The ninth Days of Performance Art in Lviv took place in September ‒ it wakened artists from all over Ukraine from their summer slumber, brought about a wave of foreign artists, united curious youngsters around performance art, and provided its participants and viewers with experiences worth sharing.
This year the five-day festival (September 6th‒10th) hosted artists from Poland (Janusz Baldyga, Patryk Różycki, Kamila Czosnyk, Waldemar Tatarczuk, Jerzy Kosalka), Israel (Ernesto Levy, Tamar Raban, Motti Mizrachi), Czech Republic (Jiri Suruvka), Germany (Marita Bullmann), the UK/Spain (Denys Blacker), Ukraine (Ani Zur, Yaryna Shumska, Yaroslav Futymskyi, Anton Saienko, Volodymyr Topiy). The participants’ geography broadens each time; new Ukrainian names establish themselves, having emerged in the course of previous festivals and schools of performance; new artists from abroad add color to the program. There are also artists who visit Lviv yearly and whose participation has already become a respected tradition, a certain ritual, almost a cyclic performance itself. Tamar Raban, Janusz Baldyga, Waldemar Tatarczuk have already presented their programs at DAYS. «This festival is a special place for me, as it’s geographically connected with my family’s past, and therefore is important for my personal story. I contemplate the environmental changes here, I see new generation of performers emerging, reaching new depths, becoming more and more conscious of what they’re doing and how the festival itself changes over the years. I see young people, completely new to performance arts getting involved in these processes», Tamar says.
For two years in a row, DAYS featured representatives of Germany and the UK allowing us to trace certain traits characteristic of different European schools of performance. Denys Blacker, a student of the previous year participant Sandra Johnston, perceives performance through collective energy: her works speak through a range of tropes which, like mosaic, comprise a single work that non-verbally maintains its close contact with the audience, where people become participants of the action, identify the quality of the action, its nature. Lida Savchenko-Duda quite precisely described Blacker’s performance as «poetry with flashes, music…»
Marita Bullmann charmed viewers with the intimacy of her tender, sincere and deep images created by means of re-inventing the purpose of certain daily things. In part, her works relied on breathing enhanced and modified by a harp hidden in a pillow, popping sound of soap froth in a watering can – something to remind us of childish follies and ordinary happiness we sometimes forget to share with the world around us.
Israeli performers, Ernesto Levy and Tamar Raban, performed a duet, where a single gesture, hand-drying linens by beating water out, left viewers’ hearts beating rapidly in the light of flickering off water drops.
Polish and Czech performers amused their audience with tricks: Jerzy Kosalka used live fish and gave it as a gift to his viewers, and then he and Jiri Suruvka transformed into a policeman and batman. Waldemar Tatarczuk offered his viewers to make a photo with him. Janusz Baldyga made a performance based on abstract associations, which was characteristic of this renowned master and Polish school of performance in general. There were also young artists from Poland who performed individually in the course of Performance School.
Apart from the evening show program, there were also daily lectures and meetings with foreign guests. Katarzyna Kozyra talked about her experience and the process of making her videos – the about difficulties, fears, problems, funny situations that arose in the course of making her project ‘Art makes dreams come true’ for the Week of Contemporary Art in Lviv (Men’s Sauna, Women’s Sauna, et al.). Anna Markowska talked about the evolution of performance art in Wroclaw. There were also meetings with Marita Bullmann and Jiri Suruvka.
Each of four days started with morning masterclasses of the School of Performance. This year there were three groups. Students had an opportunity to study under Janusz Baldyga’s guidance individually and present each their work separately. Waldemar Tatarczuk focused his course on basics. Denys Blacker’s dedicated her masterclasses to ‘telepathy’: her students worked through a series of exercises to address the subconscious level of their personalities, nourish themselves by group energy, and feel each other.
Waldemar Tatarczuk’s group of ten students presented their final work on the roof of the Palace of Arts: they created new space by means of their presence, filling ‘empty niches in absent walls’. The simultaneous performance lasted for about an hour: each member of the group focused on a specific gesture, material, object (water, blood, movement, etc.), and through repetition connected with the audience on the level of association leaving no viewer indifferent.
Denys Blacker’s group initially aimed to involve artists with certain experience in performance. It ended up connecting people of various ages, from various parts of Ukraine and Europe, beginners and experienced practitioners alike. The group showed how connection to a specific location and culture defined performance of the group members. Differences aside, the group also demonstrated harmony and equality while working out their piece.
«It was incredible, to participate even when just watching the others,» says Nadia, who participated in the masterclass. «Collision with the others makes you meet yourself. That was precisely the thing I’d been looking for at the School, and the experience helped me to shift from interacting with my ‘inner performer’ and meet the ‘inner performer’ of the other. Group work and the process of creating our collective group body, as well as feeling the space around me, was valuable,» Ani Zur comments. «The idea of perceiving realized and recently emerged insights not as my own but as something common and belonging to humanity as a whole allows me to take something I see or do easier. What you feel is what you broadcast to the audience,» Maria says.
Denys’s students impressed the viewers with their short final performances – each minute a participant took on a new object to work with. A kind of brainstorming, the approach challenged the students and kept viewers involved. Each minute brought about an idea worth elaborating in a longer piece.
Previous years saw the majority of artists having certain academic background. This year the range widened both in terms of geography and experience. «The School is indeed very useful and necessary to many people… I’d be glad to see it lasting a year or perhaps happening twice a year to host more people,» Zoryana, a LNAA (Lviv National Academy of Arts) student, says. Four hours of final performances nonstop was the evidence of great success among young participants who were enormously enthusiastic. Such success will certainly influence the format of School’s classes, with the numbers of people interested in performance growing larger each year. Thus, this year might mark the end of the ‘acquaintance stage’ and stimulate the School to become something more systematic and regular.
Compared to previous years, performances this year tended to localize around or within the building of the Palace of Arts, so chance encounters with the audience outside the Palace were limited, although the events of such kind should, perhaps, become more open to general public and unprepared viewers. Or, perhaps (and this issue requires attention), the participants and their ideas will form a creative environment and define the format of activities, some of them open and some of them more focused and private.
There are more issues to address in the future, in terms of organization and conceptualization. Should students work in groups or act as a single body? Should the School of Performance become a separate event from the Days? Should it precede or be held after the Days? Should it function permanently? Time, feelings, ideas and necessities of the participants will be the answer. Anyway, a closer look will show that performance is part of daily life, so the days of performance arts in Lviv never cease.