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Caspar Neumann (1648-1715) is a unique figure in the history of Wrocław in the context of science and art, especially demographic statistics and fascination with death. Throughout history the category of vanitas has most often increased its intensity in border situations, time of pestilence and uncertainty as it is now during Covid-19. Climatic, ecological, medical problems contribute to the image of social uncertainty with almost equal intensity sometimes causing a sense of helplessness and loneliness. The language of art allows us to understand many of these issues by focusing them through the lens of visual and musical arts.

The project “Caspar Neumann. Souls and Funds. The Book of Births and Funerals for the City of Wrocław” aims to encourage common reflection on these issues, guided by members of the Academy of Young Scholars and Artists as well as invited researchers and artists. The project’s originator and co-organiser is Dr. Grzegorz Joachimiak from the Institute of Musicology at the University of Wrocław. We invite you between 4 and 25 October 2021 to the Ossoliński National Institute at ul. 37 Szewska, where an exhibition, two concerts, a scientific conference and preliminary sociological research are to be held. Admission to all events is free.

Honorary patronage:

  • Mayor of Wrocław Jacek SutrykRector of the University of Wrocław, Prof. dr. hab. Przemysław Wiszewski
  • Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany in Wrocław Hans Jörg Neumann
  • Director of the Ossoliński National Institute Dr. Adolf Juzwenko


  • Academy of Young Scholars and Artists
  • Wrocław Academic Centre (Office for Relations with Higher Education Institutions)
  • Ossoliński National Institute
  • University of Wrocław
  • Eugeniusz Geppert Academy of Art and Design in Wrocław
  • Free State of Saxony’s liaison office in Wrocław
  • Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław

Idea and realisation:

  • Grzegorz Joachimiak (Institute of Musicology at the University of Wrocław and Chair of Early Music at the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław)
  • Łukasz Huculak (Department of Painting at the Academy of Art and Design in Wrocław)

cooperation: Monika Sochacka and Tomasz Janoś (WCA), Emilia Kłoda and Alicja Przestalska (Lubomirski Princes Museum’s, ZNiO)


4 October

18.00 – Opening of PSYCHOPOMP exhibition, Aula i Sale pod Kopułą ZNiO, Wrocław, ul. Szewska 37

Psychopomp is a character connecting worlds and times. Suspended in “timeless” existence separating was from will, he links bodily death with posthumous sublimation of being. The title of the exhibition, although it may seem unclear at first, gains sense immediately after reaching to ancient sources: psyche – soul and pompos – guide. Psychopomps can be found in all ancient mythologies. Anubis, Hermes, Charon as well as the Valkyries appear as silent heroes of most religious beliefs, whose ambition is to “distribute” access to the afterlife. Controlling the posthumous reactivation of souls is most often the key to temporality. It is worth listening to thanatologists that perceive human fear of death, a sudden loss of individual consciousness to be the foundation of culture and civilization and all efforts aimed at understanding the rules governing reality. Such an attempt is also made by visual arts, which offer countless artifacts referring both to death and to the potential of posthumous existence or non-existence.

The exhibition, presented at the Ossolineum in Wrocław, includes works from the collections of the Ossoliński National Institute: drawings, prints and photographs as well as paintings, objects and installations by contemporary artists of all generations from recent graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków and Wrocław to the late masters.

Caspar Neumann (1648-1715) is the patron of the event. “A scholar and clergyman from Wrocław, dealing with the issue of mortality” – an intriguing, slightly mysterious figure who contributed both to the legacy of music and to modern systems of retirement. An insightful study of the mortality of the population of Wrocław attests to his special attitude towards death. For Neumann, it is on the one hand an existential drama, on the other a strictly scientific issue, an element of biopolitics linked to sociology and economics.

The exhibition will last until 25 October.

20.00 – Inauguration concert TENDS – FEARS – MEETINGS, Aula ZNiO, Wrocław, ul. Szewska 37
coordination: Grzegorz Joachimiak

Johann Sebastian Bach: „Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?”, cantata with text by C. Neumann (BWV 8), „Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende?” (BWV 27)


  • Aleksandra Turalska – soprano
  • Ewelina Wojewoda – alto
  • Maciej Gocman – tenor
  • Andrzej Zawisza – bass

Wrocław Baroque Orchestra under the artistic direction of Jarosław Thiel

Anxiety, isolation, fear, transience – all of these terms are being used much more frequently during the Covid-19 pandemic than at any time since World War II. Before the pandemic, the space in which mortal themes appeared was primarily the context of funerals, content present in sacred spaces and in art. The term “memento mori” has recently become not so much popular as real and ubiquitous. In fact, the social perception of this subject matter has changed. The pandemic has become a kind of social enslavement, human tragedy, pain but also joy.

In the history of culture epidemics used to happen and each time art “reminds” us about it. Within this framework it is a kind of remembrance, a longing for the old reality, a way of expressing certain ideas, an expression of social moods, fears but also a true joy of virtual meetings, which are now possible thanks to new media. The moment of the event and the concert, however, is not accidental. The content of J.S. Bach’s works acquires a real, much more tangible meaning than before. Especially in both proposed cantatas (BWV No. 8 and No. 27) one can find universal values, important especially in the times of plague: the sense of security, remembrance of loved ones and mutual respect.

The compositions selected for this concert, however, are also rooted in other cultures, especially the history of Wrocław. The author of the text used in “Liebster Gott, wenn werd ich sterben?” (BWV) is Caspar Neumann (1648-1715) – a man of science and art, the father of demographic statistics, who was fascinated by death and the question of mortality, a figure unique in the history of Wrocław due to his original interests and his cooperation with Edmond Halley, which resulted in the project of calculating and creating pension funds for the community of Wrocław. Does the question about the day of one’s death arouse fear and dread in us? Or is it an expression of joy at the meeting with the Absolute? Are the words of Caspar Neumann still relevant for the citizens of Wrocław?

4-25 October
Preliminary research “Witnesses of the pandemic. Psychosocial experiences of artists and audiences in Wrocław”
coordination: Ziemowit Socha, cooperation: Grzegorz Joachimiak

Caspar Neumann set a course in his research to learn about certain mathematical and social relationships. His fascination with death and human birth also led to artistic activities on the theme of vanitas. Art in this project can become a kind of probe of social moods and psychological condition of the society. We want to find out what this situation looks like in Wrocław when, after more than 300 years, we return to the perspective initiated by the Wrocław scientist. It is no longer about demographic statistics at all; it is about reactions to art with existential themes in the exceptional time of a pandemic. The experience of dealing with Covid-19 potentially changes our optics on the problems of everyday life and the place of art as well as the reflection it evokes. With this project we want to look at the potential that artistic culture can play in the post-Covid-19 reality, has its social perception changed when confronted with death in everyday life? Do the citizens of Wrocław expect mortal art to inspire reflection, especially during a pandemic? The project will end with the publication of a report.

25 October

9.00-17.00 – scientific conference “Birth and death plaques for the city of Wrocław. A new reading of the legacy of Caspar Neumann (1648-1715) in an interdisciplinary perspective”
coordination: Grzegorz Joachimiak, moderation: Katarzyna Młyńczak-Sachs

18.00 – Finissage of the PSYCHOPOMPS exhibition
curator of the exhibition: Łukasz Huculak, cooperation: Emilia Kłoda and Alicja Przestalska

19.00 – Concert
Paweł Hendrich: OSAMOTNIENIE(NIE)…
coordination: Grzegorz Joachimiak

The premiere of a composition written in memory of those who died and suffered in connection with Covid-19 Wrocław, which will be a form of “installation-action” (a concert extended with installation and performance events).

Orkiestra Muzyki Nowej under the artistic direction of Szymon Bywalec


  • Szymon Bywalec – conductor [Cond.]
  • Alicja Molitorys – flutes (in C, bass flute) [Fl.]
  • Mirosław Kuchlewski – French horn [Hn.]
  • Rafał Łuc – accordion [Acc.]
  • Danuta Sobik-Ptok – cello [Vc.]
  • Adam Bonk – drums [Perc.]
  • Staszek Sroka – electric guitar [E. Gtr.]
  • Paweł Hendrich – electronics [El.]

The source of the concept for the piece is the current pandemic situation and the constraints associated with it. As a society, it is the first time in decades that we have found ourselves in this kind of universal emergency. Although it affects us all, each of us perceives it subjectively. The everyday fast-paced world favours extroverts; now, however, circumstances have changed – all of us (while remaining in forced seclusion) have a greater opportunity for introverted reflection and analysis of the situation in which we find ourselves. The theme of the piece will be the emotions felt during the pandemic by the inhabitants of Wrocław – the city that became one of the first outbreaks of the epidemic in Poland. We will hear sounds symbolising rebellion against unwanted isolation, forced separation from loved ones, constant uncertainty and even fear.

During such extreme situations as a pandemic, it becomes clear that Wrocław is primarily about the people who live there rather than the urban development. The people we miss the most when we have to stay in our homes for a long time. In the piece there is also the theme of longing, which is also experienced by the composer – although we live close, in the same city, we cannot meet other people and have to rely on imperfect substitutes in the form of electronic contacts.


Published by: Maria Kozan

14 Oct 2021

last modification: 25 Oct 2021