Get Adobe Flash player

Daily Archives: September 28, 2008

Unseen Teotihuacan treasures to travel to Paris

Rare artefacts from Teotihuacan, one of the ancient world's largest cities, went on show in northern Mexico at the weekend ahead of a first overseas exhibition in Paris next year.
"Many of these pieces have never been shown to the public, some have barely left research laboratories," said Felipe Solis Olguin, exhibition curator and director of the National Museum of Anthropology and History in the northern city of Monterrey, where the pieces are on show until January 2009.
"We want the public to realize the extraordinary past of the city of Teotihuacan, which survived more than 800 years."
Between 100,000 and 200,000 people lived in Teotihuacan, some 45 kilometers (30 miles) northeast of present-day Mexico City, at its peak around 600 AD.
Its skyline was dominated by two enormous pyramids which the Aztecs called the "Pyramid of the Sun" and the "Pyramid of the Moon," both linked by a broad avenue and still pratically intact.
Some of the 426 objects on show in Monterrey are recent discoveries. They confirm that human sacrifices took place and that the city had an army, said archaeologist Ruben Cabrera Castro.
"We used to think it was a very theocratic and peaceful city. Today we know that it practised large-scale sacrifices, and militarism existed," Castro said.
One piece of frieze in the exhibition, recently discovered in the center of the former city, represents a jaguar wearing feathers.
"It exalts Teotihuacan's power, represented by one of the most important feline gods," Castro said.
The exhibition "Teotihuacan, City of the Gods" is due to travel to the Quai Branly Museum in Paris, France, in October 2009.

Trafo arts centre, Budapest’s high temple of innovation, turns 10

by Eszter Balazs*

Trafo, one of the most progressive contemporary arts centres in eastern Europe, celebrates its 10th birthday this year, a remarkable feat given its meagre state funding in a tradition-minded capital.
While Budapest has a rich cultural heritage, most public monies go towards running the established theatres, opera and operetta in this city whose leafy, old-world charm earned it the nickname "Paris of Central Europe".
But Trafo's daring refusal to pander to mass tastes has worked, and the 300-seat house is regularly packed.
From the very beginning the idea was to stage productions outside the mainstream, said Gyorgy Szabo, the 48-year-old founder and director.
"We wanted to transform Hungarians' rather traditional cultural habits," he said. "We wanted to astonish and amaze people, to flabbergast them."
The cover of the brochure for this anniversary season sets the tone — a naked man crouching with 10 human palms spread along his backbone, like the spikes on a dragon's back.
"It's meant for people who appreciate beauty in its visual form," said Szabo, without irony.
The programme for September and October is in the same vein, featuring the British cult band Tiger Lillies, an indefinable trio whose own website calls themselves a "criminal castrati and his accordion driven anarchic Brechtian street opera".
Other acts include a piece by minimalist Dutch director Sanne van Rijn, known to use elderly dancers in shows that bridge drama, dance and mime, and the British troupe Random Dance who mix dance with new media and technology.

We work like dogs to show hermit-like artists

The Trafo House of Contemporary Arts started in a red-brick industrial electrical transformer building — "trafo" is an abbreviation of transformer in Hungarian — built in the early 1900s that lay empty and dilapidated for decades.
"I still remember the first time I saw the building in 1991. It was occupied by French anarchist squatters from Marseilles who had staged an installation with a bus hanging from the hook on the ceiling and wrecked cars scattered around the plot," said Szabo.
He is not coy about his role in turning the filthy structure in a former worker's district into an acclaimed institution, even if it attracts less political support.
"Trafo is a heroic undertaking," Szabo said. "We are working like dogs to show the work of hermit-like artists, who most of the time are isolated and not understood."
But the recipe has paid off, despite some of the lowest public funding.
In 2008, the centre was allocated 230 million forints (1.3 million dollars), against 1.7 billion forints for the 619-seat Hungarian National Theatre — twice the size but about seven times the subsidy.
Even the otherwise conservative culture and education ministry gives kudos to Trafo's bid to "make the public the more open to unexpected, unusual and thought-provoking art," on its website.
Szabo, meanwhile, insists the centre is not aimed at a niche audience.
"It's a sort of aesthetic highway of dance, theatre, music, film and circus where audiences from every different social class and strata can select the vehicle they want to travel in," he said.