The Malta Festival Poznań 2021 was staged across the city: in the centre, in the shade of trees, in the streets, in- and outdoors. Our motto this year was Zaklepane / Back to the Ground. In the time of the pandemic, when bodies lost their materiality as they softened and dissolved online, we wanted to give the festival audience and artists an opportunity to reconnect with the ground. Above all, the festival was a place to finally re-meet: person-to-person, human-to-nature. The Malta ran for twelve days at 24 locations, featuring 160 events created by 600 artists for 29,000 participants. Thank you for this edition. For being there and sharing all the fun and excitement.
We built the festival village in Wieniawski Park, around an installation/fortress titled Nic nie znika, jedynie zmienia miejsce (Everything Dissapears Nothing Disappears). Invited by Generator Malta, Iwo Borkowicz and Ola Korbańska built the fortress on the top of the sledding slope, from compacted soil and water. The building material turned out to be so sturdy that it endured the violent rainstorm which struck Poznań in late June.
Last year, the focus of Generator Malta was water. This year, it’s earth. We are looking at it from the perspective of our mutual relationship, and the point of departure is the rather sad observation that we always talk about earth in the context of possession, of appropriation. – Joanna Pańczak, Generator Malta Curator.
The fortress was a venue for a series of Ground Rules residencies. The first of these was Radio Uskoki by Edka Jarząb and Grupa Uskoki, who used pirate radio waves to create a temporary autonomous zone. Oriol Fuster Cabrera threw a Polacos party, where we could listen to Catalan poetry and learn to make tapas, whilst Maria Dutkiewicz and Karolina Wajman focused on the housing crisis in Mój dom to mój dół (My Home Is My Pit). We represent a different model of nomadic life, of young people rooted in rented homes, without a specific location. I don’t know how much freedom this involves – one of the artists told Gazeta Wyborcza. Furthermore, in Sale at First Sight, Luca Spano examined the value of visual property rights. In Kwiaciarnia, Anna Kędziora opened a flower shop where you could get a plant in return for a story. In an interview in Wysokie Obcasy the artist said that it was vital to make people aware of how important nature is in our lives, and to give them a sense of empowerment. In the final residency titled Czasami nie rozumiem, kim jest Ziemia (Sometimes I Don’t Understand who Earth Is), Karolina Szczypek and a group of activists tried to give Wieniawski Park a legal status. Each residency was announced by the invincible, the insubordinate, the one and only Queen of the Fortress Marta Jalowska.
The Zaklepane / Ground Rules programme also featured activities showing our relationship with earth. The collective Make Larmo organised a workshop where people made flags of their favourite places. Paula Kaniewska presented an alternative reality where investors tried to exploit coal deposits hidden under the streets and houses of the Naramowice District, and the group new visions taught us how to consciously connect with culture, earth and the world.
Generator Malta is always close to communities. Not only does it create them, but it often notices smaller groups, which it supports and involves in interesting projects. An example is the project ran by Agnieszka Różyńska (one of the curators), who worked with young people in one of Poznań’s allotment gardens. – Piotr Szulc, Codzienny Poznań.
Apart from Zaklepane / Ground Rules, the Generator Malta programme also featured Kurs Miejskiego Relaksu (Training in City Leisure), as well as Odlot – Święto Fyrtli (Flying High in Krzesiny and Głuszyna). The first of these projects started in May when young activists and artists explored active leisure opportunities in one of the allotment gardens in Poznań. Together with the gardeners, they practiced mindfulness and care, in addition to sharing intergenerational experience. The project ended in a performative walk, a presentation of a zine and a concert by the group Tęskno. The second project took place in Krzesiny and Głuszyna, two districts which used to be one, before being separated by a tactical airbase. The Flying High events included a family picnic, a cycling trip across the airbase from Krzesiny to Głuszyna and a crazy concert by Fanfara Awantura.
This year, the Malta Festival launched a new international programme called Portrait of an Artist. The first instalment focused on Milo Rau, a Swiss-born journalist, theatremaker and, since 2018, the artistic director of the Ghent-based NTGent theatre. During a meeting led by Dorota Semenowicz, Milo Rau told us that he loved emotions, transparent five-act classical forms, as well as lights, good actors and closeups. He also told us that apart from professional actors, he engaged people that would not normally appear on stage, for instance children, people with disabilities and refugees. This allowed him to find the comedy of our times. The programme dedicated to Milo Rau featured many of his films and recorded performances, including his latest film The New Gospel (courtesy of Millennium Docs Against Gravity, where the film will have its Polish premiere in September). Furthermore, during a meeting led by Krystyna Bednarek, we had the opportunity to talk to actor, director and researcher Sébastien Foucault who performed in Milo Rau’s Hate Radio and The Civil Wars, as well as The Repetition. Histoire(s) du Théâtre (I), which was presented live in Aula Artis. Finally, Piotr Gruszczyński talked to NTGent’s dramaturge Steven Heen about the theatre’s Manifesto created by Milo Rau, and about the functioning of this large and multi-dimensional company.
The play has several layers. Next to the reconstructed facts, there are also visualisations: some filmed onstage and some just pretending to be filmed, as well as the personal stories of the actors: some true and some enacted. Undoubtedly, the most shocking was the hyper-realistic reconstruction of the murder scene. One can rarely see such drastic violence in theatre. By quietly suggesting that the audience is complicit because of their indifference, Rau strongly challenges the convention of the nature of theatre. – Przemysław Gulda, journalist.
The theme of this year’s Forum was Movements of Resistance. It featured debates about various forms of rebellion and public protests, as well as the development of social movements. We explored anger: its positive and negative impact on the effectiveness of resistance. We talked about urban issues, our responsibility as residents and the growth of our civilisation. Another topic was Polish slavery, including the ambivalence that surrounds the figure of Jakub Szela. Finally, Michał Nogaś led a meeting with poet Ryszard Krynicki, to whom the concert Projekt Krynicki was dedicated.
The concert Projekt Krynicki featured three pieces composed by Paweł Szymański, Paweł Mykietyn and Aleksander Nowak to four poems by Ryszard Krynicki: Cats, That’s Your Problem, City and Truth? Each piece was different in form and instrumentation. I am happy and touched that someone translated poetry into music, because this is a kind of translation, especially that a poem has its own music said Ryszard Krynicki. One of the pieces was played by Sinfonia Varsovia, who ended the concert with Maurice Ravel’s Bolero, accompanied by a live drawing improvisation by Mariusz ‘Wilk’ Wilczyński.
Paweł Szymański enclosed Krynicki’s poetry in a very minimalist form, whilst Aleksander Nowak presented a completely different, more elaborate, symphonic interpretation. This year, the motif of the Malta Festival is ‘Back to the Ground’. In ‘Projekt Krynicki’ and ‘Orkiestra na bis’, this ‘coming-back’ was quite evident. From a duet to a resonating symphonic work, to a classical ‘hit’ combined with a visual illustration. This composition is also in line with the Malta theme: in all its richness, philosophical reflection and catastrophism. – Katarzyna Nowicka, kulturapoznan.pl.
The Malta Scene programme was divided into three projects: Komuna Warszawa na Malcie (Komuna Warszawa at Malta), Let’s Hit the Outdoors and W teatrze (Theatre). Komuna Warszawa is an association that works in various fields of culture: as an experimental theatre, an impresario and a production house. It is the successor of Komuna Otwock, which performed at the Malta Festival in the 1990s. Komuna’s artistic work is based on a community-oriented philosophy and faith in public grassroots activity guided not by financial but social gain and personal satisfaction. The company’s major goal is to provide a plane for independent thinking and artistic expression. On the outdoor stage in Wieniawski Park, Komuna presented the first ever holy-hop-dog musical Święta Kluska (Holy Dumpling) and a critical review of (anti)war songs in Wojna. The Best of (War. The Best of). The programme also featured Ośrodek wypoczynkowy (Holiday Resort), a story about a subtly overbearing system and comfortable conformism, in addition to Cezary idzie na wojnę (Cezary Goes to War), a queer tale about patriarchy.
Let’s Hit the Outdoors featured a wide variety of events created by circus artists, dancers, performers, musicians and actors: from dance and circus warmups in Wieniawski Park, to music played in the streets by Fanfara Awantura, Koń and Karpiński z Fetlerem, to Trenerzy Życia Codziennego (Coaches of Everyday Life) teaching us how to be more efficient waiting for trams or carrying shopping. Together with the creators of Jak zupełnie zniknąć (How to Disappear Completely), we explored the potential of disappearing in opposition to the omnipresent regime of energy and overproduction. In Procesy (Trials), Usta Usta Republika presented a system where you have to defend not your innocence but your guilt. In a glass cage in Półwiejska Street, exposed to the judgment of passers-by Actress Kamilla Baar critically reflected on her position in the world as a woman and artist. The installation Cienie. Eurydyka mówi (Shadow. Euridice Says) was inspired by the play by Elfride Jelinek and the myth of Orpheus and Euridice. Furthermore, three events were brought to us by Asocjacja 2006: the play Wytrwać (Persist) written by Daria Anfelli, a travelling outdoor show Poszukiwacze (The Seekers) inspired by Calderón de la Barka’s The Sorceries of Sin (directed by Janusz Stolarski), and the musical performance Trio Targanescu, czyli audiowizualni nomadzi (Trio Targanescu, or Audiovisual Nomads).
Poznań’s Old Slaughterhouse provided a venue for the spectacular Eurydyka (Euridice) performed by Teatr Biuro Podróży. The company founder and director Paweł Szkotak described his feelings after the show: I’m very happy that we are performing at the Malta Festival. I believe that theatre can be a form of consolation, a way of showing people hope.
The programme of the Malta Festival, which is revisiting its street, open-air formula, would not have been complete without one of the major theatres of this kind: Teatr Biuro Podróży. ‘Eurydyka,’ directed by Paweł Szkotak, takes us to those good old Malta days which many of us have come miss. – Sylwia Klimek, kulturapoznan.pl.
The Polish Dance Theatre presented two performances. Romeos & Julias Unplagued. Traumstadt merged Shakespeare’s play with the topic of the pandemic, isolation, physical yearning and desire, whilst The Rite of Spring: Prelude focused on youth, fertility and pleasure. At Teatr Nowy, Jan Klata staged Czerwone nosy (Red Noses) about laughter as an antidote to the pandemic. Also at Teatr Nowy, Agata Biziuk depicted the life Kalina Jędusik, a Polish sex-symbol of the 1960s, in Kalina®. Another enthusiastically received premiere was Wojciech Kościelniak’s Kombinat (The Combine) at Teatr Muzyczny.
It’s a must-see musical, regardless of how well you know the works of Grzegorz Ciechowski. As much as it is spectacular, it does not ignore its main theme: a scary and depressing world, which gives you goosebumps during the performance. – Maciej Szymkowiak, Głos Wielkopolski.
Wieniawski and Moniuszko Parks offered a wide variety of activities for children, who romped, giggled and squealed, but also listened and debated. Together with the furniture maker VOX, who supported the children’s scene, we invited our young audience to take part in exciting activities and shows. They checked who lived under the lawn, constructed homes for insects and invented vehicles to slide down the sledding slope. They attended several workshops where the learnt improvisation, fabric dying and painting with light. They met a merry clown/chef in Jarzyna (Vegetable), and Charlie Chaplin in Kino Nieme (Silent Movie). In Odyseja narciarska (Skiing Odyssey), they had fun with a pair of moustached skiers who embarked on a skiing expedition in the middle of June. Dr Acrylicstein invited them to his crazy lab, and in Zgubowisko (The Lost Things) a group of actors told them how they had followed their dreams and their love of the circus.
The Malta Festival has matured like a beautiful woman in her thirties. The audience crowded in Wieniawski Park every festival night. You could watch, among other things, the open-air performances of Komuna Warszawa. In the evening, it was hard to find a free spot to spread your blanket on the lawn during the concerts of Mela Koteluk or Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki. – Marta Kaźmierska, Gazeta Wyborcza.
We began and ended the outdoor Malta programme in Wieniawski Park with music. The first weekend featured a Berlin-Poznań-Kiev showcase. On Friday, we rocked to Laura Lee & The Jettes, and Jennifer Touch presented a mix of new wave and the best of the Berlin scene. This is my first concert since the start of the pandemic, and I’m really happy to be back on stage – she said. On Saturday, we shared the raw energy of Izzy and the Black Trees, as well as the proud sensitivity of Shyness! We played our first concert ever and we’re exhausted, but very very happy – said one of the artists. On Sunday, we experienced the neurotic energy flow from Ofliyan and music of the future brought to us by Gurt [Ò]. Olga Chernyshova of Gurt [Ò] said that it was their first time in Poznań, and that they loved it and its vibe, which was calm and safe.
The second weekend started on a strong feminist note from Karolina Czarnecka and the Skowronki Choir. The concert What Happens When the Woman Takes Power was the idea of Generator Malta Curator Joanna Pańczak, who saw great potential in combining two musical projects which, at first sight, seemed worlds apart. When you treat women as partners, when you give them freedom and say: “you can if you want to, but if you don’t want to, you don’t have to,” all barriers disappear as if by magic. – said Karolina Czarnecka in an interview in Wysokie Obcasy. Together, the singer and the choir became an explosive mixture of energy, joy and strength.
The concert is very much in line with the theme of this year’s Malta, which oscillates around resistance, solidarity and engagement. It is impossible to ignore the reference to the 2020 social movements connected to the Women’s Strike, and the struggle for women’s equality, which has been going on for more than a century. The artists’ voices join this movement and assure all who want to listen that women have their own huge and undisputable value which they can share with everyone in their own way. – Kamil Zofiński, kulturapoznan.pl.
On Saturday, we listened to songs from the 1920s and 30s in new arrangements by Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki, who are well known to the Malta audience. Both of us have had our Malta experience. I’ve played at Malta several times, with different line-ups. It has always been great. Why? Because the audience is great. The audience is our fuel. If there is good chemistry with the audience, we play several times better. A great sensation – said Jan Młynarski after the show. But before the concert started, the musicians accompanied us as we handed out our Maski Malty awards to those who have contributed to the festival’s development. There were also some surprises: songs performed by well-known ‘non-singers,’ including Grażyna Torbicka, Andrzej Szumowski, Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk, Mariusz ‘Wilk’ Wilczyński, Joanna Leśnierowska, Michał Nogaś, Michał Merczyński and Marcin Sompoliński. They were accompanied on guitar by Marcin Matuszak and Jerzy Satanowski, with Jarosław Sroka on drums. All the events that have been happening over the years at the Malta Festival are extremely energetic, often combined with improvisation. Because this is the character of the festival, and this energy remains within us – said Grażyna Torbicka. Finally, Malta Festival director Michał Merczyński made a promise to Poznanians that, if possible, next year the concert would be held by Lake Malta.
The final event on the Malta Festival Poznań 2021 outdoor stage was a lyrical concert by Mela Koteluk and the group Kwadrofonik playing pieces from the album Baczyński. Astronomia poety (The Astronomy of a Poet. Baczyński).
For the Malta finale, we launched a multimedia festival archive. On www.archiwum.malta-festival.pl you will find materials spanning 30 years: records of events and press cuttings, as well as numerous photos and other materials contributed by you, the festival audience. Who had their first kissed by the lake? And who made friends for life dancing at the silent disco? Relive those memories and check out our website. Soon it will also include the 31st Malta Festival Poznań, which has just ended.
Thank you for being with us! It is your energy, enthusiasm and participation that keeps the festival going. We really appreciate your involvement in the Citizens’ Minister of Culture campaign. We are touched to hear that the Malta Festival has been so important to you and that it evokes so many good memories. This year’s edition is over, but we are already working on the next one. Save the date from 23 June to 3 July 2022. In our new international programme, we will present the portrait of Luk Perceval, whilst Generator Malta will focus on air. Unpredictable things my happen around the world, but the Malta Festival Poznań must go on!