Article by Jon Bauer | SAT, JUL 13, 2019, 8:00PM – 2:00AM
Article by Jon Bauer | SAT, JUL 13, 2019, 8:00PM – 2:00AM
From the moment you pull down 5th avenue in Wynwood on a not so chilly December night you are instantly transported into a living breathing art exhibition unlike any other. From the local artists scraping for some first time recognition on the corner to the coveted photographer with 700k instagram followers who has drawn an international audience taking up space in the chic warehouse across the street, Art Basel is not an event to miss out on.
Red Dot Miami took things up a level this year, hosted in the famed Maya Studio in the heart of Wynwood Red Dot featured over 75 galleries and 500 artists in the span of four nights. From the moment you enter the sprawling studio space the bump of some trendy New York DJ can be heard playing in the background. But before you even have the time to pull your phone out and Shazam the song you are whisked away by the sheer amount of eclectic works splayed out in front of you. As you breeze through gallery after gallery with a chilled lychee martini in hand it is hard not to get swept up in the whimsicalness of an art exhibition of such grandeur size. It was hard to remember that outside of these walls we were still in the middle of Wynwood and not at some underground art show hosted in Berlin. The sheer amount of international artists featured in this exhibition was enough to take one’s breath away. From the contemporary to classic, to down right extreme there was something for everyone’s taste at Red Dot Miami. As always Art Basel has managed to blow my mind even more than the year before. If you have yet to check out Art Basel for yourself, keep an eye out for the dates for 2019’s Art Basel to be posted.
Article by Małgorzata Stanek
Still in the world, but not of the world
– Adam Mickiewicz from Dziady (“Forefather’s Eve”)
November is a month of solemn and important celebrations in Poland. November 11 is Polish Independence Day and early November is dedicated to honoring the departed. Specifically, November 2 is All Souls’ Day called Zaduszki in Polish. Zaduszki can be translated as “a day of prayer for the souls”. The eve of this holiday is known as All Saints’ Day. On these two days families visit the graves of the departed, lay flowers and light up candles. The cemeteries emanate otherworldly and solemn beauty as the sea of candles flickers as far as the eye can see. The words of Polish Romantic poet, Adam Mickiewicz from Dziady (“Forefather’s Eve”), aptly capture this atmosphere: “still in the world, but not of the world”. There are many folk traditions related to Zaduszki. It is said that on this day the spirits of our forefathers come to inhabit the world once more.
Thus, on November 2 in Lublin, an interesting annual event, now in its third year, is held. Translated roughly into English as “Souls ardently in tears”, it is an open gathering for singing traditional songs accompanying death.
The gathering is open to all, regardless of singing abilities. You are given a singing book – which you can pay for what you will – a token to help the organizers cover their costs. The songs come from traditional repertoire and speak about death and what comes after, they offer a moment to meditate on death and mortality. The lyrics are characterized by solemn beauty. There’s a distinctly poetic feel to them that sweeps you into their meditative mood.
The songs deal with a sense of paltriness of worldly things, show the departing soul saying farewell to their family, the village – they give voice to the dead. Some of the songs are prayers for them. However, the organizers say that while singing the songs, they also think about the living, to help them go through difficult moments. One of the organizers thus speaks about the songs: “They are very varied. Some talk about death in a literal way, reminding us about the decomposition which awaits us at the end; other use more delicate comparisons, focusing on the spiritual side of the process. It’s interesting that melodies which are used for these songs aren’t always as clam or sad as you might think. Frequently, we encounter dance tunes and only the lyrics remind us that it’s a song about a death. I think that this ambiguity and changeability of “moods” makes people want to get to know more songs. Every song brings in something new, even though it deals with a subject as old as death.
The group gathered in the cemetery filled with ancient graves – the resting places of people who came before us and are a part of the history of every day. The singing began right after dark. The voices carried above the lit-up graves, resonating with honesty and the sombre mood of the moment.
Even if your own individual singing isn’t particularly good, the group’s shared voice sweeps you away and your voice melts into the others. You distinctly feel a part of a community, it is a strongly shared experience. The organizers highlight that it is an important aspect. One of the initiators of the event recalls that he had to sing such songs alone on the occasion of one funeral he attended and that it’s really difficult because one singer focuses all the ritual tension on him or herself. For this reason, community is important. Moreover, the group of attendees increases every year and the sense that singing gathering rather than a concert becomes stronger every year – say the organizers. And even if your singing might not be the best, when it joins the others, what in the end comes through is one voice, singing as one, in honor of the dead. It’s a strongly reflective and moving experience.
Article by Małgorzata Stanek
Imagine spending a sunny August afternoon in the streets of a charming Old Town filled with colourful stalls, the hustle of bustle of various languages (Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Slovak) and traditional music. This is what happens in mid-August in Lublin, Poland.
Lublin is a charming city in eastern Poland that has much to offer. Beautiful sites, places of remembrance, pleasant, calm atmosphere, residents passionate about their heritage and many fascinating events that take place all year round when many of the residents as well as tourists gather together in celebration of culture, art and tradition and of a sense of age-old community.
One beautiful annual event is the Jagiellonian Fair, now in its 12th year. The Jagiellonian Fair is, broadly speaking, a meeting with traditional culture of Central and East European countries in many forms: concerts, workshops, presentations but also direct meetings with another person. The event historically refers to 15th century fairs that took place in Lublin. Lublin, located on the crossroad of trade routes, attracted traders and merchants from various corners of Poland and Europe. The event aims at showcasing the most beautiful, authentic aspects of traditional culture of this area and how it inspires more contemporary forms of art, or how they can engage in a dialogue and draw inspiration from one another.
The event focuses around a craftsman’s fair – wooden stalls scattered around the Old Town erupt with colour. The organizers highlight that unlike in many other similar events, the stalls at the Jagiellonian Fair cannot be simply bought – the artists are hand-picked; the organizers strive to invite only those artists who represent genuine local or family traditions. We meet around 300 of them from various countries (Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Hungary, this year even Sweden), always kind and eager to tell us about their craft, what drove them to begin, to show and explain the skills. They are happy to answer any questions, they are happy to demonstrate and explain their work, including at various workshops they run.
You can learn from them – they are happy to teach us so that the tradition and awareness of it live on. Their stories are varied, interesting and usually do highlight one fact – they carry their crafts in their heart. This openness, honesty and authenticity strongly resonates. As I walk among the stalls, listening to their stories, observing the skills and admiring the meticulous work, work that is the result of absolutely pure passion and love, I feel moved to tears. It is pure delight to meet them and learn what it means to have a genuine passion and love of traditional handcraft, to be reminded of a certain lifestyle, values and to feel like a part of a warm-hearted community.
The variety of items on display (and available for purchase) range from traditional pysanky eggs, lace and embroidery, through decorations (including pająki traditional, spider-like ornaments that used to be hung in households), toys, unique instruments, blacksmith’s wares – and many others. There is much to feast your eyes on – and the stories of the artisans fill the hearts too.
Every year, the festival focuses on a different theme. This year, the main theme was lace.
There were several exhibitions dedicated to this delicate and meticulous craft. One, entitled “Her majesty Koniaków lace” featured lace from Koniaków, a village in southern Poland known for its lace-making traditions and even finding new applications for this meticulous art, including g-strings. There was a lace umbrella and lace wedding and cocktail dress on display, among other things. Another lace-focused exhibition was a presentation of the organizers’ field research trip and their interviews with lacemakers. Lace was also the inspiration for a mural that adorned one of the event’s locations – the building where the office of the organizers is located, a delightful, peaceful, green-filled patio where workshops were held during the event. Moreover, a pająk referring to this year’s theme was hung in the ancient entryway to the Old Town – the so called Cracow (Krakowska Gate), an architectural symbol of the city built as part of its fortifications during the reign of Casimir the Great in 14th century. The pająk hung at homes was the guardian of good fortune and providence of the household; hung in the Gate, it brings joy to the city.
This year’s pajak was made to reflect the theme of the Jagiellonian Fair – lace.
The Jagiellonian Fair is also very much about celebrating traditional music. There is plenty of music! As we walk among the stalls, for instance, a traditional band may suddenly gallantly surprise you with a spontaneous mini-performance. One of the projects associated with the Jagiellonian Fair is the Jagiellonian Fair Orchestra – open to all enthusiasts of traditional music who also wish to hone their music skills. The Orchestra hold rehearsals throughout the year and perform at the dance parties during the event.
The dance parties are a fantastic opportunity to dance through the night to the tune of lively, fiery music. Sometimes, the band starts going so fast, it becomes hard to keep up! If you feel insecure about your dancing skills, you can always join dance workshops that teach the repertoire played at the parties, but it’s also fun to just hop spontaneously as you like. Trying to keep up with the rhythm can be a real challenge though! Aside from dancing, there are also presentations and workshops dedicated to traditional singing techniques and old song repertoires from various corners of eastern and central Europe.
Furthermore, the bands perform not just at dance parties or in the streets. There are also concerts. One of the concerts is called re:tradition, during which popular performers meet with traditional village musicians, practising authentic traditional music. They rehearse together and learn from one another. The result is an absolutely arresting dialogue between tradition and more modern sounds.
The village singers stand in the highlight, not quite used to stage performances, evident in how microphone-shy they can be at times. They present their musical skills, telling various tales through their art. This year, one of the ladies sang out the haunting, tragic story of the Ulma family – her own relatives. The Ulmas were a family living in south-eastern Poland during the Nazi occupation. They gave shelter to Jews, were denounced and subsequently murdered one early morning – first the Jews, then the Ulmas, including the pregnant mother of the family. Reportedly, she started giving birth at the moment of execution and the baby died too. The song, performed in a traditional singing technique, was a genuinely heart-rending experience.
It’s worth noting that re:tradition was performed in the courtyard of the Lublin Castle that served as prison at various times, most infamously during the Nazi occupation. Just before the Nazi withdrew from Lublin in July 1944, the remaining prisoners (around 300) were murdered.
There are also individual concerts featuring foreign bands playing their roots music, or mixing it up with personal ideas and arrangement. This year, the festival introduced the Norwegian Raabygg – a trio of delightful girls. The girls spun folk tales illustrated with their enchanting music. It was an intimate affair performed on a small stage in the Dominican Monastery, a quiet setting, slightly removed from the hustle and bustle of the main artery of the festival. The big stage in Lublin Castle courtyard also featured the Cypriot Monsieur Doumani whose simple but energetic, honest arrangements easily reached the heart and Violons Barbares consisting of musicians from Bulgaria, Mongolia and France who swept us along on a musical journey featuring a combination of music traditions from their countries. All concerts during the Jagiellonian Fair are unique experiences, an opportunity to take in an incredible richness of themes, techniques and approaches. Most of all, it’s always full of heart.
Other than concerts, workshops, exhibitions and meetings with people and tradition, there is also a place for families to spend quality time together, playing traditional games. The Jagiellonian Fair Playground, located in a huge green area directly below the Lublin Castle, offers a variety of large-scale games, some more familiar than others. Among others, you can play tic tac toe using large wooden noughts and crosses, but there is a variety of other traditional games all families can enjoy – together.