In our line of work one often hears the one about “location, location, location” – the three golden rules of investment. But I say “synergy, synergy, synergy” – the three golden rules of anything, including fun. The Nordics dig that, and more often than not apply it in public and private endeavours. They have the patience to hear out everyone and the creativity to harmonise as many interests as possible. That’s the only way for everyone to prosper. Oh, and the interests are dealt with in a transparent way. So it looks less like dividing the loot and more like strategic planning.
So what does that have to do with our visit to the Višnjan Carnival?
Well, we were invited by surprise, and at the last minute, by our friends who co-initiated the Višnjan Intiative, a long-term project that aims to improve the space and life of Višnjan. We really liked the Initiative because in its core there is the wish that the process of transformation take place together with the people living there, stem from them and serve them. One who comes from without has the role of a catalyst of this “chemical reaction”, but the reaction must be carried out by the inhabitants. Otherwise we could have five hundred architectural workshops and come up with eight hundred brilliant concepts, but we would be missing – what? Synergy.
We wouldn’t have people who are affected by the whole thing recognising the entire project as their own project in their own interest. But how shall I know what’s your interest, and you mine? By having a frank conversation about it. That’s the key. As in any relationship. Be it marriage, parents and kids, with colleagues, the boss, the neighbour, the municipal council, the state bureaucracy. The worst option is when everyone has their expectations (about how the other should behave) without every saying anything about it. How many times have people been angry, disappointed, fighting with and accusing each other or talking behind each other’s backs just because they never talked about what they wanted, because it was supposed to be self-evident?
Nothing is self-evident. Korado Korlević said, in his short but excellent lecture at the opening of the Initiative, that a healthy community must function like a super-organism. Communication is the key here. Honest communication. Without messing around, without intellectualising, without shame. That’s why we were intrigued by the invitation to come up with and lead the first workshop, during the Carnival procession and the burning of the effigy. Because on those occasions people shift out of their ordinary roles. They are playful, creative, gathered in the same place and, what’s most important, no one really buttons their lip. And since the first workshop can’t avoid being about getting to know people, we decided it should be done in an open and playful way.
The extra-nice people in the Carnival procession allowed us to join the Zombi-truck and to be in the procession of old cars and trucks that were transformed as thoroughly as the people in the procession, bringing crazyness, laughter, song and dance into the villages around Višnjan. On one hand, we were thrilled by: the readiness to express and perform, the teamwork, the creativity evident in the costumes, themes (each group, i.e. each vehicle had its own theme), the 'trash' image, the satirical and dirty writings. On the other hand, we were struck by the vehement need for a blow-out valve that kept 150 people going for 10 hours in the cold and drizzle. That energy, even when it isn't kindled by alcohol, can make wonders in the everyday life of the community!
Our mask was "a journalist and photographer from hell' and, in line with the black style, we just asked people what they thought the worst part of Višnjan was. You need to start somewhere and we thought it best to start with what's bothering people. Whenever someone wanted to know why were interested in that, we said we were exploring the idea of tourism from hell with the motto "the worse, the better". We were kidding, but there might be some truth in it. Tourism often sells the scenographies of space and life, Potemkin's villages along with the villagers. We, however, believe that the most sustainable and interesting tourism is that which includes living as the locals do. In that case, one doesn't, for example, make fountains if there are still houses without running water.
The second part of our workshop took place on tuesday, the party day when the effigy is burnt in Višnjan. We built a crazy black mailbox and, with great help from the organising crew, enticed people to write their hidden wishes (for themselves and/or for Višnjan) on pieces of paper and to put them in the mailbox. We didn't want to do surveys and we didn't want "smart" answers to "smart" questions. We wanted to play and to get spontaneous reactions. We wanted the conscious and the subconscious. We wanted to get the message across that there were no wrong answers (fear from giving the wrong answer is a horrible thing deeply engrained in our people by the educational system) and that the inhabitants' opinion was genuinely asked for (again something that doesn't happen in the school or at work or in politics).
We just wanted to start getting to know each other, spending time together and talking sincerely. There is something now on top of which one can continue building synergy and maybe even make concrete improvements in the quality of life in Višnjan. As for the answers to our questions and the wishes we collected - more about that next time.