Friday, June 8, 2012

KultURquell rises in Pilsen

by Lisa Schulze

What is your first association hearing "Pilsen"? The gothic cathedral St. Bartholomew with the highest steeple in the Czech Lands? The impressive synagogue being the second largest in the whole of Europe? European Capital of Culture 2015? Or rather the golden barley juice with its magnificent creamy foam head?

Also Bohumil Hrabal knew that beer is by no means a mere alcoholic beverage, but it is rather a potion of creativity. This is the reason why he applied it almost daily. It is therefore not impudent to state, that we owe some of world literature's most beautiful works to beer.

Beer culture is undoubtedly a very important part of Czech identity. Every evening cozy little pubs are crowded with Czechs pondering, chatting and fabulating over a glass of beer or two. The team of Pilsen 2015 now utilized the inspiring effect of this most favorite beverage for their purposes and organized the "KultURquell". This event was an attempt to combine the snug get-together in a pub, often origin of crazy ideas, utopian visions and definitely many friendships, with the discourses of cultural activists. This should not just create extraordinary synergies, but it was also proof of culture not having to be high-brow and therefore difficult to access, but that it can also be playful and jaunty- one does not need a tie and shiny shoes to enjoy culture. Every Pilsener be it mechanic or professor of mathematics could register for a chat with an expert of her choice and discuss her ideas, wishes and visions for culture not only during the year 2015. The main idea was to connect people with various social and cultural backgrounds and realities and thus incite dialogue. Not elitist high-brow discourses about the significance and benefits of culture were focus of the event, but rather the role of culture in everyday life, not necessarily connected to an almost empty white cube gallery or a pompous opera building.

The invited guests included Eva Beranková, allround artist from Pilsen; Karel Janecek, activist against corruption; Ondřej Liška, current chairman of the Green Party of Czech Republic. But also international guests attended the event; among them Nele Hertling, whose organization "A Soul for Europe" campaigns for the encounter between agents of civil society and political decision makers as well as Neil Peterson, part of the organizational team of Liverpool being European Capital of Culture in 2008.

One aim of the organizational team of Pilsen 2015 is the encouragement of being aware that we as citizens have the possibility as well as the responsibility to create the reality, the city and therefore the culture surrounding us. "KultUrquell" was a step in that direction.

Besides the public discussions a one-day festival of contemporary Czech art enhanced the city landscape in public spaces. Again, the approach was low-threshold: street art enables direct contact between audience and artwork, at the same time the often provocative artistic statements ask for immediate preoccupation with the them.

A particular highlight was the temporary, barrier-free coffee shop "Popojedem" in the centre of the main square. It was not only barrier-free in the sense of being accessible to people in wheelchairs, but invited Pilseners and visitors to stay and rest for a while through its highly visible presence. The coffee shop created a general, open and public meeting point in the very city centre.

During the evening Pilseners celebrated with young art from Pilsen as well as Brno. A special treat was the performance of Bohdan Bláhovec, one of Czech Republic's best slam poets. Through manic almost maniac games of associations he created a lyric intoxication which could be released dancing during the concert of the duo "dva" from Brno. KultURquell was like culture in Pilsen- refreshing, bubbly, and also sizzling.


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