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Gathering in Moldova - spiritual recharging and creative amusement with Art Labyrinth

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In the city centre of the greenest European capital, Chisinau the creative association of Art Labyrinth with its cozy atmosphere and specially designed rooms offers spiritual recharging for those who want to leave behind the monotonity and dullness of the weekdays.

Seen from the outside the old mu­seum’s build­ing seems to be aban­doned. Only the col­or­ful posters of up­com­ing con­certs and movie screen­ings pined on the front door are implying that some­thing is going on in­side. En­ter­ing at the creak­ing door we found our­selves a shady cor­ri­dor cov­ered by bizarre con­tem­po­rary art works which takes us to the pleas­ant gar­den of the for­mer mu­seum. In the tea-gar­den small groups of young peo­ple are chill­ing out at the ex­tem­po­ral glass ta­bles made from books and plex­i­glasses and en­joy­ing the first warm beams of the sun by a cup of tea. In front of the ta­bles on the stage a dance re­hearsal is going on, while in a far cor­ner drum play­ers are prac­tic­ing for their next per­for­mance.

Every­one needs a place in the city

How­ever Art Labyrinth was es­tab­lished as an NGO just after the first sum­mer fes­ti­val in 2008, however the mem­bers of the cre­ative as­so­ci­a­tion started to work to­gether years be­fore. At the be­gin­ning they wanted to find some cre­ative and artis­tic ac­tiv­i­ties with which they could break the mo­not­ony of every­day life. They started to make ce­ram­ics which was fol­lowed by sev­eral ex­per­i­men­ta­tions with new tech­niques and ma­te­ri­als. The final works were pre­sented in ex­hi­bi­tions or­ga­nized by the mem­bers of the group and their friends at their own charge. Music was the other im­por­tant im­pulse in­spiring them. After vis­it­ing sev­eral artis­tic music fes­ti­vals, play­ing music, es­pe­cially drum­s was also in­cluded in the list of their ac­tiv­i­ties. The idea of a sum­mer fes­ti­val – be­side nu­mer­ous other plans – came sud­denly, and they re­garded it mostly as a trial which was in­spired partly by the events of tem­po­rary in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ties such as Rain­bow Gath­er­ing. The fes­ti­val ended with un­ex­pected suc­cess. In­stead of the es­ti­mated fifty par­tic­i­pants the event was vis­ited by five hun­dred vis­i­tors, which en­cour­aged the or­ga­niz­ers to reg­is­ter the as­so­ci­a­tion as an NGO and to cre­ate per­ma­nent art stu­dios and a pub­lic cul­tural cen­tre. In 2011, after some tem­po­rary sta­tions, they moved into the build­ing of Muzeul Zem­stvei where they can use some of the rooms on fa­vor­able terms until the be­gin­ning of re­cov­ery.

The rai­son d’étre of Art Labyrinth was and is con­firmed by the con­stant pres­ence of vis­i­tors. The cul­tural venue pro­vides a unique haven for all those who feel, lit­er­ally or fig­u­ra­tively, that they can’t find their place in the city. The in­di­vid­ual de­sign of the rooms cre­ates a peace­ful, cozy at­mos­phere which makes Art Labyrinth a per­fect meet­ing-point for a cup of tea and de­lec­table dis­cus­sions. At the same time sev­eral work­shops such as drum and dance lessons, lan­guage lessons, fire camp and dif­fer­ent per­for­mances of local and in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians, the­atre com­pa­nies and reg­u­lar movie screen­ings pro­vide the vis­i­tors op­por­tu­ni­ties for spir­i­tual recharg­ing and for im­prov­ing their tal­ents. Alexan­der, a char­ter mem­ber of the as­so­ci­a­tion, finds the latter one of the most im­por­tant po­ten­tial of Art Labyrinth. ‘You should try to be bet­ter to­mor­row than you were today in the ac­tiv­i­ties you are in­volved’ de­fines one prin­ci­ple of his life phi­los­o­phy which he also tries to keep in mind when they de­cide about the next steps of the as­so­ci­a­tion. Un­usu­al­ness, ex­per­i­menter at­ti­tude and open-mind­ed­ness are those char­ac­ter­is­tics which seem to be com­mon in the vis­i­tors of Art Labyrinth. These at­trib­utes are the key el­e­ment of self-de­vel­op­ment, how­ever they can make in­te­gra­tion more dif­fi­cult in some cases. Hence can be this place a sig­nif­i­cant sta­tion for many peo­ple where they can find what they were look­ing for: a com­mu­nity, a peace­ful shel­ter or even their per­sonal free­dom.

Ex­pe­ri­ence of free­dom

The most im­por­tant event of Art Labyrinth, the three-days-long sum­mer fes­ti­val, which will be sit­u­ated in the North of Moldova, near Edinet this year, opens the door to the ex­pe­ri­ence of free­dom. The an­nual sum­mer fes­ti­val of al­ter­na­tive art, cul­ture and eco-life refers even in its name to the main com­po­nents of the event: cre­ativ­ity, eco-sus­tain­abil­ity and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion that is not just to see, but to be part of the ac­tions. The fes­ti­val fo­cuses on gain­ing new ex­per­i­ences with open mind and clear head in con­trast to those events where hal­lu­cino­genic and light drugs are usu­ally in­cluded. No al­co­hol, no drugs and non-ag­gres­sive­ness are the basic rules which every par­tic­i­pants has to keep in order to pre­serve the at­mos­phere of the event undis­turbed and pleas­ant.

In ad­di­tion to the sim­ple rules of par­tic­i­pa­tion the con­sciously cho­sen place of the event plays a key role in en­sur­ing a smooth ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the fes­ti­val. Every year the event moves to a new place which should be close to a river and far from any built-up area. Be­side the fes­ti­val’s am­bi­tion of leav­ing be­hind any forms and achieve­ments of the civ­i­liza­tion, the ab­sence of built-up areas be­came im­por­tant from a prac­ti­cal as­pect, namely the lack of ter­ri­to­r­ial bor­ders, cor­dons or en­tries, in the last few years. Al­though ac­ces­si­bil­ity and open­ness can make it eas­ier for new en­quirer to join to the campers, it can also at­tract un­de­sired guests. Sit­u­at­ing the fes­ti­val in a dis­tant, rel­a­tively hardly ap­proach­able place guar­an­tee that only mo­ti­vated par­tic­i­pants will come up on the spot.

The or­ga­niz­ers start land­scap­ing and build­ing up the fes­ti­val two weeks be­fore the open­ing. They use only those ma­te­ri­als and nat­ural fa­cil­i­ties which can be found in the field to set up the sites and set out the com­monly used areas. This eco-friendly method sim­pli­fies the clean­ing of the area after the end of the fes­ti­val and the as­so­ci­a­tion can also save money on the trans­port of the equip­ments. Non-com­mer­cial­ism is es­sen­tial dur­ing the event. Par­tic­i­pants can not buy or sell any­thing for money, but in fact it doesn’t mean any dif­fi­culty as every­thing what they need can be found in the na­ture. Al­ways chang­ing lo­ca­tion of the fes­ti­val serves as an in­ex­haustible source of cre­ativ­ity. The new land­scape in­spires not only the de­sign and set­ting of the sites, but also puts those artists to the test who work on the land-art site of the fes­ti­val mak­ing site spe­cific in­ter­ven­tions or cre­at­ing ephemeral art­works from nat­ural ma­te­ri­als. How­ever, not just the artists can test their abil­i­ties, sev­eral chal­leng­ing work­shops and sem­i­nars such as ac­ro­batic yoga, fire school, drum lessons or hand­crafts work­shops can be at­tended by vis­i­tors. In ad­di­tion to ac­tive recre­ation’s ac­tiv­i­ties, per­for­mances by local and in­ter­na­tional groups as well as the­atre com­pa­nies and movie screen­ings will take place dur­ing the three days. Par­tic­i­pa­tion as a main com­po­nent of the fes­ti­val not only means at­ten­dance of the events, but can also mean vol­un­teer­ing in the or­ga­ni­za­tion and re­al­iza­tion of the fes­ti­val. Vol­un­teers can join to the team any time, even dur­ing the fes­ti­val, as a help­ing hand is al­ways wel­comed for ex­am­ple in the kitchen or at the child care.

End­less row of ideas

How­ever, the mem­bers of the as­so­ci­a­tion are oc­cu­pied by dead-work, they still go on col­lect­ing new ideas for the up­com­ing and fu­ture fes­ti­vals. They con­sider es­sen­tial in the fu­ture to make it clearer that ex­pe­ri­ence plays the lead­ing part in the fes­ti­val. There­fore they want to lay stress on work­shops and sem­i­nars as well as on new games and ac­tiv­i­ties which would be able to in­volve and mo­ti­vate par­tic­i­pants in a bet­ter way. They also want to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of eco-sus­tain­abil­ity not just dur­ing the fes­ti­val, but also in every­day life, and for this they find rel­e­vant to or­ga­nize more sem­i­nars and dis­cus­sions and maybe even to cre­ate a group, which can start a small pro­ject in the cap­i­tal city. Art Labyrinth never lacked new ideas, but in order to re­al­ize them, Alexan­der thinks that the as­so­ci­a­tion as well as their work­ing meth­ods should be more or­ga­nized. This could also open the door to new co­op­er­a­tion with other artis­tic or­ga­ni­za­tions on the local scene and abroad as well as in­creasing their chances on open calls. The lat­ter would be par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for Art Labyrinth since at this mo­ment do­na­tions and fees of the events mean the only fi­nan­cial re­source. They still have to figure out the hows and the whys of it, however, I be­live that with their end­less en­ergy and im­pe­tus they will surely find a way.