On Urban Utopias

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On one of those buses there were comfortable sofas and a piano with a pianist playing Bizet or Vivaldi. On another such bus – trees, grass, a four-handed witch, and Little Red Riding Hood, while on the third bus, people were welcomed by a magician, a musician, and a philosopher. This is about the three fantastic buses that rode through Bucharest for five days, August 27-31. Arboribuz (the forest bus), High Life Buz (the aristocratic bus), and Bizarbuz (the weird bus) emerged as a project put forth by a French unconventional theater group, the Ilotopie, in cooperation with the Romanian Cultural Institute. Last year, Ilotopie participated in the street theater festival called Water-Air-Fire with an allegory on the Youth Park lake. This year, they chose to create surreal, fantastic spaces, which Bucharesters interacted with, willy-nilly. The High Life Buz, some kind of an Orient Express, or a riding theater in the variant of the Bucharest RATB public transportation system, had a group of artists wearing elegant clothes, who welcomed the travelers as they got on the bus. Once in, they were able to admire the period furniture, to rest in the comfortable, colorful sofas, and to listen to the chords of a piano up to the stops where they got off, while they savored a cup of tea or a glass of champagne in an exquisitely classy ambience. On the Bizarbuz, one could swear one had entered into the world of Mircea Eliade's short story: only the Gypsy women in his famous At the Gypsy Women's were missing, because, as far as the rest was concerned, the philosopher, the magician, and the musician were busy making one "dizzy" enough to get confused as to where one had to get off the bus. As for the set – a collection of weird stuff – it was not by far as strange as that of Arboribuz, with its greenery, trees, moss, the four-handed woman, and even Little Red Riding Hood, with perhaps, only the rabbit of Alice in Wonderland missing. Somewhere on the threshold between the real and the imaginary, the forest on Arboribuz was constructed in the tiniest details, from the carpet of dry leaves, to trees as holding rails, rocks, and tree stumps instead of chairs. The saw left in the middle of the "forest" probably belonged to the forest guard, because Little Red Riding Hood only seemed interested in her journey among white, yellow, and blue flowers and in the little house made of ginger bread and meringues, which, although looking very delicious on the outside, revealed a really sinister setting inside: skeletons of fish, hands made of plastic, and doll heads. At least equally bizarre and rather eerie was the four-handed witch dressed in a ragged, grey dress, who "sniffed" her neighbors during the journey, sprinkled them "by mistake" with a sprinkler, and sometimes paid attention to the trills of the birds that could be heard from the green speakers of the bus, but only when she was not distracted by the painter wearing a straw hat, who drew stags on the "forest" walls. The Wolf, a rather meek creature, only ate carrots with salt, and he did not seem as interested in Little Red Riding Hood as he was in the other young ladies on the bus. These fantastic buses rode through Bucharest until the last day of this summer. The organizers promise to come back to this city next year, with new street shows. The Ilotopie group was established in the 1980s in Camargue, and it is specialized in "artistic disorder" actions, meant to valorize the urban space as much as possible. Currently, this French group is one of the major street theater assemblies. It brings a complete variety of artists – actors, sculptors, painters, set designers, musicians, and dancers – around the Citron Jaune center in the south of France. Ziarul financiar (Financial Newspaper), September 5, 2008http://www.zf.ro Translated by Monica Voiculescu

by Anca Negoiţă