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C ULTURESCAPES, an interdisciplinary festival in Switzerland that aims to promote intercultural dialogue, brought in almost 60,000 people across the 280 events in and around Basel and other Swiss cities. Its fifteenth edition was dedicated to Poland, focusing on three lines of tension: protest, history and spirituality.
In the previous editions of the festival, the Swiss audience had the opportunity to learn about the culture of Georgia, Israel, Ukraine, and Japan, among others. This year, it was time for Poland. The 15th edition of CULTURESCAPES was unique as it accompanied the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Polish-Swiss diplomatic relations.
The biennial festival CULTURESCAPES set itself the task of collecting questions and contradictions, doubts and uncertainties as well as conflicts and visions of the future, in order to go beyond the conventionally known and seen.
A hallmark of the festival has always been its unique 'networking matrix', above all at the local level, but also at the national level and among different fields: 83 institutions with 492 artists in a total of 18 cities and 9 cantons formed the nationwide partner network of CULTURESCAPES this year, with a clear focus on the Basel area. In the partner institutions, it was also noticeable that, in addition to the regular audience, many Poles attended the events. Over 350 articles have been published by the media about this year's festival.
According to the curators Jurriaan Cooiman and Kateryna Botanova, Poland is primarily associated with its leading role in the democratic transition and the Solidarity movement which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. However, it remains a terra incognita for the Swiss participants of culture and CULTURESCAPES aimed to change that.
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Still from the film 'Cold War', directed by Paweł Pawlikowski, 2018, depicted: Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot, photo: Łukasz Bąk / Kino Świat
This year's CULTURESCAPES was an opportunity to learn about both classic and contemporary Polish culture, including the works of such greats as Adam Mickiewicz, Fryderyk Chopin, Czesław Miłosz, Witold Gombrowicz, Wisława Szymborska, Krzysztof Kieślowski, and Andrzej Wajda, as well as Polish culture of today.
One of the festival's key purposes is to reach beyond what is known and obvious. By highlighting often surprising and contradictory issues, CULTURESCAPES helps see the presented countries from a different perspective. This year, festival goers had the chance to rediscover Poland through Protest, History and Spirituality, the three most important areas of CULTURESCAPES’s artistic programme.
Polish national identity was formed by protests and civic initiatives. Artists not only participated in them, but also made them the subject of their work. Polish history is full of conflicts, ups and downs, disasters and traps. It is ubiquitous and impossible to avoid. One proof is the fact that in recent years more historical museums have been opened in Poland than in any other European country.
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A scene from the play 'Wyjeżdżamy' (We Are Leaving), directed by Krzysztof Warlikowski, 2018, photo: Magda Hueckel / Nowy Teatr
The theme of spirituality primarily involved the role of the Catholic Church in the struggle for Polish sovereignty and its influence on Polish political and social life. Many artists, using traditional Christian values as the basis, examined the limits of human condition in an attempt to create space for a different, more free social tissue.
During the ten weeks of the festival, visitors had the opportunity to learn about the work of artists such as Krzysztof Warlikowski, Paweł Pawlikowski, Diana Lelonek, Joanna Piotrowska, and Alex Baczynski-Jenkins. The events took place at 83 cultural institutions in 18 cities across most of Switzerland. Among them was Basel, the heart and headquarters of the festival.
The CULTURESCAPES programme included ordered compositions, co-productions (We Are Leaving by Krzysztof Warlikowski), artist residencies (Diana Lelonek), guest concerts, and presentations of projects produced by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, such as Apparatum and Cricoterie.
Cricoterie: Kantor In Virtual Reality
15th CULTURESCAPES Festival Opening Programme
Wojtek Ziemilski, 'Essence of Poland', Theater Basel
Wojtek Ziemilski does not want to show us Poland, he wants us to feel it. During the performative lecture that opened the 15th CULTURESCAPES Festival, Ziemilski presented the Essence of Poland created in cooperation with Andreas Wilhelm.
Monika Kucia, 'All Inclusive', Theater Basel
Culinary curator Monika Kucia introduced the audience to contemporary Poland through its cuisine. During an interactive show prepared with set designer Dominika Kulczyńska, Kucia presented various aspects of Polish cuisine.
Marta Górnicka, 'Hymn to Love', Theater Basel
Hymn to Love is a performance about Europe closing ranks. Marta Górnicka referred to current European politics and the migrant crisis, intertwining musical compositions with quotes from the Internet as well as lyrics from pop and patriotic songs.
The CULTURESCAPES theatrical programme was an overview of the diversity and international power of the Polish scene. The Swiss audience had a one-of-a-kind opportunity to witness the full scope of the Polish theatre, from the grandiose We Are Leaving by Krzysztof Warlikowski, through the minimalist Fantasy by Anna Karasińska, to the intimate Margarete by Janek Turkowski. What is important, many of these productions went back to the roots of Polish performance studies: Stanisław Moniuszko in the case of Cezary Goes to War, and Juliusz Słowacki in the case of The Constant Prince. In addition to theatrical productions, the festival also featured contemporary dance performances created by, among others, Paweł Sakowicz, Agata Maszkiewicz and Ola Maciejewska.
The CULTURESCAPES programme showcased a wide scope of Polish music, from the Middle Ages to the present day. The festival’s main musical event was the premiere of the King Roger opera at the Konzert Theater Bern. Fryderyk Chopin was an important figure as well, as his work was recreated by the students and graduates of Swiss music academies as well as stars such as Yulianna Avdeeva and Ronald Brautigam.
The programme also included Polish composers and performers with Swiss connections such as Karol Szymanowski and Witold Lutosławski. The newest Polish music was showcased at the Gare du Nord Basel. The most important event at this location was Basel Sinfonietta’s symphonic concert, co-produced with the Warsaw Autumn Festival. Polish and foreign soloists performing at the festival included Piotr Anderszewski, Ronald Brautigam, Krzysztof Chorzelski, and Agata Zubel.
Polish contemporary art came to Switzerland through exhibitions, retrospectives, and artist residencies. These included Stories of Our Times: Collective and Personal Narrations with the participation of Piotr Uklański as well as Tadeusz Kantor’s exhibition titled Where the Snows of Yesteryear. Joanna Piotrowska and Artur Żmijewski showcased their work, while Diana Lelonek was the artist in residence in Basel.
polish culture abroad
contemporary polish film
contemporary polish music
contemporary polish theatre
The Swiss audience received access to the work of Oscar winner Paweł Pawlikowski. Apart from Ida and Cold War, the director’s earlier feature films and documentaries were also screened. There was also a screening of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Dekalog as well as films from the Guide to the Poles series, which discuss cultural and social phenomena of the socialist period.
Find the full CULTURESCAPES programme here: https://www.culturescapes.ch/