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The Slovenian Experience: Jazz Festival Ljubljana 2017

Henning Bolte By

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For this year's photo exposition Zaradi jazza / Because of Jazz excellent (and famous) Ljubljana photographer Žiga Koritnik curated a selection of the rich collection of (classical) black and white photographs of Oliver Belopeta, shot through the years at various places. Oliver Belopeta is the director of the jazz festival in Skopje (Republic of Macedonia) and was the director of Ljubljana Jazz Festival for a while too. He has a privileged personal access to many musicians. His photographs show a fascinating combination of recognition of the familiar and mind boggling, surprising deeper views. Another exhibition 'Complicate Simple' at NLB bank's gallery was dedicated to the festival posters.

During the festival days two documentaries were shown, one about saxophonist John Coltrane, and Jim Jarmusch's documentary Gimme Danger on Iggy Pop and the Stooges (this shows the scope of the Ljubljana Festival). There was also a screening of the experimental film 'Dissecting the Paraconcept' with live accompaniment of pianist Bram de Looze from Belgium (a.o. LabTrio), cellist Lester St. Louis and Slovenian drummer Dré Hočevar. Bram de Looze and Lester St. Louis participated—together with a.o. Chris Pitsiokos—in the two Clean Feed albums of Dré Hočevar Collective Effervescence and Coding of Evidentiality.

Installations/Live drawing/workshops/discussion

The festival offered a couple of multimedia installations and performances with titles like 'Just below the sonic level of sense making' (Dré Hočevar), 'Disenfranchised Language of Muted Rage' (collaboration with Ljubljana Music Academy), 'Subphenomenon of Utterance' (Pia Podgornik) and there were two workshops, one for children and one Vocal Workshop led by singer Emilia Mårtensson from Sweden/UK. Young musicians held a round-table to discuss the issue of 'Contemporaneity of Improvisation and New Media.'

A special experience was the enlivening of Dré Hočevar's installation 'Just below the sonic level of sense making' at the Grand Reception Hall of Cankarjev Dom. It resembled a bit the courtly promenading and conversing scenes from the glorious aristocratic past through its mixture of casualness and stylization. That kind of tableau emerged, directed by an invisible hand, and gradually seized all passers-by in the huge reception hall. It balanced on the edge of feeling staged and just enjoying the pleasure of walking around and making (small) talk with other passers-by. It became a lively and stimulating exposure to the continuation of the live drawing adventure of visual artist Lena Czerniawska from Wroclaw, Poland, presently residing and working in Berlin. The drawings from last year and this year were exposed in the large receptions hall.

She was invited by the Ljubljana Jazz Festival last year and again this year to accompany the concerts with real time drawing in response to her experience of the music. Lena Czerniawska developed this in the music scene of her hometown Wroclaw, especially at a longer series Melting Pot meetings of young European improvisers at Jazztopad Festival organized by Poland's New Forum of Music on the initiative of artistic director Piotr Turkiewicz.

During this year's edition of the Ljubljana Festival the exposition space, artwork, visitors and musicians formed an ever moving, confluent ensemble together with the sound installation 'Just below the sonic level of sense making' by Slovenian musician Dré Hočevar and various other performance activities. The drawing is an accompanying activity, a different medium performed in real time synchronous with the live concert music. It reflects the visual artist's perception and experience of the music going on. It is a recoding in lines, dots, textures, colors, shapes etc., a visual live-remix of the original musical performance. The drawings are a spontaneous response to the music that could also motivate/stimulate people from the audience to exchange and share their perceptions/experiences besides or as part of the communal hangs. These aspects and the practice of live drawing, especially that of Lena Czerniawska, will be dealt with in a later article.


Without a doubt the Ljubljana Festival offered a rich collection of interrelated and interrelating activities and cutting-edge diversity of music as well as diversity of impressions and stimulating experiences aimed at an active audience in an enjoyable social meeting place. It is a fertile ground for the European Jazz Conference that tales place at Ljubjana's Cankarjev Dom these days (September 21-24).


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