Over 100 projects are expected to pump fresh blood into the city centre and make its heart beat faster through various types of programmes, architecture and content. Those residing inside the walls of mediaeval Maribor will be given the chance to connect their creative spirit with the city – both as co-creators and visitors of numerous exhibitions, street events, projections, concerts, musical events, artistic installations, and performances. The thematic integration of the townspeople on the basis of conceptual art practices and contemporary “folk” art, is not just the wellspring of the European Capital of Culture 2012. It also represents a widening horizon of social engagement as well as the birth of a rather distinct atmosphere in the city, as local and international events blend together within the framework of this project.
Town Keys will aim to unlock and reawaken forgotten or repressed memories. Several events and projects, conceived by both Slovenian and international artists, will be devoted to the theme of Maribor’s history. These will include: a dialogue with the past, a look at the roots of the national struggles of the 19th century, an examination of the two wars of the 20th century, and an exploration of the industrial character of the city on the Drava River, including its obsession with football and its infatuation with golden foxes.
Other keys open up the future: they are in the hands of permanent and part-time city dwellers, those with an artistic mission and a vision. The idea is to enrich high art with the spatial characteristics of the city's citizens. The Northern Lights project will mark a map with the locations that have appeared in the works of the city's most renowned writer, Drago Jančar. “The Writer’s Office” by the Old Bridge will offer books in all languages, including those that illuminate this terrain. And the world championship of young chess players will take place at different locations around the old city centre, with the hope of reviving the social world behind (and around) chess boards.
The industrial decline of Maribor around 1990 was followed by a void that is still waiting to be filled with new content. Devastated in terms of space and spirit, Maribor kept on losing both its vital functions and its soul. That loss is now being replenished through culture. The question of the city's identity will be reconsidered on the basis of both historical research on the one hand, and the emerging dialogue of new artistic practices on the other. By the end of 2012, Maribor will be an example of how a city can come to life in a dialogue with artists, urban planners, architects and strategists.
The experiences and culture of Maribor's Germans (which still resonate in the everyday reality of the city), life in the mediaeval and present-day city, Admiral von Tegetthof and talking graves – all of these themes have set the tone for some of the content that has been developed as part of this programme: a comedy entitled Micika and Aldo (under the bridge) by Tone Partljič; The Urban Benches project (set to revitalize the city benches in terms of personified urban furnishings, i.e. a skaters’ bench, a homeless bench, a lovers’ bench, etc); The City Confessional, meant to provide a spot for townspeople to engage in psychotherapy, as well as plenty of space for people to articulate their criticisms against whatever ECoC 2012 may be doing. Finally, the Murmur of the Bridge-bound River will pose many questions, one of which is the nature of the coexistence between Maribor and the Drava River and what exactly the river gives to the city.
The bright city walls will announce the events of the ECoC 2012 and breathe life into the very heart of the city once again. The Rafter’s Playground will set up in the Lent part of the city, and through play remind passers-by of their historic surroundings; The Street Comic will bring forth the new experience-based dimension of the comic genre; the Maribor repository project Zbiradejnica will set up mailboxes to collect various objects belonging to townspeople, which will then be featured as a story in a special exhibition; the 30th anniversary of Holc Jewellery will be honoured with a studio exhibition of artistic jewellery entitled Essence – What is essential is invisible to the eye (inviting 10 jewellery designers); The House of Literature will come to life in the old Lent quarter and provide literary activities all year round.
The pubs within the city walls will take part in organizing The Gipsy Night to take place in April 2012, with several dozen of them hosting a Roma music group; similar to this programme, October 2012 shall see The Acoustic Weekend in Maribor with several renowned Slovenian music groups performing acoustic music within the city walls. The citizens and visitors of Maribor will encounter a dressed-up team of Sluckers in charge of maintaining the overall well-being and psychological stability of people, while the well known »tourist train« will be transformed into a performance venue for a one-man comedy entitled Safari Maribor; the Cathedral’s belfry will turn into an all-year Museum of Fire Safety thanks to the participation and collaboration of the Archdiocese of Maribor, the Fire Fighting Association of Maribor and the Regional Museum of Maribor. And finally, the city centre will stage the opening of the House of Science/Centre of Experiments, which is to present science as pure fun.
Youth activities – of the kind that young people would actually like them to be – will find their expression in the Alternative Youth Room. The No Border Jam will – after a twenty-year wait – finally take place at the border by Šentilj and thus accomplish its mission. Furthermore, the ECoC 2012 will take part in setting up a Skate Park in the sleepy Maribor district of Nova vas, which will also include a big event at The Leon Štukelj Square in the month of May. Furthermore, an open-air mini concert hall will come into being in the Lent district and host »family musical groups« throughout the summer; the city centre will enjoy plenty of Hugs&Kisses, which will involve around 30 love messages in the form of traffic signs. The Minoriti stage in Lent will see the opening night of the musical The Children of Lent by Tone Partljič and Edvard Hoellentaler; a conceptual project entitled The Bomb Attack on Maribor will be held on April 12th in collaboration with the Aviation Centre of Maribor; an installation entitled Situacija: Anophtalmus hitleri by author Jasmina Cibic will take place at the ECoC 2012 Salon (Rotovž Exhibition Salon); the former Casino Maribor will host three large exhibitions: The Germans and Maribor, Gledat, kaj delajo (Slovenes in Carinthia), and The Bourgeoisie in Maribor. The passing of time will be discussed at the symposium Between Emancipation and Elimination, the Lent Festival will glow in the colours of the European Capital of Culture, and last but certainly not least, children will have a blast not only at the puppet festivals held by the Puppet Theatre Maribor, but also at the Rafter’s playground, set up especially with them in mind.
All in all, the goal of the Town Keys program team is the rapid revitalization of the old city centre through various cultural phenomena. The programme itself draws on post-modern practices, which stands as the widest possible creative platform at the moment. The programme proposal in this form thus brings the basic concept of Town Keys fully to life, namely, the history of Maribor and the other partner towns.