a storytelling with images, movies, sounds
written by and with Monika Bulaj
Wandering tribes jeopardised by the folly of mankind; peoples’ bond with the earth, water, trees and mountains; identity and expulsion, belonging and exclusion; oases of meetings, free havens of faith and spirituality besieged by gun-slinging fanatics; the lost homelands of fugitives, places where all gods speak the same lingua franca. In a word, Sacred Crossings goes in search for beauty and the inviolable sacredness of mankind in the most miserable places on the planet, following the sun, the moon and the seasons, walking in the footsteps of pilgrims, fugitives, nomads and their gods, like seagulls following a fishing boat in the desert.
Sacred Crossings is also a journey to the outer limits of monotheisms. Prayers, dreams, water, fire. Death and memory. Scarves and dance. Passion and incarnation. The path of song. Through a map that ignores the barriers built by the preachers of global conflict – from the heart of Asia to Latin America, from the Maghreb to the Middle East, from the source of the Nile to the Solovetsky Islands. It is driven by a belief in connections and crossing across cultures.
My work has changed over the years. I initially began by documenting religions, during wars and their aftermaths. But, at a certain point, my images began to look for me. Today I do something very simple, almost infantile: I collect the shards of a broken mirror, billions of shards, incoherent fragments, pieces, atoms, the brickbats of the Tower of Babel. Perhaps it’s the prerogative of the photographer to collect the tiles of a mosaic that will never be complete, and to order them in a way that seems correct, imagining, though never fully realising, a complete image of the world that may exist somewhere. Or that once existed and then was lost, like the language of Adam.
“Sacred Crossroads is a truly unique undertaking. Somewhere on the borderline. At the crossroads, where in one direction there would be the theatre, in the other a performative storytelling or conference, in the third a photographic exhibition, in the fourth a concert, in the fifth an encounter with History and stories.
Bułaj’s photographic works are emotional micro-narratives. As beautiful as the works of the Dutch masters of the “Golden Age”. At the same time sensual and ethereal. Trying to capture the subtlest things, that it is man in contact with the sacred. At the same time, Bułaj does not comment so much on the photographs in progress, as she takes us into a journey through religions and exotic countries, through these “non-obvious places” and “places-bridges”, monasteries, villages and tribes. Her observations can be funny, sentimental, witty, original, and beautiful, as well as touching, intriguing, profound, and meaningful. All this hypnotizes and intoxicates. She puts you in a trance. In her photos Bulaj is most of the time close, surprisingly close to people, as if she were an emissary of that other dimension that looks at them, towards which their requests and hopes are directed. It is a real challenge, which she undertakes again and again despite the many dangers, damaged equipment, exotic diseases lurking everywhere, waiting for many hours, many days, in real spy games. Why does she do it? Because “photography is a privilege” – as she explained in the post-show conversation, which turned out to be no less fascinating than the show itself. Bulaj is an example of a fully responsible artist with a very personal sense of mission. She is an artist devoid of cheap pathos and the desire to shock, but she entrusts a huge role to ethical sensitivity and respect for established boundaries. When she says about her characters: “I would give my soul to understand what they are laughing at”, we feel a completely disarming and admirable charge of delicacy and sincerity, which is rarely found today.”
“Wędrówki i rozdroża” (Wayfaring and crossroads), Henryk Mazurkiewicz, Wrocław, Poland