No more lukewarm climate, indifference and shallowness! It is time for intensity! The Conrad Festival enters another dimension. The 8th edition of the Conrad Festival is different than the previous ones – we decided not to pick a main theme, and in exchange we are putting emphasis on the attitude of organisers, artists and readers alike.
The attitude of intensity.
By intensity we mean primarily the unwavering commitment to the common cause of culture, which cannot stand up for itself and which constantly requires new allies. From the very beginning, we understood culture as a space for consequent construction of meanings that are never ultimate and always require someone to advocate for them, explain them and read them anew, even though they may seem set in stone and said in a very strong voice. The intensity of building a world, where we can feel free, because everyone can express their feelings and hear an opposing voice, is the benchmark for the vitality of culture. We definitely stand for the increasing vitality of the world culture.
However, intensity is also a word in which art connects with our everyday lives. We perceive them as a sphere which is permanently marked by art with its unique discoveries, its openness towards someone and something different, with its hopes, utopias and rejection of herd life and rationing. The writers are individuals, that is obvious, but the readers are also individuals, and without them literature would not exist – and we are tirelessly organising this festival for them. It is easy to make a list of writers who visited Krakow to date, who were as intense during the meetings, as they are in their works: Winterson, Lanzman, Mabanckou, Manguel, Oz, Ugreśić and dozens, hundreds or maybe even thousands of others. It is far more difficult to list the names of our readers, who come in droves to sit and listen to our artists, ask them questions and think in an intense atmosphere. Both parties of this dialogue are important to us. However, the main reason for organising this festival is to complement the everyday lives of our readers with the intensity of a literary experience. Without the intensity of the act of creation – intellectual, sensual and social – art simply does not exist. However, art also dies due to the lack of intense testimonies, when the readership not only disappears (as is the case in Poland) but becomes lukewarm, bland, devoid of emotions. When the hearts stop racing, and the literature does not require action.
That is why our festival focuses on intense discussion and engagement. We keep asking and criticising, listening and answering. We are trying to teach our readers to think critically, be ready to abandon stereotypes and willing to find new words. This year we decided to go without a single main theme, because intensity is not a theme – it is an attitude. An attitude of the people who do not agree to indifference towards literature, as indifference towards literature too easily translates into indifference towards life itself – life of all individuals, and life of all the communities we are a part of.
Michał Paweł Markowski
Artistic Director – Conrad Festival