. Even a film series reflects the theme: “Promised Cities“ is showing under the aegis of the Warsaw Film Festival, “Planete Doc Review“.