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Culture Beat

Gallery Nowa Scena UAP, 28 Marcinkowskiego Ave.
Gallery Duża Scena UAP, 24 Wodna Str.
Opening: 19.04.2024, 18:00

Mirjana Blagojev, Natalia Brzezińska, Reyes González Vida, Karolina Jacewicz, José Manuel Jiménez Muñoz, Tomasz Kalitko, Magdalena Kasprzak, Petr Kovář, Marcin Lorenc, Federico Lagomarsino, Joanna Marcinkowska, Fernando Miranda, Paweł Napierała, Ondrej Navratil, Františka Orságová, Jesús Osorio, Francesco Pedrini, Barbara Pilch, Marek Przybył, Lidija Srebotnjak Prisic, Olga C. Rodriguez Pomares, Agustín Sánchez, Dariusz Subocz, Fryderyk Szulgit, Diuna Ostrowski, Gonzalo Vicci, Filip Wierzbicki-Nowak
Curator: Joanna Marcinkowska

Rhythm of culture

“The movements of the stars, the position of planets in relation to the fixed stars, the regular course of the celestial bodies, and order, harmony, is not all this a reflection of the prehistoric cosmic dance?”[1] – wrote Lucian of Samosata in the 2nd century AD. The rhythm that is present in dance and music, poetry and architecture, painting and sculpture, moreover, in all manifestations of human and any life, is older – it was not conceived by man, it is prehuman, precultural, and was present on Earth before life appeared. It comes from the outside, from the cosmos, and that is why it is omnipresent and perpetual. It surrounds us from all sides, but it also hides within. It relates to galaxies, stars and planets, as well as to the heart, lungs and intestines. Before we are born, we sense it with our bodies in the vibrations of amniotic fluid. Is it possible to live without rhythm?

Before humans developed culture, thousands of generations broke stones, tracked game, and kindled fires. Afterward, they danced and sang around a bonfire, learned to cluster sounds into words, words into phrases, phrases into hymns and stories. They learned to carve and paint, and finally, to cultivate the land. It was the rhythmic work on the land, cutting the subsequent furrow slices, that inspired Cicero to conceive the metaphor of cultivating the mind/soul. This is how the concept of culture emerged. Culture, however, is older than Greeks or Romans. It predates towns and the first writing systems – its origins are lost in the darkness of night, illuminated by flames around which nomads used to gather. Whether wandering through steppes, deserts, jungles, mountains, glaciers, or swamps, they meticulously observed the world around and above them, understanding star constellations, the sun’s inclination, and all phases of the moon. They crafted tales of origins, enchantments, and anthems. As they pursued and domesticated herds, and constructed settlements and towns, they aligned their lives, work, and rest with the rhythms of vegetation. They developed a calendar filled with special days. Stanisław Vincenz, reflecting on folk culture, noted: “In its nature, it is a rhythm. It is based mainly on the great rhythms of nature, on the changes of seasons, sun and moon, celebrations and feasts related to them.”[2] He further observed: “The rhythm of existence encompasses day and night, vigilance and dream, life and death, while feasts and celebration mark their turning points and hinges of return. Otherwise, how could one handle the numerous difficulties, so much cruelty, that nearly every age and each human life entails?”[3]. Thus, a clear continuum emerges: cosmic rhythms determine day and night, lunar months, and weeks, which together shape vegetation rhythms. These, in turn, regulate the rhythm of fieldwork and the rhythm of rituals that accompany each person through all significant moments of their lives and organize the functioning of entire societies. A closer examination reveals that, despite tremendous cultural changes, social life is still sanctioned by this order. The rituals may be cruel and incomprehensible, monotonous and overly formal, but they also fascinate with their richness of expressive forms: filled with gestures, choreographies, colors and sounds, and words that carry weight or levity. It was from rituals that art was born. While based on universal patterns, they are incredibly diverse. Where does this diversity stem from?

“Nature poses a challenge, and man responds to it” – wrote Fernand Braudel. This illustrates how different cultures develop, occasionally merge, and further evolve into civilizations. These civilizations boast their great centers with familiar, cozy places, tremendous buildings, and arteries with neighboring small houses with gardens, alleys, and corners. Culture stems from a specific scrap of land: it absorbs the illumination and color intensity, horizon lines, forms, scents, and tastes of plants, voices of animals, sounds of rivers, and seas. From these bounties and challenges of places where a group of people settled, culture forges unique forms of life: language, beliefs, rituals, dances and songs, craftsmanship and knowledge. The latter often being bitter – a history of struggles for survival. Culture possesses both dark and bright sides; it preserves the memory of past atrocities and moments of uplifted spirits. But above all, it carries on the forms of life developed through small, everyday history, that unfolds at home, where, surrounded by our closest relatives, each of us grew and learned how to live. That is why many myths and ritual stagings create counter-narratives against death.

Each culture, while safeguarding its universal, human core, is distinct, creating original forms that are historically and geographically unique. Such traditions, once without alternative, have today become a heritage to be either passed on or forsaken. Subject to critique or inspiration, they are occasionally redefined, embodying both aspects simultaneously. Certain mental patterns reside within us, beyond our awareness and intention, while we embrace others with passion or reject them with shame, only to often return to them after many years. Within each place and tradition lies a piece worth preserving and a part to be offered to both future generations and strangers. Even now, or perhaps especially now, in the era of global shrinking, migration, and accelerating digital revolution, it is worth reflecting on the unique, dying heritage, vanishing traditions, and the preserved or fading family and social memory.

Art occupies the space that spans between the continuation and rejection of the past. It draws from tradition or attacks and negates it, exposing its dark sides. However, it often embraces ancient, occasionally extinct forms and content, offering them new life, by placing them in a new context, and preserving whatever is worth preserving. These two standpoints are inevitable, and the dialog between them forms the backbone of contemporary culture. Artists focus on their local surroundings or seek inspiration from others, by blending forms, they transcend boundaries or discover universal features in the local environment. It is the rhythm, specifically, that often proves to be universal, manifesting across all forms of art with diverse intensity. An Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore referred to the artist as a “rhythm whisperer” – a metaphor that will resonate not only with poets, but also with those involved in music, dance, artistic craftsmanship, architecture, theater, film, performance, and any other hybrid forms of modern art.

“A song is like a bird, it flies beyond borders, blockades, wires, battlefronts, and consequently, beyond prejudice, reluctance, even hatred. The path of a song is similar to a bird’s route. Which is why it is difficult to track down, but it is equally difficult to explain why they nest here and not there,”[4] wrote Vincenz. In traditional cultures, other motifs and artistic forms also wandered from one place to another. Once tamed, they assumed unique, local appearances: melodies, characters from myths and fairy tales, ornaments, dance steps, ritual gestures, and architectural forms. Thanks to this similarity, we can communicate, understand each other better, enrich our lives, sometimes warn and assist one another. The “rhythm whisperer” may thus become a “mediator of multiculturalism”[5].

dr hab. Jakub Żmidziński, prof. UAP

Doctor habilitated in humanities in the field of literary studies. The area of his scientific interests includes cultural anthropology and cultural studies, especially myth and ritual, as well as the issue of common areas and mutual influences of various fields of creativity: music, dance, visual arts, literature, film. Author of three books, dozens of scientific and popular science articles, reports and interviews. The magazines he collaborated with include Poznań’s “Czas Kultury”, “Góry – Literatura – Kultura”, “Nowy Napis Co Tydzień”, “Zeszyty Artystyczne”. He published three volumes of poetry.

[1] Lukian z Samosate [Lucian of Samosata], Dialog o tańcu, transl. J.W. Reiss, Warszawa 1951, p. 15

[2] S. Vincenz, Mała Itaka, in: Idem, Po stronie dialogu, volume I, Warszawa 1983, p. 166-167.

[3] Ibidem, p. 176.

[4] S. Vincenz, Kilka słów o pieśni, in: Idem, Po stronie dialogu, volume II, Warszawa 1983, p. 230-231.

[5] It is the term used by W. Burszta in reference to the tasks of a contemporary anthropologist.

  • Author: o.petrenko
  • Published on: 03.04.2024, 10:22
  • Last edit: 03.04.2024, 10:42