Košice to anchor its cultural ship in Marseille

The port city of Marseille is this year’s European cultural twin town of Košice. Our French partner, is one of the oldest cities in France with its 2600-year long existence. It was established by Greek sailors and traders. The recent port is a place where we can find a number of cultures and communities, it is a city of diversity, openness, tradition and change, trade, design and fashion, and a city also known for its cuisine. From 14th May, Košice will present Slovak culture in the partner city through various events.


Connection of Two Cities

The Košice 2013, n. o., and Marseille Provence 2013 organisations developed the concept of mutual cooperation, based on overlapping thematic sets of projects of both cities, as well as on their similarities. Cooperation highlights the fact that the two Capitals of Culture are shaped by its deep multicultural character and its geographic position at the crossroads of different cultures. These are the cities near multiple borders, including those with the European Union and the Schengen area. While Marseille is a mediator of cultural exchange in the north-south direction, Košice is a communication bridge between West and East.

The concept stresses the immense wealth coming from the combination of these two axes within the cooperation between the two European Capitals of Culture. This framework also makes room for a fascinating demonstration of European identities, interactions between Western and Eastern Europe, and cultural exchanges within and outside the borders of the European Union and the Schengen area, where both cities are located.


New environment, new opportunities

“Cooperation with Marseille is very interesting for us because it’s a completely new environment and we see it as an opportunity to introduce contemporary Slovak art not only in Košice, but also in France, and vice versa. We are gaining new friends, new partners, new members of the large European group of ECOCs – European Capitals of Culture. It’s an opportunity to get to know Marseille from within, not only from a tourist point of view, but also through cultural infrastructure with the aspect that it is a question of long-term cooperation and not just that of a single festival. Contacts and personal ties are very important for the development and persistence of links and bonds in the next five to ten years. We look at it with expectations,” said Vladimír Beskid, artistic director of Košice 2013, about the Marseille presentation.

He also said that we find a common platform and a common language in the fact that we are actually border cities of the European Union. They are symbolically seen as the gateway to the Mediterranean, we are the gateway to the East. For both cities, it is important to build bridges across the Schengen border. The second level that we have actually built ourselves is the Second Cities. Marseille and Košice are the second largest cities in their respective countries and we are in fact already working in the fields of theatre or photography. The third joint level is our shared interest in public spaces, something we do prefer. We want to disseminate culture in public areas, come out with it and reach wider audiences.”

The cities of Košice and Marseille are interested in creating a more diversified environment in culture. They want to engage all minority and religious communities in cultural life. For example, in both cities it is the Roma community. The festival in Marseille is for us like a springboard to the future, according to the ECOC’s artistic director. There are currently many common cultural activities underway, and many others are yet to come. We can look forward to a very diverse program.


We are preparing a rich cultural menu for the French

Both cities share the same features – they lie on the border, have numerous public spaces, and support civic participation. Slovak culture is presented in France this year through a number of events. A major event is the Slovak week at the Toursky Theatre, commencing on 14th May, with the participation of distinguished guests. It will also include an exhibition “Urban Interventions”. It is a testimony of the fact that even small interventions can become large. Architects, artists and citizens offered particular proposals and solutions to beautify the city of Košice, many of which will improve the quality of urban life. On the opening day, Jozef Hromjak, Sous-Chef of the Olive Tree Double Tree by Hilton Košice restaurant, will present Slovak cuisine. He is last year’s winner of the national competition of culinary and pastry arts Danubius Gastro Cup 2012.

The highlights of the Slovak offer to impress the partner city include a jazz concert by PaCoRa Trio & Bashavel. The band of experienced instrumentalists is a world-class Slovak jazz gem. Their work is based on the crossover of jazz and folklore music, coloured by elements of classical music.

DSC_3026 bashavel III svetl

History and Drama

Another cultural contribution to the programme is the Slovak documentary film Paper Heads, which is one of the most notable films directed by Dušan Hanák. The significant director tells the history of our society in the years 1945-1989 in a mosaic of authentic archival materials, testimonies and stylized motion sequences. The document gives evidence on the relationship of the individual and the society, marked by a political regime.

The Štúdio tanca dance theatre from Banská Bystrica will perform their rendition of “Merriments of the Past”, inspired by the English Renaissance dance of the 17th century – Parson’s Farewell. It is about two worlds – the past in the form of reconstructing historical dance and a portrait of today, the relationship between a dancer and his breathing. The State Theatre Košice will perform their bizarre story “The Beauty Queen of Leenane”. It is full of violence, black humour and strange characters. Its author Martin McDonagh is considered by critics to be the first great dramatist of the 21st century. London theatres staged four of his plays at the same time, something that only Shakespeare managed to experience before McDonagh.


Cities through the lens

Marseille will be flooded by accompanying events such as literary evenings with writer Jana Beňová’s “Café Hyena”. Beňová won the European Union Prize for Literature in 2012. Editor in Chief Richard Kitta and Slovak poet Ján Gavura will introduce the Košice journal of contemporary literature and arts “ENTER”. Slovakia will be represented also by an exhibition of photographs – a project of the Košice PhotoART Centre by Pavol Mária Smejkal. He applied the Second Cities format on the partnership for the European Capitals of Culture – Marseille and Košice. Photographs reflect both cities through the eyes of photographers from the partner cities, Marseille through the eyes of Košice residents, and vice versa.

Similarly, Slovak illustrators of the Bratislava Biennial 1967-2011 event are planning their trip to Marseille. The “Le Pont” exhibition by the contemporary Slovak artist Roman Ondák, and the “Slovak folk art – tradition and modernity” event are coming to France as well.


Travelling City stops in Marseille for a week 

The two European Capitals of Culture 2013 – Košice and Marseille-Provence – are different in many aspects, but also have a lot in common. Both cultural hearts of Europe lie on the border of the Schengen Area, but on opposite sides. Non-profit organization Košice 2013 pays great attention to the visibility of Košice and the entire region of eastern Slovakia abroad. Through the TravellingCity concept, it is trying to draw attention to the local art scene and export it abroad. A series of promotional and cultural activities is on the brink of a long-term partnership. What does Ján Sudzina, director of the Košice 2013 non-profit organisation, have to say?


Košice will be introduced in Marseille through the Slovak Culture Week event to be held there in May. How do we want to attract the audience.

Košice has always been included on the cultural map of Europe. We are trying to raise the profile and strengthen the city’s position. The Slovak Culture Week in Marseille is one of the key projects of the TravellingCity series, through which we want to present Košice as a self-confident cultural city that definitely belongs to the European area. We want to spread Slovak art abroad and, of course, talk about our project to convince people that Košice is an interesting tourist destination, worthwhile visiting and getting to know.


Despite the geographical distance, and different priorities and projects, both cities are now closer to each other. What unites them?

We focused more on Marseille for obvious reasons. It is also the European Capital of Culture. We are the interface between two different cultural worlds. But we have a lot of joint projects and also one-sided activities. We prepared the Slovak Culture Week event in the second largest city in France in cooperation with the Slovak Cultural Institute in Paris, Theatre TOURSKÝ and the city of Marseille. With the Marseille-Provence team, we are preparing, in addition to the May presentation, a number of joint events. These will for example include an exhibition of photographs and videos – Odyssey by photographer Antoine d’Agata in both cities. His photos capture migrants from five countries during their journey to Europe.

Košice and Marseille have a lot in common: they both are gates to the Schengen area, and they also solve issues regarding the Roma community. The ECOC projects address this largest ethnic minority in Europe through culture.

We have addressed this issue in the longer term, in joint community projects through SPOTs. We inspire each other and search for solutions for this target group. Our people involved in the project drew a lot of inspiration from France. They try to apply French approaches in our conditions. We want to provide space for dialogue on tolerance and mutual coexistence and cohabitation of the city majority and ethnic minorities through the multi-genre Diversity festival.


Both partners operate in different conditions, including financial terms. Where do you see the biggest difference compared to Marseille?

The differences in opportunities are sometimes abysmal, regarding the conditions, financing schemes, investment activities and projects. We have chosen the path of maximum yield from minimum resources. The basic difference between Marseille and Košice is in the amount and also the structure of resources. The French have a larger load of money for a project. It must also be said that a greater part of the project budget are private sources. This makes it much easier to manage the money. We are financed by public funds from the grant scheme of the Ministry of Culture, which is administratively difficult. They have less restrictions and easier procedures of decision-making. However, the above does not mean that they are under less control or criticism. On the contrary, any project that brings tremendous change and costs a lot is under public scrutiny and never go unopposed and easily. For example, the SPOTs project has been received negatively from its beginning, and it still has not found the understanding it deserves. Yet, it is one of the main themes, one of the leitmotifs for this environment.


What will be the future of the European Capital of Culture project?

The platform for longer-term cooperation is defined through the ECOC (European Capitals of Culture) association, which consists of former, current and future European Capitals of Culture working together. Projects leave heritage, outputs and deliverables that can be utilised by those institutions, which have implemented everything, but also by other cultural operators. Cooperation in the future will be further developed also between individual actors. Some projects will continue, some may expire, or something new might be created. For us, the 2013 programme is not the most essential issue. Crucial is to set the system so that it works in the future from public as well as other sources, at different levels among cultural operators.

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