Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Artists, Spectators, Friends of Malta,
This year’s, the 27th edition, of the Festival takes place at a special moment. Europe experiences strong socio-political tensions, a sense of threat, instability is part of our everyday existence. The Polish public life is more and more determined by fratricidal divisions, consent to aggression and a return to dangerous ideologies – wrongly conceived patriotism, escalating national egoisms and a populist hostility towards the Other. The rhetoric of hatred and contempt is also more and more common in the words of politicians, the media and in everyday life. That is why, the role of art and its public presentations – creating a field to diversify attitudes, look closely at contemporary times and open to other, often new and unknown languages and means of expression – is all the more significant. Malta has been faithful to the spirit of civic virtues and peaceful overthrowing of boundaries – mental and aesthetic – for 27 years. That is how we understand our mission – of a municipal and European festival inviting to co-participation in this unique event, which allows you to stop, experience extraordinary, intense, important things. This is the reason why we want to be together during those ten days in June.
This year’s edition taking place under the Idiom the Balkan Platform will, as always, take us on a special journey. Its guides are the curators invited for cooperation 3 years ago: Goran Injac and Oliver Frljic. Formulating the programme for Malta, both of them reached to their cultural, intellectual and personal experience. They will show us the Balkans as an area which is close and remote, burdened with the experience of the recent war, but also as a special place where critical tools of theatre, dance, cinema or research practices originate. Several projects – shows, performing lectures, films or debates will present often surprising, extremely rejuvenating strategies of reflecting about the world – the recent history, political changes from the utopia of Yugoslavia into the reality of global capitalism, redefinition of the nation and traps of nationalism, aesthetic languages employed to oppose the regime and find new fields of emancipation. Philosophers, dance and theatre scholars, film-makers, musicians, directors and performers will all come to Poznań. The festival’s finale will be an open, ticket-free concert of a legendary band Laibach, which for several decades has been eluding all definitions and shows that political and critical art can never be pigeonholed and requires constant alertness on the part of its audiences and creators alike.
The Festival is the time of an honest discussion which everyone is welcome to join. There is no better place to do it than Plac Wolności in the heart of Poznań. Its name [trans. the Liberty Square] has been our motto since 2013 when we put up our festival town – Generator Malta – there. This is the place where until late at night we invite you to free workshops, organize concerts, shows, debates, lectures, good food and silent disco. It is a microcosm of reflection, knowledge, adventure, new experiences, but also relaxation, being together and fun. Seriousness and consideration do not exclude being together and openness to the new. In the present-day reality in Poland, the Generator’s slogan: “the square where freedom is negotiated” acquires particular meaning. Freedom – the chief principle of democratic societies and artistic creation – should always be in the centre of our attention and concern. We want the festival to be the area where it is defined, negotiated and practiced. We do not evade difficult topics. Speaking about freedom, it is equally important to notice the mechanisms of its limitation and instrumentalization. Therefore, a wall will be constructed on Plac Wolności - a real structure, but undergoing transformations. It will be the place of performing and visual art actions, a pretext for workshops, discussions and spontaneous regular conversations between inhabitants, visitors and artists. We are building the wall to demolish it.
This year’s Malta is in the shadow of the activities of the Minister of Culture and National Heritage Prof. Piotr Gliński who used financial censorship towards Malta Festival, openly breaking the law. He has been announcing in the media for several months that he intends to breach the contract he entered into with Malta Festival last year, aware of the programme we wish to present and its curator. He admitted that the subsidy would not be transferred due to Oliver Frlijc being the curator of the Idiom the Balkan Platform.
The Minister has determined that Frljic’s works insult numbers of Poles and in fact are not artistic, but ideological activities. Thus, he made this artist a public enemy of the ruling party and the people pursuing one vision of theatre – eliminating difficult topics, closed to formal searching and an open conversation about contemporary times.
This unprecedented situation in which state officials breach the law and personally persecute an artist is a threat to the freedom of speech and artistic creation in Poland and a clear signal to us that we need to consolidate and oppose such practices.
We wish to assure our audience and artists that despite the financial trouble caused by this situation the festival will be held in the same shape in which it was planned. We wish to thank all spectators, friends and anonymous donors for getting involved in the crowdfunding action “Become Minister of Culture” and the expressions of support we get from all around the world. We are also grateful to Mariusz “Wilk” Wilczyński, an outstanding Polish animator, for initiating the Auction for Malta. In several weeks, several dozens of artists, people of culture from Poland and around the world gave us works of art and valuable items in order to support the festival in this difficult time.
The grassroots civic opposition towards the actions of the authorities gives us energy to act and a feeling that art cannot be eliminated from public life, because it constitutes bonds, gives a meaning and establishes for us – in communities and to every individual – contact with the world.
Everyone is welcome to come to Poznań!
Director of Malta Festival Poznań