Micro worlds, maxi impulses: the 9th edition of pulzArt festival
The 9th edition of the pulzArt contemporary arts festival brought everything into one dimension. “Sunflower” met a fire dance show, soloists from the Saint Ephraim Male Choir were answered by the Talking Brushes, embroidered patterns on canvas dialogued with the invisible work of washing sheets, creative writing with the sound workshop, free verse with theater, and all of it entered into dialogue with the audience. Individual micro worlds were the central theme of the series of events that started from very intimate, personal experiences, but which eventually always evolved into community events.
How does a simple idea turn into a novel, then into a theater performance, and then perhaps into another novel? Does war beget weaponry or does weaponry beget war? How does the creator inspire the passer-by, how do they address them, how do they draw them into their studio, how do they reveal the secrets behind the scenes? What is invisible work, how many hours do we spend doing it and how can it be made common and outsourced? How does extreme poverty become part of high culture? These were some of the questions that the guests of the 9th pulzArt, over 1,300 participants and passers-by tried to answer.
The Saint Ephraim Male Choir transformed first the Great Hall of the Tamási Áron Theatre into an African savannah and then, with a jingle of bells, into an ancient Byzantine cathedral. In their concert, medieval pilgrimage songs, Byzantine hymns, Hungarian folk songs and Orthodox liturgical chants were performed in a penetrating harmony, and the main melody from Game of Thrones was masterfully interwoven with the 16th century Greensleeves song. This diverse musical journey truly captured the hearts of the audience and was one of the most popular.
Unusually, the opening concert of the 9th pulzArt was this time not an indoor, “seated” performance, but moved its participants to the Szimpla garden: DJ Bootsie Quartet opened the festival with a fascinating musical atmosphere, ranging from light rhythms to more upbeat tunes. M Studio lit up the atmosphere in the parking lot of the former Bodoc Hotel with their spectacular Fire Flow fire dance. Due to the rainy weather, the live performance Spirality moved from Elizabeth Park to the theater lobby, where Fekete Zsolt, Emcsi and Voiwode created their own meditative atmosphere. The improvised sound walk allowed the audience to explore the geometric shapes and sound textures of the mandala.
The SunMa concert, which came all the way from Budapest, was characterized by an “apocalyptic playfulness”, filling the audience with special energy, alternating rhythms of different musical genres, improvisations and surprising soundscapes and creating a real musical journey. Szimpla also hosted evening DJ parties, which also featured a variety of music, from more meditative tunes to dance-inducing beats.
Lightness and depth in theater performances
Under the umbrella of misinformation and naivety, truly comical situations are born – the show “PARTY” by the independent theater company Incipient Bucharest conquered the hearts of the audience with its light and funny style while tackling quite serious social issues. How can it be, for example, that even with the most balanced and perfected electoral model in the democratic world, initial good intentions are so misguided that we always end up choosing the lesser of two evils?
What happens to the “Sunflower” when the sun doesn’t shine for a long time? Tamási Áron Theatre’s play “Sunflower” was an integral part of the 9th pulzArt program – not only because of the yellow set. Intertwined but parallel micro-lights, dysfunctional adult relationships seen through the eyes of a child, real lack of attention and empathy and their directly traumatic effect – serious topics, but the audience laughed to tears at the show full of frothy humour and situation comedy. Thanks to the excellent chemistry between director Radu Afrim and the actors of the Sfântu Gheorghe company, the audience of the 9th pulzArt edition saw another exceptional piece of theater.
Oproiu Nicolette’s “Silent darkness”, based on the text of Kiss Tibor Noé’s novel “Beláthatatlan táj” (Indefinite Landscape), led us into the microcosm of human destinies in a special space, the Pálffy Hall of the Tamási Áron Theatre. It was as if the pulzArt audience discovered a secret chamber of the stream of consciousness of personal experiences in this experimental performance, which included verse, dance, performance and song. At the audience meeting that followed, literary critic György Evelin discussed with the protagonist and the writer the inner struggles, the liberating power of writing, the links between the novel and the monodrama, and the sensitizing role of literature.
Micro-stories and empathy in literature
Vida Gábor was interviewed in the packed foyer of the theater by fellow writer István Miklóssi Szabó about his latest novel “Senkiháza. Erdélyi lektűr” (“No One’s Land. Transylvanian Dime Novel”). He spoke about the micro-communities that unfold in this novel, the personal experiences, culture and literature that unfold through the characters. Micro histories of Romania between 1920 and 1940 reveal whole worlds where, for example, there is a parade but no boots. But every soldier has a handkerchief. From which we emigrate not when it’s at its worst, but when we can.
A special treat was meeting the writer Mihai Radu, who spoke to us about the cruelty of reality in Romania, the political dimension of humor, about the capacity of irony and sarcasm to exaggerate and amplify the small cracks in our society or even to cut the ties of nostalgia and sentimentality. Moderated by literary translator Szőcs Imre, the discussion, full of deep reflections but essentially light and humorous, also touched on the charm of small towns, the love of football, fans, his collaboration with director Radu Afrim, the transformation of his latest novel into a theatrical performance, the inscrutable gaps between generations and the impossibility of reading literature without empathy.
The aim of Sugár János’s initiative “Time Patrol” at last year’s pulzArt was to listen to what passers-by have to say, record their personal stories and publish them in a book. The book, containing 53 stories, was presented at this year’s festival. The at-times shocking document, which records word-for-word traumatic life stories, including pronunciation, is a unique example of how the poorest become part of high culture, how a stream of thoughts becomes a place-specific, random, yet universal community creation, a performance, how art is put into a space without boundaries.
Thought-provoking public installations, exhibitions
The world of art was connected with outdoor and street spaces, through an installation by artist Daczó Enikő at the entrance of the Art Gallery, during the art market exhibition, organized together with the Baz/Art fair. Symbolizing the flow of creative energy, the artwork reminds us to get used to the fact that these spaces belong to us too. The aim of this innovative initiative is not only to admire artworks but also to buy them, supporting local artists with a strong creative drive.
Young women washing bed sheets were the sight that greeted us on Saturday morning in Elizabeth Park. As in previous years, the 9th edition of pulzArt brought contemporary art into the public space. The public award for the initiatives submitted and implemented in response to the call for entries to the public installation competition was won by the kk_kollektív team (Horváth Mihály, Kali Ágnes, Kusztos Anna, Kusztos Júlia), who drew attention to invisible works such as cooking, washing, cleaning, caring for children, the elderly and the sick with the help of graffiti sheets and community washing. Can we, are we capable of building a community to ensure that the responsibility of invisible but life-sustaining work is not disproportionately borne by the exploited members of our society? With 208 lines drawn on sheets, passers-by answered the question of how many hours they spend doing invisible work. In addition, community members could join in the washing, working from their accumulated hours – 48 hours of accumulated washing, according to the log.
A soft neon orange tank, swords made from the forged trunks of Christmas trees and many other powerful video productions greeted visitors to MAGMA’s contemporary art exhibition space in a group exhibition entitled Pop-up Tankage, with the theme of war. At the opening, those who entered into the space were immediately confronted with a question that sparked a debate: do you think weapons exist because war is part of human nature or does war exist because weapons exist?
This year’s pulzArt workshops took place indoors but were open to all. The little ones discovered the joy of creating with the workshop facilitated by Talking Brushes: they painted bright colors on white stones or canvas, but could also try out a range of natural dyes, ‘spice dyes’ made from turmeric, cocoa powder, spirulina or cinnamon. The not-so-little ones drew mandalas and white decorations on black paper and black on white paper. The creative writing workshop, facilitated by Horváth Benji, led participants through 4 days of exercises, from putting everyday thoughts and events on paper, to filling them with emotions, colors and smells, and then to making a collective piece of work that leaves the imprint of the workshop behind.
Sansula, metallophone, singing bowl, didgeridoo, drum machine, kaoss pad, bongo, darbuka – these strange sound-making instruments were on display for all who visited the Sound Workshop. Curious faces, sensitive ears attentive to every beat and captivating sound effects filled the spaces of the Lábasház/Casa cu Arcade and Art Gallery during the community music-making sessions, as well as during the recording of improvised ‘sound works’. In the basement of the MAGMA contemporary art exhibition space, the atmosphere of the 90s came alive on the embroidery canvas under the diligent hands of the participants. Experienced members of Sfântu Gheorghe’s handcraft and decorative arts workshops joined visual artist Cătălina Nistor’s ABC90 embroidery workshop and helped to teach embroidery techniques. In this way, our town became part of a contemporary work of art, using the techniques of our folkloric heritage, embroidering on white cloth the events, life, fashion and memories of the 90s. Approximately ten of these works were completed by the end of the workshop and will surely be seen again in exhibition halls at home and abroad.