Site Specific Cultural Events and the City

Fanni Nánay

PLACCC Festival (Budapest) has been launched in 2008 with the aim of introducing a practically unknown area of artistic practice – art in public space and site-specific art – in Hungary. We felt the urge of initiating an artistic festival reflecting on the city in a cultural context where the classical street theatre and the old gendre public visual art (especially sculpture) has had a relatively strong tradition – but these gendres have been lacking of any deeper relation with or reflection on the urban environment.

What intrigues us is the different ways how art can relate to the city or certain districts, streets, buildings of the city and how city can inspire art: what we seach for are the phenomena of the mutual inspiration between city and art.

The relationship of city and art has not just artistic aspects, but also consequences which reach beyond the territory of art:
- the act of stepping out from the traditional places of art (theatres, galeries, concert halls) often goes together with a stronger social sensibility and responsibility: site-specific projects tend to reflect on particular social problems, „staging” or „presenting” the projects at the very locations where the given problems are acute,
- site-specific and public art projects presented at PLACCC Festival focus on special problematics related to our urban life, our living in big cities, our using the urban spaces,
- the projects of the festival reach not just the „art consumers”, but also the passers-by, people who might never go to theatre or museum.

We consider that cultural acupuncture can be characterized by bringing energy into little known and lesser frequented, often dysfuntional, perhaps ambivalent or even unsafe neighborhoods and public spaces through cultural activities, which embed in people’s everyday life and the urban texture.

Art projects of PLACCC Festival leave traces on the city or the chosen places – in two senses: physically (some of the creations remain on location for a longer time, like the paintings on the legs of the Nyugati overpass) and mentally alike.

Therefore one of the most important aim of the projects of the festival is to make small changes on people’s mental map of Budapest or a certain area, which may lead to bigger changes in their mentality, in their approach to their own (urban) environment.

These hoped changes of mentality may consist of the following „steps”:
- to change the perceptions of and the attitudes towards a certain place of the city (if people see their environment „filtered” through an artistic project, they may start seeing it more „livable”),
- to offer functions for the dysfuncional urban spaces (artistic projects can initiate and provoke interactions – other that just through traffic – in urban spaces),
- to counter the negative stereotypes, create curiosity instead,
- to stimulate conversation about and active approach towards the place (the artists’ active approach to the public space may provoke that people living there also relate less passively to their own environment).
Finally it is important to mention that – even thougt the artists invited to PLACCC Festival often work together with local communities and intend to creat projects rooted and embedded in these communities – the aim of the festival is to work on the indiviuals’ mentality, which may lead to deeper changes in the community’s mentality. On the other hand we don’t have real collaborations with city councils, decision makers, city planners – which is not a choice, rather the lack of choice from our side.

Fanni Nánay is a curator of PLACCC Festival.

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