“THE ROAD as a Ritual” – an inspiration to artists from eight countries meeting in Gorna Lipnitsa village

In the sweltering heat of August, artists from eight countries are meeting in Gorna Lipnitsa village from the 4th to the 14th of August, to present their artistic concepts of “THE ROAD as a Ritual”. Their paths crossed in the small village near VelikoTurnovo where they are taking part in the 8thedition of the Old School Art Residence, taking place there.

“The written material we handed out to the artists beforehand included questions like: Where does the road begin? Is it a beeline or is it a roundabout, ritual journey, are we making stopovers or detours along the way, what is the speed we are moving at? In the end – at the closing exhibition, their work should provide the answer to the question of our journey’s end – what is the purpose of an artist’s journey, what is the purpose of the journey of any human being from birth till the very end,” explains Dimitar Palov, organizer of the Old School Art Residence.

Dimitar Palov (in the middle) together with the village mayor (left) open the art festival
No bell has sounded at the old village school for many years, but in 2010, it opened its doors to contemporary ritual art. Almost 80 participants from Bulgaria and abroad have worked at the studios and in the school yard through the years. The current, 8thedition of the Art Residence brings together artists who have reached different stages in their lives and professional careers.

The yard of the old school is the meeting point of artists
“The oldest participant is 78 - Rafi Műnz from Israel, and the youngest is 28. The principal artists come from different countries. As every year, local artists, whom we call ritual artists, work together with them. This year we again have a big children’s school, with more than 30 participants to date. They are all studying the idea of The Road, the projects are fascinating,” Dimitar Palov says and adds:

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“We have a photographer - Julie Glassberg from Paris, we have a visual artist - Adam Hines-Green from England. We have an installation artist - Jason Kofke from America. Susanne Berkenheger is also a journalist and works for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. We have guests from Sweden and Spain. We received more than 80 applications for participation in this year’s Residence, so we were on the lookout for projects that are connected with Gorna Lipnitsa in some way, with its history and way of life, projects that involve the local people. Susanne’s project is very interesting, for example – she found an old photograph at the school, showing a building somewhere in Gorna Lipnitsa. She then went around the village, talking to people using Google Translate and asking them: What is this thing? Where is it? She is saying this in German, Google Translate is translating it into Bulgarian, the locals are looking at the photograph on her phone, then they answer her in Bulgarian, which is translated back into German. Finally, Susanne reads what the translation is. The aim is to find the building in question, but also to use all the misunderstandings that arise out of this translation back and forth to build a story she will publish in the paper she works for.”

In the village of Gorna Lipnitsa participants in the Old School Art Residence are welcomed with crisp bread and honey
Every year the people from Gorna Lipnitsa are actively involved in the festival’s fringe programme. This year the women from the local amateur folklore group ritually welcomed the guests – with warm bread, honey and herbal salt. They will be demonstrating their skills on Saturday at the “bread festival”. There are two curators taking part in the Residence – Teodora Konstantinova and Radoslav Mehandjiiski – and they have prepared a series of lectures for the artists, but also for the local people, dedicated to contemporary art and the rituals and ritual practices that go with it. There will be a lecture for children as well. The event also includes concerts and other events – you can find out more at: oldschoolresidence.com.

Dimitar Palov says that the purpose of any artistic act is a change for the better. Such is the long-term ambition of the Old School Art Residence.

The amateur vocal group of the village fascinates guests with its songs and folk costumes
“Because I feel sure that all of the editions we have organized so far have had a deep effect on the local community and on the village. And this effect has meant development, improvement. People in Gorna Lipnitsa, and that includes the children, take part alongside the artists, they have a different, broader view of the world as they get to meet artists from all over the world, who, on their part present their own experience and view of life.”

English version: Milena Daynova
Photos: Elena Karkalanova
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