The whole purpose of these projects is that you are discovering something, everywhere and all the time. Therefore, nothing must be surprising because nothing must be expected. Anyway, perhaps nothing will even happen, except that you get up early, make your way through to the department store entrance and then return home feeling cheated.
These are words through which the program "diary" of the 10th Music Biennale Zagreb, on the example of MBZ RETROSPECTIVE '61-'79 held at the Zagreb department store NAMA, supports the festival's concept and justifies its niggardly approach in describing the events of the festival. Issued exactly 40 years ago, this program diary marked a special edition of the MBZ, related to the program called Urbofest (Zagreb, May 12-18, 1979).
However, why this particular quote in the story of the 30th Biennial of Music, to be held in early April 2019? Well, this year's MBZ, along with a program section dedicated to John Cage's performance at the MBZ in 1985, is linked, in its anniversary spirit, mostly to the format, ideas and viewpoints of Urbofest, choosing the city and music as its theme. The seemingly simple title quotation thus reveals at least three Urbofest's postulates, not only as a series of events but also as a way of thinking about art and culture, which is, without a doubt, applicable to the concept of the 30th MBZ.
1. Nothing must be surprising because nothing must be expected, either.
The controversy over high and low, or elite and mass or popular culture at the time of socialism flourished in order to crystallize the concept of "art democratization". One of the socialist mottos of Urbofest, which also marked the spirit of this program, said: "to develop culture as an integrated part of human life, as 'creative activity', not as an exclusive event." (Gulin Zrnic) And event exclusivity is precisely the condition which today still includes the criterion of expectation – the expectations of the audience that the performance will match a predefined model that can (paradoxically: as expected) deviate or the expectation of the audience to adjust their own foreknowledge – one could say, their "horizon of expectations" – to be able to consume the provided content. But both the 10th and 30th MBZ, as well as the ones in-between, through their simple vocabulary and attractive methods, find a way to democratize art and by absolving both itself and the audience form the obligation to expect, no less. The events of the 10th as well as the 30th MBZ are no longer exclusive in the pejorative sense; they are integrated into the city and the community and anyone, no matter how wide their horizon, can attend and interpret them – or simply indulge.
2. The purpose is that you yourself are discovering something everywhere. And perhaps nothing will happen.
And that's fine. MBZ 2019, as well as the one of 1979, brings artists from all over the world while simultaneously nurturing home artistic achievements (for this occasion, as many as 15 new pieces by Croatian composers have been commissioned). Although a large number of their works for this MBZ sought to integrate itself into the community and speak more closely to each recipient, the artists were encouraged to "come out as autonomous actants-subjects", as in the case of Urbofest writes in Croatia's expert on performance, Suzana Marjanić. But their work's value is not pre-established; this year's MBZ opens space for both well-renowned composers and young artists who are still discovering their specific writing, as well as pre-, elementary and high schoolers. The sharp line between composers/performers and audiences has been deleted so that the audience's presence or active participation contributes to the construction of a piece, an installation, or a performance. In this respect, the 30th MBZ, in addition to its main program, organizes programs aimed at wider audiences of different ages: for example, the creation of the MBZ picture book with the accompanying workshop by Lucija Stanojević; body percussion workshop by Josip Konfica; conversations with artists and the like. At the same time, MBZ organizes programs that give students and young artists the opportunity to perfect themselves and explore in ways that their typical studies may not allow: these are the international composition masterclass, the Architecture + Sound symposium and the opportunity for free creation and student expression – KNAPPING. The table of options is, therefore, set; everyone is free to engage in a program that interests them and possibly attain some new discovery. And perhaps nothing will happen!
3. You will get up early, make your way through to the department store entrance and then return home.
In the spirit of Urbofest 1979, when, re-quoting Suzana Marjanić, it "sought to overcome the barriers of receptive exclusiveness of neo-avant-garde and post-avant-garde elitism (of that same festival)" in such a way that a part of the Bienniale program was held in the open, the 30th MBZ is also attempting to breach the boundaries by dispersing some of its events to the streets of the city of Zagreb.
The topic of this year's MBZ is titled Music.Sound – City.Space and, in accordance with its name, contemplates the mentioned pair with regard to numerous parameters: architecture and urbanism, acoustics, symbolic and philosophical interpretations and socio-political themes such as exile, persecution, life on the streets and anti-utopian structures. However, the 30th MBZ does not shy away for the "closed" spaces where all kinds of recent artistic currents are being developed (Lauba, KCM, Booksa, ZPC, Greta, etc.), announcing this year's festival concept as a major inter-medial and an inter-disciplinary event.
From making their way to the Greta Gallery in the morning to "pick up" their sonic bicycle and ride it through the city streets, a trip at noon to the Museum of Contemporary Art to put on Mendizabal's "ear shells" which resonate at special frequencies, up until a return to the museum (of CA) in the evening, which they will be able to walk as a transformed culture shopping mall or to the ZKM in order to indulge the electro-acoustic ballet collage Hero Is Tired – the Biennale's "hero" will be able to plan their own route, and the program book will make them to walk multiple walks around the city and then probably return home tired. The hero may be tired. And cheated, as well? That is yet to be seen.
Finally, even though the 30th MBZ relies on the ideas of the 40 years older Urbofest, it enriches the reflection on the city, music and related issues with contemporary views, concepts and ways of composing and performing. The program committee, along with the aforementioned accompanying and pre-Biennale programs, has provided for as many as 30 programs during Bienniale Week (April 6th – 13th, 2019). They will combine the languages of literature, visual art, theater and music. The city will, therefore, be speaking the language of art within a variety of concepts – from spatial compositions, to the sound transformation of a specific city center into a contemporary composer's letter to provide a unique interpretation or to extract a sharp critical blade, up to the sound construction of a possible or an impossible, imaginary surrogate city.
For some musicians, this Biennale will be a farewell to their career (composer Vinko Globokar), some will perform the magic of various artistic disciplines (like Heinrich Goebbels), and some will also uncover their affinity for literary creation (Eivind Buene) along with their composing skills. But let us take a page out of the 10th MBZ's program diary the and not set any expectations: it is up to you to continue exploring and allow the Biennale stream carry you without any expectation.