The fifth edition of the International Bruno Schulz Festival takes place during the 2012 celebrations of the artist’s 120th birthday and the 70th anniversary of his death. The writer’s hometown of Drohobych is host to exhibitions, concerts, theatre performances as well as film screenings and debates
The festival is scheduled between the 6th and 12th of September, and it is preceeded by the opening of an exhibition with drawings by Bruno Schulz at the National Art Gallery in Lviv.
Bruno Schulz was born in Drohobych, a town of modest size located in western Ukraine, not far from the city of Lvov in 1892. The Jewish-Polish writer spent nearly his entire life in his home town, and was generally unwilling to travel. His voyages outside of his native city were sporadic and brief. Schulz viewed Drohobych to be the center of the world and was a acute observer of life there, proving himself an excellent "chronicler." His writings and his art are both saturated with the realities of Drohobych. Bruno Schulz’s stories are replete with descriptions of the town's main streets and landmarks, as well as with portraits of its inhabitants. His name is frequently listed alongside Witkacy and Gombrowicz, and he is considered to be one of the most distinct Polish artists of the inter-war period, a phenomenon borne out of the multicultural hub of the Galicia region.
Schulz published his prose in two collections, Sklepy cynamonowe / Cinnamon Shops and Sanatorium pod klepsydrą / Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass. His works have been translated into 40 different languages, and new translations and editions of his poetic prose continue to emerge.
Schulz died in tragic circumstances, shot by a Gestapo solidier in the street of Drohobych, and his visual artwork has dispersed. Only one canvas remains to date. Schulz’s name was almost entirely forgotten in the town of Drtohobych, and it has thus come to symbolise the dramatic turn of events in the first half of the 20th century, as well as the powerful role played out by art.
The programme of the festival encompasses a total of twenty exhibitions, four concerts, three performances and numerous film screenings accompanied by panel discussions and debates.
Leszek Mądzik travels to Drohobych together with the troupe of the Scena Plastyczna KUL (Lublin Catholic University’s Visual Arts Scene). Mądzik and the young group prepare an installation entitled Pokoje pamięci Brunona Schulza (Rooms in Memory of Bruno Schulz). The project employs drawings by Bruno Schulz, which are exhibited alongside the works by Maurycy Gottlieb (also a native of Drohobych) and the Ukrainian artist Yaroslava Muzyka, an acquaintance of Schulz.
A special photographic exhibition by Erwin Schenkelbach called Światłocienie Jerozlimy (The Chiaroscuros of Jerusalem) is hosted by the ruined local synagogue. Schenkelbach was born in Drohobych, and worked as a screenwriter and a camera man in Warsaw until 1963, when he emmigrated to Isreal. His imagination is strongly influenced by Bruno Schulz, which is reflected both in the field of photography and literature, as Schenkelbach is also a writer. Erwin Schenkelbach is the son of Bertold Schenkelbach (1893-1942), a Drohobych photographer who was a friend of Schulz. The elder Schenkelbach is known to have provided the writer with exposed photographic tiles for the cliche-verre drawings he created for the The Book of Idolatry. The father-photographer's portrayals of Drohobych were recently discovored in New York and they will also be presented as part of the Festival.
Another presentation in the visual arts is a piece from the Polish artist Anna Kaszuba-Dębska, who brings an installation of two hundred high-heeled shoes offered to her by women from across the world. The artist is fascinated with the way Schulz portrayed women in his writings and drawings, and she pays homage to his vision of feminity by mounting the shoes in the shape of flowers on top of a grass-carpet. The installation is placed in front of the so-called Bianca’s Villa, where one of the heroines of Schulz’s prose supposedly lived.
The concert which opens the festival features Bester Quartet from Kraków, and an award-winning theatre peformance entitled Bruno Schulz – historia występnej wyobraźni (The Story of a Perverse Imagination) is delivered by the Teatr Pinokio from Łódź. Ukrainian audiences will also be provided with the first-time opportunity to view a digitally remastered version of the 1973 film by Wojciech Has, The Hour-Glass Sanatorium, with Ukrainian subtitles.
Scientific and literary meetings that are on the Festivals’s programme feature professors of Polish, historians and literary scholars, and experts in Schulz from 15 different countries, including the United States, Canada, Brazil, Isreal and Japan. Translators of the artists’s prose are also expected at the Festival, and numerous meetings promote recently released editons of Schulz. The acclaimed American Slavist, Madeline G. Levine has also declared her participation, and she is known to be preparing her own new translation of Schulz into English.
A panel discussion entitled Bruno Schulz as a Philosopher and Theoretician of Literature invites numerous international guests..Among Polish participants of the event there are: the writer Agata Tuszyńska; the poet and editor in chief of Twórczość, Bohdan Zadura, the literary critic professor Michał Paweł Markowski from the University of Illinois; prof. Jerzy Jarzębski from the Jagiellonian Univeristy, the historian of literature and founder of the słowo/obraz terytoria publishing house, Stanisław Rosiek and the acclaimed literary critic and columnist Jan Gondowicz.
Numerous artists and writers from across the world have also declared their participation in the festival. The Ukrainian town will be visited by David Grossman from Israela, the Russian writer and journalist Viktor Yerofeyev, Maria Zubrycka from the Lviv University, the expert on Gombrowicz, Jean Pierre Salgas, as well as Ariko Kato, who propagates the legacy of Bruno Schulz at the Tokyo University.
Historians from the University of Drohobych are preparing a debate which aims to explore the multicultural charcter of the town in the period between the two World Wars, and see it in the context of the tumultous Central and Eastern European history. Young Ukrainian authors such as Taras Prochasko, Andriy Bondar, Vasyl Makhno, Natalia Shnadanko and Oleksandr Boychenko are to take part in the debate.
The Bruno Schulz Festival is held in the Ukrainian town every two years. Its events take place in the picturesque and multicultural setting of the city – in synagogues, Roman Catholic as well as Greek Orthodox churches and in the old palaces of oil-magnates of the past. The Festivals organisers are: The Polonist Centre of the University of Drohobych, The Bruno Schulz Association from Lublin, and the Lviv Regional Academic Theatre of Drohobych. The Festival is cofinanced by Polish ministries and cultural institutions.
Source: press release, brunoschulz.eu, brunoschulzfestival.org