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Stela Nadoleanu publicat la: 8/11/2012
Bucureşti René Kubášek is currently director of the Czech Centre in Bucharest

"Usually I am usual"

A cultural diplomat who often leaves aside the formal patterns. But he assumes the role of promoting Czech culture in any context. The Cultural Center that he is in charge of is one of the most active right now, but he still has time to continue his romance with Bucharest.

In the beginning, please point out some of the important moments in your diplomatic career.

For three years I was the Czech representative in the so-called “Visegrad Fund”, which supports (not only) cultural projects in Central Europe. Now I do Czech cultural diplomacy in Romania. But my background is in the NGO sector - partially in culture, and I was also involved in the human rights issues. So, not that I would be really building a diplomatic career, maybe I will go back to the NGO world after my term ends here. Life always brings surprises, anyway.


What is the first thing that you discovered about Bucharest once you got here?

Right after I arrived, I got into a serious love affair with Bucharest, and I am still deep in it. And I keep on discovering also other great places and people in Romania. But talking about Bucharest - there is really something very special going on in this city –, its dynamics is incredible, and most of the Czech guests and artists we invite here leave amazed. Somehow, it may resemble the atmosphere in Prague at the beginning of the 90s, times when Prague was a place to be and an experience not to be missed.


What is your vision about Czech Center’s role on the cultural market? How do you intend to „deliver” Czech culture to Romanians?

My task is to help create ties between people and institutions of our two countries, and to promote the Czech Republic as a young, dynamic, open-minded and culturally rich country. So, we mainly focus on fresh, innovative, sometimes even experimental programmes. But when planning the program we often look for an “added value” of the events – the moments when culture interacts with the civil society. So, when we organize a film festival, it is about human rights. If we do a design exhibition, the objects are from recycled materials. When doing a street art event, it has an environmental message, when screening documentaries, they would often deal with urbanism, cycling, activism, minorities, social issues. All these are agendas related to civil society development, which I consider crucial for both the Czech Republic and Romania. Furthermore, when “delivering” our programme, we try to be inventive in communication or design.


This autumn you started a campaign with a motto: Beware: culture is contagious!. What was the idea behind it?

Culture is often considered something that is just a luxury, a topping. So when you have to do budget cuts, culture would often come first, as the lowest of priorities. Plus, culture may even be considered dangerous! Why? Because it is a free dominion, people in culture think and act freely. It has the power to strike back in case things around go wrong. So, the motto “culture is contagious” can be interpreted as a warning, as well as an irony or a hopeful wish. Up to you.


In October you initiated „Soundczech” Festival, and you have organized several contemporary Czech music concerts in major cities in Romania. How was the festival received by the public? What were, in your opinion,  the festivals breakthroughs and highlights?

I was very happy about the line-up, because I really believe we managed to bring to Romania some of the best musicians one can find on the Czech contemporary music scene. And the public was just great, the concerts were full and we received a very positive feedback from the people. By the way, Floex, one of the headliners, called me recently and told me it was the best tour he ever made. The band Dva were so impressed that they want to come back next year for a bigger tour… The great thing about our work is that you can see the results of your efforts in a rather short time. So, now we are already set to organize the second edition of Soundczech in 2013!


How well do you know the Romanian cultural scene? If there were a contemporary Romanian arts festival in Prague, what artists would you promote?

The Romanian scene is incredibly dynamic - projects, initiative and places appear in order to disappear again and to be born again somewhere else… This is why I find the local cultural scene so interesting. And there are a really lot of interesting things going on. But I have to admit that I don’t know well the scene outside of Bucharest. To get to know it and outreach with our events to the regions is one of my goals for the remaining two years in Romania.


Last month was a busy one, with more than 20 events organized by the Center. What events are you planning for the winter and spring 2013? What is their focus?

In the winter we plan to sleep a bit. But before that, from November 15, we will still have a phenomenal exhibition of the Czechoslovak film poster at MNAC, an event that shouldn’t be missed by anyone interested in design, graphic art, typography or film. Plus other events, such as regular Documentary Mondays, No Silence Please!, an exhibition of special tapestries, a performative lecture, etc. For the 2013 we plan an interactive cinema Kinoautomat, Film on bike, show of the Czech photographer Josef Koudelka, and many, many more events.   At the same time, I already got used to the fact that planning here is sometimes tricky. That leaves you a lot of space for improvisation and that is actually something I enjoy a lot. So, the best is to check regularly our blog www.czech-it.ro or to follow us on Facebook.


Is there a project that you are really proud of as Director of the Czech Center in Bucharest? And why?

It would definitely be One World Romania. A documentary film festival on human rights, which we started five years ago, and which has since grown to much more than a festival – it has become a place where important subjects are being discussed, it has many accompanying events, interesting guests… The impact is there, the festival open people’s minds. By the way, one of the Bucharest Mayor’s office candidates, Nicușor Dan, said that he decided to enter politics after seeing the movie “Bogota Change” at our festival. But I am proud also of other events, which were sort of our know-how - be it the contest for remixes of Antonin Dvorak, “Cuvinte pe peliculă” – photo marathon based on Czech literature, or “Second Chance”, an installation of 400 dead Christmas trees in Izvor park.


If you would write for BeWhere! what events, what places would you recommend to our readers?  

The place that comes up to my mind immediately is Big Mamou. Though I am not necessarily a blues fan, I saw some of the best concerts in this club. But mainly, I find it the most authentic place that I have seen in Bucharest. Most hot summer nights I spent at Dianei Patru, I have big respect for how they manage and treat the place – with sensitivity and great events. Saturday afternoons are nice at MȚR, always with a variety of exhibitions, markets, etc. Winter evenings are best at Absintheria Sixtină, and there are many other great small places around, such as Radio Groove On. In Cluj, I like very much Fabrica de Pensule.


How would you describe your expat life here, in Bucharest?

Biking around, working in the night, taking care of the many artists coming to our events, exploring and enjoying the Romanian specifics, and searching for the balance between the official and unofficial. I am happy that my family stays with me in Bucharest, because only thanks to them I can relax, recharge batteries and not become a total workaholic.


• When you say „Bucharest” what image comes to your mind?


 What is the place that makes you feel „at home” in Romania?

Ravensca, one of the Czech villages in Romanian Banat. Heaven on Earth.

 If you had to describe Romanians, what words would you use?

Hospitable, educated, easy going. And above all – latino!

• They say you are an „unusual” diplomat. How would you describe yourself?

Usually I am usual.