“You Poles are so, so…, erm, cultured! Yes, that’s the word, cultured!”
My English musician friend used to tell me that whenever we used to meet in a pub years ago to talk all things Polish (for his benefit) and all thing British (for mine).
What he meant was probably this: most Poles are not afraid of so-called high culture, they see it as an important part of their lives. And I suppose that’s still the case nowadays when Polish TV schedules overflow with numerous variants of Britain’s Got Talent and Dancing on Ice. Being an intellectual (not always synonymous with ‘cultured’, mind) is, unlike in Britain, not a sign of snobbery. It’s a sign of much-admired sophistication. Of being ‘cultured’.
Now those of you who are more interested in poetry, art, literature, non-commercial music etc. from Poland have a great source of the latest cultural news.
Biweekly is a great, recently launched website in English (with a Polish version too) and I like how they justify their existence:
We came upon such a sentence: ‘culture is not an obligation, one can do very well without it’ (Kot Jeleński). And we do not dare to state otherwise.
Yet, there are those, who, for some reason, do not want to live without it. Maybe they do remember Witold Gombrowicz and, just like him, they desire culture without all this juvenility and senile atrophy, butterflies and rainbows, dust and exaltation, patriotic and pseudo-intellectual demands.
The site has great content, very well written and well translated. Its eclectic collection of contributors makes it quite addictive.
Highly recommended. If you like feeling cultured, that is.
Remember my Chopin post from a few weeks ago? Looks like London is getting ready for some Chopin celebrations too this year – just saw this in this week’s Time Out.
So glad there are more and more Polish events in London every year.
However, if you don’t want to splash out on Time Out, try the Polish Cultural Institute. They’ve created a guide to all the Chopin-related events taking place in the UK this year – you can download a free copy here.
Matt Bianco fans have a reason to be cheerful this autumn. Basia, whose voice is familiar to anyone who in the early 1980s danced to Whose Side Are You On?, is back with a new album. (Oh, ok, the album was released a few months ago, but I only just listened to it for the first time a couple of weeks ago).
Basia was born in the south of Poland and before leaving the country in the late 70s, she sang with a couple of Polish groups. But her career really took off when she joined Danny White in London to form the band which was to become Matt Bianco.
I have to confess, I used to be a huge fan, but I haven’t listened to her music for 15 years. I recently came across her greatest hits album (Spotify link) and was amazed by how many good songs she had both as a solo artist and, earlier, with Matt Bianco.
Her latest CD It’s That Girl Again (Spotify link) surprised me a bit though. I was expecting more of the same – some good, jazzy Latino pop, and yes – the onitial songs don’t disappoint at all. They’re quite catchy. But later on it all sounds a bit different. I think I’ll need time to get used to her slightly more ‘straight pop’ sound. Maybe I’ve moved on, maybe she has. But it doesn’t sound as exciting and fresh to me. Which doesn’t mean it’s a bad album, nor does it negate her earlier achievements.
Anyway, I hope it’ll grow on me. Meanwhile, here’s some good old Basia:
The cultural autumn in London will have a distinctly Polish flavour. And you don’t even need to look far.
A new Polish movie called ‘Tricks’ is on general release now and it’s getting good reviews.
Dulwich Picture Gallery is having an exhibition called The Polish Connection. This from their website:
In 1790 the last King of Poland commissioned two art dealers, who later became the Founders of Dulwich Picture Gallery, to buy a collection of paintings as Poland’s national collection. His idea to start a Polish national collection is now the inspiration for a major new work by Antoni Malinowski, the distinguished London-based Polish artist, linking Dulwich Picture Gallery and Warsaw’s Royal Castle.
There are also some videos on the Gallery’s website introducing the exhibition and explaining more about the Polish king.
And at the end of September as part of POLSKA! YEAR Polish artist Robert Kusmirowski will transform The Curve at the Barbican into a replica of a World War II era bunker.
What’s interesting about this project is the fact that for two weeks at the beginning of the exhibition – from 30th September – you will be able to view Kusmirowski working alongside three assistants on the final touches of this installation. If you can’t make it to London, you can still follow the progress via a webcam on The Barbican website. The entire exhibition will open to the public on 16 October.
The project sounds intriguing as Kusmirowski will “draw on the Barbican’s concrete architecture and its location on a site devastated by bombing during World War II”. So what to expect?
Derelict industrial machinery, discarded paraphernalia and the fragments of signage in the space suggest German and Soviet influence, alluding to their political and military presence in wartime Poland.
If that sounds a bit too heavy, you can always escape to the cinema as Barbican will dedicate its October Directorspective to the multi-award winning Polish filmmaker Wojciech Has. His films will be accompanied by a new installation by contemporary artists The Brothers Quay, commissioned by the Polish Cultural Institute and inspired by the films of Has.
If I had my pick, I’d go to see all of them. Particularly curious about the new film, ‘Tricks’ (have you seen it? as good as the reviews?) and really want to watch again Has’s “The Hour-Glass Sanatorium”. And so should you.
Images courtesy of Barbican Centre. Mouse over images for full credits
Good news if you live in the UK and want to experience more Polish culture locally. For the next year cities all over Britain will participate in an initiative called Polska! Year. According to the organisers’ website,
The purpose of the Year is to bring communities of Poland and Great Britain closer by strengthening cultural relations, establishing new contacts between Polish and British artistic institutions, artists and organisers of cultural events.
Polska! Year is a joint initiative of the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the cultural programme of the Year is coordinated by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, which is responsible for the promotion of Polish culture abroad.
From Perth and Edinburgh to Bradford, Cardiff and London, Polska! Year will offer an opportunity to experience the finer aspects of the Polish culture – from the classical performances of Karol Szymanowski’s music to Tomasz Stańko’s jazz concert in Norwich. From the Wild Poland open-air photography exhibition on the South Bank in London to Kinoteka, the Polish film festival. From contemporary dance performances to the Symbolism in Poland and Britain exhibition at Tate Modern.
It actually sounds really exciting and I’m really hoping this will give people some exposure to the lesser-known aspects of Polish culture.
Hopefully I’ll be able to give you an update as soon as more events are announced, for now all current events are available from their website (in English, of course).
A couple of weeks ago I gave my old Polish friend Joanna a task – find me some Polish music, but surprise me. (After all she’s still in Poland and knows what’s cool.) No shitty meowing, no boring old fart recycling the same stuff over and over again.
Oszibarack, a band from Wroclaw came to being in 2004 formed by four musicians: dj Parisia (renowned frontmen of the band Husky), Agim – producer and composer, drummer Zmazik and bassisi Tomek. Their career started by lending the song “SKIRTS UP!” for a tv commercial advertising cell phones. Soon the song came out as a single.
And here’s the song:
But I really like this one: