The 28th edition of Malta Festival Poznań is behind us – 10 days, 200 events in 40 locations, prepared by 637 artists and activists from 17 countries. A big thank you to the 80-thousand strong audience for their presence and their leap of faith!
The fall of Gargamel’s tower
We opened the festival with communal construction and destruction. During the workshops conducted by the French artist Olivier Grossetête for a group of volunteers we prepared the building blocks of a cardboard copy of „Gargamel’s Tower”, which were then carried to Liberty Square to be constructed – with the help of passers-by – into a 20-metre makeshift structure. Its spectacular fall inaugurated the 28th edition of the festival. “The act of destruction was finished off by the excited crowd – mostly children – which invaded the ruins and, jumping mercilessly, tore apart the cardboard remains. The brickwork tower of the Poznan Royal Castle, erected several years ago, looked on from a distance”, reported Kajetan Kurkiewicz for “Gazeta Wyborcza”.
For the 10 days of the festival Liberty Square was also a venue for film screenings, plays, concerts, debates and performative readings. We danced to the sounds of the Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki, we witnessed the premiere performance of Antygone in Molenbeek directed by Anna Smolar and we were hypnotized by the performance of Ginczanka. Żar-Ptak. The latter event was thus related by Kuba Wojtaszczyk on kulturaupodstaw.pl: “The performers from Ginczanka. Żar-Ptak follow the path set by the works of a poet, which constitute a story of - to a large extent - emancipation”.
Making a leap of faith
This year’s Idiom Skok w wiarę / Leap of Faith was prepared by a trio of artists from the Belgian group Needcompany – Grace Ellen Barkey, Jan Lauwers and Maarten Seghers. The Idiom reflected on the risk associated with setting off into the unknown, which accompanies every artistic pursuit. “The plays of this year’s Malta Idiom showed the instability of the modern world, its fragility, the difficult experiences brought upon human existence by history and the helplessness associated with that fact. At the same time it spoke of the (im)possibility of adaptation and acceptance of what is inevitable”, wrote Agata Wittchen-Barełkowska in her summary of the Idiom on kulturaupodstaw.pl.
Needcompany came to Poznań with 18 projects - both their own as well as created by the representatives of a young generation of Belgian artists. War and Turpentine, directed by Jan Lauwers and based on a novel by Stefan Hertmans, was the most broadly discussed work on the program. “The stage images - the organization of space, movement, costumes – everything was thought-through to the last detail. Sometimes they illustrate things literally, and at times they employ metaphor”, wrote Anna Solak in her review on kultura.poznan.pl. “The excellent text of the novel by Stefan Hertmans was used as the basis for narration which was conducted through almost the entire play by the brilliant Viviane De Muynck. The three musicians behind her, created the sound background of the play from the back of the stage, sometimes also engaging with the performance”, wrote Piotr Dobrowolski in “Czas Kultury”.
Is Polish messianism still relevant?
“(...) critical theatre of with left-wing sentiments opens up to dialogue, instead of giving cause for reflection through provocations which are often misconstrued. So far it has been stuck and spinning its wheels”, wrote Jacek Cieślak in „Rzeczpospolita” after the premiere of Messiahs (or if there is nothing left for us to believe in, may we undermine something that we could believe in again), a theatre co-production of Malta Festival and Teatr Zagłębia in Sosnowiec, prepared especially for the 28th edition of Malta. The play, directed by Aneta Groszyńska, with dramaturgy by Jan Czapliński and Marcin Kącki, was inspired by a novel by Györgi Spiró Mesjasze and posed questions about how current is the romantic idea of messianism.
During this year’s rendition of Malta Generator we doubted localness. Together with the curators – Joanna Pańczak and Agnieszka Różyńska – we broadened the notion of localness and we looked at it as a space open to different points of view, social groups, sexual orientations and genders.
Malta Generator program took us to Poznań social estates constructed in 1930s: Social Welfare Estate in Naramowice, ks. Skorupka Estate in Górczyn and the houses on ul. Jarzębowa and Opolska in Świerczewo. Three duos of artists have conducted their residencies there since February: Kamila Wolszczak and Marcin Zalewski, Karolina Włodek and Adam Martyniak as well as Arek Pasożyt and Michał Mioduszewski. “Each duo chose a different artistic form: film (Adam and Karolina), exhibition (Kamila and Marcin), social sculpture (Michał and Arek). The artistic media were different, but each managed to extrapolate the essence of those locations”, wrote Waldek Rapior in “Czas Kultury”.
The properties on Święty Marcin and Ratajczaka became intimate venues for interactive exhibitions. One location exhibited films and reportage by Ahmed Deeb – a Palestinian photo-journalist, who documents the migration crisis in his works as well as the situation of the refugees in Turkey, Greece and France. The portal “Czasu Kultury” wrote: “If we wish to communicate, we should go to exhibitions such as the Ahmed Deeb exhibition. We look at those photos, we calmly watch the films, we listen what others have to show and say. Let’s learn to stay silent for a moment.” (Waldek Rapior).
Where is the line between freedom of speech and hate speech? This question was posed by the authors of the second of the Generator exhibitions: Basia Bilon and Agnieszka Różyńska. The walls of the premises on ul. Święty Marcin were covered with offensive epithets, which had been directed in urban spaces and the Internet at other people. Every visitor could write down their emotions and experiences relating to them, add their own words. “The anonymity of the participants of the project and of their histories helped those who in other circumstances would not have the strength to articulate their opinion”, wrote Julia Niedziejko and Wojciech Kobus in their description of the Blank Space exhibition on the “Czas Kultury” website.
Joined by the multicultural Strefa WolnoSłowa group, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Polish independence. The celebration became a stimulus for a discussion about the national identity and migration. “(…) we had the chance to find out about the histories, the perspectives and the emotions, which complimented each other to create a polyphony of voices which describe the situation of a person who is not always at ease, even when they are home, and who is not always him or herself even if they are who they are”, wrote Dominika Gracz about Seek refuge! Escaping course for beginners.
At the Schron we took part in the interplay between sound, imagination and communal experience of space, i.e. Reading Bertolt Brecht in the dark, conducted by Andrzej Ficowski. Submerged in total darkness we listened to the story of a refugee, who tried to get through to Europe from Africa in a crudely assembled plane. “Not-seeing becomes so absorbing, that the sounds of water, ships, wind and the narration slowly unraveled by the actors are all less interesting at the beginning than the process of becoming accustomed to the dark, which is at the same time unsettling and exciting”, wrote Julia Niedziejko in “Czasie Kultury”.
Communal creation of the audio-sphere
For a whole week Liberty Square reverberated with the sounds of an installation prepared by the composers from the Academy of Music in Poznań in collaboration with the designers from the School of Form. The installation entitled Organism made sounds only if propelled by human energy. It was comprised of several bicycle wheels, which, when moved, triggered various levels of sound, which together comprised an instrumental organism. “The work focused on cooperation, not rivalry. Its sound characteristics were independent from the power and the speed of the pedaling. Everyone was invited to this continuous co-creation, regardless of their age, appearance, background or social class. You don’t really have to know how to ride a bike, all you need is some legwork and creative flair”, related Anna Adamowicz on “Czas Kultury” website.
Café-chantant on Liberty Square
It was for the second time that we invited Poznanians, artists and lovers of Polish songs to a “singing cafe”. Café-chantant is a forgotten 18th century tradition of communal singing, which we reactivated during Nostalgia Festival Poznań in November. Back then at Malta Foundation headquarters the floor belonged not only to professional singers, but also to the members of the audience. The Malta stage was graced by guests such as Anna Jurksztowicz, Krzesimir Dębski and Andrzej Chyra.
The legendary compositions of Zygmunt Konieczny for the festival finale
The grand finale of the festival sounded with the legendary songs and film music of Zygmunt Konieczny in modern orchestral arrangements. The stage in Henryk Wieniawski Park reverberated with the composer’s works in moving interpretations by Agata Zubel, Cezary Duchnowski, Bartek Wąsik, Andrzej Bauer and the orchestra conducted by Marcin Sompoliński. “The subtle electronica extracted a timeless charm out of Konieczny’s songs and brought out their modern, very fresh character to the surface. Combined with mindful, mature piano played by Bartłomiej Wąsik, whose performance was marked with moments of virtuosity, distinguished with sound sensibility which uncovered hidden levels of timbre possibilities, as well as the expressive, technically impeccable performance of Andrzej Bauer, the instrumental whole sounded exquisitely”, described the concert finale Aleksandra Bliźniuk.