Have you ever wondered what a UfO could bring with it if it ever landed on this planet? Once a year in Szamotuły, Poland a UfO Festival brings living statues. If you think about it, Living Statue Art is just like something from a different planet. Humans but not humans. Statues but not real statues. Moving but not moving. They are different from humans, but just as extraordinary as anything that would be found inside a UFO.
Why the UfO Festival?
So, how did the UfO festival start? My journey to help bring this festival to Poland began nowhere else but on the street. For years I travelled around Europe, performing with my living statues in Germany, France, Great Britain and Poland. At the same time I had an opportunity to develop my thoughts about street art and the meaning of living statues.
In 2012 for the first time I was invited to the Word Living Statue Championship in Arnhem in the Netherlands. I was astonished! It was so amazing! I loved the sense of community it had. The fact that children, adults, professionals and amateurs created a wonderful performance in the same place. There were over 200 statues at Arnhem that year and each of them were telling their own captivating individual story. A crowd of people, children, parents and grandparents, were slowly drifting around like a river searching its path to the sea as they moved from statue to statue. It was powerful. I was performing with my Silver Lady at that time, I was proudly looking forward like a silver sculpture which will never move again…
After this experience I began to imagine bringing a living statue festival to Poland, where I was based back then. The reason was not only the awesome character of this festival but also that I strongly believe in value of living statue art and I am passionate about sharing it.
Bringing the festival to Poland
Meanwhile Piotr Michalak, the director of Szamotuły Culture Institution, was searching for an original and pioneering concept of street theatre festival for the little charming town of Szamotuły. I went to work there running my Lutrek Theatre Workshops for children. Walking through Szamotuły I spontaneously said to Piotr that this would be a wonderful backdrop for living statues to perform against. For him this seemed like a good risk to take. Yes, at first it was a risk. How would the public respond to a new concept of festival, dedicated solely to living statues? Thankfully the public fell in love with it. So much so that after three years it is growing bigger and bigger.
Now I live in UK and continue working for the UfO Festival. I enjoy that this international cooperation – bringing together artists from over the world – opens a new dialog and perception towards the street art in Poland. You would probably not guess that just one day of this festival involves around half a year of correspondence, planning, resolving problems, discussion and so much more. After all this hard work, the reward is seeing the thousands of smiling faces experiencing the magical vibrancy of the city during the festival. It makes us ponder how meaningful street art in such a minimalist form as human statues can be?
Highlights of UfO
This year at UfO we concentrated on colours and connections between different theatre acts such as huge puppetry – elephant and living statues. We wanted to combine them on the street together and create one visual story. We also invited the World’s most pierced woman, Elaine Davidson, to show that the living statue is not a narrow concept and can mean much more than typical perceptions. She loves and breathes her persona every minute of every day and never takes her piercings off. She was a perfect addition to the festival and aroused much curiosity. A little evidence of a UfO landing this year in Szamotuły you can see it in this video:
The 2015 edition of the UfO festival was very different from last year’s, which was concentrated on simple trades, simple human beauty and genre scenes. Last year you would be more likely to meet a living statue portraying a man with Fish & Chips (performed by amazing British performer Andy Train) or statues of women doing laundry (performed by beeldje.nl) than this year’s Goblins and Warsaw Mermaid statues.
More than aliens
Thinking back to my original question – Does a UFO bring aliens? – I would say that this and any other living statue festival brings much more than aliens. It brings people together, stimulates the imagination and invites you into another world. Nowadays, living statue festivals are found all over the world in places such as Bangkok, Bucharest, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portuguese, Poland, Ukraine, to name a few.