Poland has the privilege to be the bridge between Eastern and Western world
We invite you to read the interview with Piotr Damasiewicz, the curator of Lviv edition of Art Meetings festival, a respected artist, composer, trumpeter and an activist co-creating our festival for years.
Piotr told us about the idea of Art Meetings, artists who will perform in Lviv and the Poland-Ukraine relation.
Igor Waniurski: In one of the film materials created during the last edition of Art Meetings festival you said that ‘the importance of those meetings discloses in sounds’. What did you mean by that?
Piotr Damasiewicz: Let’s start with a general look at Art Meetings. During the 2013 edition there was a film realized,entitled ‘The scent of Lviv’. The following year we put a great emphasis on music pertaining to smell. The film mentioned above was correlated with music, and related to the sense of smell.
In 2014 the emphasis was put strictly on music?
Yes, it was an orchestra- a collective of improvisers, hence the importance of meeting. It is the music that carries the significance or importance of the meeting. Top class musicians, in fact the elite of the European avant garde took part in the project and met in one place, Lviv. The sense of smell is symbolic here, it gives us an idea about what is faint, but carries a collective information. It is abstract enough for everyone to decode it differently – subjectively. This abstraction can be compared to music. Besides, I think that smell is the fastest way to pass on information, as it stimulates our imagination, transmitting the most information in a split second. We often connect to smells our past, and childhood memories, as well as space, sound, picture and motion. The same thing is with music which is not tangible, and there is no other way to pass it on than hearing – abstract and faint as smell. Therefore these two spheres can be compared. That is why we put emphasis on music.
Let’s add that Art Meetings festival is about experimental, improvised and therefore even more abstract music.
That is why we went towards experimental music which is, in this case, related to smell. This correlates with searches and experiment which can, in large degree, bring us closer to deepen in consciousness.
In the 60s of the XXth century, it was acknowledged, among the counterculture movements, that art and music can change the world. Stimulate to change, at least the youth. Is anything of that left today? Maybe art can influence Polish-Ukrainian relations?
The significance of art comprehended as a concept of interpersonal interaction only increased. It is the culture that creates the circumstances to talk about practical issues which bring societies closer on a different level. It can be said that we should move from culture towards politics. It is definitely worth to search for the variety in order to find unity. Through acceptance and tolerance a new quality emerges: deeper and richer. It looks different today than in the 60s. There is less rebellion, more distance. We should treat it less individual, not only on the basis of our own yard, country or nationality. I’d prefer we looked at it through the view: our planet, our cosmos, our Universe.
The idea of ‘unity in variety’ is the essence of Art Meetings festival? Unity from the variety of musical experiences?
Yes, that is one of the keynotes which accompanies me in my life and I would like to expand it. Poland is in the middle of two worlds; eastern and western. Today it has the privilege of being a bridge between those worlds. We can join the best qualities of western civilisation with what’s primeval, organic and natural in the eastern world. We are in an exceptional place, though we carry a historical burden. It brings a certain symbolism and conflicts; we are a subject to bear the political burden of our history. However, we live in present time; history should be a lesson for us, but we have to look towards hope and be a link between these two worlds.
How does this unity manifest in practice? What does the involvement in Art Meetings give us?
I can pertain to the opinion of musicians invited to Art Meetings. They were very pleased with the new experience. Most of them have never been to Lviv, though they are the top class world avant garde musicians. The other thing is that a year ago there was only one improvised music concert, and now we plan to have six. Furthermore, there are many more people who want to cooperate with us, than last year. It is magnificent that our vision is a subject of interest and attracted the audience who had their first contact with improvised music. I am also very happy about the interest shown in Poland.
We are close before the next Lviv edition of Art Meetings, how are the preparations?
Very well. Nearly all of our artists confirmed their presence. There will be many interesting groups and projects,among others, ‘Trans-fuzja’ from Warsaw, a group of four musicians: Andrzej Bauer, Cezary Duchnowski, Igor Boxx and I. We created ‘Trans-fuzja’ for Program Drugi Polskiego Radia and are eager to see what will be the reception in Lviv . There will also be Fire!, a great Scandinavian avant garde group,and Elements trio. We also plan an interesting undertaking with literary forum (Lviv Book Forum- IW footnote) where we will try to interact with word- a text of Lviv poet.
What is the common denominator of the artists performing in Lviv?
The plan was to refer to human body, a living organism, and make use of its sounds. That is why ‘Trans-fuzja’ is to appear in the project. At the same time there will be Elements trio performing, with its sound referring to elements. Each and every composition will be correlated to some element. Of course,Swedish Fire! is an obvious choice.
You run improvisation workshops, together with Soren Knudsen. You like to teach?
Yes, and I’m experienced due to my past teaching in college. I also give guest lectures at the Academy of Music. I had the possibility to realise my workshops in variety of places, as well as giving individual classes. To me, workshops are a part of searching and creating. I don’t limit myself to just passing on knowledge, I interact with people. It is creative.Every man is someone new who experiences the world differently. I particularly pay attention to what young people do, what they want and what they aim at. Workshops give me the opportunity to learn as well, I regard them as an adventure.
The programme is full of workshops, for example ‘Samoróbka’ where you can learn how to make musical instruments out of everyday use articles.
It creates a great range of possibilities. We assume that everything, including music, has to arise in head first, in our imagination. Then, through consciousness, we get to know the world of sounds and instruments. Everything can be a sound phenomenon, used to create music. It is the basis of this workshop. The next step is to look at material objects and remake them in a way so that they can be used in a musical context.
I would like to ask about the satisfaction that you derive from your commitment in Art Meetings festival.
It is enormous, for I engage myself on many levels. Besides, I have always been like that- a musician, artist who tried not to limit himself in any way, neither with interests nor the instrument or art in general. I followed my inspirations and a desire to explore places, different kinds of art and life simply. Art Meetings festival gives me that opportunity for I work with lots of people in different media: film, picture, word, music. Each year we create something new, and I feel excellent in this sphere of multidimensional actions. It relates to the realisation of not quite clarified ideas, encoded emotions and abstraction, all wanting to find vent.
How does the Ukrainian experimental music scene present in comparison with the rest of Europe?
It looks differently than the Western European one. I have already mentioned that East is closer to organic, ludic comprehension of art. West, in turn, is closer to intellectual, conceptual approach although it has its spiritual and emotional needs. Thus it comes to a clash of diversity. I think that both East and West shouldn’t lose a thing from their ideas or spirituality.
Do Ukrainian artists willingly engage in Art Meetings events?
Their biggest part was in the first edition, connected to film (‘Lviv Scent’ film,2013 edition- IW footnote). Ukrainian musicians were part of an orchestra of improvisers. All of them are fully engaged, and the interest in concerts and workshops is enormous. This year we scheduled numerous workshops for academies, where improvisation is the basis. We want to pertain to the newest music trends. The interest, as well as the engagement, is quite big.
Finally, I would like to ask about what the spectators can expect from Art Meetings festival?
They can expect clashes,productions and meeting a brand new quality. It will be an experimental field to see a reaction to such avant garde, experimental art. It will be a meeting of two worlds. In Poland, we were once fascinated by the events of Western Europe and the USA. Thanks to those countries, we were shown a pattern of how to create culture. Today this epicentre moved towards East. Poland is a culturally strong country, therefore we can share our experience. All the more, the direction taken is adequate and corresponding to needs and space to fill.
Many thanks to Justyna Kropelnicka for proofreading.