All images by Ctibor Bachratý

eu.genus

Honey and Dust, SLOVAKIA

Libretto, direction: Andrej Kalinka
Dramaturgy, director´s assistant: Milan Kozánek
Sculptures, paintings, installations: Juraj Poliak, Andrej Kalinka
Music: T. L. de Victoria, J. Arcadelt, P. I. Čajkovskij, J. Dowland, A. Kalinka, Georgian folk songs
Performers, co-creators: Zebastián Mente Maligna, Lívia Balážová, Daniel Raček, Ján Morávek, Juraj Poliak, Andrej Kalinka

 

What I Saw

 

In art collective Honey and Dust’s eu.genus, process and creation are the performance, which is fitting for a piece about family, genetics and history that explores the process of becoming human. Founded by director and musician Andrej Kalinka, Honey and Dust creates pieces that blend theatre, fine art, dance, and music, and which take on numerous forms, from a play, to a concert, to an exhibition, or in the case of eu.genus, all three. Kalinka brings together an ensemble of performance and fine artists to create them, and often enlists these artists to work outside of their disciplines – dancers may sing, and musicians may dance. Of all of the work I attended at Nitra Divadelna, eu.genus certainly embodied freedom as form the most. 

This sense of freedom that the unique experience offered its audience attracted Slovak program curator Júlia Rázusová. She was also drawn to the international scope of the project, which included artists from outside of Slovakia, who brought their own histories and personal connections to the piece. “We can not name it as just a performance,” she said to me. “It’s not a performance which has a start and end. The international artists create a performance which is very personal, with all of the performers doing everything. Everything is mixed and it’s a really great experience for the audience, but also for creators I think.” 

The audience entered the Great Hall of the Andrej Bajar Theatre, but rather than taking our seats in the house we joined the company on the stage, which had been transformed into a live atelier as the artists built, sculpted, and played. We were even invited to enter the playing space and explore the art before the performance began. 

English speakers were given translations of Kalinka’s libretto,  a two-sided sheet consisting of texts and stories. Kalinka began reading from it without any affect, as if we were attending a conversation, rather than a performance. In fact, Kalinka’s tone and style reminded me of a director’s opening remarks on the first day of rehearsal, which felt fitting, due to the rawness and casualness of the space and proceedings.   

Kalinka set up our environment and its reasoning by connecting it to the major themes of the piece.“I recall, as a child I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. My grandfather used to always make and invent something in his workshop, and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I always loved workshops and ateliers. I feel as if there were meeting seemingly opposing principles, material with intangible, art with craft, thoughts with physical performance. When I was working on this libretto, apart from other things, I came across Fernando Pessoa, a Portuguese writer who wrote - ‘We all know we will die. We all feel we will not die.” I think the studio carries a similar paradox. Something, what I call a paradox of a good lineage.” Beginnings, creation, process, and completion. Outside the pop up atelier we were also surrounded by the Andrej Bagar’s ladders, scaffolding, and other assorted backstage paraphernalia, reminding us of the hidden tools and materials needed to produce a performance, much like the genetics and lineage that hides within us. 

The production continued with a story from dancer Zebastian Mente Maligna about his grandmother’s death, which was translated from Spanish into Slovakian by fellow dancer Livia Balazova. Then a dance, and an auction of a rock, while Kalinka sang a Gregorian lullaby. A story about Mary Leakey’s discovery of hominids leads to a dance about the beginning of life. Audience members were compelled to switch seats with each other, perhaps to illustrate nature vs nurture and how our given circumstances shape us as opposed to our genetic inheritance. 

In this collage of performance we decided how to watch, what to listen to, or focus on, giving us a audience members the freedom to experience and interpret how we wished. While there was no linear narrative, there was a structure and a series of cumulative events in place. It is a story told in bodies, relationships, and art. 

The culmination of the piece was a transfixing story told by company member and sculptor Juraj Poliak who had been on stage all the while, silently working with limited participation in the various events. Poliak described his discovery of where his calling as an artist came from – a long lost uncle in America named Karol Smehyl. Poliak painted a version based on verbal description only of one of his uncle’s works, Three Bathing Women. We were shown both paintings, ancestor and descendant, and then invited onto the stage, which had evolved into an exhibition, “Searching for the face of Karol Smehyl.” As we roamed the workshop and viewed Poliak’s art, Kalinka and the dancers/singers/actors/musicians practiced a new song that they would be adding to the show.

 

 

 

About the Artist

Andrej Kalinka (1978)
began his career in 1993 as an underground and jazz musician. Studied classical music at the Žilina Conservatory, specializing in conducting and composition. In 1996, he began collaborating with various theatre and music collectives, first as a composer, later as a librettist and finally as a director. Together with Juraj Poliak, Ivan Martinka and Michal Mikuláš, they form the artists group Med a prach (Honey and Dust), combining fine art, theatre and music in productions that move on the boundary of performance, theatre, concert and installation. He has collaborated with numerous theatre and dance collectives in Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Several works by Med a prach have earned awards: Epos (Bratislava Audience Prize at New Drama 2012, shortlisted for Dosky 2011 for Best Music), Bartimaeus Passion (Hašterica Prize at the Žilina Puppeteering Festival 2013 for creative achievement in puppet theatre), Really or A Boy Who Drew (Best Original Puppet Performance at the Harmony World Puppet Carnival in Thailand), Home Eros Faith (shortlisted for Dosky 2014 for Best Music, staged at Divadelná Nitra 2015).

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