FOTOREPORT: Searching for monuments with sound memory around Olomouc with Benoît Bories
The rainy morning of the third day of the festival started unconventionally, with a tour of the historic centre of Olomouc, its dark corners and alleyways. Benoît Bories, French documentary maker and creator of sound installations, is planning to create another of his projects here and was searching for the ideal spot while walking around the town.
We were being led by Michal Bureš, chair of the Association for Radio Production and the story editor for the whole project, and thanks to him we took a look at many interesting places and heard the stories that accompany them. It is these that are a great inspiration for Bories in creating his installations. In his own words, his installations do not only attempt to capture a place, but also its atmosphere.
What interests Bories the most, however, is the connection between present and past, in other words how a certain event that took place in the past was so significant as to continue to influence us today. This in and of itself is very interesting and it is worth knowing about such an event or thing and continuing to talk about it. These connections between the past and present in all their levels then significantly contribute to both the whole story of the city and that of the society and people who live there.
The first place we visited was the Cathedral of St Wenceslas, which right away protected us from the rain. When we entered, the whole space was echoing with the music of the organ, which underscored the monumental atmosphere of the Gothic cathedral. Aside from the architecture and the organ, however, Bories’s attention was caught by the fact that Pope John Paul II had visited the site during his visit to Olomouc. On Václavské náměstí he was also surprised by the still well preserved Romanesque elements of the Přemyslid Palace from the 12th century, where Wenceslas III, last king of the Přemyslid dynasty, was murdered.
We enjoyed the view of the Church of Our Lady of the Snows from a café, where we discussed the further points of our route, as well as traditional Czech foods and beer. We all agreed that the beer in the Czech Republic is much better than in France. The culinary theme aroused such great interest, however, that later we also visit a local wine bar and shop with Olomouc cheese.
Another attraction on our programme was the Church of St Moritz, which boasts the seventh-largest organ in Central Europe. An organ festival has also taken place at the church annually since 1969. In the very first year, musicians came from all over Europe and filled up the whole building, to the displeasure of the regime. As Michal Bureš stated, apparently they argued at the time that they were merely listening to music together and thus there could be no talk of an anti-regime manifestation.
The Church of St Moritz intrigued Bories so much that he began taking notes on the spot. „I’m trying to jot down the short stories Michal and I chatted about so that I can later intertwine the place, the atmosphere, the music, and also the socio-political feeling and past of this city,” he said in response to the question of whether he had already been kissed by a „muse”.
Visiting Olomouc, and by extension Prix Bohemia Radio, was undoubtedly inspiring for Bories. So inspiring in fact, that he is considering founding a festival of documentary radio work in Toulouse. “The dynamism and verve I was witness to as a juror for the Documentary category, I haven’t encountered that in France,” he said. He also considers the connection between radio, the festival and the university to be unique. He likes the use of historical buildings as university grounds as well. In particular he was taken with the building of the former Jesuit College, in which Bories lectured on Tuesday. He recalled his student years, which he spent, in his own words, on the ugly campus of the Faculty of Natural Sciences. (Benoît Bories has a PhD. in quantum physics).