Some people leave on Saturday, trying to make it back to wherever they have work come Monday. Taking a break, attempting sleep. The volunteers manning the tent village hydrate themselves against the sun and hug anyone on their way out. People look for stray glass or footwear on the beach. The dance pavilion, in the mornings, strikes one as the kind of place that gets smaller the fewer people are inside.
"I can be myself here," says Iris, the coordinator for the info stand. It's her first Goulash and she's by far the youngest on the planning team. "I didn't really know at first, but Goulash is like my happy place now. The ways you bond with people. I, you know, I cried tears of joy. You know how they say when you have a job and you love your job, you don't work. I work all the time because I love it: working behind the scenes, taking care of people, that's me. I can't be happier than when other people are happy."
She pauses to sip her water. We're on the beach, and at the end of a long string of attempts all weekend to get her to sit down with me. People mull around the booth and the flakier volunteers bob in and out of attention. There are shirts, towels, hammocks, all with GOULASH printed in jaggy font. People debating the creepiness of past logos. Asking questions clearly answered on the sign above them. Asking everything multiple times.
In regular life, Iris works in Zagreb as an administrator and production hand for creative businesses. "I hate the forms, the finances, but I get an adrenaline rush. How we can get more money, all that. It's an art to get money today, especially in the Balkans. I like to provide, to give. Goulash is close to me because this is the music I listen to. These are the people I want to be friends with – boyfriends, girlfriends, whatever." The sun seems to move from afternoon to morning to near-evening. People gather in near-piles. Folks exit the water in various stages of dress. Generators start their grind and I forget what day of the week it is. The last one, she reminds me.
"Production, vibe, atmosphere – we can feel here love. Everything is so soft." She holds up her fingers, "I want people who aren't here to come, to help for four days. 24/7 of love and freedom. Before coming I felt like a bird in a cage, trapped by production. By the things I love. But I came."
Before long it gets dark again. Maybe in a few minutes it'll be noon. Hungarians manning projectors. People tottering from whatever it is they totter from. Others looking for release, stability, arms that'll hold up when they drift off. People around us performing, performing the things they want others to see. The things they want to see themselves. The intimacy of performativity not entirely unlike liturgy. The things we do again and again any explaination sounds dumb. Ritual. Codes to stop us from touching the things that can't be touched without total collapse. The ways people touch anyway. The desire to run deep. The desire to stay at arms-length. To dance at arms-length. To be dancing here, with them. And this sky.