Art illuminates difficult stories with different energy

In the last two months, study visits have taken place involving fifteen young artists who, through the European project Musicville, connect Slovenia, Croatia, and Austria. Here in Slovenia, they explored the Museum of Madness at Cmurek Castle in Trate, one of the five oldest preserved castles in the country. For decades, the castle housed the Institute for the Mentally and Neurologically Ill Hrastovec – Trate.

Engaging with a space that carries a painful yet rich history since 2013, they have been involved in destigmatization and deinstitutionalization while also caring for natural heritage and connecting the local community, which is the essence of the Musicville project. “The goal is the transformation of the classical European musical form ‘Opera’ into a new, innovative, and creative collaboration inspired by environmental awareness, nature, local crafts, and tradition. The heart of the project lies in sustainable and interdisciplinary artistic practices, aiming to activate and connect different communities and audiences,” said one of the mentors and project leader Vasko Atanasovski, a renowned composer and musician from Maribor, who finds inspiration and challenge in the project. “I have always been interested in exploring and creating something new and transcendent,” he added.

“It seems wonderful and truly incredible to me that in such a historically rich space as an institution for the mentally ill, art sheds light on difficult stories with a different energy. Not with the intention of avoiding these stories and the weight of the space, but quite the opposite – to support it with a new, positive image, perspectives that open up new possibilities, stories that coexist with this object here and now and place it in context,” said project participant and dramaturge Staša Prah.

Exploring Mura river with surroundings
The organizers of Cmurek Castle, who have been volunteering to care for the castle for over a decade, gladly welcomed the opportunity to collaborate as one of the locations for one of the three study visits. “Having an international group of artists stay with us for a few days means that they will delve seriously into the topic. We can address issues that are not yet well-explored and develop ideas together. We are grateful that they found us on this border of a truly rural environment; it means a lot to us,” commented director Sonja Bezjak, who spent three days with the artists, providing them with a detailed tour of both the castle and its surroundings, including the Mura River, which has strongly influenced the area.

Result of the gathering next year
One of the significant goals of Musicville is to contribute to the development of tourism and the revitalization of economic and social life in rural areas. Accordingly, all three locations were carefully chosen. In addition to Slovenia, the artists explored the nature of Petrova Gora with the famous military monument “Spomenik vstaji Korduna in Banije” in Croatia, and in Austria, they delved into the cultural crossroads of southeastern Styria, between the Mura, Drava, and Danube rivers. The result of their collaboration will be evident next year when they present the final events at each location, thus connecting two years of work into a comprehensive whole.

Photos by Gabrijela Mamić, Katja Štingl