Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Faki Epilogue: The End of Medika


Medika is a space without end. It spans multiple time zones and currencies - it is total. Walk in any one direction and before long you will be back where you were. Its halls are stained with the memories of life and death, love and suffering, art and banality. It vibrates in a state of perpetual lift-off. It lies cold and still, awaiting its chance.

Outside the train window, the plains of Croatia give way to the mountains of Slovenia and then Austria, and the memory of Faki begins its unravel and fade into the distance. Or does it? It feels like this year was the first time my yearly visits to the festival began to accumulate and fold back into one another. Links were made to previous years, the images of the shows resurrected and superimposed onto new offerings, creating a 4th dimension of the stage, stretching back to the past and away into the future.

Day 6 was another implausible day to end an impossible festival. I will admit to having my doubts about our collective capacity to deliver an effective forum around physical theatre in the scheduled 'Critics Forum', but these were quashed by generous contributions from festival director Natko Jurdana, Belgrade critic Radmila Djurica, and even myself (managing not to say something stupid in public for once). The linchpin, though, was the artists, who showed a capacity to reflect on each others work and their own - reflections which demonstrated a refusal to be satisfied with mere expression. My doubts about present critical thinking were challenged by the figure of the self-critical artist, capable of building meaningful discourse around themselves that go beyond the pleasures and freedoms of art, and connect with considerations of context - seeing itself for what it is, and what it is not.

The discussion moved across bringing the violence of the world to the space of the stage, the subject of violence against women and economic independence, and the possibilities of what physical theatre can be (given the breadth of possibilities displayed at the festival). Future festivals were discussed, and artists talked of their processes for producing effective physical theatre metaphors which would communicate with an audience. It was an enthralling conversation to finish an equally superlative festival, and showed the best of Faki's ethos - where being relaxed does not mean being without stakes.

Personally, the festival has helped me shake some demons that have been bothering me since the twin political events of the Anglosphere in 2016 - the United States election and the UK referendum on the European Union. Since this time, my critical voice has been pretty much dead in the water, because basically, what good could it do among a sea of white male entitlement and hate speech anyway. Faki 21 changed this somehow. Perhaps just by demonstrating some significant possible ways forward that don't involve quite so much self-erasure, and potentially are much more productive.

These relate to a changing world and theate's position in it. Huge political shifts aside, people inside and outside of Croatia need alternatives to re-energised ethno-nationalism and white supremacy. While it's a heavy burden to place on culture, festivals like Faki are certain to play a role in making the argument for alternatives, and addressing those robbed of their assumed liberties whilst inviting new paradigms to form. For the moment, these are necessarily a series of disconnected 'antis' - capitalism, authority, patriarchy. Physical theatre's capacity to illustrate these on stage was the takeaway of the festival, and the path is laid for the next festival to push this ambition into more concrete counter-proposals incorporating community formation, aesthetics, and society-making that are at the forefront of contemporary theatre and performance practice.

That's me signing off for another year with the exception of the interview of the group Puzzle Pie(s)ces, which I will follow up on in the next few days, I promise. Just let me sleep for a while first.


Photo: AKC

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