Saturday, 11th of August
Sitting in a theatre in Leipzig, engaged in one artistic process and mentally moving toward another - in my head I am already in Maribor. It is strange, the ability of a dramaturg to think through different works, different places, different collaborations at the same time. I am always in front and aside of myself. I am an "expert" in parallel mental processes. Funny profession. It is even more funny that in NAGIB, as it is imagined by Petra, Vlasta and me, I will have to perform this dramaturgical logic of parallel processes, overlapping encounters, sudden shifts, from moment to moment, from one day to the next... NAGIB, being a parkour instead of a festival, will have a dramaturgy rather than a program. That's why, while sitting in a theatre in Leipzig and thinking this thoughts I don't see any difference between what I am doing here and what I will be doing soon in Maribor. Dance performance is parkour and parkour is dance performance. And what about a festival? Just a more elaborate version of the both, with spectators and artists dancing with, for and against each other - in unison?
Sunday, 12th of August
Tomorrow I am flying from Berlin to Graz and then by car arriving to Maribor. Looking forward to it. I appreciate a challenge of treating the festival as a work of art. As a choreographic and dramaturgical project rather than a commercial spectacle. In fact, I feel that any work that involves engagement and involvement of a public, should be considered as a choreography and should have a dramaturgy. Dance festival, as it is already dealing with organisation of movement, should be an exemplary form of social activism of this kind. By considering that dance performance is choreographing and dramaturgicaly organizing not only its internal content but also external perception, attention and behaviour of spectators witnessing that content, stage art is claiming back an ethical and a political responsibility which naturally belong to it. When this ethics and politics is extended further to encompass not only final product but also process of production and interrelation between a number of different works inside a shared space of the festival, challenge of how to do this, becomes interesting and stimulating.
Monday, 13th of August
I arrived to Maribor. City is, as I remember from before, bright, warm and quiet. The fact that this year it is a European Capital of Culture did not change its ways. I appreciate that about Maribor. It is not easily impressed or provoked into competition. I can imagine that for some people living in it, especially for artists, this could be a source of big frustration. For me, running around from one "Capital" to another, having to constantly engage and deal with an endless and dubious competition for cultural prestige on a European and global scale, I am happy to hide myself in Maribor. I am getting tired of being involved in artistic processes in which dramaturgical decisions are not made according to the internal logic of the work but rather considered according to the external pressures of fashion and fixed social and cultural expectations. Dramaturgy of any public event in those places that supposedly pride themselves for their "culture" is too often heavily policed by an unholy marriage of commercial and ideological interests, to such a degree that it makes generous notion of publicness, that would allow for any kind of progressive social experimentation, impossible. I feel that there is more possibility for such experimentation in places that are considered peripheral. After all, NAGIB in a format we conceived here in Maribor, would be almost impossible to realize in Brussels or Berlin. Although, to be honest, this impossibility is not only matter of cultural pressures, it is also matter of size. When the city is too big, certain social experiments become difficult to perform. It is not for nothing that classical notion of polis, quintessential site of social experimentation, is always limited in size. In this sense, although I love the sound and humor of it, I am a bit nervous about a slogan of the festival "Move TO Maribor"... I would suggest that we should rather learn how to "Move THROUGH Maribor".
Tuesday, 14th of august
Today I got in touch with a friend, a dramaturg Rok Vevar. Will visit him in Ljubljana on Saturday to start preparing a side program of NAGIB that I will perform in collaboration with him. This is going to be a slightly humorous approach to a gravely serious "history of dance". I will try to provide Rok with examples of a newly made dance productions by choreographers that are still "waiting" to become a part of the history and will invite him to react with associations from his extensive archive of video documentation about dance from the past - the one that is already enshrined into the canon. Funny enough, this series of lecture performances will be just a public staging of a private conversations that two of us already, more than once, performed to each other. In fact the idea for it came to me 6 months ago, during one of such a funny exchanges in which I would play a role of a naive yet enthusiastic diletant and he would respond with a wisdom of erudition. In this game the two of us were becoming almost a cartoonish representation of the two aspects of dramaturgy, meeting each other over the table. Both concerned with history but with different emphasis on it... His dramaturgy is a dramaturgy of references, framings and contextualizations, mine is a dramaturgy of immediate creative processes in a fast successions of past-futures. His is a dramaturgy of anecdotal origins, mine is a dramaturgy of metaphysical improvisations. Of course we are in reality very far away from this "comedia del arte" of binary oppositions, but it is fun to play it out as if it is real. There is something very serious in our comedy of characters and I am grateful to Rok that he is willing to explore, together with me, this bizzare and clandestine processes of history making. I hope we’ll dance it well and to the delight of our spectators.
Wednesday, 15th of August
This evening I had a madly entertaining drive through a city of Maribor in the "art taxi". It’s a project of a communal taxi service that is devised by and made available to the guests of POLENTA art festival. Instead of paying for a ride you contribute what you can. In return for a service, inside of the taxi itself you are involved in a small driving performance which isrecorderd and deposited into an invisible archive of the festival. I loved the experience. Somehow it is, in an unpretentious and playful way, embodying the spirit which NAGIB should strive to reproduce. It is free, it combines pragmatic goal of moving around the city with an intensity of an art work, demanding from everybody involved (the driver, the costumer) to engage and relate to each other in a heightened, more generous and inventive sense. I think that "art taxi", unknowingly, is already practicing the art of parkour in a city of Maribor. It fits so well with the concept of NAGIB so I really hope that, in the coming weeks, "art taxi" will made itself available to our guests as well. It seem that POLENTA and NAGIB are naturally fitting into each other, both in terms of its spirit, its procedures and its audiences... This shows once more that distinction between visual and performing arts does not make much sense any more. Although supposedly conceived in the context of a visual arts festival, performativity of "art taxi" flows seamlessly into the realm of performance and dance. Some of the artists that will arrive in a few days to take part in NAGIB, are closer in their sensibility and methodology to the immediacy and social activism of "art taxi" than to the theatricality of dance.
Thursday, 16th of August
Today Petra, Vlasta and me, joined NAGIB’s team in a press conference, announcing the Parkour. It felt good to finally address the public, test our rhetorics and try to explain in person what are we trying to do. From the beginning of my engagement with NAGIB I was convinced that we need to nurture and cultivate our relations with the spectators so talking to people from the press felt as a first instance and a warming up for a Parkour training that will continue next week in a series of workshops that I intend to conduct with and for the audience. I realized that however strange the idea of parkour could sound at first, it is not so difficult to explain it. There are, inside the idea of parkour, all the elements that are fitting comfortably into the metaphor of dance. Relation of dance and movement, relation of movement and a process of dealing with resistances and obstacles so that a productive, creative and elegantly complex relation to the reality could be established and maintained. To be in the city, to move through the city, to walk, to relate, to dance.... To dance together. It all flows naturally into each other. What is particularly significant and slightly external to all this, is relation of a dance conceived as such, to a notion of work. That’s where the idea of "work of art" as a verb rather than a noun is coming in. For me it is significant that "work of art" has a double meaning. And I would really like to propose to the public, the possibility to shift their attention from a static toward the dynamic meaning of the phrase. When work becomes an activity rather than an object to be bought and sold, then a community becomes possible again. Instead of owning work (of art) we can share work (of art). We can work together. Artists with their audience, organizers with their funders... We can rediscover pleasure in work. Infuse labor with libido of movement... Utopia? Maybe. Yet here we are, in Maribor, at the start of a dance festival which renamed itself into a parkour, a path through the city without any dance performances to be seen, with choreographers and dancers working and audience visiting them in the midst of their processes in parks, cinemas, restaurants, corridors... That’s not utopia. It will start for real, next Monday.