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Close to the Bone: The Balkans 1962-1987

Martin Koenig: Close to the Bone: The Balkans, 1962-1987 will be on view at Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union, 9928 SW Bank Rd., Tues – Fri 9-6 & Sat 10-2, showing 11/1 – 12/31. Exhibition opening on First Friday, November 2.

More than forty-five years ago, Martin Koenig embarked on a trip to the Balkans that would transform his life. Armed with a letter of introduction from Margaret Mead, Koenig went to learn more about the Balkan folk dances that he loved. However, his mission changed when he found a society in rapid transition, and he soon felt compelled to document the disappearing agrarian life-style and village culture. In this initial trip and on the half dozen additional trips made between 1962 and 1987, Koenig worked throughout the Balkans filming, recording, and photographing the traditional music, dance, and ceremonies. These historic color photographs memorialize a way of village life that has since been transformed by modernization and globalization.

The photographs on display are part of a larger exhibit in formation. Some of these images are from more than four decades ago. They are portraits of the people Koenig saw, the rural life he experienced, the musicians and dancers with whom he interacted, and the rituals and festivities he observed. The exhibition documents a slower-paced, self-contained agricultural society that held onto an immense reservoir of folklore and celebrates a way of life that, for all intents and purposes, is gone.

Martin Koenig is a nationally recognized dance ethnographer and cultural specialist. He is a leading supporter of and advocate for community-based traditional arts and an authority on European ethnic dance traditions. In 1966, Koenig founded the Balkan Arts Center, now named the Center for Traditional Music and Dance, which is devoted to the research, documentation, and presentation of traditional expressive culture. Over its 45-year history in New York City, the Center produced folk festivals, concerts, classes, and several documentary films and has contributed to America’s appreciation of its ethnic diversity. Koenig has conducted field research under the aegis of the Smithsonian Institution, Barnard College/Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) and taught Balkan folk dance at colleges and universities across North America.

Heretofore Koenig has exhibited black and white prints. This is the first time he will exhibit color images. Music will be provided by Tim Jovanovich.