On July 6 it was announced that “Dzyga” art-space and cafe in Lviv had become a part of !FEST restaurant holding. This was a surprise for lots of people who are somehow connected to the cultural life of Lviv. After all, this place was a starting point to a huge number of events and ideas for the last 25 years. There were a lot of sad and emotional posts on Facebook from people saying goodbye to their “bohemian youth”. Opinion had a chance to speak to a manager and co-founder of this legendary place and asked him whether it is really as bad as everyone thinks. We also talked about Jazzbez festival and cultural life of Lviv in general.
Hello, Marek! My first question will be about your own thoughts on this news. You know, of course, there were emotional posts on Facebook. I’ve seen quite a lot people coming to you and sharing their emotions.
For me, nothing really happened. Everything will be kept as it was. “Dzyga” is a private business of 6 people, although I’m very glad that other people think it’s part of their business too. Let’s not forget that “Dzyga” is an enterprise that has to gain investments and attract new partners. We’ve decided that having a similar structure as a partner was an easier way for us than going to a bank, asking for a loan. You either get a huge loan that you could not be able to pay for or looking for an understanding partner and compromise. You can try different ways of acting – but you will be still the at same space with ideas that were put in its base 25 years ago.
Was there any other attempt to buy “Dzyga” before?
It’s not really correct to say “Dzyga was bought”. I personally gave a part of my property to a new partner for his investment obligations. The most important artifacts for people will be still kept: gallery curator, wish notes, atmosphere, mood, our goals, etc.
“Dzyga” has become an important mental point on an alternative map of Lviv within all those years. Do you think it’s possible for it to keep it while merging with such a commercial holding as !FEST?
We’ve been doing this for 25 years already. Staying strong against municipal politicians and society that didn’t understand and didn’t accept exhibitions and concerts here. So why don’t we find a connection and understanding with those who think and are into these kinds of things? It’s definitely not an easy process, but from the other side, “Dzyga” desperately needed an upgrade to finally come into the 21st century. To be honest, I think that we are more likely to stay in the 20th with all those emotional and nostalgic posts.
So, this is a step forward for you, isn’t it?
It is. It wasn’t that easy to find a partner. I’ve seen a lot of solidarity around “Dzyga”, but we knew that we need to get healthier since 2014. Financially as well. We’ve been into this process for 4 years by now, and not many people came and helped us. And the rent price was going up. Our new partners have covered our debts, so now we can move forward and think about the future.
Is there any change in a concert schedule within the month?
We have not changed or rearranged any of the events. Talking about Jazzbez – the hardest thing there is to find a sponsor for all those 15 cities of the festival. The programme for Performance Days in Lviv will soon be announced and take place on September 1-9. We also are in the active phase of preparing to Biennale of Trust where we are co-responsible for the art part.
Talking about Lviv in general, is there any other place with a cultural concept in its strategy? Most of bars and spaces in the city center are made for making fast money, satisfying an average tourist’s tastes.
There are lots of them! The REMA factory, Jam factory, Centre of Urban History and !FEST republic itself (art-space on a former Halychsklo factory). The question is whether you want to keep the balance between commercial and conceptual sides. Projects like these are rarely profitable. That’s why you have to be ready to deal with art-market or a show-business, even though it often kills the initial idea.
I also think about “Line of escape” project. It’s an institution of 3 people that provides events for its underground community for over 3 years now. They’re mostly rock concerts. They still don’t have their own place. And I think it could be a right way for them – firstly you give an idea of alternative event and then you get a place for its realization.
There was a line about the interior changing in the !FEST announcement of partnership. Have you seen any of the visuals yet?
No, it’s a long process. It still needs to be made up.
Will you make all this up together?
Yes. So far we’ve decided that there is no need to put any change into the gallery, besides maybe, adding professional lighting equipment. I don’t think that the second floor needs any change besides technical issues. We are not talking about drastic changes, things will be bettering – everything will be as democratic as it was but more qualitative.
So there’s a chance now to speak about old ideas, that were thought of but couldn’t be realized due to lack of money? Do you still think of those ones?
We have a lot of things to develop. One of our best projects is Lviv School of Jazz and Modern Music. It seems to be self-sufficient but still needs money for bettering. But even under conditions like that we can see its positive influence – there are a lot of new bands and musicians who are interested in modern musical trends. I’m sure we will find a common language with !FEST because they are providing their own educational projects. It’s not even about the importance of financial issues as of the professional management and marketing team. I usually do it myself and it’s clear that it’s better to delegate this part of work to the professionals.
I also think of Fortmissia festival in this context. Unfortunately, there is still no other festivals like that in Ukraine. I think of it as of Woodstock in 60s – festival without much of advertising and excessive organizing. It was taking place at Ukrainian-Polish border. There still are leavings of war forts from the times of World War I. Festival included land-art, conceptual and media art, modern music in all its forms. We made it until 2014. It was impossible to make it after because of its “close-to-the-border” nature. Its main idea was to recreate free co-living of guests, musicians and artists of the festival. The topic was – “Art on the ruins of War”.
Talking about festivals – is there any news about Jazzbez? Is it true that Odesa is a new festival city?
Yes. First of all, we are very glad that such a space as Urban Music Hall had opened in Odesa. It’s now amongst the co-founders of the festival. Odesa is a nice 15th city for Jazzbez. I’m happy that Ukraine now is mentally “circled” around one idea. I’ve heard the hall itself is of high quality – and it’s important for our network – the fact that we are all different. Small halls of Sumy, Drogobych and Stryi and high-tec hall in Odessa are nice examples for a long perspective. Secondly, it’s important to me that I found a new team member who has got a good music taste and has lots of his own useful contacts. Before, people were only getting into jazz through organizing these events.
We are inviting Logan Richardson this year – he’s a saxophonist from the USA, in his band Igor Osipov, a Ukrainian musician from Donetsk, performs. We also want to invite an “understandable” free-jazz band from Norway.
On a meeting of festival partners, we’ve decided to spread Arthur’s (Arthur Geuchmann – CEO @ Urban Music Hall) idea of popularization of classical music into our “network format”. We’ll try to make a concert of classical music in each city every month from now on.
The main thing – there’s a society request for such events in the small cities. Last year we’ve invited a free-jazz band to Drogobych twice in one month! And had full-seatings both times! It’s a beautiful example of perceiving of quite complex music through the trust to the festival’s brand.
Text by Sasha Naselenko
Photo by Sasha Naselenko