- Diverting from the West-Oriented Dialogues
- Writer : Soyeon KIM_Drama Critic 2012.11.28 Asia > Korea
Diverting from the West-Oriented Dialogues
[Focus] [PAMS 2012] Focus Session: Visegrad & Balkan Performing Arts
During the Performing Arts Market in Seoul 2012 (PAMS 2012), a Focus Session called “Visegrad & Balkan Performing Arts”was held on October 8th at the K-Arts Theater located at Korea National University of Arts. Through its Focus Sessions, PAMS has spotlighed different regions including Asia, Europe, South America and North America, in an attempt to give a better understanding of each region’s current situation, issues and market information related to performing arts.
This year’s Focus Session was remarkable in that the region of focus was narrower than in the previous years, concentrating on Balkan countries and four Visegrad countries including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Hungary. Performing arts of this region have recently drawn much attention in Korea. A number of works have been introduced to the Korean audience through stages of different international performing arts festivals that have proliferated in Korea since 2000. For this reason, presumably, this year’s Focus Session spared a great deal of time in introducing the works from the region. Though comprised of three parts, each under the theme of yesterday, today and tomorrow, the Session ranged over a number of topics concerning current issues faced by the performing arts scenes of the region from individual artists’ works and policies to international exchange and collaboration programs.
|Piotr Gruszczyński_ Dramaturg ,
Nowy Teatr (Poland)
|Attila Szabo_ Theatrologist,
Hungarian Theatre Museum and
| Daša Čiripova_ Editor |
in chief of Kød ,
Theatre Institute Bratislava (Slovakia)
Art Issues in the Post-Soviet Era
The Visegrad and the Balkan countries share the same socio-political context in which their societies have been in transition since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Focus Session thus shed light on their shared issues on artistic activities, as well as on development of individual artistic activities in each country. It also illuminated the socio-political context of international exchange programs in the region.
In Part I of the Focus Session, entitled “Historic and Cultural Legacy from Yesterday,” were introduced works of major directors and companies from the region with issues of suffering, memory, experiment and diversity. They are now faced with these questions: what national identity means after the first 10 years of joy and freedom following the collapse of the communist regime; in what way their common consciousness was shaped by the years of communism or the historical tragedies of the 20th century; how to deal with the new social and personal crises of the new era (Attila Szabó). Such questions are accompanied by the strong belief that a theater is still a tool of research used to confront and explore social taboos (Piotr Gruszczyński).
Focusing on the works of Krzysztof Warlikowski, Piotr Gruszczyński introduced the Polish theater under the theme of historical taboos and Jewishness. His approach toward “Jewishness” questions the existing perception of the Polish modern history which consists in defining Poland as a victim of the fierce competition among powers. In “(A)polloniaa”, which opened Seoul Performing Arts Festival (SPAF) this year, Krzysztof Warlikowski raises the issue of the historical tragedy of the Holocaust and the Polish people who regarded it as an urgent matter that Poland is faced with, as seen in the the scene of the victims and prosecutors’ parade.
Through his introduction to the Hungarian and Rumanian theater, Attila Szabó focused on the issues of interpretation of the legacy of Communist dictatorship during the transition period. Both countries went through scandals as files from the now partly open secret archives revealed the past of those in key positions. In response to this reality, the theater calls for concrete actions and discussions pursuing confession, apology and forgiveness. Interestingly, Hunary’s theater and that of Rumania are significantly different from each other. The Rumanian theater concentrates on documentary, half-documentary or fictional productions and dramatic texts focused on the evocation and interpretation of the heritage of communism. The Hungarian theater, on the other hand, deals with new themes through the existing genres of the theater.
Dáša Čiripová introduced the current Slovakian theater scene by focusing on the theater culture that has existed since the Velvet Revolution (a non-violent revolution in Czechoslovakia that took place in 1989). She pointed out the appearance of new independent theaters as one of the key changes, where much more flexible and timely responses took place than in the “stone” theaters with a rigid repertoire inherited from the Communist era. Another major change is the decentralisation of theater management that took place in the early 1990’s. Most of the theaters that were previously operated by the Slovak Ministry of Culture are now operated by the regions and municipalities. Although the decentralisation contributed to achieving certain stabilization of the theater network, its failure to increase the regional arts budget has left the theaters short of subsidies.
of the board of Association
Divadelna Nitra / Parallel Live
s project manager (Slovakia)
Maria_ Festival Director .
Drama Festival Budapest
|Kamila Samkova_ Regional
(Rep. of Czech)
|Zvonimir Dobrović_ Artistic|
Perforations & Queer
Zagreb Festival (Croatia)
Shared Memories and International Platforms
In Part II (“Artistic Experiments and Contemporary Social Engagement”) and Part III (“Cultural Cooperation for Tomorrow”) of the Focus Session were introduced a number of international platforms of artistic activities based on shared memories of the region.
Katarína Dudáková introduced a project called “Parallel Lives.” Under the theme of the 20th century seen through the eyes of secret police, this international interdisciplinary project gathers together artists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, and Slovakia. In the framework of this three-year (2012-2014) project, research will be carried out to study documents found in secret police archives in the territories of the former Soviet bloc countries in the Communist era. These records will be used as sources of various programs such as documentary theater productions, documentary films, exhibits, installation works, forums, publications and websites. She put stress on the nature of the project, which encompasses not only different genres but also different fields disciplines (art, history, political science and sociolology).
Mayerné Szilágyi Maria introduced the Contemporary Drama Festival Budapest. The festival pays attention to the fact that new artistic activities appear in the process of regime change, and in 2011, it dedicated its entire program to the topic of documentary theater, which is performed sporadically in Eastern and Central Europe. Some documentary theater experiments have made noticeable achievements including Árpád Schilling and PanoDráma and the National Theatre in Budapest initiated an open call for documentary plays about murders of Gypsy families that had become a major social issue in the region. One of the problems that the documentary theater is faced with is how to attract an audience. It has a very small audience compoed of young and socially-aware people and in many cases, plays are performed only in Budapest except in the case of a small number of works on festival tour in Hungary.
Nova sit, introduced by Kamila Samková, is a network designed to promote performing and live arts. In its support for new artistic trends, Nova sit is playing the role of arts manager, consultant, regional and transnational organizer and co-producer of festivals. Supported by the European Union, Nova sit has initiated the Development of New Art (DNA), a project of eight European cultural NGOs including BORA BORA (Denmark), Schloss Bröllin (Germany), L1 Association (Hungary), Fish Eye Artistic Association (Lithuania), Chorea Theatre Association (Poland), A4 (Slovakia) and Glej Theatre (Slovenia). The mission of this project is to support artists’ creative growth and trans-national mobility, as well as to re-establish professional relationships within the artistic and public communities in Europe.
Zvonimir Dobrović (Croatia) drew attention to live arts in the Balkan through Perforations Festival. The festival has introduced works of the Croatian theater and live arts to international presenters while also establishing networks of co-production partnership.
|from left to right |
1. Samo Selimovic_ Project coordinator ,Bunker Institute (Slovenia)
2. Grzegorz Reske_EEPAP member/ Festival Producer, Konfrontacje Teatralne (Poland)
3. Pavla Petrova_ Director Arts and Theatre Institute (Rep. of Czech)
After the Struggle for Survival, It is Time for Introspection
In his presentation on the East European Performing Arts Platform (EEPAP), Grzegorz Reske remarked that “over the last twenty years, the reality of the Central European theater was mainly about discussing with each other while looking towards the West.” Their performing arts “consisted more in surviving than reflecting on something.” Most of the performing arts practitioners from Central Europe faced problems in talking to their neighbors about the theater life in the region. The aim of EEPAP is not to establish an active network, but to create a platform where everyone who feels the need to strengthen the regional network might find support for their activities. To achieve this, EEPAP focuses on information, education and collaborative projects. It is currently putting the greatest stress on education and its major topics include difficulties in discussing with each other, creation of a framework in which different viewpointes can be compared as well as historical sharing. It also emphasizes the fact that the sector of performing arts is overproducing works and that it needs to slow down, contemplate and discuss its challenges.
Pavla Petrová introduced International Visegrad Fund as an example of the efforts made by the countries in the region to work together, diverting from their past attempts to work with Western Europe. International Visegrad Fund is facilitating and promoting the development of closer cooperation among the Visegrad countries as well as other countries in the region including the non-EU member states in Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans and the South Caucasus. It supports common cultural, scientific and educational projects, youth exchanges, cross-border projects, tourism promotion and individual mobility programmes. PACE. V4, a performing arts project organized by arts institutions of the Visegrad countries, is jointly showcasing the performing arts from the region at international artistic and cultural forums.
Samo Selimovic (Slovenia) reminded his audience of the diversity of states and cultures in the Balkan Peninsula which has widely been perceived as an area of conflict since the breakup of Yugoslavia. New artistic activities have been pursued by new generations, with a number of international cooperation projects and festivals held in this region. Still, Samo Selimovic pointed out some challenges that the art sector is faced with. Many culture and arts networks are experiencing difficulties in the Balkans. Despite major changes and reforms in the social and political systems, exclusive public organizations took most of the arts budget, making it difficult for new generations to start their artistic activities. Europe’s recent economic crisis and government deficit have also weakened artictic activities.
The Systematic “Focus” of Information Was Achived But...
In the previous years, the Focus Session fell short of expectations in delivering systematic and concrete information on the current performing arts scenes of a given region due to its extensiveness. The Session sometimes concentrated too much on the markets, institutions and policies of a region, leaving little space for the information on actual artistic activities, even though such research process, of course, is regarded as indispensable in this regional approach. In the case of the 2011 Focus Session on Asia, it seemed to have been intended to raise issues on the global performing arts market, rather than to provide information.
This year’s Focus Session was also organized through such a research process. However, what differentiated this Session was the fact that it succeeded in providing systematic information on the performing arts scene, information ranging from artistic activities to international platforms of the region, as the Session concentrated on the Visegrad and the Balkan countries whose works have been introduced in Korea continuously through international platforms such as the Seoul Performing Arts Festival. While festivals usually deliver fragmentary information on individual productions or directors, the Focus Session revealed a bigger picture of the performing arts activities in their social, historical and political contexts, enhancing our understanding of the European context. Nevertheless, this year’s Focus Session could have included more information on how and why so many of the performing arts productions from the region were introduced to the Korean audience. The Session could seek a dialogue with the Korean performing arts sector more actively.
Considering its short history or the current status of the performing arts scene in Korea, Performing Arts Market in Seoul has achieved a striking growth. International delegates to PAMS and other performing arts professionals whom we meet abroad often express their envy of and/or compliment for the arts management sector and cultural policies of Korea. These positive reactions, however, may reflect the growth of PAMS, not that of Korean performing arts. It is now time to contemplate that gap.
[ PAMS 2012] Focus Session: Visegrad & Balkan Performing Arts PDF sourcebook
Soyeon KIM is a drama critic, and has previously served as editor of The Korean Theatre Journal and as chief editor of both Culture News and weekly@Arts Management.