Recently, I had beautiful moment in Poland that really struck me. It was also the first time I’d really started to appreciate the Capital of Culture.
Each year, two different European cities are selected as “capitals of culture,” and they celebrate by holding different cultural events, highlighting literature, art, music and other performances. I was seriously underwhelmed by the cold opening ceremony. Then, the website’s calendar was in Polish, making navigation tricky.
But in April, Wroclaw had a month-long partnership with Lwiw, showcasing different Ukrainian artists. So I saw an excellent poet and his band, Yuri Andrukhovych, and an amazing Crimean punk band Shatur Gudur. Good stuff, and it felt like the city was finally figuring out how to have unique, relevant performances that showed off the city’s creative side.
Then by accident, I stumbled across part of the Goethe-Institute’s Pop Up Pavillon in Nowy Targ. On my way to a friend’s going away party, I happened across this lovely, ethereal puppet show by German group Dundu.
At first, there was one lone puppet, a larger than life human figure controlled by a team of puppeteers. Soon, though, he was joined by a second puppet, who proceeded to slowly get to know each other.
I was reminded of the Polish science fiction novel Solaris by Stanislaw Lem. The main character is on a space station on an alien world, trying to make contact with a (possibly) sentient ocean. Meanwhile, he is grappling with a projection of his dead wife, and while he knows the projection isn’t really his wife, he is drawn to her nonetheless.
The ending, of course, is tragic and poignant. While the similarities between Dundu’s puppet show and the novel were unintentional, the search for someone else— whether in a foreign country, exploring in space or in your hometown— were striking. Some themes are universal.
I’ll close with two lines from Lem’s novel, of someone asking a seemingly basic question:
“But what am I going to see?
I don’t know. In a certain sense, it depends on you.”